Sarah Bickers, our guest blogger, is a Professional Organiser based in South East London who has a particular interest in helping people who have always been disorganised. She often works with clients with ADHD to help create systems which work for them and reduce their overwhelm.
Having ADHD may have landed you the label of being messy. Is it time to lose that label?
What is the dictionary definition of mess?
ADHD and messiness
ADHD is characterised by three main elements:
- 1Difficulty focusing (forgetting what you were doing or getting distracted by other tasks)
- 2Impulsivity (perhaps taking on new tasks without thinking through the implications)
- 3Hyperactivity (difficulty sitting down to tackle boring tasks)
Slow down and finish the job
As a tidy friend once told me: “The only difference between a messy person and a tidy person is that a tidy person finishes the job.”
ADHD brains are often racing onto the next job. You rush in through the front door already thinking about unpacking the shopping, running to the loo, or taking your child to their next activity. With your brain busy of course you forget about putting the key back on its hook, putting your shoes away tidily or hanging up your coat.
Slowing down really helps you to focus or stay present in the task you’re doing. (Mindfulness training is great for addressing this.)
If you have ADHD you might leave things out as a reminder to take action. However, if those things are hurriedly ‘tidied away’ in a drawer out of sight it may feel like they cease to exist (out of sight, out of mind). On the other hand, once something has sat somewhere long enough (the stairs?!) it becomes invisible anyway - so find strategies which help you take action.
A place for everything
When people don’t know where to put things, or put them away in the wrong place it causes frustration looking for things plus a tendency to repeat buy when you can’t find it.
Having a place for everything is a key way to help you become tidier. The place should fit the task and make sense. So keep your shoe cleaning kit near to where you keep shoes or where you’d clean them. (That’s called ‘zoning’ in the professional organising community). Yes of course you still have to put things away, but knowing where they belong makes the job quicker and saves time searching later.
Believe you can become tidier
Start by being kinder to yourself about the way things are. And instead of beating yourself up about being messy (a fixed mindset) remind yourself you can become tidier. Develop a habit of tidying for 10 minutes each day rather than putting it off until you can do the job perfectly. You don’t need to be ‘Homes & Gardens perfect’ so watch out for any ‘all or nothing’ perfectionist tendencies.
Have you noticed you’re more driven by other people’s needs than your own? Do you just tidy when you have friends coming round? Making your bed is a great way of being kind to your future self!
Alongside your own mess you may have to live with other people’s clutter. Or you may be the messiest in the house. We all need to take ownership of our own belongings - tidying up for others doesn’t fix the problem. If mess spills into communal areas just collect it and put it back by the owner’s room.
Taking a bit of extra time to maintain a tidier home reduces your stress and overwhelm - and remember, the less you have, the less there is to tidy!