Category Archives: House and Home

Creative Routines to Fulfill your Goals

By Joan Jager

Once again, the New Year has come and gone without any action on my part to name any “resolutions”. My ideas for goals are still rolling around in my brain with no specific starting date, commitment, or accountability. For now, the ideas are flowing and hope sustains me. That will have to be enough.

I’m taking my own advice again this month, better late than never. I’ve also written another post full of resources for you to explore. Writing these newsletters, with long posts full of resources to explore has never been easy for me nor really very popular. But ADHD advocacy is what gets me up in the morning and collecting information, sharing, and offering support is what I do best. Turns out there’s even a name for it. Curation.

(Google definition: cu·ra·tion – /kyəˈrāSHən/ – the selection, organization, and presentation of online content, merchandise, information, etc., typically using professional or expert knowledge.)

I saw a cartoon last week with two characters talking. The first one asks, “Why do you think that 2020 will be better? The second replies, “There will be flowers.” The skeptical creature retorts, “There are always flowers. What makes this year any different? Then, looking over the other’s shoulder, he wonders, “What’s that you are doing? Our optimistic fellow simply answers, “I’m planting flowers.”

And therein lies my both my dilemma and my hope. Choosing wrong will have consequences – adding yet another failure to my already sketchy history. My coach, Jennie Friedman, recommends first imagining how the “flowers” or goals will look and feel when achieved. What will success look like? What’s in it for you? Why is it worth the effort? The stronger your picture, the more likely it is that you will be enjoying your own garden this year.

For those with ADHD, setting a goal is just one of many decisions. Making it happens requires creative thinking. Neither the importance of a task or depending on willpower works well. Because the ADHD brain works so much better when interested, goals first need to be something we can get excited about, invested in SO MUCH that you will not have to depend on “shoulds” or shame to propel action. Only then can we create a PLAN for positive and sustainable action. With this new approach, it becomes much more probable that this year there will indeed be flowers!

In the past, my best tools for success have been using small and sustainable actions to create habits and build routines that move me forward.  As Darius Foroux says in “Stop Trying to do Everything  “Success is sequential, not simultaneous.”

Things add up. You learn one skill. Then another. You finish one project. Then another. Over time, your accomplishments add up to form an impressive feat.”

Identify those “things” that are most appealing, important to your values, or necessary for the future imagined. It may be a cleaner house, better health, looking good, more money, or happier family life. Traditional guidelines for housekeeping, organizing, weight loss or planning techniques can be helpful, but many methods don’t come naturally to those of us with ADHD. Our memory fails us. We may lose track of what we were doing every time something new attracts our attention. We often fail to follow through on commitments to yourself or others. Over time, we come to lose faith in ourselves.

When the goal reflects your internal values, however, your natural strengths and talents come into play. See Self-advocacy for ADHD: Discovering your Strengths or Be the Best Version of Yourself: Explore your Strengths for more information. These not only compensate for problems from ADHD, but they also make most tasks feel almost effortless.

Your progress need not be so hard-fought. Try making small changes, usually by linking them to already established routines. Linking taking your medication with brushing your teeth is one example Taking five minutes to plan your day with your first cup of coffee is another. When you get home from work, you might bring in the mail and immediately throw away any junk mail.

Whatever your final intent, the first steps towards creating habits to add to your daily routines should be easy to implement. Actions should ideally be small enough to prevent an emotional reaction of alarm, fear or overwhelm by the task ahead. To help you get overcome those barriers and get started, ADHD coach Sue West provides us with 20 Momentum Strategies to Combat Procrastination.

Create routines to make larger changes a reality. Your reward comes as each day goes a little smoother. You begin to string a series of successes that move you towards the future you want. Small actions build new habits, and your routines provide the structure and support for areas that we struggle with.

It’s not just getting things done that matter. Many of us fail to meet such basic needs as eating, sleeping, resting your brain or controlling your emotions to keep from procrastinating, being overwhelmed, or succumbing to perfectionism.  We rush towards productivity without the self-care we need to sustain progress. I recommend 16 Steps to Better Self-esteem with ADHD by Kari Hogan yet again because it excels in providing strategies to meet your basic needs, to feel whole, and enjoy more success in your personal and public life.

For more ideas, ADDitude Magazine just put out an article by Michelle Novotni with more specific “ADHD Hacks” that can be helpful when “tweaked” to work for you.”  My 25 Rules for Life: A Practical Cure for ADHD Shame and Stagnation 

“Think of ADHD as a marathon, not a sprint”, she says. “To be a successful marathon runner, you have to conserve your energy, pick your battles, and pace yourself. You have to plan for the long haul.”
Her tips include:

  1. Celebrate Progress, Not Perfection. As long as you’re making progress toward your goals, I encourage you to consider your efforts a win. Be kind to yourself.
  2. Value the Power of Praise. Praise is a way of sharing love and building self-esteem
  3. Quiet the (Inner) Critic.

Like anyone, and especially if you are a child or adult with ADHD, we need to feel loved and accepted before we can keep our feelings under control and move forward towards our goals. This control is also known as self-regulation. Children need acceptance from their parents and adults that guide them, but so do grown men and women. Adults may need to “re-parent” the wounded part of themself – to connect with and work on accepting that inner child who bears the scars of being misunderstood and misjudged in childhood. I highly recommend Learn to Parent Yourself, an article by Sharon Martin.  “If we didn’t get age-appropriate discipline, unconditional love, models for healthy relationships, or the skills to understand and manage our emotions and behaviors, we’re likely to struggle with these issues in adulthood. Adults often think they should just innately have these social-emotional skills – but these are learned behaviors.”

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has written about the art of  Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself.

“What if we applied unconditional acceptance of who we are? Leo says. “What if we took a good look at ourselves, our body, our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and said, “You are perfectly OK. You are perfectly good”?

“What if instead, you loved yourself, fat body and all? What if you loved yourself, laziness, and all? What if you loved yourself, all that is ugly and incompetent and mean, along with the beauty and brilliance and kindness?”

“Acceptance isn’t stagnation — you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction. I vote for unconditional love.”

Coming from a place of love and understanding, you can work within your own values and interests. The more you can put boring, mundane, or difficult duties on automatic, the less time you have to manage the most damaging aspects of ADHD. You can live and work more “in the flow”, using the way the ADHD brain is motivated, not by importance but by interest, challenge, and deadlines, and in ways that match your most treasured values in life.

Your routines provide the structure to do what you “need to do” but are not inspired by. Habits and routines help you get to what you WANT to do by handling those necessities of life that may not even be on your radar otherwise. Your routines should not look like anyone else’s. They should reflect your own values, minimum standards, and ease of following the steps to the routine.

For instance, I hated cleaning the bathroom, but having a clean sink with polished chrome was important to me. I started using the toilet paper method of cleaning the bathroom.  Now, every time I use the restroom, I grab some tissue, clean up the sink, spot clean the countertop, and polish the chrome. When I see hairs on the floor or in the tub, I scoop them up. If these areas look fine, I’ll take a minute to address the toilet, getting dust and hair off the seat and top of the tank, and clean up the floor around the toilet too. Same for the tub and floor, spot clean and wipe up hairs. By doing these small tasks throughout the day I seldom have to deep-clean the bathroom.

Now really, how many of you now believe that the toilet paper method the best way to keep the bathroom clean? But it works for me. And that is what is important. You will need to develop your own habits and rules. Ask yourself, “What the least thing that I can do that will move me towards my goals or projects?”

You may soon find that learning to plan your day becomes vital. Sara Jayne Keyser has a very simple list of 6 Steps to Survive ADHD Overwhelm.   If you have a busy work and home life, I love the Next Action List planner by Learn, Do, Become. Printable and podcast with directions. For an easier to use and less structured format, you can start with a Simple Weekly Planner from Emily Ley. Use 2 pages to make up a week – Just split the bottom sections of the second sheet for Saturday and Sunday.  You can also find a daily planning sheet among her other printables.

For those of you collecting more “hacks”, we have a number of useful articles.  46 Small Steps to Save Time from Sue West has easy tips to help you work with Executive Functioning Challenges.
ADHD coach Marla Cummins provides us with 20 Valuable Tools to Enhance your Memory. I wrote about more resources for planning and household tips in Manage your Life, House, and Home with ADHD featuring 9 resources that I have used to build routines.  A good starter article for housekeeping would be The Quick Start Guide to a Decluttered Home that Leo Babauta has generously shared.

Still, despite years of treatment and instituting numerous coping strategies, I continue to struggle to accept and value myself just as I am.

I am sure that I am not alone in this. I was recently inspired by the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I have the lyrics to a simple song, I Like You as You Are.

I Like You as You Are
Lyrics by Josie Carey | Music by Fred Rogers

I like you as you are
Exactly and precisely
I think you turned out nicely
And I like you as you are

I like you as you are
Without a doubt or question
Or even a suggestion
Cause I like you as you are

I like your disposition
Your facial composition
And with your kind permission
I’ll shout it to a star

I like you as you are
I wouldn’t want to change you
Or even rearrange you
Not by far

I like you
I like you, yes I do
I like you, Y-O-U
I like you, like you as you are

Recommended Pinterest Boards
Habits, Routines, and Systems for ADHD
House, Home, and ADHD
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Planners, Journals, and Calendars

Photo by Shelby Miller on Unsplash – Modified on

ADD freeSources Newsletter: Manage your Life, House, and Home with ADHD



Once again I’m getting out this month’s article just days before the month is over.  I’m trying to let go of when I think it SHOULD come out and calling this my new normal.  My coaching group just laughs and says that could be expected for a blog about ADHD. I hope you can find the humor as well.


I remember my support group laughing when a member from Japan told us that the title “Women with Messy Houses” was the Japanese translation for Sari Solden’s book, Women with ADHD. (Link works) It really WASN’T very funny though, since most of us had struggled mightily to keep our houses organized, our chores done and some semblance of order in our lives.


My own life has improved quite a bit since those early days learning about ADHD. Over time I learned that developing systems is the key to organization, housekeeping and good time management.  In this comprehensive article, I have put together a few of my favorite resources to help you find the right tools to adapt to your life.  Pick and choose your own strategies from

Developing systems is the key to organization, housekeeping and good time management.9 House and Home Systems for ADHD.



Take it slow and gradually build up to workable systems for you.  Adapt them as needed. You’ll be surprised at how big an impact that even small changes can make. Try just one idea for a week and see for yourself.


Till next month,


Joan Jager




(Title photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/ Modified on Canva

(9 Systems photo created on

ADD freeSources Newsletter: You are Worthy

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a new year,

This is the time when most of us reconnect with family and friends and make new goals for the coming year. The problem is that the reality may not live up to our expectations. We may take on too much to prepare, disrupt our own or family routines and forget that self-care comes first. And for the New Year, you may strive hopelessly to meet your goals and abandon them after your first failure.

My best advice is to take care of yourself first, cut your goals in half or more and stop striving for perfection.  Aim for peace and progress instead. Don’t give up after your first failure, try again another day without judging yourself. And if you have ADHD or any other physical or mental challenge, it all starts with self-care

I visited my Doctor again this month and found a new poster about living a healthy life. Diet, exercise, and other traditional self-care started the list, but his final advice is to “Love yourself. Only when you love yourself are you able to love others and be worthy of love in return.

We have three guest post articles this month. Both authors address universal themes and share their work without copyright.

From Leo Babauta, we have Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself which proposes that self-acceptance is a vital aspect of loving yourself.  “What if we took a good look at ourselves, our body, our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and said, “You are perfectly OK. You are perfectly good”? “Acceptance isn’t stagnation — you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction. I vote for unconditional love.”

Don’t confuse basic self-care with pedicures, bubble baths and time out with your friends or a for settling down with a good book or movie. When just getting out of bed in the morning is difficult, it’s time to admit that “Everything is Awful and I am NOT Okay.” You may have seen this article before, but these “Questions to Ask Before Giving Up” are worth repeating. We should all personalize our own set of questions for getting through the day.  Let’s keep our physical and mental health intact and prepared to make it through another day, maybe this time without undue stress.

And don’t assume that having ADHD is a benign nuisance. Depending on the severity of symptoms and the number and type of additional mental disorders, ADHD can be debilitating, even deadly. One of my online coaching groups just lost a member to suicide. Other less shocking behavior also contributes to how well we live and even die.

At the ADHD Conference last month, Russell Barkley, Ph.D. presented research, ADHD and Life Expectancy, that shows that ADHD can even contribute to a lower lifespan – from 8 to 13 years fewer years. ADDitude Mag reports: “Using an actuarial database calculator from the University of Connecticut (UConn), they determined exactly how each risk factor may translate into years of lost longevity. Impaired behavioral inhibition was the primary factor, but several risk factors can be altered, including:

  1. education
  2. hygiene practices
  3. weight
  4. nutrition
  5. exercise
  6. sleep
  7. driving risks
  8. tobacco use
  9. alcohol use

Many of these involve self-care and all too many are problems consistently higher in people with ADHD. It took me years to quit smoking and drinking and to get sleep, and exercise under control. I still struggle with my weight but I’m working on it. Altogether, I am in a much better place than I was before I found out about having ADHD and beginning treatment. With treatment, you too may see positive and life-saving changes occur in your life.

I also found another article from Leo that pertains to my own home situation “Living in Peace with a Packrat.” He answers the question, “I live in a big house with tons of things, mostly my husband’s….Damn shame I adore him so. Any suggestions for finding peace with a pack-rat?”

Once again finding support has proved invaluable in my journey towards wellness. I found a Hoarder’s support group in Tacoma which has helped me stop being permanently angry at my husband for the mess of “stuff” he can neither process nor let go of.  With “collectors,” it’s all about understanding what you’re dealing with and setting boundaries that protect your own space.

Another good article for living with someone that has “too much stuff” is Space for Everyone Else from Homes are for They remind us that, “The person that hoards cannot see the problem.  The denial and “clutter blindness” is a HUGE part of THE PROBLEM.”

“Their lack of boundaries causes them to take over the ENTIRE HOUSE. Our lack of boundaries lets them take over the whole place. We desire to keep the peace, so we let them take over.”

If YOU are the one with too much stuff, see my Pinterest board Letting go of Clutter.  “Clutter builds up for a number of reasons. Failing to get rid of things that are no longer used or in poor condition is a major one. Yet de-cluttering can be fraught with difficulty. The greater the financial investment and emotional connection to the object, the harder it is to let go.”

Our video this month is This is How you Treat ADHD based on Science also from Russell Barkley provides specific strategies for time and organization management that work. These include creating external scaffolding to support Executive Functions as well as a few behavior modification techniques. Enjoy this 13-minute video as well as some transcribed sections of what Barkley covers.


For a bonus this month, you can print out Leonie Dawson’s 12 Key Zen Habits poster on basic tenets for living a simpler life for work or at home according to Leo Babauta.  She includes a Desktop wallpaper version as well. Rainbow zen-ness both online and offline. This is a smaller version of the poster.

Take care of yourself this month,

Be well.

Joan Jager





Worthy – You are Worthy of love. Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Unconditional love – “Photo courtesy of Stock Photos/” Modified on Canva

Packrat article – Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash – Modified on Canva. (Sorry, lost the link)

Poster by Leonie Dawson

How to Find Peace Living With a Packrat

4 Strategies to live in peace, not war.Guest Post by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

Many people who try to simplify their lives and declutter their living spaces find that the most difficult obstacle in their quest for simplicity isn’t the clutter itself … but a significant other or roommate who isn’t on board the simplicity train.

Living with a packrat can be downright frustrating for many simplifiers.

Recently, reader Jasi asked:

“I live in a big house with tons of things, mostly my husband’s. He’s not on board with my lifelong minimalism and quest for a simple lifestyle. Damn shame I adore him so. Any suggestions for finding peace with a pack-rat?”

This is actually an issue that many people making positive life changes will face: they want to make changes, but others in their life don’t want to make the changes. If you have a spouse who likes to spend a lot but you’re trying to be frugal, or a spouse who eats fatty, sugary foods when you’re trying to eat healthily, it can be very difficult.

But there are ways to live in peace, instead of constant war, with a packrat. Let’s look at several strategies — and you should find the strategy that applies best to you.

Strategy 1: Win them over.
This is the strategy I’ve used with success with my wife, Eva, and it’s the ideal strategy, of course. I didn’t force Eva to join me in any of my changes, but partly because of inspiration from me, and partly because she’s a strong-willed person herself, in the past year or so she has joined me (or worked on her own) to eat healthier, exercise (for the first time in her life!), reduce clutter (it’s a blast!), become organized, and achieve her goals. I am extremely proud of her.

The strategy is to inspire your significant other to join you in your positive life change. You cannot change someone, or force them to change. You can’t nag or bully. However, here’s what you can do:

  • Inspire. Show them what a great thing this change is for you, how it has helped you and made you happier. Show them how much of a burden is lifted when you get rid of clutter, how simplicity is so much more calming and pleasing. Show them how excited you are about this.
  • Inform. Talk to them about what you’re going through, why you’re doing it, what it requires, how it makes you feel. Offer to give them some reading material, ask if they’re interested. If not, don’t force it on them. Just encourage. I have sent Eva links from time to time that she might be interested in, and she actually reads some of them. 🙂
  • Ask for help. Making a positive life change is always easier and more likely to be successful if you have support from a loved one. Be direct and ask your significant other (or roommate if that’s the case) for their help. Many times, people will give you help if you ask for it. Don’t make it seem like you’re trying to change them, but that you just want their help in making your change.
  • Make it a team effort. If they are open to the change, and want to read more about it, ask them if they’d like to join you. Sometimes, they will! Suggest that instead of you making this change alone, the two of you do it together, as a team. It can be great fun! Eva and I love decluttering together.
  • Be patient. Just because you’re excited about making a change, doesn’t mean your partner will be. You have to expect that — people move at their own pace. Just be encouraging, and months down the road, you never know — your partner might start to come around. Until then, don’t be negative at all if you can help it — negativity works against you.

Strategy 2: Zone defense.
If the first (and ideal) strategy doesn’t work, or at least hasn’t worked yet, and your partner or roommate refuses to join you in decluttering, work out a compromise.

A compromise is not ideal — compromises never are. But it can keep both of you sane, so you might give it a try: split up the house into zones. For example, the living room and kitchen might be yours while the home office and bedroom are theirs, or you might even have zones within a room. Again, not ideal, but it’s workable, and I’ve heard of people doing this with success.

Within your zone, you are free to do with it what you want. Declutter, or hoard, it’s up to you. Decorate it how you want. Keep it as clean or as dirty as you want. But no one is allowed to violate the other’s zone, and if you make a mess in the other person’s zone, you must agree to clean it up right away.

This can be a permanent or a temporary solution.

Strategy 3: Find Zen in the center of chaos.
This is much more difficult than the first two strategies, but I’ve also known people who have learned to use it: just learn to live with their packrat ways. Accept that you cannot change them, but that you love them, and just accept their clutter and mess.

It’s difficult, I know. It takes a lot of meditation, a lot of soul-searching, a lot of deep breathing. It may take months or years to learn this, but consider that if you don’t, you may lose your sanity. Accept what you cannot change, and change that which you can.

One way to live with this strategy is to ask your packrat loved one if you can declutter certain things, and keep their clutter hidden in cabinets. Then, you just need to worry about them leaving things around the house — if you don’t like it, you’ll need to clean up after them. If you can live with it, then don’t clean up.

If you choose this strategy, I suggest 1) doing some daily meditation or exercise to find your center of peace; and 2) having at least one corner of the house that is your own, that you can spend time in, reading or meditating or working, without clutter. Your little zone of peace.

Strategy 4: Ditch ’em.
This, of course, is the most drastic of the strategies and is strictly a course of last resort. There are times when two people grow apart, and their lifestyles and views on life and hopes and dreams are no longer compatible. In these cases, it could be beneficial to both parties if they go separate ways, especially if staying together causes more harm than it does good.

Now, I’m not recommending that you get a divorce. I would never recommend that — although I have heard of people who have done this because they can no longer live together (due to clutter and other issues). I think this strategy is usually more appropriate for roommates, as they don’t have the issues of a relationship and legal and financial ties to separate. But if things have gotten so bad that you are no longer happy in your relationship, you should consider all options.


Article originally posted as How to Find Peace Living With a Packrat: Wednesday, July 18, 2007

About the author:  Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has over 2 million readers. He generously shares his work ad-free and without copyright. – Please support his work through purchasing his Habit Mastery eBooks, courses, or programs.



Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash – Modified on Canva.







ADHD, Zen, and The Clean-as-You-Go Principle

by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits


I’m not obsessive about neatness, but I’ve learned ways of keeping my house neat and clean in a simple, stress-free way.

I call it the “Clean-as-You-Go Principle.”

That’s pretty self-explanatory, but of course, I can’t resist going into the details. And also, I’ve found this principle to be great for other areas of my life: finances, email, work tasks, etc.

The basic idea is that, instead of waiting for the house to get really dirty and then having to spend a lot of time cleaning it, you just clean a little bit at a time.

Here are some of the ways I apply it (most of the time, not perfectly of course):

  1. When I’m done eating, I (usually) wash my dishes instead of leaving them in the sink. I’ll also often put away any food that’s leftover, wash cooking dishes like the pan, knife and cutting board, and wipe up the counters. It just takes a few minutes, actually.
  2. When I’m done brushing my teeth, I wipe the bathroom sink and counter to keep it clean. Having a washcloth nearby makes this easy.
  3. When I use the bathroom, I will use the toilet brush to clean it if it’s getting a little dirty. So my toilet is usually fairly clean.
  4. If I see a mess as I walk through the house, I’ll usually put a few things away. Takes just a minute, and no more mess!
  5. I’ll often sweep up the kitchen if I see some crumbs on the floor. Not every day, maybe every other day.
  6. If I see dust on the floor, I’ll wipe it up or get the broom and sweep it up.
  7. If I lift weights in the garage, I use my rest periods to clean the garage, a little at a time.
  8. When I cook, if something has to simmer for a minute, I clean up my cooking area as I wait, in between stirring the food. So when I’m done with cooking, there’s not a big mess.

You get the idea. None of these takes more than a minute or three, but by doing it as I go, it takes very little effort and I never have a really messy house.

Of course, a deeper cleaning is still required sometimes, but not as often, and it’s not as hard. Overall, this is an easy system that works really well for me. (Note: My kids don’t always follow it, but I either pick up after them or ask them to clean their messes whenever I see them.)

Applying the Principle to Other Areas of Life

OK, so a clean house — big deal, Leo! Give me something important to try out.

Alright, I like your attitude!

So let’s apply this to other areas of our lives:

  1. Emails: Every time you go into your inbox, clear out a batch. Like, archive/delete the ones you don’t need (or better yet, unsubscribe), then do some quick replies. Put ones that require longer tasks into a folder and add the tasks to your to-do list. You can do all of that in 5 minutes. Then get out of the inbox. Repeat later.
  2. Work tasks: As you go through your day, in between the important tasks of checking social media, watching videos and playing games … why not take care of mini-tasks for work? Just take care of them a little at a time. Break bigger tasks into things you can do in a few minutes (write just the outline of a blog post!). Scrub things a little at a time, and they don’t require huge commitments. Again, there are things that require longer focuses, but clean-as-you-go can be very helpful for keeping things in order.
  3. Finances: I like to put my bills, savings, and investments on auto-pay, for the most part … but I will very often check them (using online software like to have all the info in one place) and make payments or adjustments if needed. Basically, if I see something that needs fixing, I (usually) take the few minutes and take care of it, rather than leaving it for later.
  4. Health & Fitness: I’m not training for a marathon or anything else right now, so I don’t dedicate large amounts of time to fitness. I just do a little bit every day. Do some pushups and chin-ups today, some barbell squats tomorrow, go for a run or bike ride the day after that, do some yoga for 20 minutes or so the next day, play basketball or go for a walk with the kids, etc. The idea is that if I do a bit every day, I don’t need to deal with health problems later.

I’m not perfect at any of this, by any means. But I’ve found that this principle can help me in so many ways, making lots of areas of my life a lot less stressful, a lot less messy, and a lot easier.

About the author: Leo Babauta is the prolific writer of Zen Habits. He shares his work freely without copyright. Please support his work through an online course or workshop. Originally posted at June 27, 2017

(Title photo courtesy of idea go/ Modified on Canva

Manage your Life, House, and Home with ADHD

9 House and Home Systems for ADHD

What I know now that I wish I had known then.



For many people with ADHD, common problems include Chronic Disorganization of our environment, a lack of awareness of time, and problems with starting and/or finishing tasks. Lack of awareness of ADHD symptoms further complicates the issue. Not knowing WHY you struggle  invites other’s criticism and causes shame and doubt that you will ever “grow up.”

Between high school and young adulthood, I struggled. Didn’t turn in one single English paper at college, kept changing majors and after 4-years of incompletes and credits that didn’t add up, I had nothing to show for my efforts.  Outside of school, I often lost my keys, regularly ran out of gas, frequently lost my car in parking lots, almost always neglected to eat on schedule, and worse. I had a hard time keeping a job, mail piled up, bills were often overdue, and laundry waited until I ran out of clothes.

A husband and children around the house REALLY complicated my life.  I was lost.  I bought a number of beginner cookbooks as well as many cleaning and organizing books trying to learn just HOW in THE WORLD other people could do it.  I was having a difficult time meeting my own and societal expectations of womanhood. I just wasn’t  “normal” and I felt like a failure much of the time.

I DID make it through some very busy years, but usually by “putting out fires,” rather than managing my days and tasks well or without a lot of negative consequences. I went into action in emergency situations, when feeling ashamed, or facing deadlines, but they were mostly hit and miss solutions. Sometimes, I was actually interested in a task and could get that thing done, but regularly failed to deal with everyday matters. One of the areas I really struggled with was managing household chores.


“The problem with dishes, “I would say, “is that you no sooner get them done than you have to do them again the next week.’ Some thought that a great joke, but it was all too true. I kept searching for the elusive “Perfect” system to keep house and home together. I learned to clean using Don Aslett’s books in my twenty’s. I tried Sidetracked Home Executives in my thirties. Both systems were too much for me to handle. Some things stuck, but I never found something just right for ME.

After discovering ADHD in my thirties, my eyes were opened as to why my life kept getting “off the track.” Although I wouldn’t be diagnosed for 5 more years, I found a local support group  and began to learn how my “brain worked.” I discovered that I didn’t have to do it all myself and learned to ask for help. I’ve put together resources that can help you Find Support.

In time, I developed strategies and finally enjoyed some semblance of order in my life. F.L.Y.  Lady tips with Marla Cilley became my go-to method by my forties, but it was far more complicated than I needed. ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize by Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D. was also a great help. (Updated in 2016 to include apps, online calendars, and other computer or smartphone-based technology.) Most importantly, I began to accept myself, “warts and all.” My goal was no longer perfection, but simplicity and “good enough.”

  •  Step-by-step, I began to create habits, use systems and build personalized routines that were unique to my needs and abilities.  I’ve collected a number of goodies that outline ideas that have inspired me and provided a framework on which to build.

Developing systems is the key to organization, housekeeping and good time management.



ONE – Valuable Systems are the Keys to Good Time Management. You’ll find a great introductory article for parents, children, and adults with ADHD in Time Management – It’s a Family Affair by Coach Cindy Goldrich.  Adapting systems to fit your own needs can be creative and necessary because situations change and we must adapt. See 80 Unusual ADHD strategies from ADDitude Magazine readers for a number of examples.


TWO- Hazel Thornton of Organized for Life has a wonderful series on developing Six Organizing Systems Everyone Needs.

She covers:

  1. Laundry
    2. Dishes
    3. Launch Pad
    4. Flow of Paper
    5. Flow of Things
    6. Getting Stuff Done

To design your own systems, ask a series of Who, What, When Where, and Why questions.

  1. WHO is affected? WHO will do it?
    2. WHAT needs to be done?
    3. WHEN and HOW OFTEN?
    4. WHERE will we do it?
    5. WHY?

Your needs will change and you may tire of some of your current strategies. Revise them by continue to ask yourself these questions to fine-tune your systems.


THREE – I already wrote to-do lists for projects, but developing a To-do list habit was a game changer for me.  April Perry of Learn Do Become provides two basic starting points.  I got these tips from a free video on their Facebook page promoting their program.

1st – Identify next action – Not the whole task, just the first step or small action that will get you through the job until it’s completed. Don’t worry about every step involved, just the NEXT one.

* Of course, this important step-by-step process is not-so-easy when you have ADHD.  It’s harder for us to execute. It requires using Executive Functioning skills that don’t come easily to many of us with ADHD. To control your list so it doesn’t control you, see The Art of the To-do List from CHADD’s Attention Magazine. It will help you with this crucial first step of managing your To-do list

2nd – Use a Context-based To-do List routine. Create separate sections for:

  • Home
  • Phone
  • Errands
  • Computer
  • To discuss

FOUR – For a great collection of Planners, see my Pinterest Board Planners, Journals and Calendars – You can find many free To-do lists and planner, directions on how to use them, as well as many additional forms available for purchase.


FIVE – I like visual reminders and keep a copy of this printout on my refrigerator. Simple Steps for Staying Organized -This printable from Andrea Dekker has become my housekeeping mantra.


SIX – The last few months, I’ve been following a simple housekeeping routine of 4 simple steps. I found them in an eBook by Dana K. White of A Slob Comes Clean. The most important point she makes is that you MUST do them EVERY DAY. (She spends a chapter for each step trying to convince you that she really means to follow the program daily.) Get started by doing each task for a week. Only then do you add the next.

  1. Do the dishes every day. EVERY DAY!
  2. Sweep the floor EVERY DAY!
  3. Pick up the bathroom (Not cleaning, just clearing out anything out of place.) EVERY DAY. (I would add spot cleaning with a bit of toilet paper whenever you see a problem.)
  4. Make a  5-minute sweep of living spaces EVERY DAY

She claims that most other housekeeping needs are projects, different from routines, but made easier by having your basic needs met first. I don’t quite agree with all of this, but the everyday routine has been working for me in the last few months. Dana’s book, How to Manage your Home Without Losing your Mind, offers more reality-based homemaking tips. Check out her website for details.

SEVEN  – Zen and the Art of Homemaking – If you need help getting started on your organizing “Projects”, we have a few articles from Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. See 18 Five-minute De-cluttering Tips to Start Conquering your Mess.  Another article includes the self-explanatory, The Clean-as -you-Go Principle. Developing the habit of putting things away and cleaning up a bit when you’re done with a task can be a great time-saver. Personally, I follow a 30-second and two-minute rule by taking the time to attend to things in small increments of time. See Zen Habits’ Leave No Trace for more on this approach.


EIGHT – ADD free Sources on Pinterest! I’ve curated a number of Boards with hundreds of ideas on homemaking,  organization, and getting things done. Many other boards may suit your needs as well. –  I know, overkill for some of you, but it’s been said that the thrill of the hunt on is addictive for many of us with ADHD.

The first is:  Making your bed EVERY DAY: the best way to start your dayAdmiral William H. McRaven’s commencement speech convinced me. You can find the rest of the Admiral’s Ten Tips on YouTube.

Next, Go for Progress, not Perfection. Start addressing your clutter and CHAOS. Take it Step-by-step with Marla Cilley with homemaking tips from the FlyLady.  (Trigger warning – Take the daily shiny kitchen sink premise with a piece of salt. Once or twice a week is enough for me! But, developing some of her routines really worked for me, like writing down a simple 3-step routine for morning, afternoon and evening.
I like this introductory video:  Rockin’ Routines


The final video is How to get Comfortable in the Kitchen. You might like this 8-minute video with Jessica McCabe and her guest on the How to ADHD YouTube channel.  Make shopping and eating simpler and meals more interesting.


(Title photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/ Modified on Canva

Planner page from LearnDoBecome on Facebook

9 Systems photo created on