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Notes from Ash Huang

Keeping House with ADHD

I’m a little self-conscious someone might read this headline and think I’m trying to be authoritative. Especially after many people have chased me at work to return my forgotten jacket or notebook, or sat in a chair only recently vacated by a stack of thirty books. Let’s get it out of the way. My spaces are neither tidy nor organized, but you know what is tidy and organized? My shame about the subject. I don’t feel angst about the mess!

Some thoughts about tidying and organizing with ADHD:


I suppose I could just end the post here. But read on if you wish.

You must accept that it might be difficult to maintain a pristine home and also do all of the things you want. Something has to give, and likely if your brain is anything like mine, it is chock full.

Some seasons are not for neatness. Particularly if you have big things going on (raising kids, launching a company, preparing for a big art show, dealing with a chronic illness flare, etc etc). You can say “I am in maintenance mode for six months. I’m not going to be a neat person for this time, because…” This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. You can clean when things settle down. It’s less important than that other Thing, and do you really want to not do the Thing because your clothes weren’t folded like a Madewell store?

Tidying does not equal organizing

I believe I heard this first on William Curb’s ADHD podcast. For someone with executive function to spare, it’s natural to pair tidying and organizing together. Often when tidying, we’re up close enough to our mess to troubleshoot better ways to keep the mess from coming back.

Never, ever, ever fall into this crater-sized hole. If you’re cleaning crumbs off the counter and you find you’re cleaning around a big pile of mail, it’s not the time to deal with the mail pile. Yes—I’m suggesting you lift the pile of mail, clean under it, and put it back down. If you try to organize the mail pile you will not tidy the rest of your kitchen. You will get tired and have a half organized mail pile, and a dirty kitchen. If you’re feeling ambitious, put ‘design solution to mail pile on counter’ on a to-do list somewhere. Speaking of…

Use time blocks, not to-do lists

Yagirl loves a checklist, but I stopped trying to ‘complete’ an organization project. Instead, I set a 15 minute timer, put on an audiobook or podcast, and just work on a space. If you’re able to do this just twice a week, that’s half an hour spent tidying. It’s a lot less punishing, and there’s less friction. Less, ‘I told I to do this, so I am going to rebel’ energy.

Let less stuff in

I don’t know if this counts as reverse-Konmari, but I’m sure our joy-idol would approve. Do not let anything into your house that doesn’t spark joy. Do not buy anything you’re lukewarm about, because it will be Kirby-d up into your feast of a space. You will have to wade through that thing to find the other things. Others may have an easy time sorting and letting go of things—I’m still trying to remember it exists, or exactly where I put it down three weeks ago.

A nice side effect of this is more sustainable living, and more mindful consumption. Win-win.