When you have ADHD, it can be insanely hard to get anything done, ever. That goes for keeping your house clean and organized too. It can be hard when you need to adult every day, but your brain just won’t have it. So I found some methods to work with the quirks my brain has. I adapt my daily tasks according to what I know about myself and it shows some results. I hope some of this will help you too.
1. Know your priorities
My energy is very limited right now, so I did some thinking about what is the most important to do and what can wait. I decided that feeding myself, drinking enough water, and sleeping enough come absolutely first, as they are biological needs, and I would break down if I don’t take care of them. The same applies to my mental health care. After that comes personal hygiene. Then comes work. Then comes cleaning and organizing the space where I live. Etc. etc.
Because of that, things like cooking and eating lunch are the highest priority tasks, as is taking time to lie in my bed, tune out the world, and rest. For example, if I have to decide between cooking lunch and washing my hair, I cook the lunch and simply make peace with the fact that my hair isn’t washed. But if I’m deciding between sweeping the floor and washing my hair, my hair gets washed and the floor can wait. I’m in long-term burnout right now and I have very low energy and executive functioning, so I just had to accept that not everything gets done.
I work from home part-time, and obviously, work is very important, but it always comes after my biological needs. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do much work anyways. I set a rule for myself: first rest, then work, not the other way around. Rest gives me the energy to do the work. (And yes, I realize that not everyone can afford to do it like this, and I’m privileged. But I also think not being able to take care of yourself leads to burnout, and then your body and mind stop you from working anyways. It is worth it to try to find ways to care for yourself before that happens.)
2. Do one chore for 15 minutes a day
I set a timer for 15 minutes and during that time, do whichever unpleasant task that needs doing – like washing the dishes. If I told myself I will wash dishes and clean the kitchen for an hour, I couldn’t find the motivation to begin. But I can bear doing it for just 15 minutes.
It’s much easier to finish a short task. And if you do this every day, you clean most of the things that need to get cleaned and do most of what needs to be done. Also, I like to listen to energetic music while doing household chores and other low-concentration tasks and it helps me keep my energy up.
3. Task switching
This point is a bit similar to the previous one – with a twist. I set a timer for 15 – 20 minutes and work on one chore during that time. But after that time passes, I switch to another task. After another 20 minutes, I can go back to the first thing, or pick a totally different one. I alter between several chores this way until I run out of energy – but by then, even if the tasks aren’t completely finished, a significant portion of the work is done. This rapid task-switching ensures that my brain won’t get bored. I discovered that sometimes I can work for hours, as long it’s something different every 20 minutes. Who would have thought?
4. One step at a time
I was always postponing things like putting the dishes in the dishwasher or hanging the clothes to dry. Sometimes I had to rewash the clothes three or four times because I couldn’t myself wash them. I didn’t know how to make myself just DO the damn thing.
And then it dawned on me.
I don’t hang up the clothes because there are still clothes hanging from the previous washing. It feels like too long and difficult a task to first put them down, fold them and put them where they belong, and then put the newly washed clothes up. So I only do one thing at a time.
I put the dry clothes down. Sometime after, I fold them and put them away. And another time, I do the laundry and I’m able to hang the freshly washed clothes because it’s just one task instead of two or three.
Now, I don’t even start the washing machine if the clothes hanger isn’t empty. Much better! The same with the dishwasher. First, the clean dishes go out. That’s doable. Later, I can add the dirty ones as I go and put them to wash.
As a person with ADHD, I’m bad at routines. Seriously bad. But as an autistic person, I crave them. So I make a compromise: I observe what I’m inclined to do during my day, experiment, and think about any small tweaks that I could implement.
I try to insert various tasks at various times of my day or attach them to other routines I have already down. I keep what works and discard what doesn’t. I try to do things in a way that feels easy for me.
For example, I decided to add writing of my morning pages directly after my usual morning relaxation over a cup of tea. The morning pages are a method of creating a writing habit and tackling the writer’s block that is described in The Artist’s Way. It’s pretty easy – you just write whatever comes to mind and let your thoughts flow on the paper. It helps me with my mental health – I can sort my thoughts and feelings on paper, realize what makes me tick, and find solutions to problems.
I observed I’m getting very stressed and unsettled when I finish my morning tea because I feel I should get to work right away. But I never feel like it yet, and I wanted to create some gentle transition. It worked. Now I finish my tea and breakfast, write a few pages, ride the stationary bike for a few minutes and then I can start work calmer and more refreshed.
These are the things that help me to manage my daily load. I’m still disorganized, messy, and nowhere close to where I would like to be, but at least I can keep the explosion that is my life somewhat in control. Yay!
Do you know any useful hacks and tips for ADHD/neurodivergent housekeeping? Help others out and write them in the comments! I would love to hear more advice to add to my repertoire! 🙂