The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Tag: clutter

Derailment, ADHD, & the Pit of Domestic Despair

Toward the end of March, my immune system sabotaged all my good habits. My son brought home a bug that hardly affected him, but — like the evil kid illness it was —  gave me 12 days of low-grade fever. I muddled through. Mostly. But I didn’t exercise, hardly set foot in my office, and got off track with my daily habits. Clutter piled up and projects stagnated. I lost sight of wellness and productivity and couldn’t imagine either being part of my life again.

I was headed straight for the Pit of Domestic Despair.

Fortunately, I’m aware of ADHD’s time blindness. Though it wasn’t deeply reassuring, I told myself I wouldn’t be sick forever.

I also repeated, over and over, “it’s okay. You’re okay. We’re okay.”

Habits break, systems break, and it’s not the end of the world — or even the good habit.

Or, rather, it doesn’t have to be.

Derailment,ADHD,& thePit of Domestic Despair

“No, thanks” to self-loathing. “Yes, please” to equanimity.

ADHD does more than make it tough to stay on course. Through years of repeated failure, we teach ourselves that failure is inevitable. New habits and projects excite us, but only to a point. By adulthood, our cynicism always lurks in the shadows, reminding us that success is fleeting. Yes, we’re doing it, but only for now. Only until the next time everything falls apart.

I’ve spent years learning to stay organized and form intentional habits, but my most important lesson has been in accepting failure. Everyone gets off track sometimes. Even people without ADHD. The key isn’t staying on the wagon, it’s knowing how to climb back on.

When a habit breaks or a project stagnates or a deadline gets missed, it’s not a confirmation of all my self-doubt and self-criticism. Letting the house get messy one week doesn’t signal a return to my “real” (i.e. unhappy, unfocused, disorganized, unproductive) self. It means I messed up. Or I had a fever for 12 days. It’s just a thing that happened.

This brings me to my favorite word: equanimity. It means remaining neutral in the face of life’s gains and losses, and it’s a skill I’ll be honing for the rest of my life. In this case, it means looking at my messy house and my broken habits, saying, “okay,” and moving on without much fanfare.

There’s usually something beyond Right Now (even if we don’t believe it).

I eventually felt better — obviously. And for the first time, I didn’t spend my first day on the mend beating myself up or lamenting the impossible task in front of me. I just got up and kept going. Slowly.

With the energy I saved by not spinning myself up to a state of intense despair, overwhelm, and self-loathing, I started to dig out of the Pit of Domestic Despair. I (finally) changed the sheets on our bed. I spent a week chipping away at my overflowing inbox. I attacked the accumulated clutter, bit by bit. I refused to start on any projects until I’d gotten back to a workable baseline. I spent my energy getting to a place where I could feel good again.

It’s taken me a long time to learn this. To learn, for example, that instead of sitting in the house and complaining about my bad attitude, I should put on my shoes and go for a run. ADHD is often a problem of inertia. Overcoming inertia, even if we only take one itty-bitty, tiny step, is half the battle.

Everyone gets stuck. The more gracefully we can accept this and move on, the better. ADHD tempts us to believe Right Now is all there is. That makes messy surroundings and broken habits feel overwhelming and permanent. The Pit of Domestic Despair becomes a black hole. It’s taken me almost 32 years, but I’ve finally taken a leap of faith. I don’t always believe something better is waiting around the bend. I’m  just willing to inch my way over there and find out.

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Skip the donation bins & declutter without leaving your home

I don’t know about you, but for me, packing up those unwanted items for donation is only half the battle. Decluttering experts suggest several ways to make sure this stuff actually leaves your house: for example, keeping it in the car or dropping it off that very day.

For people with ADHD, it’s not that easy. After my son’s birthday party this year, I shoved six pizza boxes into my car to drop off at the sanitation yard “on my next errand.” I do a lot of errands and the sanitation yard is a five-minute drive from home. The boxes sat in my car for weeks.

When it comes to ADHD decluttering, I’ve found one thing that works: whether you’re throwing away or giving away, do it without leaving your home. Here’s how:

declutter without leaving home

Charity pickups

Many charities offer pickup services. After you schedule your pickup, you just need to put your items out on the appropriate day. Organizations with pickup services include:

If you live in a city, charities may even send you postcards with dates when their trucks will be in your neighborhood. Some charities include a large plastic bag with the postcard. Why not set a goal of filling these bags with clutter when they arrive and setting them out on the designated pickup date?

Freecycle

Freecycle is a grassroots network of communities dedicated to giving (and getting) stuff for free to keep usable items out of landfills.  The process is simple: post an offer on the site, receive emails from interested parties, choose someone who seems sincere, and coordinate a time for them to pick it up from your porch/front yard/etc.

Freecycle also makes it easy to declutter piece by piece. Rather than setting aside time to fill a big box for charity pickup, you can harness your impulsivity and rehome unused items one thing at a time. No matter what it is, there’s a good chance someone out there wants it.

A word of warning: be careful not to acquire items from Freecycle unless it’s already on a shopping list and it’s close to home. If you need to, unsubscribe from all email alerts except those in reply to your own offers. I once drove a half hour across town for a new set of shower curtain hooks I had no idea I needed — until I saw them advertised for free on the internet.

The bottom line: there are many ways to donate or give away unwanted items without leaving home. For people with ADHD, this is the way to go. Freecycle and charity pickups allow you to complete the decluttering process more gracefully, without adding an errand to your list or junk to your car.

When you’re decluttering, how do you make sure unwanted items actually get out the door?

Put a basket on it: how to work with an ADHD visual thinker

The clothes were everywhere.

Despite my best efforts — which included, interchangably, nagging, reminding, insisting, or just cleaning them up myself — my husband managed to keep several surfaces in our bedroom covered with clothes. The top of his dresser was the worst: always concealed under a heap of shirts, jeans, and hoodies.

“But I’m going to wear them again,” he said when I pressed him to put them into the hamper or his drawers.

Sound familiar?

Many ADHD households struggle with clutter, and it’s not always the result of too much stuff. Sometimes the stuff is stored in a way that makes someone uncomfortable.

baskets

Our clothing mess was my first window into the world of visual thinkers: if something was on active duty, my husband felt considerable resistance to putting it away where he couldn’t see it.

So how did we tackle that resistance, here and in other hot spots in our home?

Baskets.

You can find attractive baskets just about anywhere: Target, craft stores, and IKEA, to name a few. Some are pricey, but the most affordable — usually plastic or metal, not wicker — can often be found in that little $1-$3 area just inside Target’s front door.

If stuff keeps collecting in the same spot, there’s a reason — and that reason isn’t likely to disappear. While legitimizing it with a pretty container may feel like letting the terrorists win, it’s not. It’s effective problem-solving, and it’s going to remove an unsightly clutter pile from your home forever.

Take a look at your home’s most junky surfaces: are your husband’s shaving supplies constantly strewn all over the bathroom counter? Clothes on the bedroom floor? Mail taking over the dining room table? Find a way to collect these items in a more visually appealing way — without moving them completely out of sight. For your visually-oriented spouse, out of sight may truly mean out of mind.

We now have a nice basket to store wear-again clothing in our bedroom, a toiletry bin on the back of the toilet (not in the medicine cabinet), and several more strategically placed baskets throughout the house.

Just one word of caution: make sure your baskets are single-purpose only, and police them regularly to make sure no stray items are sneaking in. Once the basket becomes a repository for junk, it’ll be all to easy to toss things in there rather than take a few seconds to figure out what to do with them.

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