Staying in a cluttered place is a hassle for everyone, but it is a particularly difficult issue for people with ADHD. While an ADHD brain comes with many superpowers, distraction during cleaning and decluttering can be a weak point in your functioning. Clutter is a part of everyday life with this disorder, whether at home, school, or the office.
Cluttered spaces are one of the main reasons for stress and anxiety in people with ADHD, especially adults who recently started living on their own. Therefore, it is essential to understand the intricacies of the ADHD brain and how this condition causes trouble with decluttering our spaces.
People with ADHD tend to hold onto items that bring up fond memories and emotions. If you have this condition, you may also keep objects “just in case” they come in handy in future situations. This way, clutter in your room or workspace can build up to the point of becoming an obstacle in everyday tasks. Overwhelming and anxiety related to clutter are common issues in those living with ADHD.
Family, friends, and co-workers are often quick to judge and criticize people with ADHD over clutter. Remember, your feelings are the most important when it comes to decluttering. If you are productive and able to find your belongings, this means you are in control of your clutter.
Things get tricky when the clutter starts controlling you. Swamped with excess stimuli that weaken your focus, you find yourself unable to decide what to do first and just jump from one task to another. As if that were not enough, you feel a lingering worry that you might be forgetting something. These feelings of dread and confusion should alarm you that it is time to declutter your space.
ADHD clutter is a vicious circle - the more you leave it build up, the more overwhelming it is to organize and clear it out. The hardest part of decluttering is deciding where to get started. So, it is helpful to make a list of all the things you want to get rid of and schedule your activities.
Here are some quick tips to consider:
Regardless of age, excess stimuli in people with ADHD can lead to overwhelm. Children with this condition tend to experience meltdowns or go into fight, flight or freeze mode when they are overwhelmed. When it comes to adults with this disorder, overstimulation can result in strong emotions that manifest in different manners, such as anger, crying, or laughing uncontrollably. Another common reaction to overwhelm is so-called ADHD paralysis or “shutdown.”
When a person with ADHD experiences a strong buildup of emotions, they may get increasingly irritable and start yelling, crying, laughing, or moving around the room. These bouts of intense behaviors may begin as child tantrums and continue in one’s adult life. While meltdowns are a challenging experience for the person and those around them, they also have an important role in self-regulation and may bring you a lasting sense of relief afterward.
None of us are immune to clutter, but some people with ADHD are particularly prone to this issue and the anxiety related to it. Compared to neurotypical people, those with ADHD tend to have trouble organizing and dealing with clutter, especially when there isn’t an obvious need to clean up their environment.
The key to dealing with ADHD clutter anxiety is to stop being hard on yourself and comparing your houses to those of your peers. Take things at your own pace and create a step-by-step strategy before you start removing unnecessary objects from your space.