Bought to you by Healthy Minds Therapy
story by RELAND FINCH | headshot by Michelle Bosch
Life is a messy business. As a therapist, I hear about all sorts of challenges people are facing, from the loss of a loved one to difficult family dynamics. One of the most universal problems my clients bring up is that there just aren't enough hours in the day to keep their homes clean and organized.
This is a challenge we all face, which comes with a surprising amount of baggage. Many see the conditions of our homes as a reflection of our self-worth. Some find that a messy house leads to greater levels of anxiety or depression. These challenges can be especially painful for members of the neurodivergent community. People with ADHD and autism are frequently bombarded with 'helpful suggestions' that just don't work for us!
These are a few tips and tricks I've encountered (and used) to make housekeeping easier for neurodivergent folks.
When struggling to find motivation to put things away, it’s helpful to reduce barriers (even the small ones). For example, I only buy containers without lids. Many teachers use this trick in the classroom – how many classrooms have you seen where all the supplies are kept in closed boxes with lids? Stackable open bins or open shelf bins make putting things away much faster.
Some find that it is helpful to differentiate between static and dynamic clutter, which is an idea from the YouTube channel “How to ADHD.” Dynamic clutter consists of objects you use on a regular basis. Static clutter is the stuff that gets in your way and serves no purpose. In the past, I used to clean everything (like putting my TV remote away in the cabinet), which meant that life actually became harder after I cleaned. Now, I focus only on the clutter that my family is not actively using.
I talk with a lot of people who get easily overwhelmed by certain textures and smells. If this is you, you may find facing a sink full of dirty dishes to be too much to deal with. Some folks find doing dishes to be far more palatable when wearing thick rubber gloves, which significantly reduces the proximity of their hands to the water, soap and food residue. In addition, keeping a soaking bin full of soap and water in your sink breaks up food residue before you start washing dishes.
If you find that your dishes still sit in your sink for days at a time, you could also try recyclable plates and cutlery. Not all grocery stores carry them, but they are available to order online.
Most vacuums are painfully loud, which may necessitate earplugs or noise canceling headphones. While noise canceling headphones can be relatively expensive, there are many affordable reusable earplugs that significantly reduce the auditory overload of vacuuming.
If your budget allows, you could also use small, handheld vacuums in multiple parts of your home. Many handheld vacuums are relatively affordable and can rapidly absorb stray crumbs and hairs that accumulate in kitchens and bathrooms. These vacuums also tend to run much more quietly than regular vacuums!
Organizing laundry can be long and tedious, especially when holding onto clothes that you no longer use. It can be beneficial to consider donating any clothes you haven’t worn in a year (excluding special occasion attire) and any clothes that don’t fit. You can find lists of charities online that desperately need clothing donations!
Some people’s laundry never makes it into the dresser because folding takes too long. If this is your experience, why not try organizing your laundry (whether folded or not) into open, stackable bins? When using this strategy, I recommend buying clothes that do not wrinkle easily!
If sorting socks and underwear is painstakingly long and boring, start using a washable laundry bag for each person’s underwear and a separate laundry bag for each person’s socks. This can work especially well when you only buy one color/style of sock per person so you never have to worry about pairing socks again!
When my calendar is in a notebook or on my computer, I don’t take the time to update it. It’s out of sight and out of mind. Some find success by putting the family calendar on the wall in a highly visible, central location. Depending on your budget, you could even consider an electronic calendar with a smart display that you can put in a central location.
If you find yourself prone to distraction, think about organizing your home around different tasks (which is another “How to ADHD” trick). When you’re cooking at the stove: the oil, spatula, pan and seasonings should all be within arm’s reach. While working/studying: your computer, power cord, phone charger, pen and notebook should all be within arm’s reach. Otherwise, you may find yourself distracted when you have to cross the room to get something that is out of reach.
Remember, there is no easy way to organize a home, so find what works best for you. Instead of using the Nike approach (“Just Do it”), think about what is most difficult for you and see if there are any strategies for navigating it. It’s alright to do things in a unique way if it works for you!
MEET THE AUTHOR
Reland Finch is the Clinical Director at Healthy Minds. She is a supervisor and licensed professional counselor who is passionate about neurodivergence and the LGBTQIA+ community. Reland got her Masters in Art Therapy and Counseling from Eastern Virginia Medical School and her Bachelors from the College of William and Mary.