Clutter Challenges And Solutions For Adult ADHD

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Topic: Dealing with clutter in your life, ADHD organizing challenges and solutions and strategies. See the other Adult ADHD Issues.

Presenter: Daine Halley, Interior Designer – Professional Organizer. Daine has experience in ADD and gave us a presentation on how to deal with clutter in your life.

November 2004 Meeting Notes for the Vancouver Adult ADD Support Group

Introduction: Introduce yourself to 2 people you don’t know.


Describe one of your strengths, big or small

Give an example of your problem with clutter or other problem


Daine’s Presentation

Clutter is Postponed Decisions

Barbara Hempill, author of Taming the Paper Tiger


ADD Organizing Challenges:



Make peace with what is going on for them (the way we are wired and how we cope)

May have a great system until something happens and we miss a beat

Most strategies that work for others will not work for us

Out of sight is out of mind:

The repetitious act of organizing is not stimulating


Secondary Symptoms:

Hoarding. Check out the Hoarding Action Response Team “The Hoarding Action Response Team (HART) — a partnership between the City and Vancouver Coastal Health — provides a coordinated community response to those impacted by hoarding”


Lost items


Pain and Shame

Tension in relationships

Wasted time



Fun (OK what I mean is not painful)

Get support

May not work for anyone else but does for me

Own that I am not one of those people who are naturally organized and find new ways that will work

Really easy, simple and elegant

System has to be visual


Daine’s Favourite Strategies:

Mail Centre: A place in your home you always deal with your mail. I have a little hanging file box with files: Action, To File, and the Current and Upcoming month for tax related items.

Launch Pad: I use a pole from Ikea that is like a Valet. I have my keys, watch, earrings, rings, cell phone charger, hand bag, shoes for that day, etc. I always keep these items there and have not lost my keys since.

Organized Kitchen: I like using Tupperware in the kitchen to keep all my food organized with ShelfSmart and Modular Mates and at a glance I know what to add to my shopping list. The fridge is organized with FridgeSmart containers.

To Do Basket: A basket you can put in one spot in your home and put things/projects that need action. I also use Ikea bags to transport things that need to be returned or taken somewhere else.

My Computer and Personal Digital Assistant: I use Microsoft Outlook with the FranklinCovey PlanPlus software. It takes the time-tested planning methods from FranklinCovey and seamlessly integrates them directly into your Outlook software.

I synchronize the calendar, contacts, tasks, notes, email, Word and Excel files from my computer to my Palm PDA. I have everything I need and carry less when I am away from home.

Supportive people in your life.


Books for more information:

Add-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau

Organizing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern

Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD, 2nd Edition-Revised and Updated: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized. By Susan Pinsky

Unclutter Your Life: Transforming Your Physical, Mental and Emotional Space by Katherine Gibson


Links on the Web:

Professional Organizers in Canada help their clients to find balance, restore order and maximize their time and resources at home, office and workplace locations. Services vary widely, depending on the area or range of specialization.

The Paper Tiger software is a powerful filing system that uses the power of your computer to help you get organized and stay organized.

Get Organized Now! Web site, where you’ll discover thousands of tips and ideas to help you organize your home, organize your office and organize your life!

Pete Quily, an Adult ADHD Coach, can help you with customized strategies, motivation, realignments and support in reducing the clutter in your life.


Some of the questions or comments during the meeting and answers:

One person does not have a clutter problem. Everything is really organized and they know exactly where to find it in one of the three storage lockers. On the surface this may not be a problem. However if a person had to pay for all this storage then there would be costs/prices associated with having so many belongings.

Daine asked the person a few questions and may have got the reason for all the items: all of them were useful and of good quality. These are great reasons for keeping something but there can be a price.

How to stay focused on a task or even get going on it? Use a timer set for 15 minutes and agree to do just the 15 minutes. If after an hour goes by and you are still doing the task great. If you find yourself off task 15 minutes later, go back to the original task.

If you forget what it was that you started doing in the first place, attach a note to the timer about the task you need to work on.

If you cannot afford an organizer, trade off with someone that will support you in completing the tasks you need to do by keeping you on track. Trade off with the other person for something they need done.

What do I do if a strategy no longer works? A part of having ADD is the need of constant stimulation and to keep things new. Know that you will need to tweak your strategies from time to time. That is what making peace with your condition is about.

Know what your why or value is for getting or keeping organized. If there is not a real reason to be better organized than guilt or feeling like you just should be, it will most likely not happen for you.

Balance: If you buy something or bring it home, get rid of 2 for a while then move to a balance of one item for one item.

Traveling: Pack more than you will need? When you get back from your trip make a list of what you actually used as you unpack and keep that list in a place where you will find it (maybe in the luggage).

It is okay to let go of things you are not using or have not used in a long time. Let go and the guilt that goes along with that item/project/gift.

Don’t compare yourself to the other people who don’t have ADD: you are special and unique in your own way.

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