This week I’m offering some ideas that can help everyone, but especially people with AD/HD, get organized. Future posts will cover organizing paperwork and time and tasks, but this week I’m offering some pointers for organizing “things”:
Keep in mind is that organization is about how well you function in your environment, not about how it looks. That being said, many of my clients with AD/HD typically function better in an uncluttered, peaceful looking environment. So for this population, appearance can be a factor in overall organizational success.
Another important thing to remember is that there is no one right or wrong system – whatever works for you is all that matters. So adapt my ideas as necessary to personalize them:
- Organize just one room and one area of that room at a time, and stick with it until that area is completed. Other areas might get worse while the one you’re working on is getting better, but just trust that this method is tried and true. If necessary, post a large note that reminds you what area you’re working on and throw a sheet over all but that area so you won’t get distracted. You might want to read the book If You Give a Moose a Muffin (or other books in the same series) to give you an idea of what might happen if you allow yourself to do what Julie Morgenstern calls “zigzag organizing.”
- Categorize – broadly. This prevents you from having to remember where every single item is, but rather, where particular categories of items are. For example, if you store all the tools together, you don’t have to remember where to find the hammer, in particular, but just where to find the tools. Once you get in the right vicinity, you’ll be able to find the hammer. Categorizing can be difficult for people with AD/HD, so look for models in the “real world” to help you (e.g., what categories do the bookstore, department store, grocery store use?).
- Label everything. I’ve written about this in a prior post, but it’s important enough to repeat. One of my clients who has AD/HD as well as some learning disabilities said that labeling has changed her life. After throwing away lots of outdated food that had gotten lost on her pantry shelves, we grouped the remaining food into categories using the grocery store aisles as a guide (e.g., breakfast, fruit, vegetables, pasta, etc.) We then labeled her pantry shelves according to these categories, and she and her family can now quickly and easily find things. Also, she now knows that she has 8 cans of mushroom soup, 4 bottles of white vinegar, etc. because they’re all in one place, not scattered throughout the pantry.
- Put things away at the end of the day. I often hear people say that they step over and around things without really noticing the clutter until all of a sudden it hits them that the room is a mess. You might want to take a photograph of your space when it’s organized so you can see what “put away” looks like. If you maintain your space every day (not just on days when you feel like it) it will become a habit and it will prevent the clutter from building up again and becoming overwhelming.
While you may be able to implement some or all of these suggestions on your own, the key to success is maintaining the organizational systems you’ve set up. Like many of my clients, you may start off energized and excited about getting organized, but lose interest or want to create a new system once the novelty has worn off. Before this happens to you, create a support system that will keep you on track. Your support system might include other members of your household, friends or family members outside your home, your therapist, and/or a professional organizer. The key is to enlist the help of people who can gently, not judgmentally, remind you to follow the system.
Be sure to read my post on organizing paperwork for the ADHD mind. Good luck as you embark on organizing your things. I’d love to hear how you’re doing.