It’s not your fault.
Organizing, and specifically decluttering takes a great deal of focus on a task that isn’t super fun.
Naturally, having ADHD you’re going to get distracted, and returning to the decluttering, is there even a chance of that happening?
You don’t have a problem with knowing what to do, just with doing what you know to do.
Your brain will do whatever it can to avoid the task.
The issue is, you still want it done. You want an organized life, you want to be able to find things and enjoy having people over.
It’s possible, we just have to trick your brain a little bit.
There’s a common misconception that people with ADHD can’t stay on task. They can, they just need to be excited about, and super invested in, the specific task. Obviously, this makes organizing difficult because It’s not fun and exciting for you.
So what are some ways to make it so exhilarating that you can’t help but focus on getting it done?
Treat yo self
What treat do you love?
Fried bananas stuffed with chilly?
Pick 1 tiny treat, and then 1 substantial treat. Such as individually wrapped chocolates as the small treat, then say, a fancy dinner out to Fogo De Chao as the substantial treat.
What you’ll then do is use the small treats as crumbs to help you get started so you can stick to organizing. This will trick that ADHD brain of yours into somewhat enjoying the task.
So, what will happen is you get 1 chocolate for getting a drawer organized, then another for getting a cabinet organized, so on and so forth.
Until the whole kitchen is organized when you get the big reward of going to Fogo De Chao! Yay, you did it!
Lists, ideally handwritten and hung around your neck, will be your best friend.
Maybe hanging them around your neck is a little much, but at least you won’t lose track of it.
However, having a physical list will help keep the tasks in front of you and not lost deep inside your phone.
This will help you to keep attacking your tasks, that is if you remember to check the task list. That’s where regular reminders set on your phone can help.
The best thing about lists is that you get a little hit of dopamine every time you cross off a task which helps propel you onto the next one, and the tactile act of crossing it off with a pen, in my opinion, amplifies the feeling of victory over the enemy task.
The hardest thing about lists is finding the way it works best for you. There are thousands of ways to do lists, it’s just figuring out which one works best for your life. I like physical lists, but you may like all digital ones. Or possibly a hybrid model.
One strategy I highly recommend however is to make two separate lists, ideally, in two separate apps, or form a “daily doing” list and a “catchall” list. The catchall list is a list that collects the tasks that need to be done so it’s out of your brain but also is stored somewhere to be acted on later when added to the daily doing list.
I personally use the drafts app to collect all my loose Todo’s. The reason I like it is because whenever I open the app it opens to a new note. If it’s something on my mind I can’t waste any time clicking back and forward into folders. I need to get it out of my mind as fast as possible, or else it could be gone forever. I also tag it with where it needs to go, which saves me time categorizing later.
For my daily task list, I fold up a piece of paper in a way, that when it’s resting on the table, the tasks are tilted up at my face. I try to keep this list in my back right pocket at all times.
When writing your tasks out, it can really help to be specific otherwise the task can feel too heavy to even start, which the ADHD brain is going to particularly resist.
Don’t just put, “Write blog,” which is really broad and your mind goes, fuck that, writing a whole blog is way too much work, I’m not doing that.
Break it down into something more like “Write the outline for the blog” or “Write 1 sentence for the blog.” This way, it feels like less of a load, and if you get that done, you did it! Anything on top of it is a bonus.
Getting the task list done
Some people need the list in front of them all the time.
A possible solution for this is one of these Vesta boards. You can then digitally input your tasks so the list is always with you, but visually available at all times when you’re at home.
Here’s an Amazon affiliate link to pick one up.
Another less pricy option is using a corkboard or whiteboard to pin them to the wall, personally, however, I’ve found I eventually tune these out and start to ignore them, but find what works for you.
Yes, for most people with ADHD this may seem like a bird giving a fish advice on how to swim, but trust me here, all the scientific research points to meditation helping in countless areas of life.
So before you get started, I’m only going to make you do it once, set a timer for 17 minutes, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing, how your clothes are touching your body, and what your body is feeling.
A great breathing technique to help focus is to count to 4 as you breath in – hold for 4 seconds – breath out for 4 seconds – then hold for 4 seconds and keep repeating that until the timer goes off.
This will help calm that fun brain of yours and get you ready for the task ahead.
Okay, so you have the task list made, but you actually have to complete the tasks to completion.
You have your specific task, now you need to focus long enough to get it done.
Pick a specific day and ideally time that you will block out to get at least 1 of the tasks on the list done. Even if it’s just a 10-minute block, it’s usually better to start small and build up over time.
The goal isn’t to get all the tasks done on the list, it’s phenomenal when you do, but if you shoot for that goal then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. Shoot for small wins then do your very best to keep going when time allows.
It’s said people with ADHD have trouble focusing, they don’t.
As I’m sure you’ve realized, you have trouble staying on task when they aren’t interested in that task. I’ve seen many people with ADHD focus for hours on a single task, they just have to love it.
So the mission is to get you started on the task, keep you interested in the task, and most importantly, keep you from switching from the task until it’s done.
Step 1: Set your phone to do not disturb or work mode. You can setup different modes on the iPhone so when you’re ‘organizing’ and your kids need to reach you but no one else does, then make an organizing mode that lets through calls and texts from only the little buggers.
…or large ones if they’re grown humans.
But turn it on.
Step 2: Make it a game! – Let’s say you have a report you need to complete for work and every ounce of your being is resisting getting it done. One option to help make it exciting is to set point values to numbers of words or paragraphs.
For instance, 5 points per 10 items gone through. Then, if you hit say 500 points you can buy that cute new handbag you want.
The rules can be whatever you’d like as long as its difficult enough to keep you interested in the task, yet not so easy that you don’t complete the task and just end up with a fancy new purse.
Step 3: Repeat – If you’re making a game, try to make a point system that makes it easy to translate from one task to another, like attaching it to time. You don’t want to have a ton a mental energy just to think through how to convince yourself to get the task done.
We want to be able to use use this whenever we have extreme apathy towards whatever it is that needs to be done… like folding and putting the laundry away into a new and organized system.
Do it in tandem
You may not want to organize, but you defiantly want to listen to that new episode of the murder mystery podcast you love.
Put on some headphones, plug it in, and then get started organizing. Your mind will be distracted by the podcast so the organizing wont feel so daunting. Especially if you’re sorting through 1000 papers.
This strategy can be dangerous however, if you have more sever ADHD with a strong tendency to get distracted then I’d be careful with this strategy because you could get sucked into the podcast, or the podcast might make you think of something you want to look for which could take you off task.
Make a mantra
Set a mantra or question that becomes your compass, a word that keeps your headed in the direction you need to go, preventing the wind from just taking you this way or that.
Here are a few suggestions:
I’m getting this done
I’m working on ‘x’ task
‘X’ is my priority right now
What’s important right now?
What am I doing? (In a matter-of-fact tone, not a ‘what am I even doing with my life’ tone, don’t worry, none of us know)
Why is this important?
Is what I’m going of high value and getting me towards my goal?
Set a reminder for every 20 minutes to remind you to ask yourself the question “What’s my task, what am I trying to get done?”
This way if you did get distracted, then you’re giving yourself the opportunity to get back on track.
It’s also important to keep from beating yourself up about getting off task, be kind to your beautiful self, and just redirect.
Your whole life people like teachers, family members, friends, astrology signs, have told you who you are.
After hearing this year after year, you start to tell it to yourself and believe it.
But you don’t have to, as Virginia Satir said, “we must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.”
You get to pick your identify and beliefs, it’s not easy to alter these, but it is possible. Be diligent, consistently work at them and forgive yourself what you mess up.
This is where we can come in.
Having someone hold you accountable to a time slot really helps.
Asking a friend to help can also be good but it’s often tough to keep them from flaking.
We love helping and will always show up on time. We also have a deeper knowledge of organizing products.
Becoming an organizing machine
To become an organizing machine it’s pretty simple.
Make a task list.
Create a reward system and maybe a game.
Focus on each task in the list until the list is done.
Start the process over the next day.
Get your home organized.
I know that is way oversimplified, but you can do it, and if you need help, that’s what we are here for!
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just pay someone to act like a personal trainer and help/make sure you get it done, blocking out that time and having someone there to help you stick to getting it done could be the best option. But use it as a last option.
ADHD doesn’t have to hold you back from being an organized person.
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