ADHD and cleaning house is a pain point for many of us. Of all the ADHD symptoms that annoy us, house cleaning is one that drives people with ADHD nuts. Many of us have a relationship with messiness that stretches back into childhood.
Some of my earliest memories of messiness began in elementary school. We all had assigned desks and my desk was a war zone. What a mess!
My desk was constantly crammed with papers, books, and missing school supplies. I couldn’t find anything. It distressed my teachers, annoyed my mother, and made my life a living hell.
When I got to high school, my desk mess was replaced with a locker mess. Ever seen an avalanche? That’s what it looked like every time I opened my locker.
Gym clothes, books, missing homework, cosmetics, all of it would cascade out every time I opened my locker. I went through college with the same problems.
ADHD and Cleaning can go together like oil and vinegar
By the time I got to adulthood, I understood well the effects of living with messiness. It wasn’t until I had an ADHD test and started going through ADHD treatment that I discovered the reason why I had so much trouble with messiness. Here’s the reason why: ADHD SYMPTOMS!
ADHD Symptoms that affect our ability to complete tasks
- inability to sustain focus
- time perception issues
ADHD symptoms that affect our ability to organize
- multitasking ( doing too many things at once makes it difficult to focus)
- low frustration tolerance
Solutions for ADHD and cleaning woes
You don’t need a whole ADHD overview. You live with the disorder every day. There are some things that ADHD specialists just can’t teach you, and this is one of them.
For the sake of our health and sanity, kids and adults with ADHD need a home that is (mostly) free of clutter, sanitary, and organized enough that we can find our most important things. House cleaning tests ADHD brains.
I’m just going to put it out there: I’m not the best housekeeper. I do my best but let’s face it: it takes organization. We all know by now ADHD makes it really, really hard to stay organized. So I do the best I can.
Even though I’ll never be Martha Stewart, I’ve found 5 ways to keep it just a little tidier. Here are the methods I’ve found that work with my ADHD brain.
5 Steps to a cleaner house, ADHD style!
1. Keep the common areas clean
Do you have company coming? Chances are they won’t wind up in your bedroom. Pay extra attention (ha!) to your living room, kitchen, and bathroom. If you’re blessed with a dining room too, don’t let everyone stack their junk on that table ( a constant battle in my house).
We ADHDers love two things: piles and procrastination. Piles complicate the process of ADHD house cleaning. Sorry, you can’t have both if you want to conquer this clutter.
Give yourself some grace: it is difficult to create new habits. Put your piles in the office and shut the door. If you have a clean living room, bathroom, and a sanitary kitchen, you don’t have to stress the rest. Nobody’s perfect.
2. Put things away near where you use them
If you watch DVDs in your living room, store your DVDs in the living room. If you paint your nails in the kitchen, find a drawer to keep the polish in. In other words, make it foolproof for when the brain fog days come.
Housecleaning can be really personal, there are people who make it into a moral issue. Many feel like there is a very stringent view of what right and wrong are when it comes to putting something somewhere. Those people are wrong, and we don’t deserve to be shamed.
Here’s what I want you to do with that: let it go. If you need to keep your medication in the place where people normally keep their spices, do it. If you have to keep your toothbrush in your shower, who cares?
None of these things matter as much as you keeping your home in the order that works for you. We have ADHD, they think we are weird anyway. What’s one more reason to be called weird?
3. Stash cleaner and wipes/dust cloths or paper towels in every room
This has revolutionized my cleaning habits. See, if I wander into another room, something might catch my eye in there, then the dusting will never get done. I’ll be cycling through each room touching everything and not getting one thing finished!
Therefore if all I have to do is reach for my spray and paper towels, I’ve got a way better chance of getting the TV/coffee table/mirror/whatever random thing wiped up and looking pretty. Keep a trash can in each of the rooms as well. After all, you don’t want paper towels and wipes scattered all over your house.
This is a method that will allow you to clean when you see the mess versus keeping a regular cleaning schedule, which don’t work as well for us. Some of us work better with a regular schedule where we clean once per week. I am not that person. I clean a little bit here and there, and I have a standard for what the rooms of my home are supposed to look like.
This has taken quite a while to establish. It is really important for you to remember that cleaning your home is very personal. It is about what works best for you.
4. Don’t wait for the huge mess before you attack
This is one I still struggle with. I like to do things once, do them right, and move on. That’s great when you are on a regular schedule, but sometimes you just can’t be on one.
I spent all summer on a mental health tour, and during those times that I was home from touring, I would either clean for my life, or dump it all into a pile and move on. Cleaning like crazy works for a while, but it isn’t sustainable. Leaving everything in a pile is just as stressful as cleaning daily.
Where’s the balance? It is different for everyone, but I like to take my tasks in chunks. For instance, the huge pile of clean laundry on my bed? I’m going to sit tonight and listen to podcasts while I sort that out.
When the messes get huge, we get overwhelmed. When you overwhelm the ADHD brain, it begins to shut us down. Being stuck in overwhelm means procrastination sets in. That’s how we wind up with messes that last for months or years. Head those messes off at the pass by dealing with them before they begin ( or as close to the beginning as possible).
Grab the latest from the Black Girl, Lost Keys Store!
Cleaning up presents a HUGE challenge for some people with ADHD. How do we maintain a household? Declutter? Do the mundane chores that really drive us crazy? Who are we doing all of this cleaning for, anyway??
The answer to all of this and more is in BGLK’s newest workbook, Everything You Need To Completely Clean With ADHD. This 50-page guide will help you explore your relationship with cleaning, give you techniques to tidy up, and show you a way to schedule it all while keeping it simple enough that you don’t get overwhelmed.
5. Sometimes good enough has to be good enough.
People with ADHD, especially us girls, spend a lot of time thinking about how “normal” people do things. Oh, how we torture ourselves, believing that they have perfectly clean houses with no dust bunnies and everything stays fresh and tidy around the clock. By contrast, we see our clutter and piles and defeat ourselves before we even start.
If you don’t have time to put everything away, put it in a basket and come back to it. The most important thing for you to understand about ADHD and house cleaning is to let go of the expectation of perfection.
For instance: if you can’t vacuum the whole house, vacuum the living room and call it a day. Don’t waste your life making yourself miserable over a mess that isn’t going anywhere anyway. Choose your battles.
This is NOT magic, but it will be tidier.
I know these tips for ADHD and cleaning the house seem really simple, and they are. There is no magic secret to cleaning, the only thing we can do is make it more palatable.
I listen to podcasts to keep my boredom level to a minimum. Find out what will keep you entertained! Keeping life organized can be a challenge of its own. Sometimes we need a little extra help. Considering ADHD coaching? Come talk to me!
Until next time,
Read More From Black Girl, Lost Keys
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What You Need To Know About Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria
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12 thoughts on “ADHD and Cleaning House Is a Perpetual Challenge”
Probably the best thing I’ve ever heard, and the one I (try to) use as my mantra is “you can’t organize clutter.” Basically ABP – Always Be Purgin’. I’m constantly thinning out and throwing away. I keep a box in the living room for donations and every time it’s full it goes to the car. Even gifts I don’t like, want, can’t use, whatever. It’s the thought that counts but it’s getting donated. Like you said, it’s much easier when you only have yourself to deal with, and with kids and their stuff it’s even harder. But getting the useless stuff out in the first place gives you less to have to clean up in the long run.
Say it again, sister! Clutter is always being battled around these parts.
My challenge is anything that is out of sight is out of mind. That’s the “explanation “ I give myself for keeping the piles. Problem is, whatever isn’t lying on the top of that pile gets forgotten about because I can’t see it. Just like anything perishable that finds itself behind my jug of almond milk. See ya never til I smell ya. I am new to treatment. It’s a work in progress.
It takes time to get it all down, but you WILL get it down. I promise
Thanks you so much for this because if they haven’t figured it out, it s really what its like to clean the house with adhd. it sos surreal. However, this is literally me. I have come to these conclusions/solutions–especially having cleaning supplies in every room–but I can’t change it all because, life. I spend hours driving the kids–both with REAL adhd and SPD, and anxiety and depression to all their remedial appointments. The therapy, the OT, tutors, the crying jags, fighting and recriminations and guilt trips take hours and they don’t take lightly to redirecting them to look to themselves for help. The pleading to stick with a sport or activity? hours. The cursing devastation when they refure to do homework, meltdown over anything , refusal to this dishes it devastating and annoying.
and trying to employ someone has been a HORROR SHOW. the shame to have someone in my house leads me to clean the house before hand. drivers have gotten in accidents. we got a house manager, and she actually managed to hire a murderer out of prison!! another one passed out drunk on the job! so ultimately we never have felt safe wit his having someone, so its just me that does all the drivers. and the husband? He is so full of resentment, and entitlement that he refuses to do whatever he doesn’t want to do. he gets so mad when i speak about adhd, and considers it a cruth. finally, the hyper success necessary to stay in the silicon valley means everything is a crazy competition–no cleansers, helpers, means that you have to take what you can ger. ave J visas and ad and anyone who says otherwise its : it so damn sisyphean!!!
I’m so sorry things get frustrating. Thank you for reading! Hoping that you can find a good solution soon!
Your blog is a much needed floating device in high tide of frustration. Finally I have access to info that speaks directly to me on so many levels.
I remember explaining to a coach that my adhd plus usual co-morbidities (mine incl. short term memory loss, anxiety & depression) make me feel I’m in a boxing ring fighting with myself on a daily basis.
Thanks for your practical info AND for focussing with an Afrocentric lense. It sure has helped, especially given that I hit the wall of being sick & tired of being sick & tired that this is NOT a white people thing; or male thing, or children only thing, Most people just don’t get it or WANT to get it., then spend time trying to drag you towards their concept of “normal ” and how to “pull yourself together ” & “get over it”!
Thanks again!! Looking forward to exploring more of your work/insights….in small bytes of course!
For years since my diagnosis (in my mid forties). It’s been a stormy voyage from port to port. Add to the mix, being a black woman , divorced, 4 kids and downsized after 20+ yrs service
Oh my gosh! Thank you so much for sharing your story. There is such a need for us to support each other. The community just doesn’t get it but we can help each other and raise awareness
Rene, this information helps so much-both clinically and personally. Often my symptoms are exaggerated when I become overwhelmed in other areas of my life. While touring this summer I came home to a huge disaster. It took sometime but have it all pretty much organized now. I am feeling more peaceful and in control.
Oh my gosh! I’m so glad it was helpful to you. My house was a disaster area too. I had to go back to basics to get everything back under control. We got this
I finally made myself hire a house cleaner who comes once a month to really clean. It forces me to have things picked up for her and takes the stress of staying on top of all the things all the time off of me.