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My house is an absolute mess!! Where do I start?

Forgive me if this has been posted before, but I’m new here and need some advice.  I am a married mother of two and my house is an absolute mess.  We all know that starting and finishing tasks are difficult for us.  Can anybody give me some guidance as to how to proceed?  I can’t think of anything specific but I guess I could start with de-cluttering.  I know it sounds like I’m asking a lot but some step by step instructions would be most helpful.  Thanks in advance.


There are people out there who are professional organzers…who are extremely good at helping people with de-cluttering, labeling, creating an easy system for family members to follow to keep things organized.  They help you decide what is appropriate for you to keep, to give away, what paperwork you need to save…they have various tips and systems to help with shopping, laundry, etc.

Having someone from outside the situation come up with some suggestions/solutions makes it easier for everyone in the family to accept…no one is singled out for blame.

Organization comes easy to some people.  Let them bring their skills to you…they have seen all kinds of messy places, and have worked with families to make the home area more enjoyable for every family member.

Posted by Jody02446 on Sep 11, 2013 at 9:01pm

It’s a great question and one which needs to come up over and over. I am not going to suggest step by step but rather a quiding principle or two with examples. Doing a whole house or even a whole room can be daunting. It’s best to do a little piece at a time. One room, one desk, even one desk drawer. First you have to dump everything in a pile and then decide on one thing at a time. Slowly is best at first.

Example: a clothes closet
Take everything out and lay it on the bed. Make the closet totally empty and then clean it. Picking up one thing at a time decide to keep it or toss it. If it’s to be tossed have containers ready to receive this stuff to be tossed. Then make sure you toss it.

You can use this pattern with each unit of space, a kitchen shelf, a bookshelf, the kids’ toy box etc. The kitchen whatever junk drawer, the odd sock box etc.

I suggest that you do not organize as you go because you can become lost in the woods of developing systems. Just clean, and keep or toss.

With ADHD it is much too easy to imagine a whole host of systems. Better to wear blinders and focus on it piece by piece.

Will it stay done? Nope. But it will be easier each time.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Sep 11, 2013 at 9:05pm

An ADHD Coach can help with this.

Posted by RoadtoRecovery on Sep 11, 2013 at 9:06pm

Your question reminded me of a few maxims, general thoughts, that I have printed and hanging on my wall:

-Getting started is the hardest part.

-What I don’t do today will not go away. It will just be that much harder tomorrow.

-If you’re having trouble getting started, then the first step is too big.

Posted by Tom K on Sep 11, 2013 at 9:08pm

I made a mistake, the correct URL is

Posted by Rancher John on Sep 12, 2013 at 12:09am

This is one of the most common things that my ADD clients come to me for help with—if they’re comfortable enough to be honest about it up front!  It’s a very, very common struggle for those of us with ADD brains, and something it took me a long time to get on top of myself!  Its often a “dirty little secret” that many of us feel like we need to hide—so kudos to you for wanting to tackle it out in the open!

Flylady has wonderful princples that are very ADD-friendly (aren’t we all side-tracked home executives by definition?!) although many of my ADD clients get overwhelmed by the influx of reminders.  Her principals were a Godsend to me many years ago, and I’ve incorporated many of them into my life (personally and professionally). 

De-cuttering is an important first-step.  I always tell my clients, “Physical clutter begets mental clutter!” Start small, and where it will make the most difference.  Is there somewhere in your home or office that makes you feel more clear and peaceful when it’s clear?  For many of us, it’s a kitchen counter or table, or our desks.  Pick just that one place, and start there.  If that’s still overwhelming, pick one small part of that place and start doing little bit for just a few minutes, several times a day.  If that’s still overwhelming, break it down even further! 

Add some interest if you can—up-tempo music can help, and play a game with yourself (racing a timer, seeing how many things you can take care of in a certain number of minutes, and so on).  One of the gifts of ADD is creativity—so use it in finding ways to add interest to otherwise mundane stuff! 

Once you get that area de-cluttered, start working on creating a habit of clearing it at least daily.  Use whatever reminders work for you until it becomes a true habit (it may take more than a month, and you may need to switch up reminders as you get used to them)

Habit and routine are very powerful tools in managing many of our ADD challenges.  Habit and routine can take the “thinking” and the “getting started” struggles out of so many of the things that are a challenge for us (usually the mundane stuff that other people make look so easy!).  It’s all about getting your own head out of your way!

I hope there’s something in my ramblings that helps!  Keep us posted, and best of luck!

Lynne Edris, ACG
Life & ADD Coach

Posted by ADD_Coach_Lynne on Sep 12, 2013 at 1:14am

I have the same problem. I have a fear that DCFS will show up at the house and see it in disarray so I stay out of the house and go to the library where everything is neat and organized and my kids can play with their toys and we can read books. I cannot afford a professional organizer or those various bins they tell you to buy. I also have a to do list that is over three pages long! I know how you can feel so overwhelmed especially if you have kids. It is funny that DCFS thinks that kids do not mess up the house and want to take them away when they show up unexpectedly and your house is messy. They obviously have never had children. My kids can mess up a clean house in two minutes flat and it takes 8 hours to clean it up.

Posted by valleygirllewis on Sep 12, 2013 at 7:33pm

Professional organizers cost a ton of money. I can go to a friend’s house & organize, but mine seems too daunting. Why can’t I find someone local who needs the same thing I do who can exchange helping each other. It’s a no brainer, but how do you find them?

Posted by chillyla on Sep 12, 2013 at 10:01pm

Simple…it’s called FLYLADY.NET!!  She helps a lot of women going through the same difficulties as you.  She calls CHAOS “Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.”  She teaches people that if you just do a little bit at a time while not getting GUNG HO trying to accomplish too much at one time, you can actually get more done then you think.  It just takes time and patience.  Over time, that cluttered home of yours will actually be much cleaner.  Granted, it won’t be perfect, but the “perfectionist” thought process is what she calls “stinkin thinkin.”  It causes us to obsess thinking we need to get as much done now and as fast as we can in a certain time frame, making it a 3 hour chore.  In the end, though, you wind up getting exhausted and never want to see that chore again due to the “sensory overload.”  She describes all the ADD symptoms, but does not put a lable on it.  I was able to “read between the lines” to find out that she is Catholic, since I myself am Catholic.  Again, she does not lable herself as such, but describes it as such.  She has been down the same road with a messy house…a house full of clutter (she calls them hot spots).  When she was finally able to “help herself” and clear her hot spots and all that clutter around her, she was able to help others do the same.  She reminds us that if we cannot love ourselves then we can not possibly love anything or anyone around us…even our homes!

Anyway, just type in and it will come up on the google search.  Her background color is “purple.”  Get it??  Just like they put colors on cancers like Ovarian Cancer being teal, the memory disorders like ADD/ADHD and Alzheimer’s or Dementia are purple.  Reading between the lines, it is obvious that she knows about ADD/ADHD and probably is aware that even she has ADD/ADHD.  However, instead of labeling it as such since most of our lives we have been labeled as something…whether it be “spacey”, “selfish”, and even worse, “stupid”, she does not lable us as anything of the sort.  She only positive words…uplifting words come through her site.  She tells us about the negative comments that come through, but that is because we do not see them.  Only herself and her “flyteam” see the negative comments and sometimes she will bring them up if she feels the need to.

Posted by tinalunior83 on Sep 13, 2013 at 5:55am

Not sure where you live, but sign up for Groupon. They always have cleaning people and businesses offering specials. Review your expenses, I bet you could cut out something easily to have someone come once a week for 2 hours to clean.  Good Luck!!

Posted by Sweetie on Sep 14, 2013 at 12:16am

flylady is great for ADD sufferers. I learned how to do thinks from the site that most people just “pick up” because they can pay attention easier than I can. For example - exactly how to clean the kitchen sink - each and every step, what tool, what products, what technique. Spelled out. She tells me how much time things should take and how to know when my time is up.

Posted by Juggler on Sep 14, 2013 at 7:34am

Welcome to my World. My small apartment sometimes can look like there has been a earthquake wink.

This is a thing that works for me: every week I have a cleaning day, for example sunday. That day I wash all clothes, vacuuming, sorting, important papers, etc.

I also have a special box for my important papers and invoices.

Sorry for my crappy English, im from sweden :p

Posted by AHedmark on Sep 15, 2013 at 5:52am

I have talked about the things I have been able to overcome but the constant chaos in my Mobile home is beyond my abilities.
I try to do the little at a time thing and I am so out of breath and worn out I just don’t get very far then get behind on what I can do because of it. By the time I feel good enough to go at another part of the mess the one I cleaned up is a mess again. If I start vacuuming I start dripping sweat from the top of my head. I have to put a sweat band on my head so it doesn’t drip into my eyes, & completely change my cloths after because they are soaking wet.
This is not just my add but the Dr says all my blood work is fine. I am on disability and have tried to get outside help but they say I am fine, other people need it more & the waiting list is to long. I agree, I do look fine. That happens outside too so it isn’t environmental to the house. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back to bed.
When that happens I usually force myself to stand up and take a step. Usually that gets me doing something even if it isn’t cleaning the house.
When I talk about this I get depressed so I usually don’t. I talk about the things I CAN do & DO do! That makes me smile & feel good.

Posted by missmix48 on Sep 16, 2013 at 12:16am

missmix48, your doctor says that all the blood work came back normal???  What you describe does not seem normal to me.  I definitely would say that it is not all having to do with the ADD.  If you get easily exhausted by doing little things at a time and in your MOBILE HOME none-the-less, then there is definitely something wrong here.  Maybe you should have more tests done?  Maybe having blood work is not enough??  Just my thoughts from a medical assistants point of view.  I am not a doctor, but just form the basic knowledge of medicine that I have from becoming a registered medical assistant, something just does not seem right here to be that exhausted.  I assume goign by your name missmix48 that you are 48-years-old.  If I am right, you are still somewhat young.  At least, you should not be that exhausted during the day unless you have depression or are simply not “healthy” such as being overweight or having a medical condition.  Anyway, you should definitely seek a second opinion, especially since you say that the “little things” that you are able to do make you SMILE and gives you a good feeling inside.  Does not sound like depression is an issue, just getting easily exhausted often.  Good luck and hope you feel better smile

Posted by tinalunior83 on Sep 16, 2013 at 4:40am

big classic problem, simple solution that works. start with 5 min rounds, time it. then stop, then come back, same.

your problem is your brain seeing this as hugely, complex big house job. its freaking out.

non adhd brains see the house room by room. promise it 5 mins and see how u progress.

Posted by ADDbuster on Sep 17, 2013 at 9:26am

I’m in the same boat.  Both of my kids are ADHD, as well as myself, so I can’t really enlist their help, and my poor boyfriend already has his hands full (obviously)  so I can’t ask him to do more than he already does.

  Why does it seem that every solution offered requires paying someone to organize or paying a life coach?  I’m not sure how so many people afflicted with ADD/ADHD have a surplus of money, as it seems to affect most of us in the job department as well. 

I try to pick the area that is causing me the most stress and just knock it out until it’s good enough for the time being.

Posted by Tashablueyes on Sep 17, 2013 at 6:48pm

Your post made me smile, because I was just looking at the morning rush mess, and decided to go online instead…lol Fly Lady was a great help to me years ago. I got her book Messies No More. I didn’t even know what ADD was when I got the book. Over the years I actually became very organized to compensate. It feels like I can’t think straight when there is a mess. I actually start feeling emotional when things are out of place. For myself, the best idea I got from Messies No More was the advice to put the boxes or bags in a room and sort things in the room that I start with. The bags/boxes kept me from leaving the room and getting distracted on to something else. I also discovered that binders help me immensely. I bought (matching binders, all white for uniformity) and labeled them. They are in my kitchen cabinet near the phone. I have one for Sports, School, Church, Dog, Gardening, Receipts (I do receipts by month in clear inserts, easier to find if I need to return something). I file graded homework, flyers…right away. Paper clutter bugs me the most, so this method makes me feel so much. If my husband asks for the soccer schedule, I say “check the sports binder”. I also have all my bulk items, beans, grains, seeds…in glass canning jars with white lids. They are lined up for easy visual. Though it is not the best use of space, I don’t put items behind each other in the cupboard. if I can’t see it, it doesn’t get used, it piles up…things get shoved and not taken care of. I am not even OCD, I just found that organization helps me think clearer. My son benefits from this with his own Attention challenges. Basically the only toys we have ever bought (outside of sports equip) is Legos. My sons Legos are sorted by color. It’s great because kids that come in his room for first time, ooh and awe. I just wish my hubby would let me at his home office. His office is so cluttered (pack rat) that I literally have to keep the door closed or else I feel coo coo for coco puffs.
If you lived near me, Central Valley CA, I would come over and help you get started. That would be fun to me.

Posted by MommyLuv on Sep 17, 2013 at 8:23pm

Mommyluv if only I lived near you what a blessing it would be if you could come over to my house! I bought a book for my puter kindle called Friendly ways to organize your life. LOL I looked at my mess this morning and sat down at the puter but forgot to read the book. lol I give up. I feed the critters and talked to someone about hauling off a car that is sitting rusting in the yard. Goody $ to pay a bill tomorrow. Also going to rescue a cat at the shelter tomorrow sometime. I don’t use regular cat litter and he needs someone who doesn’t use regular cat litter because he is allergic.
I use chicken mash also called crumbles. It scoops like scoopable litter but I don’t think it stinks as quickly and it won’t turn to concrete in kitties tummy if they lick it off their feet. Not to mention it doesn’t cost as much per pound.
Then went out and cut some wood for a couple hours and hauled it to a shed. I burn wood for heat all winter here in WI.
Tonight I was going to start a beading project but by the time I organized some of my beads while I was deciding what colors to use I was to tired and confused to start it. Welcome to my world. Oh right, it’s your world too. It’s so nice to have someone to talk to about OUR world.

Posted by missmix48 on Sep 18, 2013 at 8:31am

Wow missmix, you rock! I am impressed with your resourcefulness, and earth friendly approach to daily tasks. Be sure to be impressed with yourself as well.Lucky Kitty.
I find that if I write down what needs to be done for the day, I feel more in control. I use it as a touch stone to come back to when I get off track.
This sounds silly, but yesterday I got new picture frames. I got frustrated deciding how to line them up. Thankfully my friend happen to drop by and helped me eye things. Its funny how at times simple little things can totally put my mind bouncing back and forth like a ping pong game. Yet, in big situations, I tend to get hyper focused and see things very clear. Sometimes I think being Amish looks very inviting. No, I am sure I would be like “hey, what page are we on?”

Posted by MommyLuv on Sep 18, 2013 at 8:08pm

Boy, I sure can relate to the house thing!!!!  Where DO you start?  Esp if we need help?  And cannot afford to hire people.  When I was CT an organizer wanted $100 per hour.  Well that was a bust, because I do not have that kind of dough!!! I will keep reading.  I know I will and you WILL get through this!!!

Posted by MicheleLB on Sep 18, 2013 at 9:14pm

Can totally relate to the disaster in the house.  I am going to try FLYLADY too.  I also wish somehow there was a way to find people nearby that are in the same problem.  But is that dirty little secret.  I just shared it with my pastor,.  I wanted to die.  I have been to some of the houses but they are all neat as a pin.. I always say,  Where is everythg, where do they put all their stuff.  I found used book on AMAzon that was ADD and clutter but am no at home am in library.  So if I can find it I will post.  I was the only book I found helpful.  I started in a corner in the kitchen on the counter.  Can only work on somethg for a little while .  My room I am scared to start but have to.  Good luck with yrs

Posted by MicheleLB on Sep 18, 2013 at 9:24pm

I sure can relate to this! My house looks like a tornado went through it once and turned around and went back through it again!! I haven’t had a friend over in years too ashamed. I go and meet people anywhere and everywhere but never invite them to my house. I have no idea where to start and it keeps getting worse. I get so depressed looking at it that I just leave so I will feel better for a little while anyway. I have to do something about this mess soon. I will check into FLYLADY too. I wish there was some sort of local support group for this.

Posted by Beth W. on Sep 20, 2013 at 6:30am

hi, tinalunior83 I so apreciate you thinking I am 48 but I was born in ‘48. lol that makes me 65. I wish some of you would check out my post about artists & crafter’s and add a word or two. I did go to the fly-lady site. I was inundated with advertisements and couldn’t make heads or tails of that place so I came back here. I found the name of a book someplace (can’t remember now where) and downloaded it. lol Haven’t read it though! Yesterday I found a home for three rabbits and adopted a Cat and a dog. I am 1up! lol
Today I keep wanting to make something and just can’t seem to jump start my creative bone. Too many ideas roaming around in my head to catch one. urrrh

Posted by missmix48 on Sep 21, 2013 at 5:31am

John, I did as you said, I emptied my whole closet yep all of it.  And donated a bunch of stuff (they say if you haven’t worn it in 1-2 years then you never will) so I tossed it,  another pile of junk to the trash can, hung up everything that was hangable (new word) and the most important thing I did was to buy totes, filled those babies with blankets, pillows, out of season clothes, things I couldn’t part with, magazines, shoes hahaha list goes on and on.

Buy totes or storage containers (4 bucks walmart) and like John said empty that closet and clean it.

No wonder my house was never perfect, I didn’t own any totes.  In your kitchen food closet use small totes to hold cereal boxes or any food boxes you can just pull out the tote and dig through it without messing up your shelves.

I decided every room of the house should have some kind of tote in it for storage.  I’ll buy one tote a week or every other week and fill it.  I can’t buy 20 totes at once because then it becomes work and I’ll store all of them downstairs and dread everytime I walk by those empty totes, so one tote here or there is your best bet to organize.  Just trying to help the maddness

Posted by BexIssues on Oct 06, 2013 at 5:56am

All my totes are clear so I can see whats inside without having to read the label or take the lid off, or worse yet pull it out of the center of a tall stack.
you’d be surprised how much more stuff you can fit on a shelf with smaller totes.

Im excited cuz I’m the only 46 year old that just discovered the power of storage containers totes

Posted by BexIssues on Oct 06, 2013 at 6:01am

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