A Helpful ADHD Tip – Chore Sticks: An Anxiety-Free Chore Hack for ADHD Adults *Revised
(Edit: I rewrote this post because I realized that the bulk of the content wasn’t relevant to the title and also… it was a bunch of crap. I don’t keep a master chore list and I definitely don’t keep up with when I did what. As a rule, I am dedicated to writing this blog using only tips and information that I legitimately use or find useful. So if you read the first draft of this post, I apologize to you. Read ahead to hear my actual advice, sans bull crap.)
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!) It’s a sucky topic and I’d rather not go there, but it’s sort of a big part of my life. Every. Single. Day.
The sad truth is that we live in homes and homes get dirty and they have to be cleaned. Over and over and over again. And the more kids you have, the quicker all your work comes completely undone.
Just shoot me!
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 tip that might help.
I call it the Chore Stick Method and I’ve been using it for a few months. So far, it’s the longest-standing housekeeping method I’ve used, and I’ve used a bunch. It doesn’t do my chores for me, unfortunately, but it exponentially simplifies the whole process for me.
In this post, I’ll give you the three-step method for creating and using chore sticks, as well as some bonus tips on making it most effective for you. But first, let me tell you why I think this method works so well.
For those who don’t realize the house needs help, the chore sticks remind you to the clean the things that you didn’t realize needed cleaning.
For those who are procrastinating because cleaning sucks, the chore sticks break the tasks down into totally manageable bite-sized pieces. It removes much of the agony and dread.
For those who are totally overwhelmed, the chore sticks eliminate the need to make decisions. It decides what you’ll clean and gets the ball rolling for you, jumpstarting productivity and giving you the satisfaction of completing micro-tasks.
Creating Your Own Chore Sticks
#1: Create a Master 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.
(As I said in my edit notes, I don’t keep a master list, but I did make one when I started this project. I think it’s the easiest way to get started on your chore sticks, but there is an alternative. Instead of doing a walk-through, just start with the chores you know of. As you work through your chores during the week, if you think of a new one, just make a new stick. If you’re using washi-tape or marker to color your sticks, or not coloring them at all, then the as-you-go approach is just fine. I dyed mine, so it was better to do them all at once.)
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. There are some chores (like mopping) that just aren’t really bite-sized, but do the best you can.
#2: Create Your Sticks
Once you have your chore list and everything is sorted, write all of your chores down on popsicle sticks. (I used a different colored marker for each room, but I haven’t really found that useful. Just colorful.) Then, use washi tape, marker, paint, or food coloring to color-code the ends by “daily”, “weekly”, and “monthly” frequency. I used food-colored water to dye mine.
If you want, you can create a key for yourself and tape it to the outside of the jar you’ll be using in step 3.
#3 Put them in a Jar
I suggest having two jars; one for chores that aren’t completed and one for chores that are completed. Once they’re in the jar, it’s as easy as pulling a stick out of the jar and just doing whatever it says to do. When you’re done, put that micro-task into the “completed” jar and move on. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your completed jar fills up and the amount of satisfaction you can get from completing these micro-tasks.
One rule to the Chore Stick Method is that (with the exception of daily chores) you don’t “reset” the jar until ALL the chores are done. This makes sure that certain things aren’t consistently neglected. It also 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! I don’t have that kind of self-discipline.)
- Another great way to use the chore sticks is to pick the ones you’re gonna do for the day. (Maybe 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.
(If you’re wondering, the third “jar” I have there is for the tasks I completed that day. Completely unnecessary, but I just like having it there…)
- 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, 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.
- Use a timer in conjunction with your chore sticks to help with initiating a task AND following through on it. Example: You draw “Wash one load of dishes” (in my house, that’s by hand…), so set a timer for 15 minutes and try to get them done before the timer goes off.
- 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. Just write down what needs to be done on slips of paper (or sticks) and pick at random. (I heard that tip on a podcast , which is where I got the idea for chore sticks in the first place.)
Lastly, 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 this chore stick method of about three months now and I don’t think I’ve ever completed all of them. Most days, though, I get all my daily chores done and that’s really helped my self-esteem as a housewife. It’s also helped me to realize the difference between what should be done by “good housewife” standards and what needs to be done for us to be comfortable in our own home.
(FYI, I did not break the reset rules! K dumped them all out and mixed them all up for me, so I had to start over… Kids… )
I hope you found this helpful! If so, check out some of my other “Helpful ADHD Tips” or my follow-up post on adapting chore sticks for kids. 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.