How to make your home space an ADHD-friendly haven

Keeping your space tidy and organised is a challenge for just about anyone trying to adult, but this can be even tricker when you have a neurodevelopmental disorder like ADHD.

Growing up, I was messy; my environment reflected the state of my mind; chaotic and loud. Unless I had bursts of energy or focus, I felt drowned by the amount of putting away and order I had to do.

This became better with time because I had the space to develop my own bizarre systems to get things done.

It wasn’t until my diagnosis in October 2020 that I started to understand my behaviour as a child and re-thought the way I approached organising and decluttering my space.

ADHD is a condition that primarily affects your eight executive functions; this is the part of your brain that, in short, deals with doing stuff and managing yourself: time management, working memory, self-monitoring, task initiation, planning, organisation and impulse/ emotional control.

Home organisation isn’t innate; we learn how to do it and create methods that work for us.

Moving into my place, I’ve spent a lot of time obsessing about how I’m not going to let my home descend into chaos during busy periods. People make entire careers out of organisation and decluttering, yet many of these ideas and concepts don’t work for me or are hard to keep up.

I went down an ADHD TikTok wormhole and was inundated with tips, tricks, hacks and Amazon purchases that will claim to make your life easier, but these systems are equally as confusing and overwhelming. ADHD symptoms don’t present the same across everyone; for some people, it is inattentive, whereas in others, it shows up as hyperactivity: the way that we most commonly associate with the condition.

Because ADHD looks so different in everyone, what works and sticks will depend on the person. Here’s what I learned in my adventures in ADHD-friendly interior design.

Try having items in clear view

The most common piece of advice I come across online for ADHD organisaiton is that you should keep everything on display to ensure that you can see it and remember you have it. This advice makes sense, as many people with ADHD suffer from object permanence: when you forget you have an item when you can’t see or touch it.

However, for me, the sight of everything hanging on walls is visual torture.

‘I don’t think there are absolute places where everybody should store their shoe cleaning products or their passport,’ Sarah Bickers, a professional organiser and declutterer, tells ‘It’s got to work for you and your ADHD brain; tailoring it to fit you is such an important part of the process.’

Embrace the triple S method

Faigy Liebermann, founder of Focus With Faigy and an ADHD coach, explains that many traditional organising concepts won’t stick for people, ‘because they don’t address the root cause of [poor organisation]’.

‘We need tools to address ADHD specifically,’ she notes.

For Liebermann, developing a practice around organising that works can be found in the Triple S method: Simplify, Systemise and Self-Acceptance. She emphasises the last point, ‘self-acceptance’.

Part of creating an ADHD friendly home is being patient, listening to your body and accepting what you can and can’t do.

Let go of perfectionism

Additionally, self-acceptance looks like abandoning perfectionism; it holds many people with ADHD back from getting organised because the feeling of simply being ‘done’ with something may not be enough.

‘The person I worked with yesterday had tidy cupboards and lots of mess elsewhere,’ Sarah tells us. ‘The reason for that was perfectionism; they wanted every cupboard to be perfect but had loads left out because they hadn’t had time to make it perfect yet.’

Give zoning a go

If you’re prone to losing items, then zoning is something that you should focus on.

‘Sometimes people call it the toothbrush principle,’ Sarah explains. ‘Keeping stuff in the place where you use it is always going to reduce the obstacles that get in the way with you getting on with that task.

‘So sometimes, when there is something you resist doing, it can be helpful to think: What could I do to make that easier for myself?’

This is a principle that I live by: how can I reduce the number of steps between me and completing a task? Where do I find myself getting distracted, and how can I reduce the number of obstacles? This simple idea has helped me to streamline even the most tedious household chores.

Be warned, though, that zoning isn’t a magic trick that makes all unpleasant errands easy.

Sometimes it is about interrogating your relationship with tasks; it may not be that you are constantly distracted or unwilling to start; perhaps it is more to do with how the task makes you feel. For example, maybe hoovering is extremely loud and causes sensory overload, so you avoid the job; instead, try noise-cancelling headphones and listening to music.

Lisa Pantling, a social worker, turned full-time professional declutterer, emphasises this: ‘With ADHD, if you’re getting a negative feeling from something, there is no way you’re going to be enticed into making that part of your routine.’

Remember feeling is as important as thinking

Structure in your home is important if you have ADHD but so is how it looks and feels.

Some blogs say the areas that you work in should be visually distraction-free: mute colours and little clutter around you. However, while that is perfect for some, I am the complete opposite. For me, bright colours, art and texture help stimulate my brain and get me working. Leaving my bedroom that has less colour to my front room that is very bright switches something on in my mind that lets me know I am about to start working.

I have a very shaggy rug that I rub my feet on while watching TV to stop me from picking up my phone; I cover my walls with vibrant artwork and colour co-ordinated my bookshelf to make my living space a visual feast.

It is easy to make your home extremely efficient and forget about how your space makes you feel when you look and exist in it.

Becoming overwhelmed with storage options, organisation hacks, and ADHD tricks can make the process of sorting your space feel quite daunting but remember, there are no fixed rules, and your body will tell you everything you need to know.

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