Make Your Homestead Bright

 ADHD Weekly December 6, 2018

The holiday season is here, again. The big questions (“which traditions do we want to celebrate and continue?”) have been answered. It’s the little things that are snowballing that need to be addressed now. Such as cleaning the house.

“There’s lots of stress around the holiday crunch, of course. And with ADHD, there may also be problems with multitasking, keeping organized, staying focused on details, and ignoring distractions,” says Larry Maucieri, PhD, ABPP-CN, who writes about relationships for Psychology Today. “The holiday season also disrupts the structure and predictable routines that are often helpful for folks with ADHD. So it’s easy to feel out of your element.”

Keep in mind what this season truly means to you and your family. And keep your plans simple to focus on those meanings, rather than outside pressures.

“It is important to take time to reflect on what your intentions are for the upcoming holiday season, and to think about how you can minimize anxiety or pressure associated with the festivities, and better tap into the true spirit associated with these events,” writes Azadeh Aalai, PhD, also in Psychology Today.

Your holiday home

Maintaining a home is such a big project that a few generations ago most families had a full-time home manager. Today, it is common that both the adults in a family work outside the home, putting a squeeze on home management and holiday planning. The challenge can still be met, even with ADHD in the mix.

Develop routines. Many people with ADHD use the system created by Marla Cilley, known as the FlyLady. So named for her love of fly fishing, FlyLady is all about taking baby steps to tackle what needs to be done and setting routines to help life go more smoothly. She explains how to develop a routine using what she calls The Holiday Control Journal to tackle the season and the rest of the year. Her routines and control journals work well for anyone affected by ADHD. Since you design your own routine with her guidance, it will fit the needs of your life.

Make a plan. Scout your dwelling and note what needs the most work, what needs the least work, and the best hiding places for stuff. (Cramming things under the bed is one option, but only for quick cleanings during the holidays.)

Set the timer. Once there is a plan, set the kitchen timer for five, ten, or fifteen minutes. Then attack the first room. Pick up, put stuff away, clear out of sight. When the timer dings, reset it for the next room, whether the first is done or not. Repeat the process in the second room. Ding; same for the third. Set the timer again, grab something to drink or nibble, and sit. Rest for the fourth round. Ding, and you’re back to the first room. Repeat until each room is picked up, dusted, and vacuumed and any additional scrubbing is completed. Breaking it up over a couple days or a week is a good thing, too.

Handy tips. Leave a second garbage bag at the bottom of the pail, under the current one. That way you have one handy in a pinch without having to hunt for it. Keep one extra of whatever—laundry soap, can of soup, package of paper towels—on hand. Don’t fill your cupboards with more than you need, but make sure you have a back-up at the ready so you don’t lose your stride. Keep all cleaning supplies together—a mop bucket makes a great container for everything so you can move from room to room quickly. Also, if you use an item in a room, find a place for it to live in that room. That goes for brooms (kitchen pantry), vacuums (living room closet), laptop computers, and accessories (family room entertainment center), and tablecloths (dining room china cabinet). This works well with cleaning supplies, too (though if there are small children in your life, keep them up high in a cabinet).

Suggestions from adults with ADHD

Get out of having the celebration at your house. Consider co-hosting family events at another relative’s house. Make running lists—notebooks and personal data assistants are great for this. Make a list for everything from groceries to library books, and keep lists in one place for easy reference.

Limit your number of guests. A dinner party of six is more manageable than twenty-six. Since this is a holiday season, make use of the time by having two small dinner parties with different guests or host one intimate party and then gather the larger group at a favorite restaurant.

Call your favorite grocery store and ask about its holiday meals. Many prepare the entire meal at a reasonable cost. Order ahead, pick it up the morning of your holiday meal—and serve in your own dishes!

Online shopping is good. If the online store includes gift-wrapping, go for it! Have gifts sent to their recipients rather than to you. One wise reader pointed out that wrapping gifts as soon as you get them helps to avoid the 3 a.m. crunch before the big day.

“Change the expectations so the holiday works for you, not the other way around,” one reader suggests.

If all else fails

One reader once told us that he had a stack of newspapers piling up in the dining room, evidently for a couple of years. With company soon to arrive, he struck upon a plan. He placed a board across the tops of the piles and draped a holiday tablecloth over it. The piles were successfully hidden and the set-up “didn’t look bad, really,” he says.

Except that it stayed that way for another four years before finally being cleared away.

A version of this originally appeared in Attention magazine, December 2007.

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Join the discussion: What do you suggest to make this season merry and bright?