Organize Your First Living Space

 ADHD Weekly, May 16, 2019

Are you ready to get your space organized? For many people, the change of seasons spurs the need to clean, sort, and redecorate. Maybe you spent the winter months binge-watching a popular organizer’s TV show and hope for a brighter, clutter-fee space.

Or perhaps you’re a new graduate who will be settling into a first apartment this summer. If you’re transitioning from a room in your parent’s house to a home of your own you might not be sure how you want to organize yet. When you deal with ADHD symptoms such as disorganization, setting up routines from day one can help you create a tranquil first home.

Gather what you need

Moving can be the perfect time to streamline your possessions. It’s tempting to bring all the soccer trophies and stuffed animals from your childhood bedroom. But taking the time to carefully sort and select what will come with you can help you focus on the items that are truly important to you.

“There’s no point in bringing more than you need, because that’s just going to make it hard to be organized in the first place,” says clinical psychologist Carey Heller, PsyD.

You might want to accept that special piece of antique furniture and pass up the offer of used muffin tins, for example. But with so many well-intended offers of home goods, what do you actually need? Other than a bed and somewhere to sit, not a whole lot, says Susan Pinsky, a professional organizer and author of Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD.

“You want a garbage can in every room because nobody stands up and walks across the room and into the kitchen to put things” in the trash, she says.

Dr. Heller recommends clocks as another item people with ADHD should have in each room.

“If you can see a clock from pretty much anywhere in your apartment or home, it makes it a lot easier to be aware of the time,” he says. Your phone shows the time, but out of sight, you might forget about commitments. He also suggests using a digital assistant such as Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, or Apple HomePod for reminders you can hear. You can program it to alert you to appointments, but also for things you need to do routinely, such as take out the trash.

Other easy organizing tips:

  • Keep a basket or hooks by the door for stashing keys, wallet, or purse when coming in.
  • Set up a postal mail center with a small box for each roommate or family member. Flag important bills or anything that needs your immediate attention. Go through mail as soon as you get it—filing or recycling pieces right away. “Keeping it in that one spot says, ‘Oh, this is stuff I should look at,’” explains Ms. Pinsky.
  • Have a designated area for paying bills and doing work. Ms. Pinsky suggests picking one day a week and naming it “bill-paying Tuesday” or “paper-processing Thursday” so it becomes a habit. Mark it on your calendar so your personal assistant device will remind you.

“Organization is about maintenance,” says Ms. Pinsky. “It’s about putting things away, and it’s the final step in any chore.”

Streamlining your belongings

“The shortest route to efficiency is reduction,” says Ms. Pinsky.

The same goes for dishes in the kitchen and the number of outfits in your closet. Enough dishes to fill a dishwasher or sink and enough outfits to fit comfortable in a closet or laundry basket can make a big difference in home organization.

“Keep your clothing pared down so that summer and winter live in your bureau and your closet, and you don’t have a big seasonal switch,” she suggests. “Laundry is a big long task, so I recommend having enough clothing for one week and a little extra underwear—enough that when every piece of clothing is dirty, it’s one load.”

As for socks, she says limit them to two colors so you don’t have to spend time matching them. And if it makes life easier, it’s fine to store clean clothes in open containers.

“Your goal is that you should be able to pick up any room in your apartment in under a minute,” says Ms. Pinsky.

Household chores

One of the best management techniques for ADHD is to create routines that work for you. In home management, setting up a routine can help you keep your space neat. It also saves time you’d spend searching for lost belongings.

Ms. Pinsky recommends creating a weekend cleaning and maintenance routine, especially if you have roommates. “Team up with your roommate and do your chores together once a week because that will keep you on task.”

Setting a timer for bite-sized chunks of time—10, 15, or 20 minutes—with a break between can help you stay on task. Use a checklist and scratch off finished tasks so you can see what you’ve accomplished. Tackle just one room each day of the weekend—that way a four-room apartment is thoroughly cleaned every two weeks without you becoming overwhelmed or bored.

Kitchen routines and schedules can help you know if it’s your turn to cook or shop for groceries that week. Setting the timer for 15 minutes once a week to clean out the fridge and wipe down surfaces can also make a difference in your enjoyment and health in the kitchen. Planning a menu and putting it on the calendar takes the guesswork out of dinner.

Dr. Heller recommends keeping a shopping list on your phone. Consider online shopping and either pick up your bagged groceries at the store or have them delivered to your door. Several apps can help you with grocery shopping this way. Find out whether your local store offers a shopping app. Many apps record previous purchases, so you can choose the same items.

Resources for organizing your space

What is one thing that makes you feel more organized in your home?