In our Symptom Spotlight series, we focus on different diagnostic criteria of ADHD. This week: mess.

Does your home, workspace or car look like an episode of Extreme Hoarders? 

Not all people with ADHD are messy – some of us have rigid coping strategies that mostly avoid it. 

Before I knew I had ADHD, I was very messy. I would brush off my mum’s (frequent) complaints with the excuse that it was “organised chaos”.

If you struggle with keeping on top of mess, it isn’t your fault – you’re not lazy, or don’t want a clean space. 

You likely have problems with executive functioning. These are cognitive skills needed to organise and tackle tasks, like cleaning up, and are often impaired in ADHD. Another executive function is working memory – I personally forget to put empty toilet rolls in the recycling bin, even if I’m told a hundred times. It’s not that I don’t care, I just forget… every time. 


Different strategies work for different people, but I live by a few rules to keep my space in reasonable order.

  1. Give things a place, somewhere easy to access. I keep my study items in one place, my medications all in one place, my spare toiletries in another… you get the idea. Also – keep it in open bins, somewhere you can see, because the more steps you need to take to tidy up, the less likely you are to do it.
  1. Daily blitz. I either set a 10 minute timer every day, blast some upbeat music and just see how much I can tidy in that time, or I challenge myself to tidy just 10 things. The things can be as small as “put pen into pen pot”, or “put crisp packet into bin”. It turns it into a game, so when we win the game, we get a great dose of dopamine – exactly what ADHD brains crave!
  1. Bins… everywhere. The closer a bin is, the more likely you are to put something in it. See where rubbish accumulates in your space, and put bins there. They don’t have to be big – in my studio flat, I have a bin under my desk, two by my front door, and one in the bathroom. Same goes for laundry baskets, to try avoiding the piles of clothes you may be familiar with…

Are you battling ADHD mess? Or did you find a way of tackling it that worked for you?

Are you interested in learning more about the symptoms of ADHD? Our Symptom Spotlight series is a great place to start!

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