Moving homes is never an easy change, and having ADHD complicates the process. If you are a young adult with ADHD setting up a college dorm room or your first home away from family, knowing what you need and staying on top of the new home to-do list can be challenging.
For the majority of people, moving is a more stressful event than starting a new career, ending a relationship, or the long haul of parenting.
“Moving anywhere can cause significant stress,” says health writer Jeremy Smith. “Packing and moving involves so many small details that many of us, especially those with ADHD, may get overwhelmed by the thought of it before anything goes into a box. Having to manage ADHD can cause enough stress as it is. We don’t need any added stress from moving to make things harder.”
Ready, set, pack
“When you have ADHD that stress [from moving] can be amplified because it involves planning, decision making, multi-step processes, phone calls, as well as boring tasks like packing a box,” writes Jacqueline Sinfield, an ADHD coach who helps adults break down the steps for moving homes.
The move to a college residence means many of the decisions regarding location, decorating, digital communications, and home care have already been made. Moving from that college apartment or family home into a new home means that you need to make all of those decisions yourself. You also must file a change of address with the US Post Office and your state’s department of motor vehicles. You are also responsible for updating any personal cellphone or digital media accounts and all banking and financial accounts. While some of these can be done before the move, others should be accomplished within the first month or so of settling in.
Before putting anything into boxes, Sinfield recommends decluttering. Ask yourself the questions, “Does this item bring me joy? Is it still a useful item in my life?” If the answers are no, out it goes—either passed on to a friend or family member, donated to a local charity, or out in the trash. Don’t ponder the questions; generally you know the answers right away. If you feel you can’t answer, put it in a second-chance box that you’ll sort before packing, asking yourself again if the items stay or go.
“There is no point in moving belongings you don’t like or need any more,” Sinfield says.
Jeremy Smith suggests that you break apart the to-do list and put each item to change on a calendar. After that, add details such as preparing to pack, organizing what to pack, and your actual packing days. The key, he says, is to break everything that needs to be done into smaller parts to be done over a period of time, such as a month, rather than all at once.
“A packing calendar not only helps you stay on track, it also helps you organize your thoughts around what you have left to do,” he says. “You should really invest a good amount of time and effort into making your calendar. Consult online for ideas on what to include. Talk to close friends who have recently moved and ask them what was important for their move that you need to stay on top of.”
Smith recommends posting this calendar in an easy-to-see place and regularly jotting notes on it, along with the days you target for specific moving tasks.
Packing in stages, one room or one category of items at a time, also helps to keep you on track and organized for the move.
“Packing in phases helps you spread out the chaos that ADHD and packing will undoubtedly become,” Smith says. “No matter how meticulous you try to be about packing, you still will find that things get out of sorts very quickly. Packing in phases at least helps manage the packing in smaller spurts.”
Plan the big day
Just as with any other big event in your life, plan for the day of the move. When moving into your own home for the first time, you will likely want to work with your parents. Having experienced big moves in their own lives, your parents can offer tips on what is needed for the big day.
If you have any pets—including fish—ask a friend to petsit for you. Keeping your pet out of the way and safe during the loading and traveling process will make the day go more smoothly. If you don’t have a friend to look after your pet, consider boarding them for the day at their veterinarian’s office or keeping them in a confined safe place away from the activity. Make sure your pet is with your friend, the veterinarian, or in a confined place before the moving truck arrives.
Write up a schedule for the day: when will your helpers arrive, when will the truck arrive, how long do you estimate it take to load up, any final cleaning, travel time, unloading, and dinner plans. If you hired movers, have an envelope ready with their payment and tip before they arrive or pay ahead online. Not everything will happen at exactly the times planned, but the schedule will outline the plan of action for the day. Make sure your parents or a close friend has a copy of it to help things stay on track.
“You need to think of all the little things that need to happen,” Smith says. “If you have most everything packed up in your truck the day before, have a checklist of the final things to go before you walk out the door for good.”
“Don’t plan on doing anything else besides moving,” Sinfield adds. “Take a day off from work and say no to all other requests. Focus on you and your move.”
Don’t go it alone
There’s no one right way to move, according to National Van Lines. The company suggests that you have an accountability partner—a friend, parent or close family member—who can help you stay on track, work with you to find solutions, and be your cheerleader during this stressful time.
“When you have ADD or ADHD and have to move, the tasks can seem like they are never-ending,” they tell customers. “Knowing there’s someone out there to be accountable to besides yourself can be a great motivator. Or maybe you just need some company while you pack. Have a friend over to chat with as you complete those tasks can make the time fly; you may even look forward to it knowing you get to hang out with that person.”
The goal is to create a plan that works alongside your ADHD symptoms and helps you accomplish your move.
Resources for moving:
- Help Your New Grad Find That First Apartment
- Transitioning to Independence for Adolescents with ADHD. Podcast | Transcript
- Graduating into Adult Life
- Organize Your First Living Space
- Making a PCS Move When Your Child Has ADHD