If you feel like you’re working too hard to maintain order at home, there’s hope: you may be right. Minor tweaks can lower tension and chaos exponentially.
When it comes to ADHD in the home, the key is to work with it, not against it. Let go of expectations and figure out what really works for you.
Most importantly, make it easy on yourself. When something’s not working, don’t beat yourself up, refine your process.
Here are a few tips for a more peaceful, organized home.
Create supports where you need them
If you or your family struggle with the same thing(s) every day — like picking out clothes in the morning — you need strategy and communication, not tough love.
Example: after reading a parenting book that told me a five-year-old should be able to pack his own lunch, I decided my husband should, too. Except he often didn’t. Instead of berating him or just continuing to do it myself, I put a dry erase board (pictured below) on the fridge. He uses it for lunches, but I actually appreciate it most on weekends and on nights when he gets home late. Instead of interrupting me to ask, “what can I eat?” or “what can I give R. for snack?” he can assemble something from the food categories on the list.
Keep rags, cleaner, and an old toothbrush under your bathroom sink…
…and if you have young children, clean during bath time. Every ADHD parent has gotten bored during bath time, so why not fidget with something productive?
Even if you don’t have kids, keeping all the supplies within arm’s reach allows anyone to clean up when they see a mess. Often, ADHD’ers notice the toilet could use a quick swish with the brush, but we’ll forget by the time we open the bathroom door. Once you remove this barrier, you might be surprised at the cleaning help you receive!
Use a highlighter
A highlighter can help you slow down, mark things you need to remember (like deadlines or supply lists), and catch important details.
I learned about highlighters’ magic powers in college. It was senior year, and we were learning to write grant proposals in Business of Art. Our professor suggested color coding with highlighters: using a different color to call out phrases we should regurgitate in the proposal, documents we’d need to attach, important dates/deadlines, etc.
In the years since, I’ve used this strategy to win thousands of dollars in grant funding, file my tax return, complete complex banking documents, and bring all the required items to our orientation meeting with R.’s preschool teacher. It’s probably the most practical skill I learned in college. Go figure.
Fill donation bags as you receive them in the mail
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: never trust yourself to drop anything off at Goodwill. We live in the city, and we often receive printed plastic bags from charities seeking clothing and houseware donations.
The charities mailing out these bags will pick them up — full of distracting, unwanted clutter — right from your doorstep. The bags are preprinted with contact information to schedule your pickup. It doesn’t get any easier.
Every time you receive one of these bags in the mail, unpack it right away and look for things to put into it.
Contain clutter and distractions (literally)
Baskets can save an ADHD household. Whenever I see a clutter hotspot forming, I ask myself, “would a basket solve this?”
For example, my husband used to store a lot of clothes on the floor. His reason: he planned to wear them again, thus they belonged to neither the closet nor the hamper. I bought him a basket for his in-use clothes and the clothing-on-the-floor issue disappeared.
Baskets and other open-top containers also help with out of sight, out of mind issues. If your family resists putting something away, they may just want to be able to see it (i.e., remember it exists).
A less conventional idea: create a home for distracting objects to get them out of your hands. Smart phones can kill your focus, not to mention family dinners. Our cell phone bin invites anyone in our home to deposit their phone, reduce distractions, and enhance our time together. It has made a huge positive impact on my everyday life.
What about you? What small change has delivered huge benefits to your household?