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5 Cleaning Tips For People Who Suffer From ADHD

If you’re reading this you may be struggling with keeping your house clean with ADHD. I understand. I’ve worked with many clients with ADHD and have devised a system to help keep their houses clean and relieve the stigma of being “unkept” or a “slob.”

Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorders can be very crippling for sufferers trying to make their way through life. ADHD can affect your work and home lives as well as social lives, being labeled as disorganized or inferior in some way. This is no more apparent than in some sufferers’ homes. Sometimes people suffering from ADHD have messy and cluttered homes and each room can sometimes resemble the chaos that they feel in their brains.

This is no fault of your own. According to The National Library of Medicine, people with ADHD can sometimes suffer from Messy House Syndrome. Focusing on tasks such as house cleaning can be difficult for people with this disability. Distractions and a lack of focus can lead to housework piling up. Unfortunately this is a vicious cycle, with people with the disorder feeling overwhelmed which may lead to anxiety. Compoundly, a disorganized house can lead to fear of visitors which in turn leads to shutting in and in some cases depression. If you are feeling this way, please also read my article on why it’s OK to be a bad housekeeper.

So how do you clean your house with ADHD? I’ve worked with many clients with ADHD and have devised these tips for a happier home and a happier life.

What is ADHD?

According to ADD.org, “ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors. These brain operations are collectively referred to as ‘executive functioning skills’ and include important functions such as attention, concentration, memory, motivation and effort, learning from mistakes, impulsivity, hyperactivity, organization, and social skills.  There are various contributing factors that play a role in these challenges including chemical and structural differences in the brain as well as genetics.” 

I’ve had many ADHD clients in my years of cleaning house. In fact, I would say 50% of my clients suffer from some level of ADHD. This is why they call me. They realize their lack of focus makes it hard to concentrate on the mundane tasks of cleaning the house. I know cleaning with ADHD can be very difficult. I myself am completely OCD, so my laser focus on mundane tasks is my specialty. I know, total life of the party! And when I say “All my clients are train wrecks,” I’m talking about the ones I write about here who have no reason to be as dysfunctional as they are. You, my friend, are an exception. Your brain just works a little differently and that’s OK.

So what if you can’t afford a cleaning person and you are really struggling with the day-to-day chores of keeping house. I’m going to give you 4 easy tips that will hopefully make your housekeeping, and life a little simpler. And keep in mind to not let “perfect” be the enemy of “good.” Ever since Martha Stewart came along, we are all inferior housekeepers compared to her. It’s important not to compare yourself to anyone and just get your house to a level you are comfortable with.

The House Cleaning Tips:

1. Carry around a basket

It goes without saying that someone suffering from ADHD is going to have a house that looks cluttered or disheveled. The task of straightening up is sometimes overwhelming and just all that stuff alone can be a distraction. So I would advise, on any given day, carry around a basket with you that you put all the things that don’t belong into. For example, say you wake up and go to the kitchen to put a pot of coffee on. Carry the basket with you. Notice all the pens and mail that needs to be in your office that are cluttering up the kitchen counters. Put them in the basket.

Then you go to take a shower. Take the basket with you. Notice the empty glasses on the vanity. Put them in the basket (be sure they are empty as you don’t want to get the rest of the contents of the basket wet). Then you dress and go get your coffee. Hey, your back in the kitchen where the glasses go. Take them out of the basket and put them in the sink. Then you go to check your email while you drink your coffee. Hey, that’s where the pens and mail goes.

But in the office there are some earrings and socks that don’t belong. Put them in the basket. You get the point. You are eventually going to be in every room of your house and you keep refilling and depositing the stuff in the basket where it belongs. By the end of the night, you should have an empty basket or nearly so. And a relatively uncluttered house.

2. Set a timer

Set a timer for jobs like the kitchen and bathrooms. And I don’t mean your phone (we’ll get to that in the next section). Use a regular kitchen timer like this. Something you can carry with you and you can hear the ticking sound. This will keep you focused on the job at hand. I would set the timer for 15 minutes under the actual time you think it will take to clean the kitchen or the bathroom. This will keep you on task and you can make a game out of it. Finish before the bell.

3. Use cleaning planners and checklists

There are some great cleaning planner and checklists out there that help you organize and keep track of your daily tasks. Seeing a list in from of you can keep you on track. Try my simple house cleaning checklist here.

4. Put your phone away

This is probably the most important tip for my focus-challenged readers. It’s hard enough for non-ADHD people to concentrate with their phones craving attention with endless notifications, let alone someone whose mind tends to wander. This is why you shouldn’t use your phone as a timer. I had an ADHD client once who offered to clean the bathroom. Two hours later I go into the bathroom and she is sitting on the tub stuck in a YouTube rabbit hole of JFK conspiracies.

And when I mean put it away, I mean somewhere you are not going to hear it. Putting it on vibrate and a few rooms away will work.

5. A word about laundry

In my experience washing laundry is not a problem for people with ADHD. So I’m not going to give you a laundry schedule to follow. You can do a load a day, a week, or have one big laundry day when you realize you have to go commando that day.

It’s folding the laundry that is the problem. I’ve walked into some clients’ houses where the guest bed looks like Mt. Everest and they wade through every so often for something clean to wear. So my advice is when you do a load, put it on the bed you sleep on at night. This will give you the incentive to fold and put it away before bed.

In all, cleaning with ADHD doesn’t have to be a struggle if you follow these simple tips. For more information, check out ADDitude Magazine’s article for tips on cleaning with ADHD.