Adhd messy house

A Guide for ADHD Adults

Some ADHD experts believe that a cluttered desk, closet, or house reflects a disorganized mind; others take it as a sign of genius. A lot of adults with ADHD, including me, agree with the latter opinion.

Either view can be true, depending on the individual and the degree of his disorganization. Those who are organizationally challenged spend hours — days, even — trying to get things neat. We lose quality time with our kids or a night on the town. “Controlled chaos” might be a better choice for ADHD adults. On the other hand, a mess that is ignored can grow larger, until we feel overwhelmed by it.

How do you distinguish a productive mess from a debilitating mess? Read on…

Messy and Organized

The guiding principle shouldn’t be what others say, but how you feel about clutter and how you function with it. If you’re an adult with ADHD who can perform well with clutter all around — at home or at work — who cares if someone calls you a slob (unless it’s your boss).

Some of the messiest people I know can find the document they’re looking for from a tall stack of papers without missing a beat. That’s what I call organized, messy or not. Living up to your own expectations is more rewarding than forcing yourself to conform to standards set by those to whom sorting comes naturally.

[Self-Test: Is Your Clutter and Disorganization Out of Control?]

Family, friends, and co-workers may make judgments about our clutter and berate us for it. Neatniks assume that we are lazy or disorganized, when neither is necessarily true. If you are in control of your mess, and your mess isn’t controlling you, let the criticism roll off your back.

How do you know whether you are in control? Ask yourself, “Am I wasting time looking for what I need?” and “Am I being pulled off task — and accomplishing little — because of clutter?” If you answer no, you have a mess you can live with.

When I wrote my thesis for my master’s degree, my desk and floor reflected my “messy” mind. Spreading out my ideas and sources — papers and open books — allowed me to survey all of my ideas and put them in together in original ways. No one visiting my office could have seen the method in my mad array of papers, but the seeming chaos helped me develop a thesis that received rave reviews from my professor.

Messy and Dysfunctional

Chances are, ADHD adults may recognize the signs that their messes are controlling them. Here are seven obvious ones:

  • When you have to purchase items to replace those that you can no longer find.
  • When you spend time looking for things that you use routinely.
  • When your spouse or a disgruntled coworker complains about your mess creeping into his space.
  • When the mess on your desk becomes a distraction in itself.
  • When your boss tells you to clean up your cubicle. Most bosses will not intervene unless your disorganization is seriously affecting your performance.
  • When items are not in the right room — dishes in the bedroom, toothbrush in the living room, bedroom slippers in the garage, hairbrush in the kitchen, hiking equipment in the dining room.
  • When a stack of papers becomes so tall that it falls over, or when you find yourself stepping over things to move through a room.

[Free Download: Clean Up and Get Organized in One Weekend]

Don’t Let Clutter Overwhelm You

One of my clients was clearly a slave to his mess. He piled stuff — papers, clothes, sports equipment, unpaid bills — all around the dining-room table, kitchen counters, coffee table, and other shared spaces in the house. His wife picked up, but didn’t know where to put the homeless items. He suggested storing his clutter in his office, which was in the basement. They agreed it wasn’t fair for her to have to run up and down the stairs to get his stuff out of the way.

The solution? They placed a large wicker basket — about the size of a milk crate — in every room. They refer to the baskets as their “designer dumpsters.” Whenever she sees his stuff cluttering up shared space, she deposits it in the basket in that room. He always knows where to find the items that he’s misplaced.

At one point, I sat on the trunk in my office — amid the disarray of books and papers — thinking about giving up on my thesis. My thoughts came so fast that I didn’t think I could capture them in an outline. I took photos of the floor and desk — and of myself atop the trunk — to preserve the moment when I almost gave up. The photo reminds me that I am more than my mess. I am an ADHD coach whose contributions and academic achievements have made a difference in people’s lives.

Look beyond your mess — assuming it’s not messing up a colleague or spouse — and find something about yourself to applaud. I’m already clapping for you.

Clutter Control Tips for ADHD Adults

  • Use baskets/containers without lids for like items (e.g., boot box, gloves/hat/scarves box, kitchen spice box).
  • Place a wastebasket in every room.
  • Place a magazine rack in rooms where you read.
  • Spend 15 minutes a day de-cluttering (throwing and putting things away, filing, if necessary).
  • Designate at least one junk drawer in every room. If you don’t know where an item should go, or if it doesn’t have a home yet, put it in that drawer.

[Free Resource: 22 Strategies to Combat Clutter]

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ADHD Diagnosis Helped Me Understand My Messy House

  • I used to be ashamed of my messy house, which made me spiral into anxiety. 
  • Then I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 40 and things started to make sense. 
  • I let that shame go in pursuit of healthier motivation.
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When the pandemic started and I found myself at home all day, I remember thinking, "Well, at least my house will be clean." Instead of chatting at the watercooler or distracting myself with shiny things in my office, I imagined taking a moment here and there to do a load of laundry or wash the spoons. It seems I'm always low on spoons.

I have these fantasies a lot; all that stands between me and having my life together is this one, ever-shifting X factor that would make it all better. But it turns out the problem isn't the situation; the problem is my brain.

I've never been the type to clean as I go. I leave my empty cans on the window sill, play the "can I fit one more item on the pile of trash" game, and laundry rarely makes it to the washer without a multi-stop tour of my floor. 

It's not that I never clean. I just wait until I have the time and energy to clean everything. I couldn't figure out why I could sometimes laser focus on cleaning, and other times I'd step over the same dirty sock for a week.

I wondered why other people had no problem getting up to throw granola-bar wrappers into an empty trash can. It's not that my house is disgusting — it's just in a perpetual state of "I'll get to that later." 

It used to leave me with a constant undercurrent of shame. And then I was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and suddenly everything made sense. 

I was too afraid of a diagnosis

I had ADHD as a child, and I still have ADHD as a mom. In retrospect, it was laughably obvious. And while I suspected it, I was too scared to seek a diagnosis. My whole life, I internalized the idea that I couldn't complete tasks because I was lazy. 

This is especially true for women, since girls are disproportionately underdiagnosed as children. Our executive dysfunction tends to lead us toward a more inattentive flavor of ADHD, which leads to a lot of "she's smart but she doesn't apply herself.

Getting the diagnosis shortly before my 40th birthday let me take a step back and see the bigger picture. A mess isn't an emergency, nor is it a moral failing. 

I don't need to feel ashamed of a mess, but I do need to recognize the ways it holds me back. I frequently point out to my kids that our difficulties are "a reason, not an excuse." 

I like having a clean house

When I come home to a mess and immediately feel the creeping sensations of panic rising in my throat, I recognize ADHD's battle with anxiety, and I know I can't let everything spiral into squalor or depression. 

Sometimes I need to figure out what will help at the moment — for instance, I sometimes work from a couch in a bar because my house is too messy. Later, I will try to clean "just a little bit." I try to convince myself that it's OK to just do the dishes — it's a start. I don't have to wait for the perfect time to clean the entire house.

I am happier when my house is clean. My goal is moving toward my values, not shame. I am not less of a mother, woman, or person when school supplies and junk mail cover the table.

Is your child too hyperactive? | Clinical Center "Psychiatry - Narcology"

About children suffering from hyperactivity, it is by no means to say that they are not seen or heard. The main characteristic that defines such a child is the adverb "too". Such a child is everywhere and always too much, he is too active, he is heard too well and far, he is too often seen absolutely everywhere. If you forget to remove a bucket of water, then he will definitely knock it over, if you ask him not to touch a vase that is dear to you, he will definitely break it without even touching it, if an old puddle tries to dry out in the middle of dry asphalt from last year, then he he will definitely get into it up to his ears and come home dirty from head to toe. Moreover, to all your questions about how it happened, he will answer: “I don’t know, she fell herself, the bucket fell under my feet, and I didn’t see any puddles at all.

Portrait of a child with ADHD

Disorders suggestive of hyperactivity in a child are divided into three groups: attention deficit, motor disinhibition and impulsivity.

Psychologists offer the following scheme for monitoring a child in order to identify possible signs of hyperactivity.

Active attention deficit:

1. Inconsistent, it is difficult for him to hold attention for a long time.

2. Does not listen when spoken to.

3. Takes on a task with great enthusiasm, but never finishes it.

4. Has difficulty organizing.

5. Often loses things.

6. Avoids boring and mentally demanding tasks.

7. Often forgetful.

Motor disinhibition

1. Constant fidgeting.

2. Shows signs of restlessness (drumming with fingers, moving in chair, running, climbing).

3. Sleeps much less than other children, even in infancy.

4. Very talkative.


1. Begins to answer without listening to the question.

2. Unable to wait for his turn, often interferes, interrupts.

3. Poor concentration.

4. Cannot wait for reward (if there is a pause between action and reward).

5. Cannot control and regulate his actions. Behavior is poorly controlled by rules.

6. Behaves differently when performing tasks and shows very different results. (In some classes the child is calm, in others he is not, in some lessons he is successful, in others he is not).

If, under the age of 7 years, at least eight of the listed signs are constantly (for more than six months) manifest, the teacher can assume that the child he is observing is hyperactive.

Psychological and pedagogical correction of hyperactivity

Psychological and pedagogical correction of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most laborious for all participants in the process (children, parents, teachers), but also one of the most gentle for the child's psyche and one of the hyperactivity treatment methods that has the fewest side effects.

The essence of the method of psychological correction is to identify and understand the underlying causes of the problems that arise in the child, and in the gradual, consistent and unobtrusive change and correction of the child's reaction to certain stimuli. This method requires a global revision of the attitude towards the child, both on the part of parents and on the part of all adults involved in his upbringing and education, the development and actual implementation of such an advertised, but so rarely implemented in modern pedagogy, individual approach to the child as in preschool educational institution (nursery, kindergarten, preparatory school), and directly in a secondary school.

In addition, it is necessary not only to explain, but also to the parents themselves to realize the fact that very often the cause of hyperactivity lies in the wrong principles of education, for example, overprotection or insufficient strictness, lack of constancy in the daily routine and nutrition, the difference in the requirements for the child at school and at home or by parents and grandmothers, etc.

Any child, and especially a hyperactive one, requires a wise and reasonable attitude towards their own person. Correctly placing emphasis in education means not only helping the child cope with the negative manifestations of the disease, but also gaining his trust, becoming his friend, constantly being close to the child, supporting him.

Psychological assistance in working with a hyperactive child is provided by psychologists of our center. If you suspect that your child has hyperactive traits, you can move according to the following scheme :

1. Diagnose your child according to the above points,

2.    See a specialist (child psychiatrist and psychologist),

3. Start systematic work in conjunction with a specialist in helping the socialization and adaptation of a child with hyperactivity.

The child does not clean his room - what to do?

© Collage by Kristina Savelieva

Cleaning a room is a topic on which conflicts seem to be unavoidable. Even parents with endless zen sometimes, stepping on another Lego piece or falling into plasticine, raise their hands to the sky and exclaim furiously: "Well, when are you going to clean the room ?!".

Of course, we all would like the children's room to always look like a page from the Ikea catalog, but in reality it is strange to expect perfect cleanliness and order from a child every day.

Ashley Jones from Romper is familiar with these parental torments firsthand - on the one hand, you don’t want to demand professional cleaning from your child, but on the other hand, how much can you endure? Ashley decided to figure out what requirements for cleaning a room can be, and what they depend on. Here, look what happened.

Parenting expert Maureen Healy says that children usually reach this stage of development around the age of four.

“All children are different and it is important to take this into account, but I would say that preschoolers can already make their bed, pick up scattered things and clean their rooms,” she explains. “They may need help at first, but in general they can already handle it.”

Experts agree that the age of the child should be a key principle when forming your requirements for him. “A child’s age affects their ability to keep the room clean and tidy,” says neuropsychologist Sanam Hafiz. - For example, you cannot expect a one-year-old child to vacuum in his room and wash the floors in it. But you can assign small children tasks they can handle, such as clearing toys off the floor or making the bed.”

Pediatrician Scott Krugman notes that it is important to take into account the nature and temperament of the child, as well as their neurological features, such as the presence of ASD or ADHD.

“Children who have difficulty concentrating may find it difficult to complete a difficult task, such as cleaning a very dirty room,” he says. “They need detailed instructions that help break down one task into many smaller tasks. For example, parents might say, "Let's start by putting our clothes away."

Educator and parenting expert Laura Lynn Knight says that even with her own children, she sees that each of them requires an individual approach: one child is usually quickly distracted, but does not require increased supervision, while another can quickly lose momentum and more often needs help.

“As a parent, you know your child very well, and you already understand how much support and attention your child needs in the cleaning process,” Knight explains. - You can also let your child express himself with decorations or organizing the storage of things in his room. Your child can simultaneously follow your agreements, and at the same time have the right to choose.

Knight also spoke about the fact that in her family, children have a fixed time for cleaning, which is built into the daily routine. “We have an agreement that by the time we read books before bed, all things should be removed from the floor, and before the Friday movie night we clean everything even more thoroughly,” she says. “We don’t tie pocket money, rewards, or punishments to cleaning, but instead, my kids know they will have less time for reading and movies if they take too long to clean—it’s a natural consequence.”

If you want to make cleaning your child's personal responsibility, it is important to pay attention to motivation and support. Whether you make a sticker board or stick to the Natural Consequences method like Knight, sooner or later your child is bound to get into the game.

“Explain your values ​​and expectations—this is especially important for teenagers. They want to know why you're asking them to keep the room clean, and "because I said so" usually sounds lame," says Krugman.

He suggests talking to teenagers about how structure, routine, and self-organization will help them succeed in school and later in life, and what role housekeeping plays in this. At the same time, it is important to set an example for children by their own behavior.

“Of course, some kids are naturally more organized than others,” says Healy. — Here it is important to choose what is important to you, especially in the period between middle and high school. Often, being a good person is much more important than cleaning a room.”

Experts agree that having a predictable routine and one specific method of tidying up a room will help kids keep their room tidy and less stressed about it. You can set a timer to clean a little every day, or you can do a big clean every Saturday. The main thing is to be consistent.

Hafiz notes that it is important for a child to know how carefully he should clean his room, and what you expect from him. “Go around the nursery with your child and show him what makes the room clean, and also tell him what you think is acceptable and what is not,” she suggests. — Calm, friendly explanations are the key to success. And if you praise the child for the fact that after cleaning his room is cleaner and tidier than it was before, he is more likely to want to repeat his actions and clean again.

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