Paperwork Clutter and ADHD Adults. The two go together like chocolate and peanut butter.
I have gone through periods of time where I didn’t open my mail for weeks.
What happens when you don’t open your electric bill? It doesn’t get paid.
And then a month later you get a letter in a brightly colored envelope telling you that your service is going to be disconnected if you do not pay your bill, with interest, within forty-eight hours.
Panic sets in because you don’t have the money for the now large bill. You end up having to borrow money from friends or family, and then the cycle of shame continues.
One of best things you can do for yourself if you have ADHD is to manage your paperwork.
Paperwork clutter and ADHD Adults
Open Your Mail
Avoidance will not make the mail go away, no matter how much we wish it were true.
Open your mail every day. If you do it this way there (hopefully) will not be as much to deal with each day. Five pieces of mail are much less daunting than a pile of over one-hundred envelopes.
If you want to get fancy, open your mail while rewarding yourself with a snack or cup of tea.
You need to know what is in those envelopes. Not knowing causes more stress than being able to see the problem clearly.
Sort Your Mail Every Day
When I open mail, I do it on a flat surface like the kitchen table. This way I can put it into piles. Most of the time I only have a handful of items to sort so it takes less than a minute.
Keep it simple:
Hold pile – Items you need to read or respond to in some manner.
Bill pile– This is pretty self-explanatory.
Trash – Junk that you can toss immediately.
File– Items that need to find their home in your file cabinet or personal records.
Hold items go into a paperwork sorter similar to this one pictured below, but mine doesn’t have the date. (affiliate link. Please see my full disclosure).
I also tend to stuff school paperwork that I have to respond to in the sorter.
Bills go on the center of my husband’s desk so he sees them.
And junk mail goes directly in the trash or recycling bin.
**You probably want to have at least one drawer or filing cabinet set aside for important paperwork such as insurance information, mortgage documents, passports and the like. Even better, get yourself a fireproof safe and keep important items in there.***
For parents with ADHD, the school paperwork creates a whole new level of clutter and disorganization. Some of it has to be sent back to school, while other things come into your house forever.
For several years I threw my son’s school paperwork into a cardboard box. After that I tried putting things in a binder, but I didn’t like punching holes in his artwork.
Recently, I got tired of this overflowing box of paper and decided to take control of the situation. So I bought a filing box and used some of my husbands drop folders and labels and created a system for myself similar to the one below. (affiliate link.)
When it comes to report cards, 504’s/IEP’s and that sort of thing I have one colored folder that I keep copies of those items in. Then I have another folder that has all of his evaluations, occupational therapy, and social skills paperwork in it.
Both colored folders go inside a red accordion folder and that is kept in a drawer of my desk.
Set aside time to deal with paperwork
Remember that post I wrote about creating a weekly house cleaning routine?
When I wrote that I mentioned that one domain of my housekeeping involves general maintenance. What I meant was paperwork.
Commit to going through all of the items in the “hold” and “bills” categories above at least once per week. Choose a day, and then sit down and dive in.
Pay your bills first, using online banking to keep track of your accounts.
Then go through the items you must respond to. If you need to respond in writing, or fill out a form, take the time to do it during this work session.
Set a timer and work for fifteen minutes, and then give yourself a break to stretch as necessary to keep your focus.
If you have been sorting your paper every day, you should be able to pay your bills and respond to everything within a reasonable amount of time.
Pay Bills Online Or automatically
If you have access, I highly recommend setting up your bills for automatic monthly payments. Most banks offer online banking for free to account holders, it’s just a matter of setting up your account.
You can also have recurring bills automatically paid using a bank draft. For someone with a bad memory, this is a convenient option so that you don’t forget to pay your bills. Plus – it eliminates how much paper you will get in the mail.
I recently switched my student loan payments to automatic draft and I got a 1% reduction in my interest rate. It doesn’t sound like much, but in the long-term it will add up. AND I do not have to look at that depressing loan statement in the mail each month.
You can limit the amount of paper that is coming into your home, it just takes some work.
Finally, be patient with yourself. It’s not easy to solve a paperwork clutter issues if it has been part of your life for years.
Perhaps start with just opening your mail every day – then progress to sorting it every day next week.
Small habits really do lead to big results.
Body Doubling is a great way to work on paperwork clutter and other organizational projects!
Join the Enclave for weekly body doubles and support.
Together we are leading calmer, more satisfying lives with ADHD.