New Issue!

Spring 2017 Issue ADDitude magazine Read the 'ADHD Therapies That Work' issue now!

The New ADDitude Forums Are Live!

Reach our full community by posting to ADDitude's discussion forums here

ADHD Adults

Keeping Clean With ADD/ADHD: What Helps You?

Feel free to respond to the popular discussion below with any help or advice you would like to share.

Autumn Night: I have extreme procrastination issues with cleaning my house and my car. Dishes, bathrooms, vacuuming, etc….

Could someone give me a list of what you do each day or each week to keep things tidy? Not a long list, or I know I’ll freak out and get overwhelmed.

I tried FlyLady different times, but she sents waaaaaaaaay too many emails, and I get really overwhelmed.

Cyni: I know for me it needs to be written down in my calender. I get sidetracked very easily but if it is written down on a particular day I can remember to do it. Also I seem to let it get so bad that I do the perfectionist thing and focus way to much on say cleaning the bathroom. Maintenance is a tough one for me. I also know that my house will always be a bit dirtier and messier than my friends. But i’m more fun!

ADD RN: Well it takes me days to clean just one room I start with all the loose paper and shred; but truthfully I let my husband do it he cleans so much better he is organized something I have major problems with cleaning I get so distracted and frankly I hate loose paper so It just becomes a real mess rather wash clothes and fold etc things like that big easy to get done things. My desk right now looks like a disorganized mess Paper and books all on top of it.

Autumn Night: What really sucks about it is, I don’t have people over as much, or let the kids have friends over as much, because it’s so messy. I would like to get on an easy, low key, housecleaning schedule. I don’t understand how other moms do it, really. When I go to other people’s houses, they are neat and clean. I’d like a sort of easy formula of what to do to keep it from getting out of control.

Channy: It would be nice to wake up in the morning to a clean house, rather then fighting 5 and 3yr olds and a disaster house. I am still trying to figure out a schedule and a way to keep focused and work out what needs doing. The one thing I have found useful is whiteboards and cork boards for papers. I have a big whiteboard to write down important reminders, like a return I need to make to a store. Something that needs doing as soon as I can but does not have to be done that day. Then pick a time in the week and write in the calender to have something from that list ticked off. I also have another smaller whiteboard that I write 2-3 tasks on at a time only. Once those are complete then have a timed break and write the next 2-3 tasks up on the whiteboard (called my focus board with focus in bold across the top!). Lots of people recommend timers, I find I snooze/ignore them or reset them. :S

I do like the idea of the hot spots for flylady, so just 10-15mins a a particular area that gets bad. Have a special box/basket in each area so pick up things that need to go in a different room/zone. That means you won’t get distracted by going into another area of the house to put something away. For really quick spot cleans have another basket/box (something decorative) to throw in things off the floor that do belong in that room/zone that needs to be sorted but can be dealt with later. Once you have those basics covered in each room/zone then pick one area to start sorting the basket of what needs to go in each area/room and then take the basket with other room/zone items and put those away.

Pick your worst area and make sure you cover that hotspot once a day. Others just do one each day.

Break it down doing a room or zone and then have a drink or play with kids etc.

As for germ/bacterial cleaning I use the wipes to go over the toilet with when I think of it, use microfibre cloths to wipe down sinks/baths/showers very quickly after each use to help limit scum so then more intense cleaning does not have to be so often. Just nominate an intense clean day, break it down into times and do what you can within a specified time and then have a break. Timers help some. Oh and sticky notes, if you are in the middle of doing something and see something else that will pull you away, stop, write it on a sticky note and stick it there. Finish what you are doing.

Daily i would say kitchen dishes and clear benches helps you feel calmer. I don’t shine my sink! A load of clothes washing on or a load put away.

Figure out what you think is important for weekly/fortnightly. Like floors, vacuum, shower etc. Just add to your list as you tackle the smaller lists. Start small, build confidence, and relax.

Another thing I agree with in flylady is taking care of yourself first, having a shower, putting on some moisturizer or whatever will start your day with some kind of boost. Devotion, relaxation, even for 5mins.

Hope this has helped. Now I actually need to follow what I have just advised! EEK Did i mention I have been researching this a lot lately and have spent so much time trying to figure things out that I still have a messy house. oops. I have done the whiteboards and cork board though and need to actually prioritize things now and stop trying to make a full list and start small!

Nicole: I take a mental picture of what the kitchen counters look like when they’re clean and try to remember what it looks like. When the actual kitchen looks too little like the mental picture, and the kitchen counters are cluttered with stuff that doesn’t belong, usually mail that needs sorting and toys and dirty dishes, I know I need to take action.

I try to not go to bed with a sink full of dishes, but I can’t always force myself to do the dishes right after dinner. I at least put the dirty dishes, like plates cups and silverware, in the dishwasher and put it throug ha rinse cycle so the food doesn’t get stuck on while waiting for more dishes to fill it up, and get the pots and pans soaking in the sink—not around the sink or on the stove, but IN the sink. Otherwise, I’ll somehow forget about them.

For the mail and paperwork, I schedule an on-the-fly 5 minutes to throw away ads, toss letters to file in a biiiiiig box that I should really get around to filing someday, stuff coupons into my coupon binder. I have my son collect his stuff and toss it into his room/black hole. Then I wipe down the kitchen counters with a Lysol wipe. I have dark counters, so I usually just wipe where I know someone’s been preparing food.

We have ceramic burners, so that makes it tons easier to clean the top of the stove than electric burners. It takes about 10 minutes to clean at its very dirtiest. I honestly didn’t do a very good job of cleaning the electric burners when we had them—stuff got stuck under them in the drip pans. Looking back, it was too inefficient. Wish I had a better tip for you on that.

I timed myself emptying the dishwasher once, and that took about 10 minutes too. I still hate doing it, but with practice, I’ve gotten more efficient at doing it.

We vacuum the kitchen floors once a week, making sure to get under theedges where the crumbies like to hide.

Every time I fill my car up with gas, I gather up all the trash. Sometimes it takes us a while after the car is full to put all the trash in the trash cans, and people sometimes get impatient, but they’ll just have to wait! I’m cleaning my car, dang it!

Hope this helps!

Autumn Night: It does help! Thank you SO MUCH, you guys. I really appreciate it. I have a really rough time doing the dishes after dinner, but i know that’s the key.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was an A.D.D. List of Weekly Household Chores online? Like, one made up by the A.D.D. experts, made simple and not overwhelming. I know many, many women have trouble keeping house with ADD.

BarbM: Hey there! Read most of your blog & see we are all pretty much on the same wavelength. Tried Fly Lady myself & had to unsubscribe eventually so as not to drown in the onslaught of helpful hints. Learned plenty from her, especially limiting task time to 15 min sessions. We usually burn out & go off to many other things by then. Found I could manage 15 mins at a time much better. I keep Lysol treated cleaning wipes, paper towels, shower spray, microfiber cloth in bathroom for continuous pick up cleaning. Use bleach toilet tabs & frequent swish w/brush. Have supply of plastic bags from shopping to empty upstairs trash bins about every other am to bring downstairs when going to feed before leaving for work. Cats eat on raised shelf in cellar so dog doesn’t explode from grazing. I try to pick up their wet food dish, clean it & leave on washing machine where it air dries & is ready tro use next am. Small, but incredibly helpful organizational tool, I find. Paper clutter is my downfall. Like laundry so constant, but not as predictable. Am cutting down on magazine subscriptions toto eventually recycle or help lessen the load. Don’t have enough time to read all I get & try to hold on to read only to give away unread! Using shredder, leave it in kitchen where we read most of our mail, great tool when used.

ADD RN: Found that it had some helpful suggestions tried cleaning some but I got distracted . Need to go to be for a class tomorrow for work 12 hours so the mess will last at least wo -three more day I am tired but just can’t sleeep I need to take another pill so I will fall off jsut stinks how hard sometimesADD is no matter I wouldn’t rtrade my brain for anyone else I just wish I could organize and sleep two of the most difficult thing in my life.


I also have trouble cleaning my house because it is time consuming and not really sure where to start. What gets me in the mood is music. If I am not feeling well I will just relax. Why can’t other people who do not think similar to us understand we are not really going to be organized as them and let us clean our way?

Posted by grow on May 23, 2011 at 11:21pm

LOL to the comments on flylady - i subscribed for awhile until they nearly drove me mad. i don’t mind vacuuming altho i tend to vacuum the same spot over and over - i’ll vacuum an area and then think of something else i need to do and so on. by the time i get back to the vacuum it’s the next day so i start over again in the same spot.

Posted by jen on May 24, 2011 at 12:35am

All of the advice above is terrific for the person who wrote it. It is essential that you find out what works for you. Consider that each thing you try is an experiment and so there is no pressure for you to succeed. Try to remember to write down your successes and learn to reward yourself for them.
Here’s a tip that works for my clients who suffer from hoarding: cleanup one room to the point that it does not hold you back from doing the things you want to do in that room. Take a photograph of the room and print the image to a size that is as big as you are comfortable with and display it where you will see it when you walk into the room. Then please let me know if this new, image of the room in your mind, makes keeping it organized easier.

Posted by on May 24, 2011 at 12:39am

Ive tried to do lists and white boards and post it notes and they are ok for some things. But my tip is ‘just do it’. I believe its more to do with routines and getting started. Once procrastination kicks in it stays, so dont let it get hold of you. Do jobs and chores first thing in the morning, while your doing the kids breakfast if you have to. It might seem chaotic but just do it and dont put everything off until later. Give yourself 30 minutes and spend half generally tidying and the other half concentrating on one job or room etc. Do it fast like its a race.
The reason I say 30 minutes is because its not too long to concentrate for, and splitting it in half helps you keep focus. If you run out of time, finish what your doing and stop, because youll only start procrastinating or hyper focusing on silly little things like polishing finger prints of the door handles, lol.
If you need to spend more time cleaning do the same process at another point in the day, like when you get home from work or before you go to pick the kids up from school.

Posted by Mick in a tent on May 24, 2011 at 12:54am

I just Hired a Maid to come in once a week! Its not that expensive like 100 bucks a week. But i figured my sanity and physical and mental health was worth it.

I would do simple things like take out trash, wash and dry clothes but i paid her to do the stuff i loathed like dust mop scrub and fold laundry.

Posted by Ladyelement2 on May 24, 2011 at 1:08am

I struggled with this one for a long time! 

Keep it simple!  I use open storage containers and baskets for almost everything and each one has a label. I find it’s easy to toss a hair brush into the designated nearby basket and then the makeup in it’s own basket and this way it doesn’t get left on the sink and create messes to clean up later.

I just bought my first home in January and my husband and I made it a point to super organize everything and make sure everything had a home!!  It was a lot of work but luckily it was something that I hyperfocused on and in the end it was so worth it! We worked together to figure out our daily patterns and our bad habits then we put a system in place to counter it.  For example I put a clothes basket in everyroom that dirty clothes started to get left on the floor.  To stay ontop of it we gently remind each other when we are not following the systems and reward each other when we do.  Teamwork!

For the weekly chores and up keep of the house cleaning…I find that creating a time crunch works for me.  I invite friends or family over in a few hours and then it becomes an emergency to need to pick up the mess, mop the floor, dust and vaccuum.  As a result, I kick into overdrive with my husbands help and before we know it the house is picked up, the beer is cold and our friends are on their way over.

“It’s so hard when I have to and so easy when I want to.” Annie Gottlier

Posted by phirstcheer on May 24, 2011 at 1:18am

I am still struggling with this one and I am still learning.  I so not like being bored and there is nothing more boring than housework.  I am in my 60s and I have tried every trick I could think of to trick myself into wanting to do housework.  What I found was I was great in the planing but not so good in the follow through.  I have more charts and lists than anyone can think of.  Great fun making them up, not so much fun doing the work.
Funny thing is when I worked, my office was the neatest in the place.  Everyone commented on how organized my office was.  I realized that I really do need organization in order to survive well.  So I began to see that what I had in my office that I did not have at home was complete control.  At home my husband is a control freek and I have spent years trying to do things to suit him and I always fail.  He has so many rules of what I should do and what I should not do that as a person with ADD I was set up to fail.  I also hate conflict so I avoided do things that made since to me because I knew he might not like it and would question me about it.
Well I have finally really realized that if I am to be the one who has to do the housework than it really needs to be done in a manner that makes since to me.  So that is what I am doint now.  For the first time in 46 years of marriage I am doing things in a way I want to and in a way that I know will lead me toward better organization.  I am in no real hurry because I do not to overwhelm myself.  I am taking small areas at a time and I have turned a deaf ear to my husband.  I tell him if his has a better way it is within his right to do it.  He never cleans a thing in the house.  I will continue on as the little engine who could, because I know I can this time I know I can.

Posted by scattered on May 24, 2011 at 1:47am

The best fix I ever had was hiring someone to come in and clean every other week in major common areas - kitchen, bathroom, living room, dining room and halls.  It helped tremendously because I would keep up with maintaining it.  I would feel badly if I let it get too dirty because the person had taken the time to clean it.  Unfortunately, my husband lost his job last year so we had to stop the service, but as soon as we are back on our feet we want it back - it made a huge difference in our lives.

Posted by Pamala on May 24, 2011 at 2:53am

I’ve got ADD, w/out the HD, and have, at times, problems staying on task, including housework; which never seems to end and tends to overwhelm me.  FLYlady drives me crazy, too, Autumn Night, because there are too many emails;  I “look ahead” and get frustrated because I’m a person who wants to be where I think I should be in three months, yesterday! Not happening!

Here’s an irony, for you:  I’ve a part-time paid job drying and putting away dishes at our local Salvation Army. I get it ALL DONE in 2 hours, am super-efficient and focused! Incredible!

To face the same ordeal at home, however, is another matter, altogether. Why can’t I do as well cleaning my own house as I do with the dishes at the SA? 

After some soul-searching, Here’s the “logic”/rationale I’ve come up with:

TIME-FRAME: Only 2 hours to do it all in, and it HAS to be done in that amount of time, so the pressure is on, and I manage to come through. 

ORGANIZATION: At work, every drawer is labeled; there is a clear-cut, easily-seen place to put everything, and everything HAS to be in its place, in order for things to run smoothly for the people who come in after me.

Companionship: While I manage to stay focused and on-task, there are people around to talk to; people bantering back and forth. The companionship makes things go alot easier and alot faster. 

Here’s something else I’ve found, about myself:  If I have a job where I can actually see an IMMEDIATE end-result, it goes much better for me.  Take mowing the lawn:  I can literally look behind me and see results. What a change, from “before” to after! That’s encouraging, so I want to keep going, and do.  And, too, since hubby is much better at doing dishes than I am, and I’d rather mow the lawn, that’s how we do it.  Role-reversal, maybe; but it works.

Posted by LindaLou on May 24, 2011 at 4:55am

Lots of good advice! I too was overwhelmed with Flylady and many of the reminders just became condescending to me after awhile because I was like - ‘when? when in this crazy day do I have time?’
A place for everything has been the biggest help to me. It is very hard to ‘clean’ if you aren’t organized! You don’t have to sort things in an OCD way but taking something out and knowing where to put it back other than ‘where you go it’ (which might have been the floor in my house!) is just a giant help. Ironically it took having a kid to teach me this because I was trying to figure out how to teach her to keep her room clean. I realized that having her put away her toys after she plays with them required her having a very specific place to put them - she’s 5. She couldn’t do it all on her own. Now I am applying this philosophy slowly to the rest of the house.

I actually *like* to clean! It’s relaxing to me and I find it helps unlock my creativity by doing something “mindless”. I like to write so I often think-up plots or storyline while cleaning and have to write down something before cleaning more.  If there are distractions like my husband watching TV I don’t care about or my daughter, I simply tell them I am putting my headphones in so I can concentrate and I take whatever time I need. They might interrupt if they need something but everyone is respectful (thankfully) that if I have ‘my ears in’ I’m trying to concentrate.

My biggest trouble seems to be that I have ‘so many things, so little time’. I want to write, play on the computer, I have family business things to do (which is my husband’s #1 concern 24/7) cleaning, laundry, etc etc. The more organized I get I’m hoping it will feel less overwhelming and flow much easier giving me more room to breathe!

Posted by Zafra on May 24, 2011 at 5:19am

Cleaning is such a hard task for me; Im just not motivated to do it.  My sister & Mom have had to come over & help me organize & sort stuff because it was at a point that I needed an intervention.  Embarrassing; I’m 40; that was just last year.  The maintenance is just painful; laundry sits; I discovered a load of laundry in the dryer that had been there for 2 weeks and I had no recollection of it.  Wow. But, I buy cleaners, rags & paper towels like crazy.  Each room has a spray cleanser, wipes, roll of papertowels & a garbage can.  It really helps & I try to pick up obvious trash & recyclables.  Its still a struggle.

Posted by CuteChaos on May 24, 2011 at 6:08am

I clock clean.  It organizes the cleaning routine.  Once one area is clean, then I move to the next until I go all the way around the clock and the room is clean.  It’s the only way I clean well…

Posted by kelbel90505 on May 24, 2011 at 8:22am

I follow Flylady.  They break your house down into zones and tell you what to clean that day.  And they are very encouraging that your house didn’t get in a mess in a day and it isn’t going to be clean in a day and to take baby steps.  I have found this to be very helpful and very much geared to folks with ADHD.  Search for her online.  They also have AMAZING products.

Posted by StaceyB on May 24, 2011 at 10:49pm

I found a great book, “The House That Cleans Itself.”  It is sort of like the Fly Lady, but without the emails.  The basic premise is that if you could change your habits, you would have by now—so instead, change your house.

Posted by StarlaDWC on May 25, 2011 at 1:48am

Two very helpful things I’ve learned:

1 - Being organized.

Susan C. Pinsky, a professional organizer, is awesome! Her newest book “The Fast and Furious Five-Step Organizing Solution…” is great. Her first book “Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD” she wrote after learning that people with ADD/ADHD could not maintain their organized homes with the same ease. She also learned from helping her own daughter, who has ADHD. I told her I had cluttered my house with books on how to manage my clutter! You can probably relate to this desperation for solutions.

Cleaning is soooo much easier once you have purged and simplified. Who wants to clean when you have to move a gazillion things first?

2 - Clean team.

Whoever shares the living space is part of the solution or the problem. Start having a “family” meeting once a week. I wrote down all the daily and weekly jobs needed to clean and run the house, such as dishes, feed the dogs, take out trash, vacuum, mow lawn, shovel snow, ....on cards. We took turns picking cards. Believe it or not, some people like to vacuum!

There is a Clean Team book. The idea is to pick a time for everyone to clean the house together, doing their chosen tasks, leaving the rest of the week for enjoying life and your house or apartment and your “family” members. This really does reduce anger and resentment and increase serenity.

“FAMILY” Meetings once a week really work great!

Simple guidelines:

Get a spiral notebook. Write AGENDA at the top. Encourage everyone to write their issues there throughout the week. Make sure to meet once a week. Take turns running the meeting, going through the agenda items in order, and using the page after the agenda for the notes. (Very important to refer back to new plans or rules.)

Start every meeting by complementing each person. This is so much better than what usually happens, dreaded criticism, and builds cooperation!

Let people find solutions, especially children. Revisit issues if they need further tweaking. it is amazing to see this work. I’d like to share just one example. Our son, 21, has ADD and I do, as well. He is famous for clutter everywhere, clothes, books, shoes, food wrappers, ...I make clutter, too, I’ll confess. He liked the idea of post it notes on items not put away, giving one day of warning, then the next day if still there, the items would be put in a box for a week. So I put post it notes on each item of clutter, with the name of the owner or “?” and the day/date. That forced me to pick up my stuff too, of course. The clutter is gone, except the post it notes, which I can toss, or keep for a tally of sorts. Ever been accused of analyzing too much? My son LOVES to catch me by tagging my clutter with a post it note. So far so good. Onward, Pat smile

Posted by Pat H on May 28, 2011 at 12:53am

Cleaning for me is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. As soon as I am done, I have to start all over again. It sucks.
When I can afford it I prefer a cleaning person.

Posted by Laughsalot on Oct 21, 2012 at 3:00am

Oh I forgot!
To help my son, his dad and I thought of a great idea years ago and it REALLY helped. The room was all cleaned up, and organized the way my son’s father wanted it (his house), he then took pictures of the room, different angles, etc. and put them on a board near the door so that my son could look at the pictures of what the room “should” look like. Our son could then look at the pictures and see if his room looked like them. If there were things out of place they could then be put away before he left the room. It worked! It has something to do with visualization and lack of it (ADD issue), kind of like not being able to visualize a closet being organized, it was a wonderful visual aid for things that sometimes get missed.

Posted by Laughsalot on Oct 21, 2012 at 3:06am

i try to put stuff away as soon as i’m done using it. it helps me , i’m still not as organized as i would like, but i’m working on it. the pictures of the room being clean is something i should do, as i’m highly visual.

Posted by Lilapsophile on Dec 18, 2013 at 1:10am

Reply to this thread

You must be logged in to reply. To log in, click here.
Not a member? Join ADDConnect today. It's free and easy!

Not a member yet? Join here »

Search the ADDConnect Group Discussions