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Decluttering With ADHD: Tips For Best Results

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Decluttering with ADHD: Tips for best results

Why decluttering with ADHD can be such a challenge.

As a professional organizer with ADHD, I learned early on that there is a dilemma that exists between clutter and the ADHD brain. Clutter can be doubly challenging for us because not only might we be more prone to collecting it, but we are also more distracted by having to look at it.

And as if that were not enough…we often are more indecisive about how to deal with it. When it comes to the things we own, the less stuff we have to deal with and see, the better.

Why decluttering is so important if you have ADHD.

Those with ADHD become overwhelmed with visual clutter faster than those who don’t. Every single item we see is a reminder of a task that needs to get done and a decision that needs to be made. As a result, we can have too many thoughts going on at once, and difficulty processing those thoughts.  

10 Top tips for decluttering with ADHD:

ADHD manifests itself differently for each person, depending on their unique tendencies and traits. What works for one ADHD brain, may not work for another. For this reason, I have created a list of suggestions for you to try. Choose and try the ones that resonate with you. I use many of them myself.

1. Less is more.

If you have ADHD, letting go of everything you are no longer using and keeping your home organized as simply as possible is key. 

The best way to stay organized if you have ADHD is to have less stuff. I can’t stress this statement enough. The more stuff you have, the harder it will be to keep it all organized. Also, the more things you have stored in a given space, the less user-friendly that storage space becomes. Keeping your storage spaces less full will ensure that you can find, and retrieve things quickly with minimal effort. 

Declutter with ADHD
Decluttering with ADHD

2. Organize things simply

Those with ADHD often do not have the patience to spend a lot of time maintaining storage spaces. You will be doing yourself a favor if you store things so everything is super easy to find, and put away. Store items where you use them and avoid high-maintenance systems. 

Focus more on functionality and less on making things pretty. Transferring everything in your pantry into beautiful jars may look beautiful, but do you really want to take the time to keep up with this high-maintenance system?

3. Start small when decluttering with ADHD.  

Attempting to declutter with ADHD can feel like an overwhelming task. What you don’t want to do is take everything out of your walk in closet all at once. Instead, break projects into small chunks. Declutter one drawer or cabinet at a time  This will help you side-step getting overwhelmed.  It will also allow you to clearly see your progress. At the end of the day, if you can open your pantry or closet and see the fruit of your labor. This will give you the encouragement you need to keep going.

Another common decluttering mistake I see is trying to organize more than one space at a time. Avoid jumping from room to room tidying a little here and a little there. At the end of the day you’ll be exhausted and may not feel like you’re making progress. Stay razor focused on the project your working in until it is completely finished.

Declutter with ADHD - Containers

4. Assign permanent homes to every single thing you own. 

Everything in your life should have a place to call home. Where do your car keys go? Do you have one designated spot for your checkbook? Assign homes to everything you own. Even your fingernail clippers should have a precise place to live.

Susan Pinsky, the author of  Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD suggests that as you organize, it is helpful to name your bins, shelves, and drawers. This will help you keep things together and avoid ending up with what I call “hodge podge” containers full of random things. For example, have a sock drawer, a party supply container, and a medication shelf. Naming your spaces helps you to make automatic associations with those spaces and hence less likely to toss random things there.

5. Develop the helpful habit of immediately putting things back into their assigned homes.  

Keep in mind that we spend more time looking for things that we can’t find than we do putting things away. Immediately putting things away may be hard to practice if you are not already performing this habit, but the more you repeat this action, the easier it will become. Before you know it, you will be returning things to their homes when you are done with them automatically.

6. For some, daily decluttering with ADHD can be a dreaded task. 

If this sounds like you, try setting a daily timer and plan to spend 5 or 10 minutes tidying up each day. This may motivate you to get the job done knowing that you only have to work for a limited amount of time before you can stop and return to a more preferable activity. This works great as a group activity as well if you want to get other family members on board. If you have an  Alexa, ask her to play music for 10 minutes, and when the music stops, you stop. This will make decluttering more fun for everyone.

7. Push yourself to just get started. 

Several executive functions are often affected by ADHD, and task initiation is one of them. The term “an object in motion stays in motion” applies to decluttering as well. If you are struggling with putting an organizing project off, keep in mind that getting started is often the hardest part. If you can push past this inertia, you will build up the momentum to keep going and get the job done. Once you get started, keep moving forward one small project at a time.

8. Develop a well-thought-out plan of action.  

If you have several decluttering projects to do, sit down and make a written list for the project including when and how you plan to tackle each one. This will help steady you if you get overwhelmed or flustered. Cross each project off of your list as you go. This will bring you much satisfaction as you complete each project. Add each project to your calendar to further solidify your plans.

9. Use my 5-step system for making decluttering with ADHD simpler:


P – PULL OUT AND SORT. Sort everything from one SMALL space at a time. Make only no-brainer decisions by tossing or donating the obvious. Sort everything else into piles of items from the same category.

E – EVALUATE AND ELIMINATE. Once everything has been sorted into piles, evaluate each pile. Now that you can see exactly how much of everything you have, decide what to keep and what to eliminate.

A – ASSIGN A HOME. Assign a permanent home what you are keeping and remember to store things where you use them.

C – CONTAINERIZE. Use containers to keep sorted items together and label them. Using open topped clear plastic containers will help you to easily see what’s stored inside and retrieve what you are looking for quickly.

E – ESTABLISH THE HABIT. Now that everything is organized, put items back into their assigned homes each time you finish using them. 

Declutter with ADHD - Labels

10. Avoid collecting and keeping too much stuff. 

Individuals who have ADHD can be more likely to shop impulsively, thereby bringing home more than they intend to. Today, with online purchases being just a click away, shopping and collecting stuff is dangerously simple.

Shop mindfully and selectively and make quick online purchasing more difficult for yourself. Remove your credit card number from your computer’s memory so that you have to type the number in each time you make a purchase. 

If you struggle with letting go of clutter, read my post on getting past the most common excuses for not decluttering the things we no longer use. Resist putting off making decisions, which only postpones your decluttering progress. Instead, decide to decide now.


Want Room-By-Room Guidance with Decluttering and Organizing Your Home?

My Complete Step-By-Step Home Makeover Tutorial for Those with ADHD is now available. Click below to learn more about how you can get support from me just as if I were working there with you in your home.

Step by Step Home Makeover Guide For Those with ADHD

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1 Comment

  1. Tiffany Wiseman

    I would love to see an entire article on Step 8.

    “Develop a well-thought-out plan of action. “

    No! I’m not formally diagnosed with ADHD, however, have many signs & symptoms of it. 😬

    Yes! Getting started has been the hardest part, for me.

    And my brain gets overloaded with this part of it, especially. Making the plan!


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