How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

ADHD and clutter naturally occur together, and together they make a natural disaster. One of the hallmarks of ADHD is disorganization; because of symptoms like distractibility and difficulty focusing, organization is a difficult task for people living with ADHD. Clutter builds. Then, because of the clutter, ADHD symptoms of distractibility and difficulty focusing increase. It’s the perfect, intensifying storm.

For someone with ADHD, a sense of wellbeing can get buried under all the clutter. A cluttered environment decreases overall mental health and increases stress (Whitbourne, 2017). The idea of organizing can be overwhelming, and the temptation to procrastinate or avoid organizing makes sense. But with the right approach, you can eliminate clutter and get organized.

ADHD and Clutter: Two Basic Principles of Organization

When you begin to declutter and take control of your own space, everything can blur together into one gigantic overwhelming pile of mess. Before diving into the five tips for getting organized, there are two general principles to guide you:

  1. The one-year principle. If you haven’t used, worn, or otherwise noticed something in a year, get rid of it.
  2. The OHIO method. This principle helps you cut down on paper clutter. Regarding paperwork, Weiss (2005) advises, Only Handle It Once. Act immediately on things like bills or notes kids bring home in backpacks. Deal with it, then file or recycle. This works for things other than paper, too, like small objects that end up on counters and tabletops. Handle it once, then toss, recycle, or donate.

Five Tips for Getting Organized, Reducing ADHD Clutter

These tips are easy-to-follow solutions to clutter. De-cluttering using these strategies will help you feel less overwhelmed and more in control of yourself and your space.

  1. Begin with vision and purpose. Without meaning, decluttering can seem pointless and tedious, and it will be easy to get distracted and walk away. Borrowing from solution-focused therapy, ask yourself what your space will be like when it’s neat, organized, and clutter-free. What will you be able to do and enjoy in this clean space?
  2. Break it into bits. It can be paralyzing to look at every corner of disorganization and think of trying to tackle it all. On top of that, ADHD makes it difficult to start tasks and to concentrate on them. Break your tasks up and tackle your decluttering bit by bit.
  3. Be methodical. Even when organizing in bits, it can be hard to know where to begin and ADHD can cause you to jump around, starting something but moving on before finishing. A solution to your clutter is to have a plan and a system. Go room by room, perhaps, and within each room sort by types of items.
  4. Schedule time for decluttering. Creating schedules is a helpful tool for people living with ADHD. Scheduling time for important people and tasks ensures that you follow through rather than forgetting and feeling bad later. Scheduling works for organization because it ensures that you’ve dedicated time to do it. Make sure, too, to schedule breaks and stop times (Adult ADHD and How to Manage Your Time and Stay on Schedule).
  5. Buddies and Breaks. Enlist the assistance of a friend or family member. Tackling a tedious task with someone else makes it more enjoyable. Plus, you’ll have someone to help keep you on track and help you sort things into piles for keeping, donating, recycling, or tossing. Throughout the process of getting organized, be sure to take breaks. Breaks will keep you fresh and motivated.

These general tips can be applied to any organization project. Together, they provide ADHD-friendly solutions to clutter.

Eliminate Clutter When You Have ADHD

As you employ the above tips for getting organized, you also want to create places to put the things you’re keeping so they are easily accessible and don’t contribute to more clutter. If you have a place for everything, your living and working space will be more likely to stay neat, and you won’t be caught in a frantic dash to find something at the last minute. (Imagine not having to search for keys when you’re supposed to be leaving the house.)

To organize your space:

  • Use different colored folders for the various things you have to keep track of, such as papers from school, insurance information, etc.
  • Use accordion folders to file things like coupons, tickets, etc.
  • Have colorful baskets or bowls in strategic places, such as on a table by the door, a coffee table, or the stairs. Make them a regular part of your life by always placing the same items in them. Keys will always go by the door. Reading glasses will be placed where you use them the most.

If clutter has taken over your life, chances are your adult ADHD symptoms feel heightened because ADHD and clutter contribute to each other. Manage both your symptoms and your life by eliminating clutter.

Need help organizing your home? Unlock the secrets to a clutter-free house with dozens of super-easy organizing ideas.

When it comes to feeling organized, the smallest things can really make the biggest difference. Sure, the idea of clearing out decades’ worth of clutter from your home sounds like a whole lot of work, but the truth is that sometimes you just need 15 minutes and a little kick of inspiration to tackle that organization project you’ve been putting off.

That’s where Good Housekeeping‘s 14-Day Declutter Guide comes in. We’re showing you how to change your house — and your life — with minimal effort, thanks to super-easy organizing ideas vetted by our experts. In two weeks, you can tackle your home’s toughest trouble spots. From the fridge and the junk drawer, to barely-there closet space and more, we’ve got genius tricks and essential products to streamline it all.

Our plan is a simple way to get the tidy, organized home you want — by conquering clutter one room at a time!

Good Housekeeping‘s 14-Day Declutter Guide has all the tools you need to:

  • Clear out your closet
  • De-junk the junk drawer
  • Tackle kitchen cabinets and counters
  • Overhaul your pantry
  • Maximize your linen closet
  • Organize shoes
  • Tidy up the fridge
  • Transform your drawers
  • Boost bathroom storage
  • Cut desktop clutter

1 of 11

Days 1-5: The Warm Up

We’re going to ease into it. Start with these simple, refreshing fixes and you’ll crave a major cleaning spree by day 5.

Day 1: Fill one trash bag of junk from anywhere in the house. Then, toss or donate it.

Day 2: Pick up 5-7 things that don’t have a place, and find a place for them. These are things that you use daily, but don’t have a home. Here’s one of the biggest rules of an organized home: Everything should have a place.

Day 3: Pick a counter and clear off all the junk. Another big organizing tip: Every flat surface should be clear of clutter.

Day 4: Clear a shelf, any shelf. Keep five of your most display-worthy items, and donate the rest, or at least set them aside for storage (but keep in mind that you’re aiming to simplify, not end up purchasing a storage unit).

Day 5: Take this day to strategize. We’re going to walk you through general ways to eliminate clutter in every room, but you’ve got to make note of your home’s personal clutter “hot spots.” The table by the back door? Your bathroom counter? Your desk? All of the above? Make note of the spaces you want to declutter, and set deadlines for getting organized. Make boxes for keeping, donating, and storing – these will come in handy. If you’re prone to separation anxiety, make a box called “maybe” – when you can’t quite make yourself throw something away, store it here. After 6 months, pull it back out – if you haven’t so much as thought about an item, that means you should throw it out.

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Learn how to stay clutter-free for good with these tips!

Learning to stay clutter-free is important, especially as we just wrapped up the Clear the Clutter Challenge. These past weeks we have enjoyed decluttering and organizing our homes, and now we can intentionally focus on keeping the clutter away.

If you missed the challenge, sign up here and you will receive an email a week for 8 weeks leading you through the Clear the Clutter Challenge.

Clear the Clutter 2020 Challenge Recap

Week 1: The Kitchen

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Week 2: The Living Room

In week 2, we focused on how to declutter the living room. I shared my new system for organizing DVDs.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Week 3: The Master Bedroom

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Week 4: The Bathroom

In week 4, I shared how to organize a small bathroom. I shared tips for using baskets in this space.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Week 5: The Office & Paper

In week 5, we talked about paper clutter. I shared my tips for having a physical inbox.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Week 6: Kids’ Spaces

In week 6, we talked about how to declutter and organize kids’ spaces. I shared tips for a small bedroom.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Week 7: Entryway, Laundry, & Closets

In week 7, I focused in on our hall closet and specifically the board games. I shared my new way of organizing the games without the boxes.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Week 8: The Garage & Car

In week 8, we talked about the garage and car. I shared tips for decluttering and organizing your car.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

How to Stay Clutter-Free for Good

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Have landing zones.

Landing zones are essential to keeping a home organized. I love to set up landing zones for items because these places are the homes for all of our things. If you have something in your home that does not have a landing zone, think about where you could establish a place.

Here are some examples of landing zones I have:

  • A basket by the front door to hold my husband’s sunglasses and any other small items he has.
  • Hooks for bookbags and keys.
  • Baskets for books.
  • A bin for blankets.
  • A basket for remotes.

Are you catching a trend? With landing zones, you group similar items together. Then you remind yourself and others in your home, to put items back in their landing zones.

Do a daily clean up.

Taking time to do daily clean up, keeps you from having clutter piles. I tend to do a quick morning pick up and then a pick up at the end of the day. Normally, it is during these times that I will notice any clutter and be able to put it where it belongs.

The daily clean up does not take a long time. Grab a laundry basket and go through your house in 15 minutes. Enlist the help of your family too!

Evaluate spaces regularly.

As you are doing your daily clean up, you may notice that some spaces are attracting more clutter. Perhaps there is a system that is not working well or maybe there is not even a system in place. Take time to evaluate these spaces and come up with other solutions.

There have been times where it has taken me a few times to get the right system set up, but it is always worth it!

Have a one in and one out rule.

My husband and I have started this with the kids’ toys and even used it on clothes and other areas of the home. If an item is not seasonal decor and I no longer want it, I get rid of it.

Have a basket for donations.

One thing that has been so helpful is to have a donation basket in our house. As I find items that we no longer need, I can put them in the basket. Then when it is full, we donate the items! It makes things so easy!

Make a list of spaces you need to work on.

Throughout the Clear the Clutter Challenge, there were some spaces that I did not fully finish. Instead of stressing about it, I kept a list of those spaces. My plan is to work on one at a time.

A state-mandated quarantine is the perfect time to vanquish those home organization projects you’ve been avoiding, right? It’s not that simple. First, there’s the stress, anxiety, and fear that’s eating up your energy. Second, some appealing decluttering tasks are actually counter-productive right now. Here, learn how to choose the organization projects that will make the biggest impact on your daily happiness and your long-term sense of accomplishment.

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How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

When the emotional roller coaster of stay-at-home orders began, many of us felt equal parts terrified and excited. We feared the reality of working and learning (concurrently) from home, but we also dreamed of vanquishing all of those closets, drawers, and boxes that have lingered for years. That burst of motivation to organize was, for many of us, short-lived.

Amid an overwhelming amount of change, fear, and distraction, we did not clear out the attic or the garage — and that is okay. In hindsight, we all needed a few weeks to adjust to process some deep concerns, figure out how to work effectively from home, and learn about helping the kids with online homeschooling. Now, with some new routines and habits hammered out, we are looking at home organization with fresh eyes — and priorities.

Now, knowing that cleaning for the sake of cleaning is not helpful or realistic, what projects should you tackle? How can you organize in a way that will benefit you in the long run and maybe even bring some happiness and a sense of accomplishment?

How to Get Organized Rule 1: Follow Your Energy

There is no perfect mood-boosting organizational project. What I usually say is this: Follow your energy.

If your bathroom drawers have been driving you crazy, then start there. If you just want to go through your closet with the beginning of a new season, start there. If you have never had this much time at home before, and so this is the perfect time for you to tackle that easy-to-put-off storage room project, start there. Do the projects that you want to do that let you use your gross-motor skills (more on this in Rule 2 below).

Wherever your organizing energy is highest, that is where you should start, because chances are greater you’ll be able to sustain your energy longer and achieve visible results. You’re doing something you’re excited about. You’re eager to see the results. You’ll keep going when it gets boring.

Whatever project you choose, make it small and manageable, with a clear beginning and end. Do one project a day. Move from one small project to the next small project each day so that you feel a sense of accomplishment, which in turns fuels more motivation to keep going. This approach also keeps your house from getting more cluttered in the process.

And for anyone who thinks that ADHD organization is an oxymoron, I’m here to tell you that organization is a skill that can be learned. I’ve raised my two children to young adulthood, and both of them have ADHD. They’ve learned and use organizational skills successfully, and you can, too.

How to Get Organized Rule 2: Think Big

There is no such thing, in my mind, as a bad organizing project, but there are better projects to do right now.

Generally, the best types of organization projects for anxious times are ones that require larger gross-motor skills. Projects like cleaning the garage, organizing the storage room, or cleaning out your closet will give you a physical sense of well-being, as well as a final organizing result that you can see and appreciate. Large gross-motor activities, like physically moving a bunch of stuff, reduces the amount of adrenaline and cortisol in your body, giving you both a physical and mental organizing boost that will, in turn, elevate your mood.

Smaller tasks — like organizing individual papers, photos, or your craft room — are typical places to start because they seem less daunting. But because these projects require much more detailed, fine-motor organizing skills, and don’t offer that physical release of accomplishment that you get when organizing a larger space, I recommend going after the bigger projects instead.

For those living in small apartments or smaller homes, the biggest benefit may come from keeping common spaces organized — and keeping the peace with your quarantine mates. Try to think in terms of “temporary organization” and see your space functioning as a work, life, fitness, and relaxation area — just for now. Don’t be afraid to move your furniture around so that your experience working at home is better, and remind yourself that it won’t stay this way forever.

How to Get Organized Rule 3: Get Family Involved

Just like many other activities, organizing during this quarantine is a little different. Usually, when we set out to deep clean or organize a space, we send our family away or find some alone time to get organized. But we don’t have those luxuries now, because we are all in this together! That’s why I recommend tackling those aforementioned large projects with the whole family, assuming everyone can pitch in and help.

How to Get Organized Rule 4: Know the Difference Between Decluttering and Organizing

I’ve spent years fine-tuning the process of decluttering and organizing. Both tasks can both give you that immediate sense of “I accomplished something,” “This is great,” or “I feel physically better now that I’ve done that!” feelings. But there’s an important difference between decluttering and organizing.

Organizing: When you organize — not just clean or declutter — the area stays organized for more than just a week, a month, or a few months.

Decluttering: Gives you an immediate sense of release and/or accomplishment, but it has to be done over and over and over again.

For example, if the front hallway is constantly a mess with coats, book bags, and shoes, installing hooks for the coats, and a cubby or some sort of small shelving for book bags and shoes permanently solves the root issue. Clearing the accumulated clutter to another location does not.

When you really get to the root issue of why the space is getting decluttered over and over again, and then fix that issue with organizing, then the problem is solved for good!

Even in the midst of holiday cheer, it’s time to look ahead to a clean and organized New Year–if you can see it, over the clutter of Christmas Past.

Ready to swing into the coming year from a clutter-free home? Try these year-end tips to cut clutter and start the New Year on an organized note.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

House & Holidays Plan Week 18: New Year’s Week

All good times must end; with the arrival of New Year’s Eve, it’s time to wrap up the House and Holidays Plan and move into an organized New Year.

In the coming week, we’ll tie up the season’s loose ends, make New Year’s resolutions, prepare to store holiday decor, and set the stage for next year’s celebration.

See you next year!

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Holiday Grand Plan Week 18: New Year’s

It’s New Year’s week at the Holiday Grand Plan!

We’ll record Christmas memories, prepare for New Year’s celebrations, and begin to look ahead to a new start in the new year.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Christmas Calm: 10 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Sure, you love the holiday season–but just not so much of it! This year, you’re hoping to cut the crazy out of Christmas: to trim the celebration back to one that is sustainable and calm.

Question is, just how do you do less–and enjoy it more–during the Christmas holiday season?

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Low-Cost, No-Cost Ways To Celebrate Christmas with Kids

Cutting costs at Christmas doesn’t mean celebrating like Scrooge. It’s not about what you buy–it’s about what you do!

Putting “celebration” at the center of the season–and taking the focus off of gifts and giving–can be the key to happy holidays that don’t break the bank.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Gimme-Gimme v. Doing Good: Teaching Children to Give

Recently, I eavesdropped on an online discussion about teaching children to give.

The original writer was a concerned, conscientious parent of a preschooler. This father shared his plan to teach his daughter about holiday giving. They would, he wrote, sort through the child’s toys and set aside several toys “to give to needy children.”

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Do Less, Enjoy More: Simplify Holiday Traditions

“Tradition” is a powerful force that sometimes pulls an unsuspecting family along in its wake. Do your holiday traditions serve your family, your values and your spiritual beliefs–or are you running a tired and joyless circle during the holiday season in the name of tradition?

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Save on Decor: Frugal Holiday Decorating Tips

Nothing says “Christmas!” like a beautifully decorated home. Fragrant greens, twinkling lights, holiday centerpieces all set the stage for a merry holiday season.

But at what cost?

If you believe catalog vendors, department stores and florists, be prepared to lay down a bundle to create that holiday home. Each year sees a set of new colors, new images, new trends, all designed to part you from your holiday dollars.

31 Days to a Clutter Free Life is unfortunately no longer available as a free challenge on our website.

The good news is that you can still access this life-changing challenge as part of our insanely amazing Ultimate Cleaning Bundle Home Management System . It’s normally a $47 value, but for a limited time you can grab it for just $29.

Keep reading to find out what’s included, and how it can help you quickly take back control of your home as you clean faster, declutter easier, and get more organized.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Clean faster, declutter easier, get totally organized, and create a home space you actually enjoy.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

Clean faster, declutter easier, get totally organized, and create a home space you actually enjoy.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

THE QUICK-START HOME MANAGEMENT SYSTEM DESIGNED TO GET YOUR HOUSE SPARKLING CLEAN IN RECORD TIME

JUST IMAGINE IF YOU COULD.

  • Quickly get your home in order and be able to keep it that way.
  • Actually feel excited and happy (instead of overwhelmed) about cleaning, organizing, and decluttering.
  • Have a concrete plan of action for getting rid of excess clutter and taking total control of your space.
  • Stop feeling embarrassed by the mess around you, and actually enjoy entertaining and having people over .
  • Feel completely confident about your housekeeping skills and your own ability to always keep your home tidy.
  • Get to the heart of your organizational struggles and discover a system that works with you , not against you.
  • Have more time for the things you actually want to do because you’ve cut your cleaning time in half.
  • Create better habits that will lead to lasting change and a home you love .

“The Ultimate Cleaning Bundle changed the way I approached my home, and allowed me to finally create a space where I feel like I can breathe again. I kept thinking the solution was buying more organizing tools, but I really just needed a system for getting organized that actually worked.”

– JANE –

YOU DESERVE A CLEAN & ORGANIZED HOME THAT YOU LOVE

FOR A LIMITED TIME, GET OUR ULTIMATE CLEANING BUNDLE HOME MANAGEMENT SYSTEM FOR JUST $29 (A $47 VALUE)

  • Get a digital copy of our Ultimate Cleaning Guide , which will show you exactly what steps you can take to get your home in order RIGHT NOW in order to create a space you absolutely love.
  • Includes more than $50 in printable resources (if purchased individually).
  • You’ll also get a digital copy of our bestselling challenge, 31 Days to a Clutter Free Life , which will help you kick your clutter to the curb for good in just one powerful month.
  • Best of all, you’ll get the support, know-how, and motivation you need to clean faster and more effectively, declutter your home, tame your laundry pile for good, and finally get organized.

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

“Reading this guide, it’s like you took every piece of my life that was in knots and gently showed me how to untie them. And I couldn’t be more grateful. So thank you. Thank you for embracing your messy as not a lot of people do anymore, and showing me, and probably countless other people, that there is a way out, if you just stay focused and go slow and forward and do your best. “

– LAURA –

AND I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT’S LIKE TO STRUGGLE WITH HOUSEKEEPING!

In fact, I first started my blog, Living Well Spending Less, in 2010 not because I was kind of home guru or cleaning expert. Just opposite, in fact! Truth be told, I was kind-of a disaster in almost every way. Too much stuff, not enough time, and no good systems in place for staying organized.

My husband Chuck and I fought a lot about everything, and after one epic battle, I knew something had to give. I started writing about my journey of trying to get my life in order, figuring if nothing else it would be a way to hold myself accountable.

Amazingly enough, it worked! Eventually I learned how to put simple systems in place to keep my space clean and organized so that I had a lot more time for all those other things I wanted to do. My solutions are hard fought, and I know that they will help you the same way they helped me!

Want to know more? You can find more information and links to all of my other practical tools and resources at RuthSoukup.com !

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

AND I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT’S LIKE TO STRUGGLE WITH HOUSEKEEPING.

In fact, I first started my blog, Living Well Spending Less, in 2010 not because I was kind of home guru or cleaning expert. Just opposite, in fact! Truth be told, I was kind-of a disaster in almost every way. Too much stuff, not enough time, and no good systems in place for staying organized.

My husband Chuck and I fought a lot about everything, and after one epic battle, I knew something had to give. I started writing about my journey of trying to get my life in order, figuring if nothing else it would be a way to hold myself accountable.

Amazingly enough, it worked! Eventually I learned how to put simple systems in place to keep my space clean and organized so that I had a lot more time for all those other things I wanted to do. My solutions are hard fought, and I know that they will help you the same way they helped me!

Want to know more? You can find more information and links to all of my other practical tools and resources at RuthSoukup.com !

“Ruth has put together a fantastic group of suggestions and ideas to help improve your home and live better. She provides great suggestions for everything from cleaning and organizing to how to get rid of clutter and possibly make money in the process. It is definitely an easy-to-follow system worth learning. “

– AMBER –

How to be organized the ultimate guide to get (and stay) clutter free

ADHD and clutter naturally occur together, and together they make a natural disaster. One of the hallmarks of ADHD is disorganization; because of symptoms like distractibility and difficulty focusing, organization is a difficult task for people living with ADHD. Clutter builds. Then, because of the clutter, ADHD symptoms of distractibility and difficulty focusing increase. It’s the perfect, intensifying storm.

For someone with ADHD, a sense of wellbeing can get buried under all the clutter. A cluttered environment decreases overall mental health and increases stress (Whitbourne, 2017). The idea of organizing can be overwhelming, and the temptation to procrastinate or avoid organizing makes sense. But with the right approach, you can eliminate clutter and get organized.

ADHD and Clutter: Two Basic Principles of Organization

When you begin to declutter and take control of your own space, everything can blur together into one gigantic overwhelming pile of mess. Before diving into the five tips for getting organized, there are two general principles to guide you:

  1. The one-year principle. If you haven’t used, worn, or otherwise noticed something in a year, get rid of it.
  2. The OHIO method. This principle helps you cut down on paper clutter. Regarding paperwork, Weiss (2005) advises, Only Handle It Once. Act immediately on things like bills or notes kids bring home in backpacks. Deal with it, then file or recycle. This works for things other than paper, too, like small objects that end up on counters and tabletops. Handle it once, then toss, recycle, or donate.

Five Tips for Getting Organized, Reducing ADHD Clutter

These tips are easy-to-follow solutions to clutter. De-cluttering using these strategies will help you feel less overwhelmed and more in control of yourself and your space.

  1. Begin with vision and purpose. Without meaning, decluttering can seem pointless and tedious, and it will be easy to get distracted and walk away. Borrowing from solution-focused therapy, ask yourself what your space will be like when it’s neat, organized, and clutter-free. What will you be able to do and enjoy in this clean space?
  2. Break it into bits. It can be paralyzing to look at every corner of disorganization and think of trying to tackle it all. On top of that, ADHD makes it difficult to start tasks and to concentrate on them. Break your tasks up and tackle your decluttering bit by bit.
  3. Be methodical. Even when organizing in bits, it can be hard to know where to begin and ADHD can cause you to jump around, starting something but moving on before finishing. A solution to your clutter is to have a plan and a system. Go room by room, perhaps, and within each room sort by types of items.
  4. Schedule time for decluttering. Creating schedules is a helpful tool for people living with ADHD. Scheduling time for important people and tasks ensures that you follow through rather than forgetting and feeling bad later. Scheduling works for organization because it ensures that you’ve dedicated time to do it. Make sure, too, to schedule breaks and stop times (Adult ADHD and How to Manage Your Time and Stay on Schedule).
  5. Buddies and Breaks. Enlist the assistance of a friend or family member. Tackling a tedious task with someone else makes it more enjoyable. Plus, you’ll have someone to help keep you on track and help you sort things into piles for keeping, donating, recycling, or tossing. Throughout the process of getting organized, be sure to take breaks. Breaks will keep you fresh and motivated.

These general tips can be applied to any organization project. Together, they provide ADHD-friendly solutions to clutter.

Eliminate Clutter When You Have ADHD

As you employ the above tips for getting organized, you also want to create places to put the things you’re keeping so they are easily accessible and don’t contribute to more clutter. If you have a place for everything, your living and working space will be more likely to stay neat, and you won’t be caught in a frantic dash to find something at the last minute. (Imagine not having to search for keys when you’re supposed to be leaving the house.)

To organize your space:

  • Use different colored folders for the various things you have to keep track of, such as papers from school, insurance information, etc.
  • Use accordion folders to file things like coupons, tickets, etc.
  • Have colorful baskets or bowls in strategic places, such as on a table by the door, a coffee table, or the stairs. Make them a regular part of your life by always placing the same items in them. Keys will always go by the door. Reading glasses will be placed where you use them the most.

If clutter has taken over your life, chances are your adult ADHD symptoms feel heightened because ADHD and clutter contribute to each other. Manage both your symptoms and your life by eliminating clutter.

Organizing is a challenge and a chore for most people. But when you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), symptoms like distractibility, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating can make getting organized seem impossible.

But there are small steps you can take to organize your space and your life. Below, attention and ADHD coach Laura Rolands and clinical psychologist and ADHD expert Ari Tuckman share their strategies for getting a handle on clutter and creating a clean space.

1. Start small. When it comes to organizing, one of the mistakes people with ADHD make is to try to work on everything at once, said Rolands, who operates LSR Coaching and Consulting.

The second mistake, according to Tuckman, is letting your space become unbearably disorganized. So the disorganization becomes doubly overwhelming, and you give yourself more reasons to avoid it.

“Pick one area to clean for today and make it an area that is not too large,” such as “one section of your kitchen counter or one corner of your living room,” Rolands said.

If this is still overwhelming, think of an amount of time that feels comfortable to you, such as 10 minutes, she said. Set your timer, and organize until you hear the ding. Timers also serve as great reminders that you need to move on to your next project.

2. Work on one small area each day, Rolands said. Again, this helps you avoid getting overwhelmed and easily distracted.

3. Organize on a regular basis. As Tuckman said, “We don’t expect one shower to last all week, so it’s the same with organizing.”

Find yourself slipping? “Remind yourself that although being organized takes some time, it also saves time when you’re able to find things quickly and with less stress,” he said.

4. Shrink your stuff. “The less you have, the easier it is to organize what’s left,” said Tuckman, who’s also the author of More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD.

Some items will be easier to part with than others, he noted, while you might hold onto items just in case you need them later. But he reminded readers that “If you can’t find it when you need it, you may as well not own it.”

5. Downsize regularly. In addition to getting rid of the things you own, be strict about buying more things and letting clutter in your life in general. “The less stuff that comes into your life, the less you need to manage, so get yourself off of mailing lists and resist the temptation to buy those unnecessary little items,” Tuckman suggested.

6. Keep your system as simple as possible. Having an easy organization system “makes it more likely that [you] will stick with it, which is the ultimate goal,” Tuckman said. For example, use file folders with brightly colored labels, Rolands said. Using different colors makes them easier to find, Tuckman said.

Too distracting? “Use one folder for all bills related to the house, rather than creating separate folders for each bill,” he said.

7. Color-code email based on the sender. “This way, you can see emails from your priority customers, family members and bosses first,” Rolands said.

8. Create a simple system for your home and office mail. Mail is something that easily piles up and creates tons of clutter. So organize mail every day. “Give yourself a few options such as File, Toss, Do and Delegate,” she said.

9. Carve out time to clean the clutter. Rolands suggested that readers “Make an appointment with yourself to organize.”

10. Limit distractions, Rolands said. If you don’t want to be organizing in the first place, there are tons of things that can pull for your attention. So turn off the TV and computer, and let your phone go to voicemail. Also, consider other common distractions that stop you from accomplishing your tasks and avoid those.

11. Ask for help. You don’t have to organize alone. For starters, you can ask someone to simply be in the room as you organize. “Having someone else present tends to keep us working longer and [with] fewer distractions,” Tuckman pointed out.

If you’re having particular trouble creating a simple organizing system, ask a friend to help or hire a coach, Rolands said.

12. Check out helpful resources. Rolands likes the National Resource Center on AD/HD for anything ADHD-related and Families with Purpose, “an organization dedicated to helping busy parents create a meaningful family life for themselves and their children.”

Also, ADDitude magazine offers a variety of free downloads on organizing and other ADHD information.

Ultimately, do what works best for you. “There is not a one-size-fits-all [system] with regard to anyone, especially adults with ADHD,” Rolands said. Tuckman added, “Don’t expect yourself to enjoy [organizing], just do it anyway.”

Related Resources

Photo by Alan Levine, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.