10 Tips for Getting Organized if you have ADHD

If you know anything about people with ADHD, one look at my bedroom as a teenager or my oldest daughter’s room would give it away.  We share the family gene of ADHD.  Never in my wildest dreams would I think I’d grow up to run a company that specializes in organizing.  (People with ADHD are 300% more likely to be entrepreneurs but that’s another article.)

Like the Men’s Hair Club President shares, he’s not only the president, he’s also a member.
I have hired my team numerous times to organize different areas in my home and I also got to be a client when I moved out of the marital home and into a smaller space after my divorce. My team unpacked and organized leaving me an organized template from which to build my life. As someone with ADHD, I am not good at organizing or visualizing space.  If I put leftovers in containers, I can never accurately predict the size the container needs to be.

Silver Linings Transitions is frequently found through a Yelp search when people have reached their breaking point. The clutter in their home has become too unbearable they are no longer embarrassed to ask for help.  We are also brought in when caregivers or loved ones realize a senior’s home is no longer safe due to the clutter.

Because I have a family history of ADHD and hoarding disorder, which research is finding is often linked, I can hold space for my clients coming from a place of understanding and empathy and safe from judgement.  

One of my favorite stories was a client who had gone through numerous setbacks – losing her father followed by a very public divorce.  Depression and overwhelm took over and her home began to suffer which meant her young son couldn’t have friends over and her inside world and feelings were reflected in her home. Hiring our team for organizing sessions gave her the fresh start she needed to rebuild her life.  Watching her son come into the space was among the most gratifying feelings. One of my favorite organizers, Peter Walsh says that every time he organizes a child’s space, their reaction when it’s revealed, is to dance.  This sure says a lot about the lightness a space has when it’s not cluttered.

I’ve come to learn that someone with hoarding disorder who ends up in a dire situation almost always has a triggering life event that makes their homes go from cluttered and chaotic to unsafe.  Having ADHD and not seeing space the same way makes the decision of where to put things hard even when things in life are going well.

For someone with hoarding disorder, throwing something away is like asking someone with a fear of roller coasters to get on and ride. They have a visceral reaction to the task.
Hoarding and clutter become a bigger problem as people age as it becomes more difficult to take on physical tasks and eyesight becomes worse.  This is compounded in the Greatest Generation clients who are known to be savers due to the scarcity mentality caused by growing up during the Great Depression.  Something we now have an understanding of having gone through the Toilet Paper Stockpiles of 2020.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you are trying to help a loved one get organized or you are trying to organize yourself:

Because I have a family history of ADHD and hoarding disorder, which research is finding is often linked, I can hold space for my clients coming from a place of understanding and empathy and safe from judgement.  

  1. When possible give them as much control of the situation.  You can keep five boxes worth of things, what should we put in them?
  2. Remember, part of the problem is the physical discomfort they have from throwing things away.
  3. There’s usually a method to the chaos- often they want to dispose of items but want to do it properly..  With a daunting task, they become immobilized.
  4. Start with the easier tasks that are less emotional.
  5. Don’t make them feel badly about the situation.  Almost always they are also suffering and a triggering event has made the problem worse.
  6. Keep in mind, someone with ADHD or hoarding disorder does not see space the same way as someone without these conditions.  Our brains are wired differently.  I can’t organize my own pantry but I can almost always find creative solutions to problems. 
  7. Start with the why.  What would their life look like if their homes were more manageable? Would they feel comfortable entertaining? 
  8. Break the tasks down into small pieces.  Set a timer to help stay on task.
  9. Use stickers to start.  Sticker items you’ll want to keep, toss and give away or donate.
  10. I’ve found giving my things to people who will appreciate them makes me feel better than any amount of money. Try posting items on Facebook, Nextdoor and BuyNothing.  Here’s a link to other sites you can use.

Click here to learn more about Hoarding Disorder.
To add a little levity to the subject, I’ve come up with some “hoarding” humor.
*The “Craft Hoarder” is organized but keeps craft supplies and broken items for the promise of some day making a craft or repurposing the broken items.  The photo in this blog is actually my personal stash. 

The “Costco Hoarder” is one who has stockpiled items from Costco which will take them years to use. The “Border Hoarder” is someone who isn’t going to star in their own television show but is living in unsafe conditions that have likely become to hard to manage.

 

If you stockpiled toilet paper or food at the beginning of the pandemic, you have some idea how hoarding can happen. You were scared, felt out of control and “stuff” grounds us.  There is also a dopamine hit you receive from shopping or acquiring.

If the task seems to great, reach out for help.  Whether it’s the  Silver Linings Transitions team or a friend, there are people who love organizing and consider it their “super power”.

Because I have a family history of ADHD and hoarding disorder, which research is finding is often linked, I can hold space for my clients coming from a place of understanding and empathy and safe from judgement.