Who I am is a Southern California girl – turned small-town, Midwest Mom. I am wife to Bruce and mom to my three girls.
Back when I first started my professional organizing journey in 2013, I had what I thought of as a dirty little secret. I have ADHD and although I am organized, and enjoy the process of sorting, and tidying. I knew that there were many others with ADHD who really struggled with staying organized. I had a case of imposter syndrome and mostly kept the fact that I had ADHD to myself. That is until I learned that there are other really successful professional organizers who have also learned to compensate for their ADHD the same way that I have.
I eventually realized that my need for order and simplicity actually stems from having ADHD as a way to compensate for my short attention span. So my gifts and my challenges are all ironically tied together to create who I am, and I am able to relate to and help others as a result of this coping method that I have developed for myself.
I help women and moms with ADHD, but I also help those who struggle with clutter without having ADHD. Because simplicity and less clutter are always at the heart of staying organized, there is much overlap when it comes to finding solutions to clutter and disorganization.
I am dedicated to keeping my life as simple as possible and to helping others do the same by teaching them how to declutter their homes, simplify their lives, and manage their busy families better.
I have been helping others stay organized since 2013.
It is my deepest hope that you will find resources here that will bring you closer to living a simpler, more intentional, and more peaceful life.
in your space…
…but let it be
as a daisy
in a vase.
ADHD Habits and Hacks To Help You Stay Organized
12 Helpful ADHD habits and takeaways I got from reading James Clear’s book Atomic Habits:
As a professional organizer with ADHD, I strongly believe that it’s our habits that are at the core of why some of us stay more organized than others. Our daily habits and routines hold an enormous amount of power to help or hinder us from day to day.
Once a habit has been created, we begin to perform that task automatically. If it is a helpful habit, then it serves us well. Like hanging up our car keys in the same place everyday so that we never lose them.
I have read Atomic Habits written by James Clear three times because it is chock full of helpful tips that can be directly applied to the work I do with my organizing clients. These tips for building helpful habits are universal, so they benefit everyone, not just those with ADHD. That said, since many with ADHD struggle with staying organized, having the right habits in place can be a major difference-maker in helping those of us with ADHD stay afloat. Speaking for myself, they certainly have been the secret weapon that keeps me organized.
If you have not had the chance to read or listen to Atomic Habits, I highly recommend you do. I hope that you can adopt some of these hacks and apply them to your life. May they lead you to a life with less chaos, more peace, and more productivity. Many of these tips work for helping you stay organized at work as well as at home.
12 Helpful ADHD habits and hacks:
1. Start each day with a daily to-do list and check it off as you go along.
Doing this first thing in the morning will not only help steady you but will allow you to get those troublesome thoughts of what needs to get done that day out of your head and onto paper. Additionally, you’ll get a small dopamine hit every time you get to cross a task off of your to-do list, which is something that our ADHD brains often crave.
2. Start small.
One of my favorite quotes by James Clear is “Decide who you want to be and prove it to yourself with small wins.” Do not attempt to make big changes all at once. Doing this will only set you up for overwhelm and failure. This is typically followed by self-loathing and feeling stuck.
Steer clear of this trap by setting specific, small, and achievable goals that will result in small wins for yourself. You can build on these to keep moving forward slowly but steadily, for example: Spend 5 minutes tidying every day right after supper. It’s ok if it takes you a while to get there as long as you moving in the right direction. Or slowly digging yourself out rather than gradually burying yourself deeper.
3. Try habit stacking.
Clear states in Atomic Habits that “One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.” This is called habit stacking.
For example, You are already efficient at remembering to brush your teeth every day, but you can’t remember to take your vitamins. By keeping your vitamins next to your toothbrush as a visual reminder, you can train yourself to brush your teeth AND take your vitamins, forming a newly stacked habit.
4. Give yourself some grace if you slip up, but “never miss twice.”
Another golden nugget that I found in chapter 16 of Atomic Habits is Clear’s suggestion to “never miss twice.” He states, “The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.”
Allow yourself to fall sometimes without beating yourself up about it. But then get up, dust yourself off, and get back to it. It is also important to avoid shaming yourself because this will only sabotage your progress and immobilize you. Instead, stay focused on your progress.
5. Sticky notes are great visual reminders.
Do not underestimate the power of a sticky note as a visual cue to help you remember to perform helpful organizing tasks. Those with ADHD are often visually oriented, they need to see it – to remember to do it. The visual cue is key to remembering that it needs to be done. Sticky notes placed on exit doors, or bathroom mirrors can help you remember things.
Sticky notes can also remind you to perform a helpful organizing habit. For example, do you want to start keeping your car free of clutter and trash? Put a sticky note on the dashboard to remind yourself to take all trash and other items with you each time you get out of the car.
Once the task becomes automatic and you start doing it without thinking about it, you can remove the sticky note and a new helpful habit will have been born.
6. Try temptation bundling as an ADHD habit hack.
Those with ADHD sometimes struggle with task initiation. You know you need to get something done but just can muster the motivation to get started. Sound familiar? Temptation bundling can be a great way to get past this. This pairs a reward with completing a less appealing task.
Similar to habit stacking, Clear explains that temptation bundling is when you “link an action that you don’t want to do, with something you like to do.” It is a tool for people who want to build better habits but are struggling to start practicing them.
For example: Make a rule for yourself that you can enjoy your morning coffee (current habit) while you sit down and write out your daily to-do list (desired habit). Enjoy a 15 minute break doing something you enjoy, after decluttering your closet for 30 minutes.
7. Make a plan and set goals with steps that are clearly defined.
In the book, Clear explains that the more intentional you are about developing a new helpful habit, the greater the likelihood you will complete the desired task and stick with it. So you want to make your goal as concrete as possible.
Create clearly defined goals for yourself by writing out a step-by-step plan. Also, add the task to your calendar and sync your calendar with your emails so you’re reminded again. Remember to make each step of the process easily achievable and to build on each step. Taking active steps toward reaching a goal is more effective than just thinking about it.
8. Get in the habit of priming your environment for future use when you exit a room.
Sometimes just changing your thinking about doing unwanted tasks can be the caveat that triggers you to get the job done. Using your kitchen as an example, Clear suggests that instead of dreading cleaning your kitchen after dinner, think of the task as “resetting your space for future use.”
Focus instead on how much “future you” will appreciate a clean kitchen tomorrow morning when you walk into your kitchen for a cup of coffee. By priming your environment for future use, you change your thought process. This takes your mind off the dreaded task at hand and places it on making life easier for yourself tomorrow. Now, there is a future reward to entice you to get the job done.
9. Prepare for habits that you want to complete by prepping ahead of time.
Another great suggestion that Clear gives in the book is to “provide yourself with a visual cue” to encourage yourself to follow through with a desired task. He uses the example of setting out your gym clothes to nudge yourself to work out in the morning. Or cut up fresh fruit to make it more likely that you will include it in your breakfast routine.
10. Create gateway ADHD habits.
Clear explains in the book, that by making your desired habit as easy as possible to start, you increase your likelihood of continuing long-term. We often try to take on too much all at once because we want to see immediate results. But this can make the desired habit just too hard to keep up with. He suggests we start with something very doable, like setting a timer and tidying your living room for 5 minutes.
Doing this puts your body in motion…it gets you started. Once you start, momentum might just keep you going. One small gateway habit can lead you to do more once momentum has kicked in, for example, you just go to the gym to work out for 5 minutes and once you’re there, you end up working out longer…” why not, you think, I am already here, I may as well keep going.”
On the other hand, if you only work out for 5 minutes as planned, you are still moving closer to your goal because working out for 5 minutes improves the “muscle memory” for that habit. Working on the formation of the habit is in itself important.
11. Reduce boredom with this ADHD habit hack.
Studies have shown that those with ADHD tend to get bored faster than neurotypical brains do. If you lack the motivation to either take action on certain tasks or to finish them once you start, try creating an incentive system.
In the book, Clear uses the example of utilizing a penny jar to record your progress as you go. Doing this creates more interest and stimulation as you are clearly able to measure your progress as you go.
Here’s another suggestion: Create a list of 20 small organizing projects that you want to complete(small is the keyword here). Cross them off as you get them done. You can further incentivize the list by resolving to treat yourself to a reward when everything done…a Starbucks coffee, a movie, or whatever pleases you.
12. Distinguish between goal-based habits and identity-based habits.
When we decide that we want to change our habits and we set a goal to do so, this is a goal-based habit. In the book, James Clear distinguishes between this and identity-based habits.
Clear states, “The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).”
By making a goal more identity based, you not only increase the likelihood that you will succeed at reaching your goal, but you also are more likely to keep doing it in the long term. So, in a nutshell, deciding that you are the type of person who gets to work on time every morning is more effective than simply setting a goal to start getting to work on time every morning.
Schedule a coaching call, virtual organizing session, or a home assessment with me, and get the support and encouragement you need to move forward.
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