Managing ADHD Clutter Anxiety: Simple Tips For A Calmer Mind


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. 

ADHD Clutter

What Does ADHD Anxiety Look Like?

One of the common conditions co-occurring with ADHD is anxiety, and this combination can have a significant impact on a person’s daily life. ADHD anxiety can manifest in several ways, affecting one’s ability to function, their emotional well-being, and their overall quality of life. Here are some of the most common symptoms of ADHD anxiety.

  • Restlessness and difficulty sitting still: People with ADHD and anxiety may struggle to stay seated or remain calm in situations where they are expected to be still or quiet.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Both ADHD and anxiety can make it challenging for people to focus on tasks or maintain attention for extended periods.
  • Irritability and mood swings: ADHD anxiety can cause individuals to feel irritable or experience sudden mood swings, which may result in emotional outbursts or difficulty managing their emotions.
  • Perfectionism and overthinking: Individuals with ADHD and anxiety may be prone to perfectionism and overthinking, leading to excessive worrying and rumination about various aspects of their lives.
  • Social anxiety: People with ADHD and anxiety may feel uncomfortable or anxious in social situations, making it difficult for them to build and maintain relationships.
  • Sleep disturbances: ADHD anxiety can disrupt sleep patterns, causing difficulties in falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up frequently during the night.
  • Avoidance behaviors: To cope with their anxiety, individuals with ADHD may engage in avoidance behaviors, such as avoiding situations that make them feel anxious or overwhelmed.

What Does ADHD Clutter Look Like?

Clutter is one of the most striking symptoms of ADHD, and it refers to the disorganization and messiness pervasive in various aspects of a person’s life. A cluttered environment can make it difficult for individuals with ADHD to focus on tasks, leading to decreased productivity. The overwhelming nature of clutter can cause feelings of stress, anxiety, and frustration. This can further hinder their ability to concentrate and manage their daily responsibilities. 

ADHD clutter can manifest in different ways in one’s daily life, including physical clutter, digital clutter, and time management issues.

Physical Clutter

Individuals with ADHD may have messy living spaces, such as cluttered desks, disorderly bedrooms, and disorganized closets. This clutter can make it difficult for them to find important items and can lead to feelings of overwhelm and anxiety.

Digital Clutter

People with ADHD may struggle with organizing their digital life, such as having numerous unsorted emails, disorganized files on their computer, and an unmanageable number of browser tabs open. This digital clutter can make it challenging to focus on tasks and find essential information.

Time Management

Individuals with ADHD may struggle with time management, as they might have difficulty prioritizing tasks, setting deadlines, and completing tasks on time. This can lead to missed appointments, late work submissions, and a general sense of being overwhelmed.

Why Is Cleaning So Hard With ADHD?

Cleaning and keeping a tidy environment can be a struggle for everyone, but it is especially difficult for those with ADHD. The symptoms of this disorder can make it hard for people to focus and organize their surroundings, which makes it challenging to maintain cleanliness. It is important to note that the challenges people with ADHD face in cleaning and maintaining a tidy environment are not due to laziness or lack of motivation.

One of the main reasons why cleaning is tough for people with ADHD is their difficulty in concentrating on tasks. Because of the inattentiveness associated with ADHD, they may have trouble staying focused on the cleaning task at hand. This easily leads to distractions and a loss of focus, making it harder for them to complete the task efficiently. Another challenge is the hyperactivity aspect of ADHD. People with ADHD often have excess energy and may find it hard to stay still or engage in repetitive tasks like cleaning. This restlessness can make them less likely to invest the necessary time and effort to keep their environment clean.

People with ADHD may also struggle with time management and estimating how long tasks will take. This can result in underestimating the time needed for cleaning or becoming overwhelmed by the perceived length of the task. As a result, they may avoid cleaning altogether or struggle to break down the task into manageable steps. Additionally, individuals with ADHD may be prone to impulsive behaviors, such as procrastination or starting tasks without considering the consequences. This can result in disorganization and clutter, making it even more difficult to keep their living spaces clean. 

Finally, many individuals with ADHD are hypersensitive to certain stimuli, such as noise, smells, or textures. These sensitivities can make cleaning tasks overwhelming and uncomfortable, leading to avoidance or difficulty in completing them. 

Do People With ADHD Get Overwhelmed By Clutter? 

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 Overwhelm

How Do You Control ADHD Clutter? 

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:

  • Dedicate as little as 15 minutes of your day to decluttering activities (such as reorganizing or throwing things away)
  • Turn boot boxes or kitchen spice boxes into useful containers
  • Put wastebaskets in all rooms
  • Place a junk drawer in every room for items you don’t know where to put
  • Designate a magazine rack for spaces where you read
  • Celebrate your efforts and reward yourself
  • Ask for help from family members and friends, or hire a professional organizer

What Does ADHD Overwhelm Feel Like?

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. 

What Does ADHD Overwhelm Feel Like?

Am I Messy, Or Do I Have ADHD?

Messiness and ADHD are not necessarily the same thing, as there are various factors that can lead to disorganization and untidiness. However, ADHD can cause behaviors that might appear messy. It's important to understand the specific traits and symptoms of ADHD and compare them to your own experiences to gain clarity on this matter.

Messiness is often characterized by disorganization, clutter, and difficulty in maintaining a tidy environment. It can stem from personal habits, time constraints, or simply a lack of motivation to keep things orderly. On the other hand, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can present a range of symptoms, including inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and difficulties with executive functions such as organization and time management.

To determine whether your tendencies lean more towards messiness or align with ADHD symptoms, you should assess your behavior in different areas of your life. Consider how well you can focus on tasks, how organized you are in different aspects of your life (like work, home, and personal routines), how effectively you manage your time, and how well you can control impulsive actions. Think about whether your struggles with messiness are mainly due to procrastination, lack of motivation, or difficulty in sustaining attention and organization.

If your struggles with messiness have a significant impact on your daily life and overall well-being, it might be helpful to seek a professional evaluation. Talking to a mental health professional or healthcare provider can give you valuable insights into whether ADHD or other factors might be contributing to your difficulties with organization and tidiness. A thorough evaluation might involve discussing your symptoms, behavior patterns, personal history, and any underlying issues that could be affecting your habits.

Whether your challenges stem from ADHD or an unrelated tendency towards messiness, employing strategies to enhance organization and productivity can prove beneficial. These strategies may involve establishing routines, utilizing tools such as planners or digital applications, dividing tasks into smaller increments, defining explicit objectives, and seeking assistance from professionals or support groups if needed.

What Is The Difference Between ADHD Clutter And Hoarding?

When it comes to clutter in the context of ADHD, it is often characterized by disorganization, forgetfulness, and difficulty in maintaining tidiness. Individuals with ADHD may struggle with keeping their living or working spaces organized due to challenges in sustained attention and executive functioning.

The clutter associated with ADHD is typically a result of the individual’s cognitive difficulties rather than a purposeful intent to accumulate items. It may involve having multiple unfinished projects, trouble categorizing items, and frequently misplacing belongings. The clutter tends to be more sporadic and disorganized, reflecting the underlying challenges in managing tasks and belongings.

What Is Hoarding?

Hoarding, on the other hand, is a distinct mental health condition characterized by persistent difficulty discarding possessions, regardless of their actual value. It goes beyond mere clutter and often involves an excessive accumulation of items that can lead to significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. Hoarding behavior is driven by an intense emotional attachment to possessions and a fear of discarding them.

Individuals with hoarding disorder may experience extreme anxiety or discomfort at the thought of parting with their belongings, leading to the accumulation of items that can clutter living spaces to the point of rendering them unusable for their intended purposes. Hoarding behavior is often accompanied by a perceived need to save items and an inability to make decisions about what to keep or discard.

Key Differences

While both ADHD-related clutter and hoarding involve difficulties in managing possessions, they differ in terms of underlying motivations, extent of accumulation, and emotional attachment to belongings.


The key difference between ADHD clutter and hoarding lies in the underlying motivations. In ADHD-related clutter, the disorganization stems from cognitive challenges such as forgetfulness and difficulty in sustaining attention. In contrast, hoarding behavior is driven by emotional attachment to possessions and fear of discarding them.

Extent of Accumulation

While individuals with ADHD may struggle with maintaining tidiness and organization, ADHD clutter tends to be more sporadic and less extreme compared to hoarding behavior. The latter involves excessive accumulation that significantly impairs living spaces.

Emotional Attachment

In hoarding, there is a strong emotional attachment to possessions. If you are a hoarder, you may experience anxiety or distress at the thought of discarding items. This emotional component is not as prominent in ADHD-related clutter.

How Do I Stop ADHD Anxiety?

Managing ADHD anxiety requires a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. By incorporating the following techniques and strategies into their daily lives, people with ADHD can better manage their anxiety and lead more fulfilling lives. 


One of the most common and effective ways to manage ADHD anxiety is through medication. Stimulant medications, such as Adderall or Ritalin, can help improve focus and reduce hyperactivity, while non-stimulant medications like Strattera or Intuniv can help regulate mood and reduce impulsivity. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate medication and dosage for managing ADHD anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of talk therapy that aims to identify and change harmful behaviors and thought patterns. This approach can be particularly helpful for individuals with ADHD, as it can teach them how to better cope with anxiety-provoking situations and develop healthier ways of thinking.

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation, can help individuals with ADHD manage their anxiety more effectively. These practices can help them become more aware of their thoughts and emotions, allowing them to respond to situations in a calmer and more rational manner.

Organizational and Time Management Strategies

Individuals with ADHD often struggle with organization and time management. Implementing strategies such as creating to-do lists, setting priorities, breaking tasks into smaller steps, and using visual aids can help reduce anxiety by making daily tasks more manageable and predictable.

Physical Activity and Exercise

Regular physical activity and exercise can help improve focus, reduce hyperactivity, and boost mood in individuals with ADHD. Engaging in activities such as running, swimming, or team sports can help release endorphins, which can help reduce anxiety and improve overall mental well-being.

Support Groups and Social Networks

Joining a support group or connecting with others who have ADHD can provide a sense of community and understanding. Sharing experiences and coping strategies with others who have ADHD can help individuals feel less isolated and more empowered to manage their anxiety.

What Makes People With ADHD Happy?

People with ADHD may encounter various difficulties in their daily lives, but several factors can contribute to their well-being and happiness.

Establishing Routine and Structure

Creating a structured routine helps individuals with ADHD stay organized and focused. By having daily routines, they can better manage their time, prioritize tasks, and avoid burnout. This sense of control and predictability can lead to increased happiness and well-being.

Engaging in Regular Exercise

Exercise offers numerous benefits for individuals with ADHD, including improved focus, reduced impulsivity, and a better overall mood. Regular physical activity can help release endorphins, which are known to boost mood and increase feelings of happiness.

Developing Coping Strategies

Learning and implementing coping strategies can assist individuals with ADHD in better managing their symptoms and emotional reactions. This may involve practicing deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, or other relaxation techniques. By developing these skills, they can navigate challenging situations more effectively and maintain a positive outlook.

Having A Support Network

People with ADHD greatly benefit from having a solid support network. This network can consist of family, friends, and professionals who comprehend their unique requirements and obstacles. By receiving support, encouragement, and understanding, individuals with ADHD can enhance their self-assurance and sense of security.


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. 

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