Monday, January 18, 2016

Organization Tips for People with ADHD

Image via Pixabay by condesign

Hello friends! Belated New Year's greetings.

To say I've been a bit distracted, a bit way-laid, would be an understatement. But, it's a new year, and I hope to be more present, both in my daily and my virtual life.

Over the holidays, I was contacted by Vee Cecil, a fellow Kentuckian and personal coach who writes a wellness blog called My New Well, She has written my featured guest post this week about women and girls with ADD/ADHD and has offered some sound tips on organization. I know that I personally use her tip on cleaning -- listen to podcasts to pass the time -- and it helps considerably.

Please enjoy Vee's post and leave comments for her.

If you would be interested in writing a guest post, please send me an email.



ADHD is a neurobiological disorder that affects both children and adults, though symptoms often first begin during childhood, especially for boys. Symptoms of ADHD commonly include inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. For adults, ADHD makes it difficult to manage time, set goals, keep a job, maintain relationships, and be organized. 

Disorganization is Especially Problematic for Girls and Women with ADHD

Maria Yagoda is a writer for The Wire, The New York Times, and Al Jazeera America. She also has ADHD.  In her article on the ways in which ADHD is different for women, Yagoda explains that women develop ADHD symptoms later in life and have symptoms such as disorganization and forgetfulness that are different than those experienced by men. As she puts it, “ADHD does not look the same in boys and girls. Women with the disorder tend to be less hyperactive and impulsive, more disorganized, scattered, forgetful, and introverted.” 

In fact, many ADHD symptoms may not be present in girls until college, when the organized home life structure disappears and estrogen levels increase. Sari Solden, therapist and author of Women with Attention Deficit Disorder explains, “girls see their trouble prioritizing, organizing, coordinating, and paying attention as character flaws. No one told them it’s neurobiological.” 

Yagoda echoes those sentiments: “I considered these traits – my messiness, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, important document-losing – to be embarrassing personal failings… I maintained a room so cluttered that fire inspectors not only threatened to fine me $200 if I didn’t clean, they insisted it was the messiest room they had ever seen (boys’ included!) in their 20 years of service.” She has found that ADHD medication and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have helped her to become more functional.

Organization Tips

Yagoda’s story may resonate with those who have ADHD or those who have yet to be diagnosed but who have extreme difficulty being organized and prioritizing. There are a few things you can do to get organized if you have ADHD. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Make brief to-do lists: Avoid feeling overwhelmed by the need to be organized by making lists of no more than five organization tasks on an index card. This tip also will help you better manage your time because you will only be doing a small number of tasks at a time. Work through the card and discard it when you’re finished so you feel a sense of accomplishment.

  • Begin by taking small steps: For people with ADHD, it’s best to start small when attempting to get organized. Set a small organization goal to achieve daily. Maybe it’s to put your toothbrush and toothpaste away after you use it. Maybe it’s to line up all of your shoes. Maybe it’s to put your towel back on the rack instead of leaving it on your floor. Make a conscious choice to make your small organization step a daily habit and then start increasing the number of steps you’re taking when you’re ready. 

There’s no shame in starting small and taking your time. In fact, this guide for helping children with ADHD get organized suggests a 30-day plan, in which you tackle one area of your home at time, may be the best way to go about organizing your living space.

  • Bank online: Forgetting to pay bills or deposit checks can wreak havoc on the financial status of a person with ADHD. One of the best ways to get organized and have less clutter on your desk is to make use of online banking. Stop paper statements so you have less paperwork. Use direct deposit and automatic payments. You may even want to choose a software solution or app to help you manage your finances or invest in a receipt or document scanner so you don’t have to deal with paper receipts.

  • Use motivational strategies while organizing: Sometimes people with ADHD find it easier to get organized if they use timers or music while they are physically organizing their space. You may set the timer for shorter times at the beginning and then add minutes as you progress. Or, you may choose to organize until a certain number of songs have played. 

It also may benefit people with ADHD to commit to organization by using positive reinforcement or rewards. Maybe you’ll make a date with friends or indulge in a sweet treat after meeting your personal organization goals for a week. Each person’s motivational strategies are different, so choose what you know best will inspire you to get organized.

Getting organized is not something that people with ADHD can achieve overnight. But, it is something that you will be able to do if you take small steps and make a commitment to getting and remaining organized. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and find yourself spending less time looking for things, feeling less overwhelmed, and being more productive.


Vee Cecil is a personal trainer and wellness coach who is passionate about all things health-related. She lives in Kentucky with her husband and two children. She enjoys sharing her knowledge about health and wellness on her blog.