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ADHD-friendly Tips to Help Tackle Cleaning



messy room

Have you ever heard people talk about how they can judge their current state of mind by how messy their living environment is? Most people might not notice that they’re struggling mentally until they take a step back and notice the level of cleanliness in their home has decreased drastically. Every person has a different idea of what “messy” is – for some people, having any clutter at all feels overwhelming and they need to be able to have a spotless home. For other people, a home that is a little messy doesn’t cause any sort of anxiety. 


For people with ADHD, cleaning can be an uphill battle. When things get tough, it can feel impossible to do a simple task such as doing the laundry or cleaning up the mountain of random items that have been thrown on your desk. I get it, honestly. Most people don’t see a messy home as an exciting part of their day-to-day functioning. Instead, it becomes a dark cloud that hovers over us.  We know that we’d feel better if we took the time to take the trash out instead of playing jenga with the garbage.  


Here are some tips from a fellow ADHD-er on how to tackle the household chores: 

shoes

  • Don’t take off your shoes.  I know, I know – you’re trained to take them off when you enter your home, so this one might feel weird. Keeping your shoes on and completing a small household chore when you get home can create a sense of urgency. If you take your shoes off, your brain thinks it’s safe to relax and veg out on the couch for hours. 

  • Side note: “A body in motion tends to stay in motion” applies here too. If you’re able to gather the energy to do a small task, it usually creates a chain reaction so that you’re more inclined to continue cleaning. 

  • Start small.  Entering a room and being suddenly met with a scene that is similar to an indoor tornado can be overwhelming. Instead of seeing the entire picture, focus on something small. Your brain needs the dopamine buzz from completing a task and if your task is too big – you’re more likely to give up.  

  • Example: If you’re making a to-do list and write “clean bedroom” on the list, you’re approaching it the wrong way. What needs to be done in the bedroom? Break down your cleaning into smaller tasks like cleaning off your bedside table, picking up your laundry, cleaning up the trash, making the bed, etc.  

  • Background noise.  One thing I’ve learned about myself and the way I clean is that I need some kind of background noise. The problem with this is that (at least for me), I get caught up in changing the music or picking a TV show that keeps me motivated but doesn’t completely capture my attention.  

  • Lo-fi videos on Youtube can create the perfect amount of background noise while not distracting your brain with lyrics. 

  • Pick a comfort show that you’ve seen multiple times, like Parks and Recreation, so that you don’t feel compelled to sit down and watch. 

  • This one might be a little niche, but there are specific videos I use to trick my brain into completing a task. One of them is a mix of ambient noise and music that makes you feel like you’re in a cozy tavern. There are a lot of videos like this out there, but this one works for me because I can imagine that I’m cleaning up a tavern instead of my messy kitchen.  (If you’re wanting the link, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O738AtAwacI

  • Don’t put it down, put it away.  This is a mantra that I repeat to myself every day. Most things have a specific place that they need to go (hampers, trash can, keys, purse, etc) and it creates less mess if I put it in that spot originally instead of putting it down randomly and then having to clean it up later.

timer
  • Use timers. When we approach a task, it can cause anxiety if we think that we don’t have the time to do it or that it’s going to take all day. You’d be surprised what you can get done if you set a fifteen minute timer and clean it until the timer goes off. Plus, it’s pretty cool to try and race the clock.  

  • Body doubling. This is my all-time favorite tip for ADHD. Having someone sitting nearby as a supportive presence (they don’t even have to do anything other than talk to you) can increase your ability to stay focused and motivated – especially during annoying tasks. It also works by phone call or even watching certain videos like pre-recorded Twitch streams or podcast episodes.  


Hopefully at least one of these tips will help you approach cleaning with more ease! If you feel like you need more assistance in managing ADHD symptoms, reach out to a Mindsight therapist today!


author

Shelby Case is a clinician offering in-person sessions at our Louisville office or telehealth sessions! She strives to make long-lasting connections with her clients in order to facilitate positive change. As a well-known homebody, Shelby enjoys living a cozy life outside of her time working by focusing on hobbies, spending time with her spouse, getting overly invested in TV shows, or cuddling with one of her cats. 

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