I’m sick of talking about ADHD and clutter.
Seriously, as my friend Rene’ Brooks pointed out on Twitter, organizational p*rn is rampant in the ADHD community. It’s ok to look at aspirational home content, but if it makes you feel bad about yourself there’s not no benefit.
We spend hours on Pinterest, and we watch Marie Kondo on Netflix. You probably subscribe to at least three organizing blogs, and you participate in a few Facebook groups for organizing as well.
See, I know you because I AM you.
ADHD and clutter go together, and I think I know why.
Most of us struggle with some type of executive function deficits.
Our minds are very busy, cluttered with thoughts about what we are doing, or what we think we should be doing. And that is where the problem starts.
Clutter exists in the mind as well as the environment.
Two years ago I posted this picture on Instagram of a paper bag overflowing with crap.
As I write this the bag still sits in my entryway. Two years later, covered in dust and taunting me under a chair. Here’s some photographic evidence.
I actively created clutter. And I don’t see myself moving it anytime soon unless something crazy happens like my entryway floods and the bag gets wet. Then I’ll toss it.
This is the real truth: I cannot make a decision about the content of the bag.
Should I toss the whole thing into the trash?
Or go through it piece by piece?
Who has time for that?!
Clutter is just deferred decision making.
ADHD and Clutter
When we make a decision about something, it almost always has an emotional component.
We make decisions everyday, from what to wear to what we want to eat.
On the surface, decisions seem very straight forward. But in reality the thought process is quite nuanced.
Decision making happens at lightning speed in your brain. In less than 10 seconds you can determine that you are hungry and want to eat chocolate. (Or at least I can.) The reason we arrive at this conclusion so quickly is because we have a lifetime of memories and experiences that influence our way of thinking about food.The neural pathways are well worn.
But sometimes we can’t come to a decision that easily. Sometimes we need to make a decision without a lot of prior experience, or one that requires us to do something new or uncomfortable.
Here is a picture from my office. This is two years-worth of school art projects and paperwork.
You will notice that there’s a filing bin that I’d been using. You will also notice that I still filled an entire box, which is sitting right next to it.
Every time my son sees that I am throwing away his stuff, he gets upset. On top of that, I don’t know how to choose what to keep. My son is an only child so I have issues parting with his things.
I only get one chance to make memories, you know? See my post on the memory dump.
My emotions get involved, and I cannot make decision about what to do. So I do nothing.
My brain is much more comfortable tossing papers into the box, turning on my heel, and walking back out.
On New Years Eve my son and his good friend started doing magic science experiments with his new kit. Affiliate link to Magic Science. Please see my full disclosure.
At the end of the night I noticed the boys had put each of their potions into a Ziplock bag.
The next day, I asked if I could toss the bags because there were more potion ingredients left. My son had a total meltdown.
Listening to my son freak out while I cleaned up the house from the holidays was less than pleasant. So I took down the tree, put away the decorations and moved on with my life.
When you have ADHD the combination of sensory overload and emotional distress can push you into a state of overwhelm quickly.
Overwhelm leads to avoidance, which leads to clutter. The potions are still on my dining room table.
I need to clean out my closet. In fact, a good friend of mine is a professional organizer and she has offered to help. But yet, I still haven’t done it.
I don’t really want to endure the temporary discomfort of making all those decisions.
Where do I start?
How do I separate the piles?
Where do I put the stuff to donate?
Will it NOT sit in the back of my car for six months?
What if I can’t decide on an item? Or multiple items?
I could go on but I know you get the point.
You know what this feels like. The “shoulds” in our lives.
When clutter becomes unpleasant to our senses we tend to avoid it. We shut the door or jam the drawer closed. Clutter begets clutter and then all of a sudden your closet looks like this.
Getting rid of clutter is a huge decision by itself. And the commitment to declutter has huge emotional weight.
Some people don’t form attachments to things. We all have that one friend who just tosses all of her baby stuff and declares herself, “done having children.” This same friend probably does NOT have a problem with clutter. These people are exceptions to the rule.
Many people, with or without ADHD, have trouble letting go of things.
For most of us ADHD and clutter go together.
Understanding why and how it happens is just another step in the path to dealing with it.
We create clutter when we cannot make a decision.
What are some of the other reasons, emotional or otherwise, you struggle with clutter?
The ADHD Enclave is a peer coaching community of women just like you.
I bring together brilliant ADHD women to manage our emotions, tell our stories, and create the changes that lead to calmer, more satisfying lives with ADHD