The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Tag: #LWSLClutterFree

#LWSLClutterFree: final reflections on a month of decluttering

#LWSLClutterFree getting organized in 31 daysWell, that’s a wrap, on October and on the #LWSLClutterFree 31-day challenge.

My conclusion: #LWSLClutterFree’s goals may be attainable for the average person or household. Ours is not the average household.

We’re the kind of home where we can make a mess of a room one day, shut the door in utter overwhelm the next, then pretend the room doesn’t exist for over four months. We can take that same room down to the bare studs and leave it that way for a year and a half.

We dream big here. We start strong, and then — well, and then.

One discrete decluttering project per day was just too much to sustain for an entire month.

I’m glad I recognized this and backed off before I made too much of a mess. And while I only completed one third of the daily projects, but that doesn’t mean I got nothing done. It just means this wasn’t an ADHD-friendly challenge.

31 days of decluttering: what I wanted

Before I embarked on #LWSLClutterFree, I took a few minutes to write down some key areas where I wanted to see improvement:

  • The basement, which is a dumping ground for unused items and things I don’t know what to do with
  • The kitchen, which is very small but has plenty of under-utilized space
  • The portable closet in my bedroom (it has to go)
  • The office (it’s a mess)
  • Pantry
  • Freezer

I also noted my concerns:

  • Fitting #LWSLClutterFree projects into my everyday life without shortchanging my regular household maintenance
  • Making the checklists and tasks manageable for ADHD attention and focus — would there be enough structure and supports to make the projects feel doable?
  • Too much “just do it” mentality
  • Hyperfocus traps — how would I keep the projects within their time budget and avoid tangents?

I began the month feeling energized and optimistic. While I doubted I could solve all my clutter problems in one month, I hoped the added structure would help me tackle the most intimidating areas.

What #LWSLClutterFree gave me

By the end of the month, I had some successes to report:

  • I put out enough junk to qualify for a medium-size charity pickup (as opposed to a small one).
  • I decluttered the kitchen counters and moved a few things around in the cabinets to make life easier
  • The portable closet is now empty
  • The pantry is now well-organized and no longer overflowing
  • We thinned our book collection significantly, and I came up with a great technique to help my husband choose which books to keep
#LWSLClutterFree tiny kitchen after photo

My tiny kitchen: definitely a great place to focus decluttering efforts.

I didn’t touch the freezer or the office, and the basement wasn’t included in the challenge so I just worked on it in my spare time.

#LWSLClutterFree may not have helped me solve our home’s biggest problems, but I did make some high-impact improvements. I’m especially pleased with the entryway and R.’s toy area.

I also experienced some pleasant side effects. Cleaning out the pantry inspired me to implement a food budgeting system, which reduced our food costs by around 30%. I’ve also noticed a big drop in our weekly food waste.

While we’re talking about money, I don’t know about you, but I find cash nearly every time I do a major cleanout. I’ve never quite figured out how this happens. It’s never a paltry sum, either — on the first day I took stimulant medication, I cleaned up a previously abandoned room in our house and found enough money to buy a rug and several other decor items. This time, I found $70 as I chipped away at the mess under our basement stairs.

Little success, but little regret either

Overall, I’m glad I attempted #LWSLClutterFree. Getting into the minimizing spirit just before the holidays will definitely help as I make our Christmas and birthday wish lists. Also, the projects I did complete were, by and large, ones I wouldn’t have thought to put on my list. I’ve been deterred from any minor spruce-ups because the office and basement are hanging over my head.

Much like Erin Doland’s Unclutter Your Life in One Week, though, the timeline makes this challenge unrealistic for ADHD’ers. Many of the projects could well have been expanded to a week to break them down sufficiently.

Years ago, I may have let my lack of quantifiable success demoralize me, but I’ve learned to see the bright side by now. I made (and found) some money, got a lot of stuff out of the house, and made my living and dining room areas look considerably nicer than they did a month ago. Is my entire house clutter free? Absolutely not. Am I a few steps closer to achieving that goal? I sure am. That’s good enough for me this time.

Now, if you don’t mind, it’s time for me to plug in a space heater, queue up a playlist, and return to the long, slow project that is cleaning out my basement.

Share

#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.

Share

#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!

Share

#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.

Share

#LWSLClutterFree: Week 1

Despite some external setbacks, #LWSLClutterFree started off on a positive note. Family circumstances required us to travel more than we expected to this weekend, so I’ll have to catch up next week, but I’m not discouraged. Learning to create balance and deal with disruptions is part of the process.

One of my biggest apprehensions about the #LWSLClutterFree challenge is that ADHD adults will struggle to keep projects within the 30-60 minute daily time budget. So far, so good, but I’ll have to work hard not to overextend my time or energy resources.

Days 1-5: Summary

  • Day 1 (Wednesday): Ground Rules
  • Day 2 (Thursday): Entryway
    Completed in 1:17 with medication
  • Day 3 (Friday): Mail
    Completed in 0:05 with medication
  • Day 4 (Saturday): Living Room
    On hold (traveling)
  • Day 5 (Sunday): Books & Magazines
    On hold (traveling)

Total time this week: 1:22

I’m excited to get back on the wagon tomorrow (tonight is for unpacking and sleeping), especially because our book situation needs some attention. I’m also thankful for my freebie on Thursday. Our mail system already works pretty well — plus it’s part of the entryway we cleaned on Thursday — so I just added a “to shred” basket to my shopping list.

Work day #1: A case study

When I received my first assignment, I thought my day’s work was done. I’ve already put some thought into this area because it’s where we stage our shoes, coats, keys, and anything that needs to go out the door with us.

However, #LWSLClutterFree is a great opportunity to reexamine spaces we take for granted.

I’m committed to taking 100% honest “before” photos — nothing moved for vanity — so here’s a pre-decluttering shot of our entryway.

Before photo: #LWSLClutterFree Day 2 - Entryway

I began by emptying the entryway corner, even moving the furniture out of the way so I could do a thorough cleaning. To my surprise, I found a lot of stuff that didn’t belong. I eliminated everything in the photo below from our small entryway.

Items decluttered from #LWSLClutterFree Day 2 - Entryway

Even though all I did was remove a few items and clean the floor, baseboards, and door, I was amazed at the change in how the space felt. I hope to continue making our spaces more open, welcoming, and well-considered as #LWSLClutterFree progresses.

As a bonus, I hung a new picture above our coat hooks. The original painting was only there by happenstance: it came in the door with us on moving day and the previous owners left a nail in the wall. When I looked at our entryway objectively, I realized its placement felt illogical. I already had the collage frame filled and waiting for a home, so all I needed to do was install hooks and hang it up. It looks lovely above the coats and reminds me of some of my favorite people.

After photo: #LWSLClutterFree Day 2 - Entryway

After photo: #LWSLClutterFree Day 2 - Entryway

While this assignment exceeded the 30-60 minute budget Rachel told us to expect, hanging the photo frame on the brick wall took 25 minutes. If I remove that from my time (it’s not on Rachel’s checklist), the total goes down to 0:52. This includes getting cleaning supplies out and putting them away, sorting through purged items, and distributing those items to the trash a more appropriate storage place.

My toddler also “helped” the entire time. I just gave him a rag and a pretend dustpan and brush and let him go to town. He only undid some of my sorting piles, and being able to complete a project while he’s awake is a huge plus.

Conclusions

Considering our travel needs, Week 1 was a success, but I haven’t been put to the test yet. The entryway project took me just under an hour, and it was already relatively well-organized. Our books and magazines are less so, but still not a disaster. We’ll see how I fare with them tomorrow. I feel like some spaces in our home — like the kitchen, laundry area, or office — exceed what I can take on in one day. The key to tackling this overwhelm will be dividing it into several days or isolating a high-impact sub-project.

I’m sure I’ll have more ADHD-specific insights on #LWSLClutterFree as Week 2 comes to a close, but my initial impressions are mixed. The checklists are excellent for staying on track and defining a start and end to each project. I appreciate the regular reinforcement of values to remind me of the big picture. However, I’m concerned that 30-60 minutes won’t be enough to conquer some of the problem spots that can develop in the average ADHD homestead. A greater daily commitment may be infeasible for most.

That said, I’m really looking forward to the rest of the challenge. With the right structure and guidance, #LWSLCutterFree might show ADHD adults the tremendous impact they can make with just an hour or less per day. Here’s to another week of cutting the clutter!

Share

Join me this October for 31 Days to a Clutter-Free Life

I’m going to talk a lot about clutter, organizing, and minimalism in the months to come, but why not get started on an active note? A friend recently turned me on to Ruth Soukup’s Living Well, Spending Less blog, and her 31-day challenges immediately caught my eye. Time-bound challenges are great for people with ADHD: they provide social accountability, structure, a concrete finish line, and a quantitative definition of success.

31 Days to a Clutter-Free Life on Living Well, Spending Less

In this case, we’re tackling an overwhelming, often emotionally charged issue for ADHD adults: clutter and organization in our homes.

Perfect for a structured, time-bound challenge.

Will you join me in the Living Well, Spending Less 31 Days to a Clutter-Free Life challenge this October?

I’ll be checking in every Sunday evening to give a brief update on my progress, as well as a review of the challenge itself through the lens of adult ADHD.

Are you in? Let me know in the comments below or use the hashtag #LWSLClutterFree on Twitter and Facebook.

Share

© 2017 The ADHD Homestead

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Share