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10 ADHD-Friendly Ways To Get Organized

all blogs Sep 19, 2022

If you’re like other adults with ADHD and underdeveloped Executive Function life skills, you may be thinking, “no way can getting and staying organized be friendly and fun!” 

I learned long ago that I needed to create games out of pretty much everything I do so that it’s fun and I look forward to doing it. We are feelings-driven people and we have to feel good about what we want to do and also while we’re doing it. 

So whether it’s a game of beat the clock or making a movie out of a project, or taking on the role of someone who does a task really well, or even playing dress-up… I am always thinking of ways to make it more fun for myself. That way I never get caught in the traps of  procrastination or resistance. 

And I’d love for you to feel the same way about getting yourself organized – the fun and friendly way.

Three great things about being organized

Have you ever thought – “What’s so great about being organized and staying that way?” Here are three great reasons that I’ve come up with for myself–and maybe it might help you too.

  1. I can find anything I need whenever I need it and don’t have to go on a hunt. I really dislike the hunt. Everything in my space has a home and goes back home every night before I go to sleep. I call that game “curfew.” I had a curfew as a teenager and I figured my stuff could have a curfew too. 
  2. I enjoy the aesthetics of being organized – what my spice cabinet looks like is visually pleasing to me and organized in a way that I can see everything without needing to move things around. 
  3. When my external environment is organized, it’s easier for my internal environment (my mind) to be more focused and have organized thinking. Research shows that internal and external clutter feed each other. Looking around at your external environment and seeing the clutter creates feelings of overwhelm and increased stimulus; your mind and emotions can’t relax.

What keeps you from being organized?

First, I want to say that nothing is wrong with YOU! What’s wrong is that getting organized and staying that way probably isn’t fun and isn’t your automatic way of living. Remember, we are feelings-driven people and we need to feel excited or positively stimulated about doing things for them to happen. Do you feel that way about getting organized? 

In the 1970s I studied hypnosis and the theory of the mind. We were taught that about 10% of our mind’s capacity is conscious – meaning only 10% is actively engaged in thinking, logic, reasoning and willpower. This is the part of your mind that you’ve been using to learn how to get organized and stay that way. 

Ten percent, that’s not much at all. The other 90% is actively engaged in identifying, associating, and reacting to what’s already stored in your subconscious mind. That’s a lot of mental capacity that could be working against you, depending on what’s been stored in your subconscious mind. 

Have you ever wondered why you get triggered so easily by things in the present time, like getting organized, when they don’t seem like they’re a big deal? It’s because the events of today are getting amped up by the meaning you gave those events in the past and it’s the meaning that’s raising the level of intensity or resistance you’re experiencing. 

Remember…you are the meaning maker of your life. You spin the stories, meanings, reasons, justifications, and logic that drive your life on autopilot. And updating what’s stored in your autopilot mind space can make all the difference in the quality of your life and your ability to get things done – such as getting organized. 

No matter what the organizational expectations are of your adult life, it’s up to you to shift the meanings you’ve given things so that the autopilot part of your mind supports you rather than resists your efforts. 

Start today by creating a new story for yourself about organizing. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Let it be fun and enjoyable. 

 

10 ADHD-Friendly Ways To Get Organized

 1. Can’t decide where to start? 

Start with a countertop or drawer–something small and attainable! And keep the time organizing between 10 to 20 minutes. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by visual clutter, throw a sheet over it and schedule a time in the future to deal with it.

 2. To keep or not to keep? 

The less you have, the less you have to maintain. Everything you bring into your life, takes a piece of your life to maintain, whether it’s a person or an object. When organizing things, question whether it’s what you want and if it’s doing what you need it to do in your life. Maybe even conduct an interview with the item and thank it for how well it’s helping you in your life. If it’s not doing anything for you, bid it farewell.

 3. Can’t get in the mood to organize? 

Create a cleaning playlist and play it loud and move to the music. Before long, you’ll be enjoying what you’re doing. And you’ll feel that endorphin hit that comes with it.

 4. Rushing to get things in order? 

Rushing is the enemy of productive action and all your stuff will get crammed in the closets and under the bed or in that spare bedroom.

 5. Know how to remember where things are? 

Pause to pay attention for a moment when you walk in the door. Instead of mindlessly tossing your keys, phone, mail, etc. wherever they land, take a moment to put them where you’ll find them later. Consider a basket to hold them in.

 6. Who defines what being organized means?

You do! We are the meaning makers of our lives. We get to decide what something means or doesn’t mean to us.  And if you believe that organizing your thoughts or outside environment is a tedious task and not worth the time or effort it will take, then it will feel like a chore to you rather than something you want to do. It’s so important that the meaning we give things empowers us to get into action rather than straps us down into a frozen state. 

 7. How about an organizing playdate? 

Make a “play date” with yourself on your calendar for a specific amount of time and have it be a repeating event. Choose the types of games you want to play. Like beat the clock, 15-minute team clean with the family, or listen to an audiobook while doing your work. The idea is to be creative and enjoy the efforts that you're putting forth. Keep this time set on your calendar. 

 8. Do you like it when you overstay at work? 

Of course, you don’t! Be sure to use a timer when you start your “play date” so you don’t overstay your time. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that someone overstayed his or her time with you when visiting; if so, it doesn’t feel good. And it won’t feel good to you if you overstay your time with your stuff. You won’t want to visit it again and continue to organize because it won’t feel good for the next time you have your “playdate.”

 9. Do you like creating happy memories?

Sure you do! Take a photo of your organized drawer, closet or cabinet. Refer back to it often. Seeing the beautiful work that you’ve achieved actually fosters a winning feeling within and helps you to maintain it more easily because you’ve seen what’s possible!

10. Friends are a gift!

Switch off helping each other to get the job done! Bring some laughter, good food and drink, and work together to bring order to your home or work environment. Organizing is a great way to stay connected with others.

If you’d like to hear some organizing stories of other adults with ADHD, and added tools for busting through internal and external clutter, I have two valuable resources from my podcast Living Beyond ADHD: 

Three Steps to Getting Organized (the fun way!) - 065

Busting The Clutter Cluster & Making Room To Think - 019