A Helpful ADHD Tip: Organization Made Easy – Little to No Self-Discipline Required!

ADHD people are notorious for clutter. We are the kings and queens of clutter. This is largely due to the fact that we take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to keeping things, we abandon things wherever we happen to be when we lose interest, and we leave them where they lie until we have a reason not to. So if you read my BIF cleaning method post and it left you wondering “what about clutter?”, this post is for you.

Often times when we “clean” our stuff, it’s just a matter of moving clutter around instead of ever putting it away. This isn’t necessarily a product of laziness. More than likely, it’s just because those items don’t have a home or the home they have is impractical to our ADHD minds. For this reason, most of us struggle not only to get organized, but to stay organized.

How do we fix it?

So what’s the solution? Self-discipline, right? That’s what we’ve always been told. Which is why many of us carry a lot of guilt and frustration when we face our messy desktops and unruly bedrooms. It’s not just that we can’t find that one thing we just saw when we need it, but that we feel like we’ve let ourselves and/or our families down by being the way we are.

Being disorganized in itself is not a character flaw. And sheer self-discipline is such a small part of the solution that you can stop associating the two. And let’s be real. Self-control and self-discipline is hard. Save your energy for the important things like getting to work on time, taking care of yourself, resisting unhealthy temptations, and reigning in your impulses. Organization can be so much simpler than we’ve made it out to be.

No really, how do we fix it?

So what is the solution?

Know thyself.

You don’t work to fit your organizational systems; you work them to fit you. Accomplish this by studying your own behavior and patterns and putting systems in place right at the source. Take a look at your problem areas and note what’s consistent and why.

Your kitchen bar has stacks of mail on it. Why? Because that’s where you read it and/or dump it when you get in from checking mail. Solution: Start taking the mail to your desk instead, because that’s more logical. Set up a file system and a small trashcan right there at the bar. “Important Mail” and “Mail to Review”. (I wouldn’t bother with an outbox unless you actually remember to send mail that’s placed there.)

Your nightstand has stacks of half-read books and empty water glasses on it. Why? Because you read in bed with a glass of water and never put it away. Solution: Force yourself out of bed before you go to sleep every night to put them away, you lazy slob. Get a nightstand with book storage and buy yourself a cup designated just for bedside water. (A pretty one you’ll want to use every single night, so you’ll clean it and reuse it vs just getting a new one every night.)

Below I’ve create a short list of simple organizational suggestions. Probably nothing you haven’t heard before, but with a couple examples that I hope get you inspired to tackle your problem areas. It’s up to you, however, to know thyself. If you need some help with this, leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll do what I can to walk to you through it!

Three Easy Organizational Tips:

  1. One-Step Systems

For me, it’s pretty simple. I use organizational systems that have a maximum of two steps. This means I use a lot of bins and baskets, paper slots and pocket-less folders. It also means I use less drawers, less binders, and absolutely nothing with a lid on it unless I use it very seldom. Why? Because I know myself well enough to know that a lid or pocket is a big deterrent for me.  It’s the dumbest thing, but I save a lot of time, energy, and stress by just avoiding them rather than trying to conform myself to using them. Basically the closest I can get to “throwing it in”, the better the system will work for me.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown to illustrate what I mean by “steps”:

Binder – 5 Steps: Take the binder out, flip to what you need, open the rings, close the rings, put the binder back where it goes.

Bin with a Lid on a Shelf – 4 Steps: Take the bin down, take the lid off, put the lid back on, put it back.

Lidless Bin on a Shelf – 3 Steps: Take the bin down, put it back

Basket – 1 Step: Toss it in the basket/Grab it out of the basket

  1. Labels

    Use labels, but only if it’s natural for you. Take note of the natural order in which you attempt to sort your stuff and try to mimic it in a neater fashion. Your desk might look like a total wreck, but you might find that your papers are actually some-what sorted into “urgent”, “less urgent”, and “I hope this gets lost”. From there, you can set up a paper tray system with those three labels and place it in the spot where you normally do your paper sorting.

  2. Color Code

If written labels don’t jog your memory, use colors. But use the colors that you associate with whatever label you’re working on (and do use a written label as back-up in case you forget). When you think “Tax Documents” what color do you think of? Use that color folder for the tax section of your file box. If “blue” makes you think of hospitals, try that for medical-related documents. Here’s a little bit more on color-coding solutions for ADHD individuals.

*BONUS*

Don’t be afraid to get juvenile and use pictographs if you have to. I’d rather suffer giggles for having cute pictures on my stuff than the anxiety of being unorganized.

What’s it gonna cost?

This approach to organization isn’t always the most cost-effective, since it usually involves buying something new to fit whatever issue is at hand. But don’t let Amazon fool you! You can get plenty of inexpensive organizational materials at the dollar store, from friends who no longer use them, garage sales, or even by repurposing things you’ve already got lying around the house. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars for special systems. In fact, I discourage it until you’ve tried something similar and you know for a fact that it will stick with you. As I said, for me, it’s all about baskets and bins. I can get those for as little at $.50.

That said, don’t be afraid to invest. An organized home is actually very relaxing and liberating for an ADHD mind. It’s most definitely an investment for yourself and anyone you live with. If you try a system and it doesn’t work out, don’t be afraid to change it and resell anything you’re no longer using. This isn’t a one-and-done thing, either. Sometimes systems that worked for a season will become outdated and phase out. That’s not because you’re a failure at being organized, it’s because life is a moving target. It’s because we evolve and our systems have to evolve with us.

Closing Thoughts

I highly recommend giving this book a thumb-through. And my last piece of advice is to remind you that everyone is different. Don’t expect your spouse or your children to have the same patterns as you – not even if you have the same ADHD type. If you want them to be organized, you need to work with them and their behaviors and desires. And if they don’t want to cooperate, then perhaps some simple boundaries should be put into place. For example, their desk is their space, but the living room is not. You don’t touch their desk and their socks must be off the living room floor.

What are your biggest problem areas? Are there any consistent issues you can’t seem to find a solution to? What’s your favorite organizational system solution so far? Share with us in the comments below or send me an email! I’d love to hear from other ADHDers.

With love,

Nicole

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