The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Month: October 2014 (page 1 of 2)

Minimalist blog roundup

Less means you spend less. You need less storage. You need a smaller house. Less means you worry less. You search for things less. You are less bogged down by clutter.

— Leo Babuta of zenhabits

We ADHD’ers have so much going on in our heads, often that clutter and chaos extends into our physical surroundings. Organizing our things takes too much time, too much focus. We cave to the excitement of buying new stuff. Our lives become so messy, we buy duplicates of tools and supplies because we forget we already own one — or we just can’t find it when we need it.

I know. I’m about to buy what I think is our third pair of office scissors.

In a household where true calm is hard to come by, the only path I’ve found to a more satisfying life is through less. Doing less. Consuming Less. Owning less.

My husband once told me, “we don’t have enough storage space in this house.” I told him, “there’s no way to know that until we’re using it effectively to store things we use and love.” We’re not there yet. We have a long way to go. But we’re in a much, much better place than where we started, and that feels lovely.

If you stress about being short on money and time, about not being able to find things when you need them, about constantly feeling behind — give minimalism a try. Take a look at what these bloggers have to say about how simplifying has freed them to live a richer life.

My favorite minimalist blogs:

  • Unclutterer
    I already mentioned this one in my review of Unclutter Your Life in One Week, but it belongs at the top of my list. Unclutterer is full of practical, reasonable, simple, and challenging advice for living an uncluttered life. New content is posted regularly, and you can catch up on old content via regular “A Year Ago on Unclutterer” posts.
  • The Minimalist Mom
    While it lacks the raw quantity of Unclutterer, The Minimalist Mom makes up for it in quality. Parents will love Rachel’s genuine approach to blogging about minimalism. She admits it’s not always easy and talks about the challenges of living with less while also living with young children. It’s tough, but she’s doing it, and she paid off $80,000 in debt in just under two years. That’s enough to catch my attention!
  • zenhabits
    I would be remiss not to include this one, as it’s been with me since my earliest Google Reader days. It’s packed with great philosophies and the posts are short, sweet, and well-edited enough to digest in one sitting. ADHD buyer beware, though: many of Babuta’s challenges will be especially hard for us. Don’t beat yourself up if it feels like way more than just a paradigm shift for you to “inhabit the moment” or “overcome instant gratification.” These are cornerstone ADHD struggles, and our work to overcome them will look different than the average.
  • The Minimalists
    While I don’t frequent this blog for practical tips the way I do Unclutterer or even The Minimalist Mom, Joshua and Ryan have some lovely essays up here about their path to minimalism. Don’t worry, you’ll find practical help, too, like the obvious-yet-easy-to-forget advice to “start with the easy s***.”

Do you have a favorite minimalism- or organizing-themed blog? One place I don’t skimp is my Feedly account, so send it all my way!

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5 tips for meal planning success

DSC_3677Maybe this has happened to you: you’re getting hungry, it’s almost dinner time, and you wonder what you should eat.

It’s the worst.

Afternoons aren’t my best time. My meds are wearing off, I’ve been on the go all day, and my energy and blood sugar are dropping. Before I started meal planning, we ate a lot of packaged food and takeout.

Until I decided I wouldn’t settle for frustration and a substandard diet at the end of every day.

Now I sit down every Sunday and plan our menu for the week. It can be a chore, but it liberates me from thinking about our dinners at all during the Monday-Friday circus.

If you aren’t meal planning, jump in and give it a try. It minimizes trips to the grocery store, reduces food waste, and — most important — saves our sanity.

Here are a few strategies that have helped us over the years. We’ve never subscribed to a meal planning service like Fresh20, but it may be worth a try if you’re having trouble getting started.

1.      Look at your calendar.

What nights will you be rushing in the door late (and hungry)? Do you have a stressful day coming up when you know you won’t feel like cooking? What about after-dinner activities that leave no time for cleanup?

Give yourself some slack on these nights. Plan leftovers, a meal from your freezer stash, or something you can prep the day before.

2.      Family dinner isn’t working? Make it breakfast instead.

We’ve all been hearing the “families need to eat dinner together” mantra since childhood. Well, that doesn’t work for our family. We’re on toddler time, which means dinner needs to happen before 5:45, and my husband is a chronic hyperfocuser.

Rather than banking on him getting home for dinner, I made breakfast our family meal. We’re sitting together around the table by 7:15 a.m., seven days a week. At night, R. and I eat at our usual time and I keep a plate warm in the toaster oven for my husband.

Family dinner is a nice goal, but if it’s not working, forcing it may not be the answer. As long as you’re sitting down together for one meal almost every day, you’re doing great.

3.      Use free time wherever you have it.

IMG_4713A friend of mine uses his Sunday afternoons to prep an entire week of family dinners: he precooks pasta, grills chicken, chops veggies, and packages everything up so he just has to heat and serve on weeknights.

If you’re dragging by the end of the day, are short on time in the evenings, have impatient children, or all of the above, you may want to find a low-pressure time to do your prep work in bulk.

If you have young children, consider cooking during nap time. I learned this technique from Debbie Koenig’s fabulous cookbook Parents Need to Eat Too, which I now buy for every expectant mother I know.

4.      Buy a slow cooker

Slow cookers allow you to prepare dinner ahead of time — before work or during nap time — so you have little (if anything) to do in the chaotic moments before dinner. I rely on our slow cooker for at least one meal a week. Large batches of curries, stews, and sauces usually freeze well in containers for easy meals in the future.

Not sure where to start with your slow cooker? Koenig’s book has a nice slow cooker section, and I’m in love with Anupy Singla’s The Indian Slow Cooker. I’m also happy to share my slow cooking Pinterest board.

5.      Keep track of what works.

Confession: even if I loved it, I usually won’t remember anything I ate the previous week when I sit down to make my meal plan. Find a way to keep track of successes so you can repeat them: keep a running list of favorite meals in Google Keep, take a photo of your shopping list or meal plan each week, or mark pages of your cookbooks with sticky notes.

Have you tried meal planning before? Were you able to stick with it? Please share your story!

#LWSLClutterFree: week 4

#LWSLClutterFree square imageADHD friends, this week was the one. As I started week 4 of the #LWSLClutterFree 31-day challenge, the daily projects officially became too much.

Beginning — and ideally ending — a new project every day on top of my other responsibilities was too taxing on my focus and energy. Some projects, like the office and main bathroom, hit on sore spots I already found overwhelming. In the case of the office, 90% of the clutter and mess issues aren’t in my space, so I didn’t know how to approach it.

Many of these projects should have spanned multiple days. It takes time to dig through the mess, donate or freecycle unwanted items, get input from others who share the space, purchase new storage solutions, and put everything back together. There was no way I could have accomplished assignments for our home’s problem areas in one day.

Because I knew another project would be coming my way the next morning, I didn’t even start potentially overwhelming ones this week.

That brings me to my second point: open loops. As hard as I tried to make each day an open and shut case, I ended up with loose ends. Those loose ends finally reached a critical mass and pushed me into ADHD overwhelm.

To get my mood and focus back on track, I spent this week closing as many open loops as I could. I freecycled most of the hangers from our portable closet and got it ready for relocation. I packed up five bags of donation items and scheduled a Purple Heart pickup. I deep-cleaned the bathroom that had so overwhelmed me the previous week.

By the end of the month, I hope to have finished all the projects I started. Our entire life and household may not be clutter-free, but I’ll be several steps closer.

Despite the slow week, I’m feeling good about my progress. I’m even proud of my successful self-regulation once I realized I was getting overwhelmed. Instead of continuing to start new projects I couldn’t finish, I took a step back and asked myself how I could eliminate some of the mental clutter.

Are any fellow ADHD’ers working on this challenge? How did this week feel to you? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

Book review: Unclutter Your Life in One Week

Unclutter-Your-Life-in-One-WeekThe original version of this review appeared in Mix Tapes & Scribbles on May 20, 2012.

If you struggle to maintain (or create) order in your home, Unclutter Your Life in One Week is a must-read. Author Erin Doland gives readers a comprehensive decluttering strategy backed by solid values.

Mind you, you won’t complete this process in one week. You won’t even complete it in one month. Maybe some highly motivated individuals can clear their calendars and stick to Doland’s timeline, but I haven’t met any of them.

ADHD readers should proceed with caution and set reasonable, attainable goals that won’t max out your energy reserves.  I recommend using this book as a general guide and discarding the schedule Doland suggests. Trying to accomplish so much in so little time can lead to a demoralizing collapse of productive energy.

Unclutter Your Life in One Week presents effective organizing strategies rooted in the belief that we all deserve a remarkable life. ADHD’ers who shy away from structure and rules may find that philosophy helpful as they create new habits. Just like some smokers quit by displaying a photo of the prize they’ll buy with their cigarette money, we need a meaningful foundation for our efforts. Once you begin to see your extraneous stuff as a barrier between you and that remarkable life, you’re on your way to success.

ADHD’ers may benefit especially from Doland’s suggestion to prioritize the “firsts” in your life: the first place you see when you wake up in the morning, when you arrive at work, when you arrive home after work, etc. Ensuring these daily first impressions are good ones will provide immediate gratification and positive reinforcement.

The key to making this book work for ADHD adults is breaking these projects down into manageable pieces. ADHD’ers risk beginning a project like this with great gusto, only to lose steam and leave behind a bigger mess than when we started. I recommend breaking each project down into 30-to-60-minute chunks, factoring in time spent gathering materials, completing the task, and cleaning up.

Also, Doland suggests sorting items into bags for Goodwill and putting them in the garage to take later. She doesn’t mention a strategy to make sure these things actually leave the house. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve had bags piled in the basement for months waiting to be taken to the electronics recycling center or the donation bins. ADHD’ers should have a plan for this before accumulating boxes and bags of donation items. If you live in a major city, many charities have regular pickup routes — it’s just a matter of finding out when the truck will be in your neighborhood.

My only big disappointment came in the chapter addressing leisure activities. Doland suggests letting go of a hobby if you don’t spend at least an hour a month on it, claiming “if it were really important to you, you would pursue it.” For ADHD adults who are struggling and failing to do what they know they want to do, statements like it must not mean that much to you are judgmental and damaging. I will never forget how it feels to be told “lazy is as lazy does” by a loved one, and I would never imply that how ADHD adults spend their time directly reflects the values in their hearts.

I acknowledge this book doesn’t target ADHD adults, but many chronically disorganized people have ADHD. Doland’s failure to address that directly in the book is an unfortunate omission, especially paired with assumptions and judgements like those mentioned above.

Overall, I still recommend Unclutter Your Life in One Week to anyone struggling with clutter. Doland hits the nail on the head when she says you cannot possibly live your best life when you’re drowning in clutter and distractions.

For some continued pre- or post-reading, check out the companion website at www.unclutterer.com.

Guest post: a calendar that works for our family

This guest post comes from Katy Rollins of 18 Channels: An ADHD Life.

Hi, I’m Katy

I’m a wife and a stepmother of three. I have an excellent relationship with my husband and stepchildren. Yes, there are challenges to raising kids between two households, but these days our family unit is pretty functional most of the time.

I’m in my 30s. I was diagnosed with ADHD five or six years ago, and so was my husband and one of our kids.

Why we needed a central calendar

It’s challenging enough trying to organize one household, never mind keeping everyone organized when your kids are living between two households. And they have activities. And so do you.

There are many ways for families to approach the task of “getting organized.” That’s part of the challenge for us ADHD’ers: that process requires too much executive functioning brainpower, something we aren’t well-stocked with.

Nonetheless, life became too stressful without a calendar for me to continue pretending we didn’t need one. This wasn’t completely out of the blue — I agonized over it for a long time. I hate using calendars. I get confused and I miss things and I forget the calendar exists. Yeah, I might have been avoiding this for a while…

Choosing a calendaring system

First, I had to figure out what kind of calendar we needed: paper? Dry erase? Electronic? Did my husband have any opinions on this?

We talked about electronic calendars — with hilarious, anxiety-provoking results. I ended up installing a dry erase calendar in the entryway to our house. Everyone has to walk past it when they go in and out of the house or up and down the stairs.

Our dry erase calendar is visual, easy to use, and accessible by everyone — of every age — in the household. Because everyone can use it, everyone can be expected to use it.

Getting information onto the family calendar

I needed access to all the necessary information for our calendar: Where could I find the kids’ soccer schedules? Could they be printed? How would we manage all the kids’ schedules, from acquisition to action? Could my husband access any of this information and help gather it?

As it turned out, he can print it all out for me. I write it into the dry erase calendar each week.

Katy Rollins family calendar

Katy’s calendaring solution in action.

I actually found a nice dry erase calendar at the dollar store near my house. I’ve set two of them up on an easel. The one on the bottom is a regular monthly calendar, and the one on the top is a weekly calendar, which is useful for us because we have the kids on different days each week. We need that weekly capsule of information.

Getting buy-in and making it happen

Now, how was I going to get my whole household on board? A good system requires buy-in from all (or at least most) participants.

I don’t know if this approach would work with every household, but I realized that this initiative could get really bogged down if I waited for everyone’s opinion. So I didn’t ask them. I decided we needed a system, I got some input from my husband, and I just did it.

I adore my husband and he’s smart at coming up with systems, but sometimes it’s hard to get him to sit down and engage in this type of thing. I decided I would just start thinking it through on my own and engage him at the points where I needed help.

Honestly, I had little confidence in my own ability to use a calendar, but we still needed one. My baggage didn’t matter. And I think the method I chose — the dry erase calendar in a central location — is probably the easiest option for everyone, at least to start. I can’t forget to look at it when it’s right there.

Challenges — and success!

My own confidence and willingness to assert myself ended up being my biggest obstacle. On top of my discomfort with calendars, I don’t like being ‘bossy.’ In a lot of ways I’m an assertive person, but I don’t always like telling others what to do.

The really important lesson I got from all of this is that I can’t let my ADHD issues or personality quirks keep me from doing what I need to do for my household to keep us all sane. I ultimately decided that it would be selfish to continue to let those anxieties get in the way.

We are a few weeks into using the new calendar system, and I hope we all stick with it. I still need to remind the kids to look at it when they ask, “do I have a soccer game tomorrow?” When my husband forgot to put a gig on the calendar — meaning a surprise for both of us — it was a good reminder of how important it is for us to use this tool.

#LWSLClutterFree: week 3

We’ve now completed three weeks of intense decluttering with #LWSLClutterFree. Though my general outlook grew less rosy, I scored a major victory by eliminating a should-have-been-temporary portable closet. Let’s check out Week 3’s stats.

Days 13-19: Summary

Current projects

Backlog

Total time & completion rate

  • 10/19 projects completed (52%)
  • 3:02 total time this week
  • 8:37 total time this month

The good news

For several years, my clothes have lived in a portable closet in our bedroom, with my husband taking the ‘real’ closet.

The term “master closet” is actually a bit of a joke for those of us with older homes. Here’s what we’ve got to work with:

#LWSLClutterFree master closet before photo

Apologies for the somewhat poor lighting in these photos. Our bedroom’s dark walls make things challenging!

The closet is tiny, but my husband doesn’t wear all those shirts. I took everything out of the closet, donated what he no longer wears, and made room in his t-shirt drawer for anything that didn’t need to hang.  When I finished, I had about 50% of the closet available. Then I moved on to my closet:

#LWSLClutterFree master closet before photoTo put it in perspective, here’s a view of the whole room:

#LWSLClutterFree master bedroom after photoThe portable closet looks untidy, attracts dust and clutter on its top, and prevents my husband from having a nightstand.

I’m proud to report that I consolidated our two closets into one by the end of the hour! I haven’t taken the portable closet down yet, but I plan to as soon as I get a few spare minutes.

The bad news

I hit a wall this week. Keeping up with the projects every day has been tough, and by the time midweek rolled around, I was feeling burned out. Not only that, I was behind on basic cleaning upkeep because of all the time I’d spent decluttering.

Certainly not helping matters was the dreaded master bathroom and medicine cabinet. We don’t have a master bath, just a shared hall bathroom upstairs, and at the time I used that to rationalize not doing those projects. However, there’s more to it than that: our upstairs bathroom is a major sore point for me. It’s unsightly, the tile gets moldy faster than I can clean it, the shower barely works, and we’re currently planning a remodel. Given my burned-out mindset, it was just too easy to say, “I’m going to take a sledgehammer to it soon enough anyway, so why bother?”

On the bright side, I spent around 90 minutes packing up decluttered items for a yet-to-be-scheduled donation pickup, taking photos for stuff I wanted to give away or sell, and posting those photos online. I’ve already made $15 and gotten several items out of the house!

Conclusions

The workload here is definitely more than I can handle comfortably. We’ve had some extenuating circumstances this month — medical stuff in our own household, plus some traveling for extended family — but most families can say that about most months.

Some of the projects were great one-day affairs. For example, a single closet or a junk drawer. Others, like the bathroom, intimidated me before I even walked through the door. Yet others didn’t allow for selection and purchase of a new storage or organizing system. This could take an hour on its own — at least, I think it could. Condensing “create functional storage” into one checkbox was enough to scare me off entirely.

For ADHD adults, many of these assignments will take more than one hour and possibly more than one day. This leaves the door open to burnout, unfinished projects (which breed clutter), and a feeling of failure at the end of the month.

That said, as long as I keep up with the more manageable projects and schedule a donation pickup soon, I’ll still come out far ahead of where I started.

Have you been participating in #LWSLClutterFree this month? Please share your experiences in the comments!

Blog Action Day: Inequality (and what it has to do with women & ADHD)

Note: This post is part of Blog Action Day 2014. Please click here to check out the live stream of posts about inequality!

ADHD may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “inequality.” Likewise, a teacher isn’t thinking about it when she recommends a female student repeat the second grade instead of undergoing an ADHD assessment.

I suspect my own second grade teacher didn’t have ADHD in mind when she sent home notes about my poor behavior. On my report card, she wrote that I “often [did] not ‘feel like’ working and staying on task.” No one mentioned ADHD.

Unfortunately, the gender gap in effective diagnosis and treatment has improved little since my elementary school days. Girls are still consistently less likely to be diagnosed and treated for ADHD than boys.

This is not just a tragedy of wasted potential — it’s damaging our mental health. Women and girls with ADHD self-report more issues with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem than their male counterparts. The effects of missed diagnoses are compounded by the fact that female friendships can require more skill in reading social cues and interpreting others’ feelings. Women and girls are especially prone to social isolation and rejection as a result of their ADHD.

The other side of ADHD

ADHD often looks different in girls, making timely diagnosis more challenging. Society drives us to please others more than it does boys, so girls’ academic performance suffers less often. Like many girls with both high IQ and ADHD, I had no trouble coasting through school. It was only in adult life that everything began to fall apart in earnest. Because girls are also less prone to disrupt classroom activities, their struggles often go unnoticed by educators.

Your brain (and meds) on estrogen

Adding another layer of complication is estrogen, which studies have shown to improve memory and cognitive functioning. It stands to reason, then, that during periods of lower estrogen — before the menstrual period, postpartum, and at the onset of menopause — we would experience more severe ADHD symptoms.

I’ve experienced this firsthand. I dreaded stopping my stimulant medication for my pregnancy, but my doctor told me, “wait and see, you may find you feel great.”

To my surprise, I did feel great. I continued to feel great for six months after my son was born. Then, as he began exploring solid food and gradually decreased his intake of breast milk, my symptoms came back with a vengeance. By the time he weaned at 14 months, I felt like I was witnessing the final moments of a slow-motion collapse.

Don’t assume medication will insulate you from the estrogen roller coaster, either. While estrogen is believed to render stimulants more effective, the converse is also true: you may find your meds don’t work as well during those low-estrogen periods. Additionally, progesterone — found in higher levels during puberty — dampens the effect of stimulants. Women entering puberty and menopause should be prepared to make dramatic changes to how they manage ADHD symptoms.

Seeing past the stereotypes

If you’re still picturing a hyperactive little boy when you think of ADHD, you’re part of the problem. Undiagnosed ADHD can have crippling effects on girls’ self-esteem, social relationships, and mental health. The good news is, you can change for the better today by educating yourself on ADHD in all its forms: male and female, hyperactive and inattentive.

What you can do

  • Educate yourself on the unique challenges of women with ADHD
  • Know the common symptoms of ADHD in women, and how they differ from most men
  • If you’re a woman with ADHD, make sure your mental health care provider is familiar with treating ADHD in women; if your meds don’t feel right, say something
  • To help make the most of your treatment plan, keep a daily log of your symptoms throughout your monthly cycle; look for patterns in how your symptoms fluctuate
  • If you have a daughter with ADHD — or you suspect she has ADHD but she hasn’t been evaluated — be prepared to advocate for her and push for a diagnosis and reasonable accommodations; also, look out for changes in her symptoms or the effectiveness of her medication as she enters puberty

Further reading

“You’re doing it again.” Developing a signal for problem ADHD behavior.

natalie portman ear pull gif

Our outburst signal was born at the dinner table. Maybe my husband made light of a frustrating situation. Maybe I’d had a long day at work. Maybe the salt shaker fell over. It doesn’t matter. What matters is I pounded my fist on the table so hard, several months’ worth of crumbs ejected from the crack where the leaves join together.

A tense silence stretched between us as we both stared at that line of food bits bisecting the otherwise smooth surface.

Then we laughed.

We laughed until our sides hurt. Most importantly, we laughed until our tension and frustration were all but forgotten.

ADHD overreactions can be funny, but they can also escalate a situation from mundane to catastrophic in a split second.

In the moment, words can put an already volatile ADHD’er on the defensive — especially if you’re tempted to say exactly what you’re thinking (e.g., your spouse is acting like a toddler).

“Instead of criticism and belittlement,” suggests Gina Pera, award-winning author of Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?“try humor.”

If you or a family member struggle frequently with overreactions and sudden outbursts, create a sign. Make sure it’s something you both feel okay about and, ideally, will smirk at even if you’re angry.

Ever since that night at the dinner table, my husband has a signal to let me know I’m overreacting. He looks me in the eye and pointedly lowers his fist onto the palm of his other hand.

Signs help break the moment, make you laugh (or at least crack a smile), and inform you in a non-confrontational way that you’re doing it again. Signs are objective, not situation-specific, and can remind us of a funny moment — even if it’s a dark comedy.

Communication — especially reading moods and social cues — is often a major struggle for adults with ADHD. What coping strategies have you and your partner implemented? Which ones have been successful, and which have flopped? Why do you think that is?

#LWSLClutterFree: week 2

Week two of 31 Days to a Clutter Free Life (aka #LWSLClutterFree) brought more surprises, more challenges, and more clean corners! I’ve been continually impressed by the impact I’ve made in areas I didn’t think needed work.

For example, my kid doesn’t have an overabundance of toys, but I was able to take our toy area from this:

DSC_3510

to this:

DSC_3539

It wasn’t crazy before, but it looks so much cleaner and calmer now — and not just because R. and his blocks are missing from the “after” picture!

Let’s take a look at this week’s decluttering progress by the numbers:

Days 6-12: Summary

Current projects

 Backlog

Total time and project completion

  • 7/12 current assignments completed (58%)
  • 4:13 total time spent this week (average 36 minutes per day)

Highlight: books and magazines

I spent nearly half of this week’s decluttering time on books and magazines. It’s the only partially completed project and the only one that’s significantly over the time budget.

I don’t think we own more books than the average household, so it’s probably not possible for many people to complete this challenge in one day.

However, my work thus far has been unmedicated and let me tell you, books and magazines are no small organizing feat for the ADHD adult. First of all, look at all the pictures! And the words! I caught myself several times paging through a book to find out if I really wanted to donate it. Cookbooks, especially, provide lots of romantic pictures that beg us not to let go.

#LWSLClutterFree Day 5: books and magazines

I kicked off Day 5 with an insomnia-fueled attack on my cookbook shelf. I’m already loving how easy it is to grab my most-used cookbooks. R. has a collection of board books at the bottom to look at while I cook dinner.

Speaking of cookbooks: letting go of a reference book of any kind means letting go of a project. Sometimes these projects and ambitions feel very special to us, and sometimes they remind us of our countless unrealized dreams. Getting rid of these books can be painful.

For these reasons and more, I think books and magazines have been the most difficult challenge so far. Most ADHD adults will need to work on this one over several days.

If you’re working with multiple ADHD book owners, the picture below illustrates one strategy that worked wonders for me. I knew my husband — already feeling short on time and behind on his own projects — would be overwhelmed if I simply told him, “sort through your books.” Instead, I asked him to take books from the pile on the left one by one, placing each on top of the “keep” or the “give away” paper. Then I left him alone. When I came back into the room, I was pleasantly surprised by how many books he’d put in the “give away” pile!

ADHD-friendly hacks

Conclusions

Project scope became a real issue this week. There are several bottlenecks and ADHD weak points that I’ll be interested to watch over the course of the month.

While I love the daily checklists, the checkboxes aren’t always single actions. To “create dedicated storage space for any specific functions” of my dining room is an admirable goal, but it’s a discrete project of its own, not a checkbox. To do this well, I’d need to:

  • think about what that storage should look like
  • figure out out how it would fit into the room
  • rearrange, eliminate, or acquire any furniture/supplies to make this happen, and
  • actually do it.

For now, I’ve solved this problem by spending a few minutes thinking about it, then adding any necessary storage solutions to my home organizing/decorating shopping list. I also skipped the china cabinet when I decluttered the dining room because it warrants (at least) its own day.

Regardless of my objective success — how many daily challenges I complete — I’ve moved a lot of furniture, cleaned a lot of baseboards, and gotten rid of a lot of stuff I wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise. That’s a win no matter what!

Want to join me? You still can! Catch up here and start enjoying a calmer, cleaner life.

How to remember everything (the power of writable surfaces)

Forgetting something important feels awful, doesn’t it? Most of our forgetting incidents don’t just frustrate us, they frustrate — or, even worse, hurt or disappoint — our family, friends, and coworkers.

These people’s opinions matter to us. We depend on our relationships with them. We don’t want to let them down, and yet we so often do. What’s worse, ADHD is a cruelly egalitarian disorder. It’s just as easy for us to forget our spouse’s birthday as our dry cleaning.

Maybe you’ve managed to insulate your inner circle from your ADHD’s hurtful effects, but do you ever think of the same idea over and over again, wishing you’d remember it when you could take action?

Don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, shorten the distance between yourself and a reliable container for those thoughts. If you’ve considered using your brain as such a container, don’t. Write everything down. Everything. Every time I catch myself thinking, “that’s too important, I know I won’t forget it,” it’s a huge red flag.

Nowadays, I rely on writable surfaces throughout my house: post-its, dry erase boards, chalkboards, you name it. Even the bathroom mirror. If there’s anyone out there who considers me a good friend, spouse, parent, or relative, it’s probably because I never let myself stray too far from my writing materials.

Be vigilant for ideas

There are some potty training methods that — bear with me here — require constant vigilance as you watch your naked toddler, ready to whisk him to the nearest potty when he begins to empty his bladder onto the floor. Imagine your brain is like this naked toddler. The moment it thinks of something — anything — you need to whisk it to a writable surface straightaway and deposit that idea into an appropriate container.

Of course, you’ll want to set up a trusted system like David Allen’s Getting Things Done to process all the notes you’re going to write, but the first step — and one you should take today — is writing it all down. Stop trusting your brain and start trusting anything you can write on.

Our home’s writable surfaces

Bathroom mirror

DSC_3367-001There’s a reason you have so many ideas in the shower, and the name should sound familiar: dopamine. When you’re in the shower, you’re relaxed, relatively free of distractions, and experiencing a nice dopamine rush from the hot water. Your brain is primed for idea generation.

I keep dry erase markers near the bathroom mirror so I can write a quick note before I’ve even dried off. The mirror is also a great place to leave a loving note or drawing for your spouse. When I worked in IT, I left myself reminders to do early-morning server maintenance from home. Visitors have occasionally spotted our markers and joined the fun, too.

Pantry door chalkboard

Our home is on the small side, so mounting a big dry erase board in a common area just isn’t practical. Instead, I created a cute and functional chalkboard on our pantry door. It’s not as easy as tossing a few dry erase markers in the bathroom, but it’s a project pretty much anyone can take on. I just sanded the finished wood lightly, added a couple coats of primer, then applied this Rust-Oleum chalkboard paint. My 18-month-old has taken over the bottom panel, and we use the larger top panel for grocery lists, reminders, fledgling Spotify playlists, and anything in between.

DSC_3431

 Small dry-erase board

I purchased this when I moved away to college. Somehow, I managed to keep it through a number of moves and years I’d rather not mention. When you’re decluttering, which I hope you are this October, keep an eye out for things like this. This former clutter object now hangs on the side of the fridge and collects phone messages.

Post-its, post-its, and more post-its

I keep a pad of post-it notes in almost every room: on my nightstand, on my desk, in the basement, next to the coffee maker, and anywhere else I catch myself having to remember an idea for more than five steps in any direction.

Isn’t there an app for that?

You might wonder why I haven’t listed any electronic note-taking tools here. There are some great ones available — Evernote, Toodledo, and PlainText, for example — but I find computers and smart phones too distracting. When I unlock my phone screen, I rarely make it to my note-taking app. Several minutes later, I realize I’m checking my Instagram feed and have no idea why I grabbed my phone in the first place. A simple pen and paper works best for me.

Have you had success using apps? How do you capture ideas, especially when you’re in a place where you can’t easily write something down (like in the car)?

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