Is your clutter causing you anxiety and overwhelm because you are worried about what you are missing or because you can’t find what you need when you need it?
Whether it is physical clutter or electronic clutter, as it increases so does your stress level, right? But right now, because you don’t know how to tackle it, you may be avoiding dealing with it.
Because it seems just too insurmountable.
Is it your email or mail piling up? Stack of papers on your desk / table or electronic documents in the cloud or hard drive in no particular order. Maybe the clutter is filling your closets, basements, garage etc.
Clutter can be anywhere and everywhere, whether it is on your computer, in your living space or workspace.
It’s taunting you, telling you you can’t get a handle on it. But you can!
Ready to see how?
How Does Your Clutter Build Up?
First, let’s look at the reasons your clutter builds up in the first place. If you have a hard time getting rid of physical or virtual items, it’s usually because of three main reasons:
- One, there is something sentimental about the item.
- You think you might need it one day, whether it’s an electronic or physical item
- You spent a lot of money on it. So you think you should keep it.
And the pile keeps on growing bigger and bigger.
Why Is It Hard To Make Decisions About Clutter
Once the clutter builds up, your ADHD challenge with decision-making can also make it hard to decide what to do with the clutter. As you have too many thoughts at once and have difficulty processing them. Maybe it sounds like this.
I should get rid of this email, paper, stuff, etc. But I might need it later. Maybe I should keep it. Maybe I should get rid of some of it. How am I going to decide? I might regret getting rid of some of it. I’ll figure it out later.
Then, when you are so overwhelmed trying to figure out what to do, you might either:
- give up trying to make a decision about the clutter
- make a decision impulsively – like throwing something out – so you can stop thinking about it
Because it feels like a game of pinball in your head that you just want to get rid of.
But neither of these options serves you well, right?
What Does Good Enough Look Like For You?
When you are ready to deal with your clutter you want to be sure you are not trying to create an idealized version of what your physical or virtual space should look like. Because if you strive for this, and are not able to reach it, you might feel even more demoralized.
To avoid this, when you start to deal with your clutter, ask yourself, “What would good enough look like when it comes to my space so it works for me.”
Good enough might include:
- being able to find what you need when you need it.
- having company over without too much trouble, if that is something you want.
- relaxing in your home without the stress caused by clutter.
- not worrying about what you are missing.
And, when you are clear about the answer to the above question, you will be clear about where you are heading in your efforts to organize your space.
#1 Keeping Your Clutter From Increasing
When you are first trying to clear your clutter it can be daunting because there are still items coming in while you’re trying to deal with old stuff at the same time.
To avoid this overwhelm, while you’re clearing out the backlog, Sandy Maynard suggests:
- put like items together in open containers/baskets (eg. scarves, hats, gloves/spices).
- put a wastebasket in every room.
- spend 15 minutes a day decluttering – throwing, filing, and putting things away.
- place a basket or drawer in every room for items that don’t have a home, yet.
#2 Starting To Deal With Current Clutter
While you are using the above steps to manage your current items each day, you can also start working on your old clutter.
The best way to do this is to tackle one room at a time and separate all items in the room into four piles:
- throw away
Then, when you’ve finished one room, go on to the next room — rinse and repeat.
Obviously, you’ll need to decide on the amount of time to work on each room. Do you want to do one room all at once? Alternatively, you may want to work on a room for 25 minutes or whatever time you choose. How you decide to do this will depend on your preference and time availability. The key is to keep coming back to the room until it is finished, of course.
#3 Create a Place For Everything You Are Keeping
The next step is to create a place for everything you are keeping. This includes the items from #1 that you temporarily put in a junk drawer or basket.
For example, you may decide to create a launching pad by the door where you keep everything you need to leave in the morning. This could include your purse, briefcase, keys, etc.
#4 Have A Daily Habit For Managing Clutter
Once you have a place for everything the next step is to have a daily habit, as mentioned in #1, to put the items in the places they belong. This will keep the clutter from growing again.
The key is to stop telling yourself, “I’ll deal with this later. I don’t have time now!” Instead, trust that slowing down and dealing with your stuff in the moment is time well spent. Remind yourself, “If I do this now, it won’t build up into a monster of clutter that overwhelms me.”
Three Steps To Take When It’s Hard to Execute
I know the above may seem simple. But when you have ADHD it’s not necessarily easy to execute. Maybe you’ve even tried some of the above tips without success or at least enough success.
First, in those moments when you are feeling you can’t implement the strategies to manage your clutter is to be compassionate with yourself.
Second, understand how your ADHD may be getting in your way so you can address these challenges. For example, you may:
- have a difficult time sequencing the steps.
- estimating the time needed.
- become bored and distracted.
- get frustrated and give up.
- forget your intention and allow the project to fall by the wayside.
Third, when you’ve done everything you can on your own, consider reaching out for help.
Because simple is not easy.
If the challenge you’re having is staying on task, it might be helpful to have a body double. This is somebody who can be in the same room with you, but does not necessarily help you. For more on how to use a body double, check out, How Adults With ADHD Use Body Doubles
You might also decide to use an accountability partner. Beyond staying on task, which is one benefit of an accountability partner, you might also get help in terms of suggestions for how to tackle the task if that is what you need. You can check out How to Create ADHD Friendly Accountability Partnerships for more on how to form accountability partnerships.
If you’re working with an ADHD Coach, she can help hold you accountable and also be a thought partner with you as you decide how to tackle your clutter.
Once you’ve done all you can on your own and with the above help, you might consider hiring a professional organizer. If you decide to work with an organizer, make sure they have expertise in ADHD organizing. You may be able to find a professional organizer through Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). You can also look for an organizer through the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO).
Next Steps For You
- Follow the steps in #1 so you can start to reduce the amount of clutter.
- Then choose a room to start decluttering.
- If you get stuck, decide what kind of help you might need.