What I know now that I wish I had known then.
I DIDNT HAVE A CLUE
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.
WHAT I KNEW THEN
“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.
WHAT I KNOW NOW
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.
To design your own systems, ask a series of Who, What, When Where, and Why questions.
- WHO is affected? WHO will do it?
2. WHAT needs to be done?
3. WHEN and HOW OFTEN?
4. WHERE will we do it?
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
- 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.
- Do the dishes every day. EVERY DAY!
- Sweep the floor EVERY DAY!
- 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.)
- 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.
- Parents – Organization and Time Management
- Letting go of Clutter
- House, Home, and ADHD
- Organization Tips for ADHD
- Getting Things Done – Productivity and Time Management
NINE – VIDEOS!
The first is: Making your bed EVERY DAY: the best way to start your day. Admiral 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/FreeDigitalPhoto.net) Modified on Canva
Planner page from LearnDoBecome on Facebook
9 Systems photo created on Canva.com