Teens and adults with Attention Deficit Disorder often have a difficult time keeping rooms and other areas of their home, office or life organized and clutter-free. As the mother of an ADD teen and a professional organizer, I can relate!

Many people with ADD say that clutter sometimes gets to a point where even thinking about it is overwhelming. It may get so stressful it’s hard to know what to do or where, how and when to get started. Organizing techniques that work for many people may not work for someone who has ADD.

Let’s look at organizing in a different way by incorporating variety, adding fun and a splash of color into all the steps outlined below. You can be successful with organizing and have a less cluttered environment.

1. Preparation & Planning: Are you ready to jump right in without a plan…and then quickly run into an unexpected roadblock along the way that makes you come to a standstill? The roadblock may be interruptions from others, loud noises, your own distractions, or not having the proper supplies for the project. To follow through on your goal, you need preparation and a plan. You need a plan that will work for YOU. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate or difficult plan, a basic plan works just fine. Your plan should accommodate your attention span and provide just the right amount of structure, so you can focus and follow through to the end. Think of your plan with “what”, “when” and “how”. For example, your Plan may be to organize (what) the garage, (when) within a one month timeframe, and (how) you may need some help with heavy lifting, supplies and any other prep work that is necessary to complete your project.

2. Supplies: What supplies, tools and other equipment do you need for your organizing project, report or job? Get everything you need together first, so you have it at your fingertips and don’t have to stop in the middle of your project and get frustrated. Have the right materials on hand but don’t buy things you don’t need right now. Some supplies may include:
• Garbage bags, clear storage containers, sorting bins or baskets
• File folders, handing folders, labels, binders, clips
3. Schedule: Look at your schedule and make a commitment to complete your project by a certain date or timeframe. For example, you want to organize your desk. Next, look at your calendar and determine (if you can) when and how long this may take. Write it on your calendar to help you remind yourself when you’ll work on it. You may have a hard time staying focused on tasks you don’t enjoy so consider planning your time commitment in short time blocks for 15 or 30 minute increments. Plan for breaks (everyone loves recess!) to help you refresh and refocus. Take a short walk, do some stretches or have a snack but then get back to your project.

4. Support System: For someone with ADD, organizing can be a mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting experience. Support is an important key for organizing success. You can tell a friend, parent or spouse of your commitment to your project who will help you hold that focus. Positive encouragement and self-esteem goes a long way beyond helping finish your project. Let’s leave out those with negative comments as it will undermine and not help you towards your goal. Another type of support is the validation that you can provide for yourself. Make a simple chart for yourself and give yourself a star for your progress (or colorful stickers). Remind yourself that you are a shining star!

5. Motivation: Your mind and body needs to be motivated and energized. If you are feeling tired and sluggish you won’t go far on the assignment. Have a daily exercise routine. Eat a balanced diet and have an energy bar snack. Use music to help you feel invigorated and you are on your way.

6. Take Baby Steps: Unfortunately we can’t create world peace in one day, and then remind yourself that the house did not get cluttered in one day either. So, it will take some time to get it organized. Change the way you look at the organizing project and begin with a small space or area. If you look at the whole house that will totally weigh you down but if you look at only the front hallway it’s doable. You can also write down your steps and check them off when you complete them. For example, organizing the closet – break it down into categories by shoes, jeans, sweatshirts, purses, and so forth until you have gone through all items in the closet. Pull all the shoes out and decide if you are going to keep, toss or give away and then put the keepers back in the closet in an organized manner. Then go through all your jeans, then the next category. Limit your focus to that particular area. It could also be one drawer or small area of a room. It’s much more manageable to break it down.

7. Start Now: It doesn’t matter where or how you start, as long as you just take that first step to start right NOW. Think only of that small area and focus on that instead of feeling overwhelmed by thinking of the entire clutter.

8. Timer: Determine the amount of time you will commit to working on your organizing project. This will vary for everyone depending on your attention span, focus and schedule. You may not even know at all how long it takes, that’s okay. A timer can help you stay focused and on task. Perhaps you are working on your desk, and have dedicated 2 hours to organizing it. Set the timer for 15 minutes - when it goes off are you still working on the desk, or did you go put something away and forgot about the desk? The timer reminds you to get back to the desk and then reset the timer for another 15-30 minutes. You can use the timer for homework, computer time or any project.

9. Color, Variety and Fun: Use colorful index cards and file folders for your project, use sticky-notes with different colors and sizes to keep you on track (note: sticky-notes fall off and may get lost), use pictures cut out from catalogs or magazines for children’s bins or teen notebooks (add pictures of toys on the toy bin). Use colorful bins, containers or decorator baskets with muslin lining. Use your imagination to make organizing fun!
10. Sorting Items: Start in one area of your house, room or office. Sort items into rooms or places where they should go. Sort the items into bins or baskets. For example, all items for the desk to go into one bin, all items for the bedroom into another basket. Don’t leave to put anything away until all items are sorted for that particular area. Put on some lively music and sort away!

11. Home for Everything: Now that the items are sorted, take each bin or basket to its proper home (room). For example, take all the desk items and further sort by desk drawer, countertop, file folders or supply cabinet.

12. Toss, Give Away or Donate: We all collect and hold on to too much stuff! Ask yourself when you last used something or wore those clothes. You make a decision every time you bring something into your house – really scrutinize all that stuff or it will just continue piling up. Think of someone less fortunate who could really needs it and will put it to good use.

13. Progress Report: Track your progress in writing and take before and after photos. You will feel good seeing the progress. Note what worked for you and what didn’t. You can change it along the way so it does work. Keep it simple, you don’t want to spend so much time writing that it’s a big chore.

14. Staying Organized: You did it! Now look back and see if you remember how disorganized it was. You may need to change your habits and the way you do things. Habits are not changed easily, but by sticking to a new routine and continually repeating it, a new habit starts evolving. Use a to-do list; write everything down on one calendar or planner. If something works, stick with it. Put stuff away after you use it. Every evening take 15 minutes to tidy, pick up and put away. Don’t let things pile up and get overwhelming. Two weeks after organizing an area, look it over, are you happy with it? Rearrange or organize it until you love the results. That’s as near to world peace that a Mom could ask for.

Author's Bio: 

Holly Hitchcock Graff is a Professional Organizer in the Sacramento, California area. She specializes in working with people with AD/HCD and Chronic Disorganization. Her company is H. R. Associates, Clutter Control Angels providing organizing solutions for life, home and business.

Holly worked in the corporate world for 10 years with Intel Corporation, Inc. as a Business Analyst & Systems Analyst, and also 16 years at Canandaigua Wine Company, Inc. (Constellation Brands) as the Manager, Pricing Services. Holly helped start the PC Pal eMail Mentoring Program at Intel in the Sacramento greater area which has provided over one million dollars to area schools. She was the Volunteer Chair for Kids to Work Day at Intel for many years, with over 400 volunteers and 2000 children in attendance each year.

Holly is the author of H. R. Associates State Guidelines & Regulations for the Wine Industry which is a complete directory of information on federal and state laws, rules and regulations regarding the wine industry.

Holly’s sister says she was “born organized”. She lives in Northern California with her husband and one teenage daughter, who has ADD. She continues to help people as a Hospice Volunteer for the Sacramento Hospice Consortium and provides organizational help to seniors at no charge.

She is a member of:
National Association of Professional Organizers
The National Study Group for Chronic Disorganization
CJADD - Children & Adults with AD/HD