Decluttering & Organizing For People With ADHD

the sand and shore meet with the work peace spelled out in the sand.

Decluttering is especially difficult for people with ADHD symptoms. It certainly is unfair to tell a person diagnosed with ADHD to just focus. And this is just one of the symptoms of ADHD.

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When I hear the term ADHD bandied about these days I wonder if people that claim they have an ADHD brain have been medically diagnosed with this chronic neurodevelopmental disorder or if they claim this title for other reasons.

I know what it is like to be so distracted it feels like there is a gerbil cage in my head, and in the cage, a gerbil is going round and round and it just won’t stop.

A Unique View on ADH

When Art Jahnke an interviewer for Boston University’s news publication a few years ago asked the best-selling author, entrepreneur Peter Shankman to explain what he meant when he said that ADHD has been an asset for him. Shankman replied: 

Simply put, ADHD is the brain’s inability to produce as much dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline as “regular” people’s brains produce. Because of that, our brains have become “faster.” When managed right, that becomes a superpower. Read more about this amazing and accomplished man Peter Shankman.

view of mountains and clouds from a window

Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder 

Some ADHD symptoms are impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. The challenge extends beyond the cognitive domain, seeping into one’s physical space. The connection between the ADHD style and a messy house can be profound, with clutter acting as both a symptom and a contributor to the struggles experienced by those with ADHD.

Challenges of Decluttering with ADHD

Clutter Can Lead to a Chaotic Mind

Individuals with ADHD often find it challenging to organize and maintain order in their physical surroundings and this can cause mental clutter. Clutter becomes a visual representation of the cognitive chaos within. Piles of stuff, scattered belongings, and disorganized spaces mirror the overwhelming nature of ADHD symptoms.

A Vicious Cycle

ADHD symptoms can contribute to the accumulation of clutter, and conversely, a cluttered space can exacerbate ADHD symptoms. The constant visual stimuli and distractions of too much physical clutter in a disorganized space make it difficult for individuals with ADHD to concentrate, perpetuating a cycle of chaos.

ADHD can be a great problem-solver

While clutter poses challenges for those with ADHD, it’s essential to recognize the strengths of individuals with this diagnosis. ADHD minds foster creativity, and many individuals excel as great problem solvers. Harnessing this ability can turn the decluttering process into a more positive and empowering experience.

Navigating the Decluttering Journey

Solutions for ADHD

Baby Steps

Break tasks down into little bites. Instead of emptying an entire room to declutter pick a small area, or a cabinet or drawer. If this is too large a job pick up one item each day and declutter it. 1 item a day equals 365 items in a year. This is a lot of decluttering!

The reason this works is because a little space or one piece is easier and faster to declutter than a whole room. You will see and ‘feel’ progress. When I am feeling productive I do not want to stop! Being productive in itself is motivating.

To address the clutter quandary, a customized approach with a specific goal is necessary. Establishing routines, creating designated spaces, and utilizing tools like a “decluttering checklist” can provide structure and support.

These strategies cater to the unique needs of individuals with ADHD, and promote a more sustainable and effective decluttering process.

Manageable actions are important when people feel too overwhelmed to begin. The idea of decluttering one item at a time is the simplicity of the plan. Most people can pick up one item each day and decide to keep or discard the object.

Traditional decluttering advice may overwhelm someone with ADHD, plus any large-scale projects can be challenging to anyone, add ADHD and this multiples. Breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable goals is key.

Focusing on one thing at a time can help prevent mental overload.

I recommend starting to declutter with the kitchen junk drawer because the size is manageable and the ‘junk’ is obvious.

Peak Performance

I know when during the day I am at my peak performance level and this is when I schedule my work tasks. I know that if I show up to work at other times I will not be as productive.

In one of my networking groups, the leader, Sadie Smiley, has taught us all to do time audits. If you track your time for 3 days and make notes you can easily see when you are at your peak levels of performance.


Setting a timer is a magical little trick. When you can afford 10 minutes to declutter and you set a timer you tend to work more efficiently. Try playing beat the clock! It is like waiting until the last minute to do a deadline project, you have to get it done, there are no choices left.


Having an accountability partner, especially when doing a job you do not necessarily want to do, is such a helpful piece of the equation. If you can get that partner to declutter with you it makes the process more manageable. Who doesn’t like a little friendly competition?

Switch Gears

I have several jobs and I work from home for all of them. When I am frustrated because something I am doing is challenging or I simply don’t want to do it, I have taught myself to stop grab the dogs, and go for a walk. I have to tell you out of all the mindful techniques I employ this is the best one.

A friend told me her Mom used to say to her ‘Move a muscle, change a thought’! This is so true! By the time I get back from a walk, I am as good as new and ready to pick up where I left off. Try it! All you have to lose is stress!

Less Stuff, More Focus

Minimalism becomes a guiding principle for those with ADHD. Embracing the mantra of “less stuff” helps reduce visual distractions, making it easier to maintain focus. Clearing the physical space opens up mental bandwidth, and makes way for productivity.

Reducing the number of items you own will reduce the amount of stress you have. With less stuff comes less responsibility because you have to maintain these things. Two words- boat owners.

3 decorative memento boxes, one is wood one is a modest pink box, and the third is an elaborate box with a red top

Sentimental Stuff

Sentimental items are usually the biggest challenge for many people to declutter. Ask yourself a few questions when you need to decide to keep sentimental stuff.

  • Would you buy this thing today?
  • Where is this thing, does it live in a dedicated space and not in your way?
  • How big is it?

If your item is a sofa or the size of your couch and you don’t use it or even adore it, why would you keep this? No one that means that much to you would want you to feel burdened with their old thing. 

You could take a photograph of an object to conjure up the same pleasant memories as the object does. Alternately or additionally, if for example, it is a couch you are reckoning with you could cut off a little swatch of the material to keep in a memento box.

Memento Box

A good idea is to make a memento box for each of your favorite people, including your kids, and keep only what fits in this box. I can see the eye rolls from here.

Progress, Not Perfection

Patience in the Process

The journey to decluttering for individuals with ADHD is not about achieving perfection but rather embracing progress. It’s essential to recognize that setbacks may occur, and that’s okay.

Patience and self-compassion are crucial elements in navigating the decluttering process. Celebrating small victories can fuel motivation and instill a sense of accomplishment.

Cultivating a Supportive Environment

An important thing to consider is how much a supportive network can help those with ADHD undertaking the decluttering journey. Friends, family, or a professional ADHD coach can offer encouragement, assistance, and a fresh perspective.

Collaborative efforts from start to finish line can transform the decluttering process into a shared experience, fostering a sense of community and understanding.

Mindfulness in Decluttering

Mindful Practices for a Clear Mind

Incorporating mindfulness practices can be particularly beneficial for individuals with ADHD during the decluttering process. A technique as simple as taking a deep breath when frustrated can stop a meltdown.

A hyperactive person may find calm when visualizing clutter-free spaces or turning clear goals into mantras. 

There are mindful practices that can help manage distractions and promote a calm mental state. Integrating mindfulness into daily routines reinforces the connection between a clear physical space and a decluttered mind.

EfBomb Coach has more good tips on the subject of Neurodiversity including planners to help you stay on track.

Establishing Sustainable Habits

Building sustainable habits is crucial for maintaining an organized environment over time. Individuals with ADHD may find it helpful to set reminders, create visual cues, or use technology to support their efforts.

Consistency in maintaining a clutter-free space contributes to a more stable and tranquil daily life.

The Decluttering Checklist

Breaking Down the Task

A “decluttering checklist” tailored to the needs of individuals with ADHD can be a practical and effective tool. A checklist breaks down the decluttering process into manageable steps, providing a clear roadmap.

By focusing on one task at a time, individuals can gradually work towards their goals without feeling overwhelmed.

If a weekly task list is too much to focus on a daily task list written the night before may be helpful This can be as simple as writing a list of household chores on a piece of paper or setting up reminders on a phone.

I made the Ultimate Declutterbuzz Tracker and offer it free for readers.

Celebrate Achievements

Each completed task on the decluttering checklist is an achievement worth celebrating. Recognizing progress, no matter how small, reinforces a positive mindset. T

he sense of accomplishment derived from completing checklist items motivates individuals to continue their decluttering journey with determination and optimism.

A Brighter Future Through Decluttering

yellows and oranges show the sunrise over the ocean

Unleashing Potential

Decluttering isn’t just about tidying up physical spaces; it’s a transformative process that unlocks the potential within individuals with ADHD.

When your physical space is tidy and organized, you tend to feel less stressed. The clarity gained from decluttering can empower you to pursue your goals, and foster a sense of control over your life.

Redefining Success

Success in decluttering for individuals with ADHD goes beyond achieving a pristine living space. It encompasses personal growth, enhanced focus, and the development of coping mechanisms.

Redefining success as a continuous journey rather than a destination will allow you to embrace the ongoing process of self-discovery and improvement.

A Harmonious Balance

Tailoring decluttering strategies, cultivating mindfulness, and embracing progress contribute to a transformative experience. As the clutter diminishes, so does the chaos within, paving the way for a more focused, empowered, and fulfilling life.

Staying Organized

After you have gone through all this work to declutter your physical space you need to have a plan in place to maintain your clutter-free home.

It is easy if you have good organizational solutions in place and then set aside ten minutes every day to tidy up.

What I refer to when I say organizational solutions means everything has a designated space to live. Clothes go in one space, typically a closet. Kitchen items all have a place.

There are many choices to organize anything you can think of today. For example this kitchen utility cart may be helpful to you.

People use these resin magazine file folders for various uses. These can hold magazines, obviously. and some folks use these to sort freezer goods and in their bathrooms.

I like these adjustable bamboo drawer dividers!

These hanging storage closet organizers hold a lot of stuff and makes it possible to see what you are looking for at a glance.

sock and underwear drawer organizer have little cubbies for each pair or piece.

I have a friend who swears by these Sock and underwear drawer organizers.

When all your things are properly housed in their designated spaces it makes staying clutter-free easy.

One Touch Rule

When you use something put it away in its proper place immediately. Use the pair of scissors and return them immediately to their proper place. Touch it once.

Be Good to Yourself

Above all if you suffer from ADHD or are distracted be good to yourself. All the self-deprecating thoughts are not helping.

You are not all those horrible things you call yourself, not even close. You are a person diagnosed with ADHD, or other nuerodiverse challenges or you could be simply stressed. This is a human condition.

When I learned what behaviors needed changing in my life I taught myself new habits to help me achieve my goals. The mere act of changing habits can be an overall plus. When you throw in working on meeting your goals the only thing that can likely stop you is you.

Read more about Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Adaptive Functions at the National Library of Medicine

Happy Decluttering!


Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

For more Declutter Buzz & Freebies check out our safe and private Decluttering community on our Facebook page. We are a safe and private space of like minded folks tackling this all encompassing clutter thing once and for all. No shame allowed and always a few laughs!

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