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How to Stay Organized and Declutter with ADHD: Practical Tips and Strategies

Updated: May 10

Living with ADHD brings a unique set of challenges, and one that often looms large is the struggle with cleaning and decluttering.

The clutter isn't just physical; it often extends to the mind, making the task even more daunting. In this blog post, we'll explore the reasons behind the difficulty ADHDers face when it comes to cleaning and decluttering, and offer practical strategies to turn this overwhelming task into a manageable and even empowering endeavor.

Understanding the ADHD brain's intricacies is crucial to comprehending the challenges individuals face in maintaining an organized and clutter-free space. ADHD brains often struggle with executive functions, which include skills like organization, prioritization, and initiation.

cluttered space

The key factors contributing to decluttering difficulties for ADHDers include:

  1. Poor Executive Functioning: ADHDers may find it challenging to initiate tasks, prioritize them, and maintain focus throughout the cleaning process.

  2. Overwhelm Sensitivity: The ADHD brain tends to get easily overwhelmed, not just by the physical clutter but also by the mental burden of deciding what to keep, discard, or organize.

  3. Problems with Decision-Making: Decluttering involves making numerous decisions about items' significance, leading to decision fatigue for ADHDers, who may struggle with this aspect.

  4. Impaired Working Memory: ADHD often brings working memory deficits, making it difficult to hold and follow through with a plan for cleaning and organizing.

Why Decluttering Matters for ADHDers

Before delving into strategies, it's crucial to understand the importance of maintaining an organized space for individuals with ADHD. 

A clutter-free environment can positively impact:

  1. Reduced Overwhelm: A tidy space reduces sensory overload, helping ADHDers manage the overwhelm that often accompanies clutter.

  2. Enhanced Focus and Productivity: A clear and organized environment fosters better concentration and productivity for tasks, work, or study.

  3. Improved Mental Well-being: A clutter-free space contributes to a calmer mind, reducing stress and anxiety levels commonly associated with ADHD.

woman standing on street with a smiley in front of her

Strategies for ADHDers to Conquer Decluttering Challenges

Now that we've uncovered the reasons behind the struggles, let's explore practical strategies to make decluttering more manageable for individuals with ADHD:

  1. Break It Down: Divide the cleaning process into small, manageable tasks to prevent feeling overwhelmed. Focus on one area or category at a time.

  2. Use Timers and Intervals: Set short intervals for cleaning tasks using timers. The Pomodoro technique, with periods of focused cleaning followed by short breaks, can be particularly effective.

  3. Externalize the Plan: Create visual cues or lists to externalize the decluttering plan. This helps compensate for working memory deficits.

  4. Involve Others: Seek the support of friends, family, or roommates. Having a cleaning buddy can make the process more enjoyable and less daunting.

  5. Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate achievements, no matter how small. This positive reinforcement can motivate continued efforts.

  6. Create Designated Spaces: Establish specific places for commonly used items to minimize the chance of clutter accumulation. Labeling storage spaces can aid in organization.

  7. Implement the 'One In, One Out' Rule: Maintain balance by adopting a rule: for every new item brought in, one item must be removed. This helps prevent excessive accumulation.

  8. Digital Decluttering: Extend decluttering efforts to digital spaces. Organize files, emails, and apps to create a more streamlined digital environment.

  9. Mindfulness Practices: Practice mindfulness techniques to stay present during the cleaning process, reducing anxiety and stress associated with decision-making.

  10. Free Writing: Use free writing as a tool to release mental clutter. Journaling can help process emotions and thoughts related to the decluttering process.

Decluttering for individuals with ADHD may present unique challenges, but with a tailored approach and understanding of the underlying factors, it becomes a conquerable task. By implementing these strategies and recognizing the importance of maintaining an organized space, ADHDers can turn decluttering into a manageable and empowering journey toward a clearer mind and environment.

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