A Helpful ADHD Tip – Chore Sticks: An Anxiety-Free Chore Hack for ADHD Adults
I hate housekeeping. Most ADHD people do. “Chores” is a dirty word that has an effect on our souls similar to that of a Dementor’s Kiss. (Harry Potter reference, y’all. Nailed it!)
Since it’s such a sucky topic, let’s not even go there…
… Except we have to. Every. Single. Day. Because we live in homes and homes get dirty and they have to be cleaned. Over and over again.
What’s your greatest struggle when it comes to getting the housework done?
For some of us, it’s not realizing there’s a mess until it’s eaten you alive. For others, it’s procrastinating on tasks because we already know we hate doing them and we’d rather do ANYTHING else. And for some of us, it’s the overwhelming anxiety of having an ENTIRE house to keep up with. Where do you start? How long is it going to take? What will we uncover once we start? How much does a housekeeper cost again…?
I will not even pretend I’ve got it all together in this department. (Or really any department…) Observe my arch-nemesis:
That being said, I do have a few tips here that might help you. Three tips, to be precise.
#1: Have a go-to list
Break your chores down into a list, or find a list online (like this one) and save yourself the trouble. What needs to be done for you and your family to live in happy harmony? How often does it need to be done? I recommend having a “daily”, a “weekly”, and a “monthly” list.
The best way I’ve found to create this list is to take a walkthrough of the house. With a notebook in hand, start at one end of the house and work your way through each room. In every room, write down every little thing you can think of that’s necessary for it to be like clean-room clean. You can use other people’s lists as a springboard, if it’s difficult to get your mind in gear. Don’t worry about sorting the tasks until you’re done creating your list..
Once you’ve finished the whole house, sit down with your list and sort the tasks by how frequently they should be done. While you’re sorting, don’t think about how Martha Stewart would clean her house. Think about what you can realistically handle and what’s necessary for proper hygiene and harmony in the home. Make your decision based on those two factors.
#2: Keep a record
I also suggest having a checklist to keep track of when each chore was last done. This is important because ADHD folks tend to forget these sorts of details. We might not realize that we’ve actually never cleaned out the closet, ( except for that one time when we first moved in). It might feel like we just washed the bedsheets, but it’s actually been two months. And so on and so forth…
Additionally, you might find that some tasks actually don’t need to be done as often as you’ve scheduled them. If the patio didn’t actually need sweeping the last two times you went outside to do it, maybe you should move that from a weekly to a monthly chore. Alternatively, if each time you clean out your refrigerator is like charging into the great unknown, armed with nothing but a pair of rubber gloves and a trash bag, maybe you should be checking on that a little more often.
Have a visual checklist to refer to from time to time. It will help you gain perspective.
#3: Let luck choose for you
If you have trouble deciding where to start, this tip is for you. Write all of your chores down on popsicle sticks and put them in a jar. You can color code them by priority (“daily, weekly, monthly” for example) or by length of time (“super quick, medium, forever” maybe).
These are all my chores. Each color of text represents a different room. (And I did, of course, make myself a key so as to remember which is which, also.)
I placed them in little jars of densely food-colored water and dyed the ends…
So they are ALSO color-coded by frequency. Green is “daily”, pink is “weekly”, and blue is “monthly”. And make no mistake, this is not even close to all them!
Once they’re in the jar, you reach in and pull one out. Whatever you get, that’s what you go and do. When it’s complete, you put it in a “completed” jar.
The trick to this method is to make your tasks as bite-sized as possible! Don’t write “clean master bedroom” on a single stick. Divide that big task into 5-10 bite-sized tasks. “Dust the master bedroom”, “Vacuum the master bedroom”, “10 minute declutter in master bedroom”, etc. So when you reach into the jar, you aren’t worried about what you might get. You’ll be surprised by how many chores you can get done when you’re not wandering around for a half hour between tasks, wondering what’s next. You might also be surprised at how great it feels to put these micro-tasks into the “completed” jar.
One rule to the chore stick trick is that you aren’t supposed to “reset” the jar until ALL the chores are done. This makes sure that certain things aren’t consistently neglected AND it allows you to put distasteful chores back into the jar if you so choose. Because eventually, it’ll be the only thing left and you’ll HAVE to do it. (With that in mind, you might decide to it right away instead. And if you do, then I commend you!)
And give yourself grace…
No matter what method you’re using to combat your housekeeping demons, don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s a process. It can be so easy to get bummed out and feel bad about yourself when you look around and find that your home is a wreck AGAIN! For me, personally, I feel like the state of my house is a constant sore spot. It’s always there to remind me “Hey, there! You’re a terrible housewife!” But beating myself up about it never helped me do it better.
We have to push aside the guilt and the pressure we might be feeling from others and keep on keeping on. Be willing to lower the bar to whatever standards you and your family find acceptable. Be willing to start small and celebrate the small victories.
I’ve been using the chore sticks for a month and a half and I still don’t have all my weekly chores done. Ha! But I’m still trucking on! I know that eventually they’ll all get done and that when the jar resets, I can shoot to beat my last record. Sometimes I don’t even get all my daily chores done, but I set the incomplete tasks aside to do first the next day. By doing this, there’s some balance and method to the madness and I don’t feel like my ADHD has got me totally out of control.
- Another great way to use the chore sticks is to pick the ones you’re gonna do for the day. (Maybe like all your daily sticks and 5 weekly sticks) and then arrange them in the order you’re going to do them. I really like this, because I’m a tactile person. I like physically rearranging them, seeing them, touching them.
This is my set up for that. The jar on the right is all the chores that aren’t done. The jar on the far left is all the ones that have been completed since I started the jar. The cup in the middle is all the ones I’ve gotten done that day. And the neatly aligned row on the table are the chores I’d hoped to get done that afternoon.
- You know those dangerous and awkward chunks of downtime when there’s too much time to just sit there, but not enough time to get started on something? For example, if you’ve only got 10 minutes before you have to leave the house or 5 minutes before you have to get the stuff out of the oven. For ADHD people, those moments are torture! Take those opportunities to grab a chore stick and get it done. It’s simple and nearly painless. For me at least, it really boosts my feelings of productivity for the day while simultaneously eliminating those awkward periods of waiting.
- Don’t hesitate to employ a “luck of the draw” system for any given to-do list when you’re feeling overly anxious or overwhelmed. I heard that tip on a podcast and that’s where I got the idea for chore sticks in the first place.
- Use a timer in conjunction with your chore sticks to help with initiating a task AND following through on it.
I hope you found this helpful! If so, check out some of my other “Helpful ADHD Tips“. And please let me know what you think in the comments section below or shoot me an email! I’d love to know what the greatest obstacles are and/or what’s working for my fellow ADHD peers in the fight against household chores.