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ADHD Adults

Simplifying life

I’m 36, female, and I was diagnosed 6 years ago. I’m very educated with a masters degree and have an “ok” professional job/career. I live with my boyfriend and we don’t have any kids (yet). I take Adderall XR, and sometimes I feel like I am managing my ADHD issues well and sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and everything is a mess. I’m sorry if this gets long and I’m not sure *exactly* what I’m getting at, but I’m hoping some like minds will understand.

Yesterday I had a very bad day. I had to do a major house cleaning and I had to do the usual Sunday routine that stresses me out every week (laundry for the week, dishes, certain personal grooming things, sleep hygiene, etc). I wanted to go visit my family for a cookout, but I knew I had to clean. My boyfriend (who never cleans) went out for the day and I was in the house alone. I really wanted us to clean together, as a team. It was quiet, and I could not focus on cleaning at all. It was taking me longer to do it and I started freaking out about how much there was to do and what little time I had to do it. I just became completely overwhelmed and had a bad anxiety attack.

Finally I called my parents and I was crying. Finally I just said “I need HELP.” I realized that that is everything, I just need help. And I don’t think I’ve ever really said it out loud before (I read somewhere it’s very ADHD not to ask for help?). My parents came over and my mom helped me with some of the house cleaning tasks. But really it just helped that they came over. I didn’t feel overwhelmed anymore, and it just helped having people to talk to while I was doing the work. It was a huge relief. But my dad suggested something that I had never thought of seriously before: I should hire a house cleaning service to come every couple weeks and do the major cleaning.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone who can “afford” a luxury like that, even though technically it wouldn’t be a huge expense for me right now. I told my boyfriend about the idea and of course he was against it, so I said I would pay for all it and take care of everything. It feels like a failure I guess, other people—even people with kids—can keep their apartment clean without hiring a service, why can’t I? But then I realized, I’m not other people. I have ADHD and I have trouble with anxiety. I have a demanding job and a long commute. I don’t mind the act of cleaning, but having it hanging over my head on weekends gives me panic attacks. I suffer from crippling perfectionism—not the good kind you lie about at job interviews, the horrible kind. I had to call my parents in tears after taking a lorazepam because I couldn’t wrap my head everything I had to do. Having someone else worry about the dusting and vacuuming and tub cleaning would not only free up time but mind power to work on other things. Surely this is worth an extra small bill, at least to try out? Shouldn’t I be working on simplifying my life and managing things according to my personal constraints?

I’ve taken action to simplify life before, but I realized that people make me feel really bad about it because it usually costs money, and why can’t I handle it in the first place. I hate shopping so I buy everything online—my boyfriend (who supposedly also has ADHD but I can’t figure it out because he doesn’t get it at all) chastises me for spending the shipping costs. I do my grocery shopping at a local Whole Foods because it’s easy to get to and the store doesn’t overwhelm me and people make fun of me at parties for shopping at Whole Paycheck. I can just imagine what will happen if anyone finds out I have house cleaners come in.

So does it make me a bad person to hire house cleaners for my small apartment with no kids in it every 2-4 weeks? I just feel like it’s not about the time or the effort, it’s about making space in my brain. And is it really so horrible to hire someone to do a job? I mean, it’s contributing to the economy isn’t it?

Why is it so socially unacceptable, especially for women, to outsource anything? Why are we supposed to be proud to be frazzled messes all the time, worried about things we really don’t HAVE to worry about? Why are we supposed to be saving money at all times, even when your budget can handle something that would have real value? When it’s spending money on something that you technically can do yourself, it’s like the worst thing ever. And if you don’t have kids, you’re not allowed to do anything to simplify your life because you “can’t complain if you don’t have kids” (said every mother I know at one point or another).

On the one hand I know it would be great to come to a clean house with no dust and a clean floor, and wake up on Saturday morning and know I could work out or do extra work or go to the beach. I know it would be great to be forced to pick up the clutter on a regular basis before the house cleaners come so they can do their work. I could feel comfortable having people over, I would feel relaxed in my own home. On the other hand I feel…failure.

All of this also just got me thinking about why I feel like such an anxious depressed mess all the time, and why I can’t focus on the things that are important to focus on and why I can’t get stuff done at work: it’s all the crap that is taking up space in my brain. Commuting. Traffic. Clothing. The most productive and stress free I have ever been was when I had been laid off and was working at temporary position from “home” and I would go to the gym whenever I got up, and put on any clothes I felt like, and go to the library or the coffee shop or stay home and work for as many hours as I needed to, whenever I wanted to. How do I incorporate this back into my life? I need to get rid of all the crap and then I’ll have space to be productive. I feel like it’s really important for me to figure this out.

So what does everyone think? Should I hire a house cleaning service? Should I feel bad about it? How do incorporate more freedom in my daily life to free up more brain space and improve productivity?


I say go for it! Hire someone to clean. I know of a lot of non-ADHD people who hire people to clean their house or take care of the yard. I think those people have decided that their time is more valuable and would rather enjoy life than letting it slip by.

Posted by alohagirl on Jun 10, 2014 at 5:52am

Hi You have really been through the ringer. I am sorry and I know it is hard. I have been where you are many times before. You are not crazy and there is nothing to feel bad about. Now I am older than you are and that helps a lot - hind sight and perspective. First of all, there are many kinds of ADHD. You and your boyfriend may have different kinds. Read Dr. Amen’s article when you have some time. It has taken me many years to deal with my perfectionism but I did and you will too. You are very smart and you will find a way to come to terms with it. The reality of having three children in four and half years and a little bit therapy helped out.  In my case, the perfectionism played into the clutter because it was hard to make decisions about what to keep, what to toss and how to store things. If you have the money, hire someone to clean the apartment. That could leave you the time to work on organizing, while they handle the weekly cleaning. That is smart and if it works for you Then that is what matters. This could give you time to develop a system that works for you and your household based your work schedule and fitting in other things that are important to you and your boyfriend. There is a good book out written by a real person not a professional organizer whose idea of a good time is ironing her shoe laces.  But someone who fixed her cluttered home and how she did it. The book was “Winning the Clutter War”  Sandra Felton. This was good for me because you just put what you working on that day on one small card and can focus on it so it is not overwhelming. I have overhauled the system 3 times and fined tuned it a bunch because life changes - toddlers become elementary kids and then teens and jobs change. You find what works for you. I really like the support that you have from your parents. I would try to fill your life with as many supportive, non judgmental people as possible.  Your real friends accept you for who are ADHD and all. They don’t judge or roll their eyes. They appreciate the energy and creativeness that is only you and if they don’t limit contact with them. The world is full of people who want to pull you down - who needs that? Spend your time with people that want good things for you and themselves. Dust yourself off and drive on. You were never a failure, we only fail when we stop trying.

Posted by 3timesamom on Jun 10, 2014 at 6:13am

Thank you thank you thank you for your honest post. If I was hearing you in person, I would have been nodding the whole time, saying “yes, yes yes, it is like that”. If you can afford it, hire the help.A number of my neighbors hire someone, kids or no kids! Some have demanding jobs and have no energy, some have more interest in doing “fun” things. Some can easily afford it and some sacrifice and pay the money so they can spend more time with their kids or their entertaining.

I,however, can’t even get anyone in here because there are no clear surfaces to clean! I am well educated and apparently am pretty bright. I do have kids; but they are not teens; one has ADD and one has OCD. I even work a reduced schedule in order to take care of kid and home things, yet, there are still no clear surfaces.  It drives me crazy to see the state of my home. There is no reason it should be this hard. ... ... ... except I have ADD and anxiety. It does matter.It does impact our ability to take care of our business.

My therapist, medication provider, eye doctor, GP and several friends have all told me to hire someone: a pro, the lady who cleans many of the houses in the neighborhood, or a high school or college “girl”. It’s even been suggested to me to hire someone to come to my house at bedtime every night and keep me on track until the kids are in bed!

For me to do the cleaning person thing, I’d have to hire someone to help me declutter enough to give anybody something to clean first.  If I could afford to do that (I can’t right now) and pay for regular cleaning people, it would change my life. I would get over my feelings of failure an inadequacy very quickly. I would soon notice that other people do this just because they want to; they don’t need a reason and they don’t make excuses. I would have time and mental space to work on my other ADD and anxiety issues and become more like a “normal” person again.

I’d go for it. No excuses needed. My mom hired someone and felt she needed to justify it, so she hired teachers aides over the summer from the school she used to work at to “help” them supplement their aide salary. She didn’t want to say to us that she was over her head, so she played the charity card. People thought she was being so nice and generous to do that for the aides…They actually did declutter her house and got it into unbelievable shape and she got to a point where she didn’t need them anymore because she got into a routine and had less junk around.

Posted by Juggler on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:23am

Hire the house-cleaner & if the boyfriend who doesn’t stick around to help you clean gives you the slightest amount of grief about it, consider having the maids toss him out to the curb when they arrive, wink

Posted by BC on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:15am

My age and life situation is very different from yours but your struggles are exactly the same as mine.  I hired cleaners several years ago who are in and out of my 2-story home in an hour.  I didn’t know that I had ADHD at the time but was always wondering why it took me so long to clean house though I knew that perfectionism was a hindrance.  My husband always seemed to me to clean in such a slap-dash manner and quickly but miss things my “perfect” eye could see.  Therefore, I didn’t clean too often.  Hiring the cleaners has helped my peace of mind (and also my husband’s) in the general surface-cleaning sphere but I still have lots of areas that need cleaning (the refrigerator, for example) that I don’t get around to.  Before the cleaners arrive, I spend an hour or more hiding the clutter (the washer and dryer are great places to stash it) and when they leave, I am loathe to take the clutter from hideouts to visibility.  But if I don’t see it, I can’t deal with it and more clutter is always added on top!
Hire the cleaners as you can afford it and it should give you some peace of mind.  Know that you are a great cleaner because of your perfectionism but your time constraints don’t allow for the huge time expenditure that is required to do it your way.  Hey, I can still find fault with the slap-dash way my cleaners clean but I am grateful to have the house clean when they leave.

Posted by CleverGirl on Jun 10, 2014 at 6:11pm

Thanks everyone for making me feel much better about this. The quote I got from the house cleaning service I called yesterday was absurdly high, but I think they sent me the wrong thing and I’m going to call them back and look into some other places. If I can find something reasonable I think I will go for it.

Today I was determined to go to the gym, which is something I used to do every day until two years ago when I started my car commute to the suburbs and now I do every few weeks when I can’t stand another minute of NOT working out. I didn’t get out of bed until 6:30, which ordinarily would be the cut off for not being able to go and get to work on time. But today I just said screw it. I logged into the shared calendar and put in that I would be an hour late. I went to the gym, then I stopped in next door at the pharmacy and cleared up an issue I’ve been having with them. Then I stopped and got coffee and came into work an hour late, and I have never felt more relaxed. There’s no reason for me to stress about coming in on time other than keeping up appearances—I’m a manager and the only one in my department, and I work late and more than 40 hours anyway, I just work with some petty people who don’t understand that not everyone has the same job. I’m going to try not to worry about those people anymore.

I didn’t mean to sound like I don’t believe my boyfriend has ADD because his symptoms are different from mine, so I’m sorry if it came off that way. His experience is VERY different from mine—I think he’s basically just inattentive type—he zones out, daydreams, doesn’t think clearly forgets EVERYTHING, doesn’t seem to have any anxiety (almost to a fault), etc. I procrastinate due to perfectionism, hyperfocus, focus on the wrong things, am hyperactive, can’t “switch modes” easily, have high anxiety, etc. We even take different meds—I’m on Adderall and he’s on Ritalin (which I took once and BLEGH! did not work for me!).

Posted by LLB827 on Jun 10, 2014 at 6:46pm

I wanted to add, with respect to cleaning and clutter specifically—

The psychologist who first diagnosed me said that often those of us ADHD folks “can’t have internal order until there is external order.” This is has really stuck with me over the years. When my house is dirty and/or messy/cluttered, I cannot focus on anything else. I tidy my workspace every day before leaving because I can’t work in a mess. It bothers me to have a messy/cluttered/dirty apartment so much more than average person, but I’m not a neat freak, per se. It’s just that I can’t have internal order until I have external order. When I walk into the Container Store, my first thought it is, “I want to live here in this store.”

So Juggler, I totally get why it bothers you so much to have clutter and yet you still can’t get yourself to think about it. I would say maybe save up the money for an organizer to come in—even if it’s just $5/week or whatever, it might give you a light at the end of the tunnel to know you are working on it.

Posted by LLB827 on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:38pm

Yes, you should hire a house cleaning service, and by no means should you feel bad about it!  This alone will give you and your mind some time and brain space to recognize how you can improve productivity as well as other aspects of your life. The world will look differently, if you can leave the guilt and “bad” behind. Celebrate the fact you thought of this great idea as well, or thank your dad!

I have 4 daughters, all married, and perhaps one or two with ADD. One of my daughters has a cleaning service come in once every couple of weeks. My three other daughters would like to do the same, but at least for now, choose not to. It was initially hard for them to view what my one daughter was doing with a maid service. Seeing the change in my daughter with the service, they now all understand, and at times are a bit envious. I would concur,Do it.

As I was reading your post, I couldn’t help but wonder about that boyfriend of yours?  Not helping? Thinking of you as a failure because of something like house cleaning?  Really guy?  Anyway think about that when you get some of that free time. rpw

Posted by Bapa on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:40pm

Yes…the Container Store.  The first time I walked in there I thought I had died and gone to Heaven.  I have placed strict rules on myself to not go there often as it is just way too difficult to not want to take a HUGE Slice of Heaven home with me…then find it all to overwhelming to actually orchestrate my Grand Plan (which then only ends up adding to the clutter).  If I could post a photo I would show you the tower of boxes containing things I was sure would make life Perfect…stashed away behind the door that always remains open so nobody but me can see them.  How long have they been there?  Over a year.  True confessions.

Posted by BC on Jun 11, 2014 at 8:22am

Haha I have to be careful at the Container Store also. Not just for fiscal reasons, but also because I can get too stressed out and overwhelmed because I want to overhaul my entire life and make a mini container store in my apartment!

Bapa, with respect to my boyfriend, he doesn’t see as a failure for not cleaning, I feel that way about myself. My boyfriend is against house cleaners because he doesn’t care about having a clean house and he doesn’t believe in spending money, and he often judges me for how I choose to allocate my funds. I am a very different sort of person in that respect—I’m an economist, so I believe that everything has some inherent value that has to be compared with the cost, and every person has a different set of preferences. So a person’s budget is just the constraint on the amount you have to allocate, but then that person has to do little cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses in their mind (or on paper sometimes) to figure out how to optimize the allocation of those funds subject to the constraint of their budget. Costs are easy to calculate and/or understand, but benefits are always much more complicated. When you only look at the costs, you’re actually losing potential value.

So I have a very good understanding about things like why it is “worth it” for someone to chose to hire house cleaners or choose the more expensive but higher quality pair of pants or go on a vacation or go to the more expensive hairdresser. I don’t judge people on their personal set of preferences. This is very different than spending money you don’t have. What I find though, is that among the responsible circle of adults I usually run with, it’s all just about not spending any money—the cheapest thing is always the best, doing it yourself is always best, etc, and you get judged when you don’t follow that rule. That’s why even though I understand the value of hiring a house cleaner for myself, I know that people will judge, and that really bothers me for some reason. It’s especially touchy with my boyfriend, because although we have separate finances he’s always talking about some day we will have to make decisions together and he’s afraid that I’m too free with money. I try to explain the economics, but he still just thinks I’m overly extravagant. I truly don’t believe that, I feel like I am responsible. I try to optimize my value. I do the research, sometimes I even do the math. I stay within my means, I’m realistic about costs. Saving is good, but spending is good too—you have to have a balance of both because otherwise you just end up with a lot of money for retirement after a life with nothing in it. I save for retirement, I save for emergencies, but if there’s money left over after that, you’re supposed to spend it, that’s what it’s for! But I hate that my boyfriend only sees it as not being “smart with money” and it causes a lot of conflict.

Posted by LLB827 on Jun 11, 2014 at 6:46pm

The decisions you are making now are wise and sane.

I am always amazed that professionals who work full time all day would ever consider working full time all night and all weekend as well. 

And your attitude about money is quite sensible. It is meant to be used in just the ways you say.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Jun 12, 2014 at 12:31am

I really think you started out unsure. Evaluated your situation. Determined what your actual current “issue” was. Dissected it perfectly. Sited the pros and cons. Reevaluated and after talking yourself through it all as only an intelligent person with adhd truly can do so eloquently and concluded that you 1. ABSOLUTELY should give it a whirl. You can even rationalize to yourself that if it DOES NOT work out, it was your dads idea anyway. LoL. Nothing wrong with taking your PARENTs advice. 2. Your friends or what ever they are classified as (social acquaintances) are pretty openly assholes and are quick to pick on you, in my opinion to not have to focus on their own lameness. 3. You are very much doing exactly what you, I, we adhd inflicted people, are constantly being told or urged to do MAKING LIFE SIMPLE, LESS STRESSFUL, AND POTENTIALLY MORE ENJOYABLE. One less stress especially one that can obviously become unhealthily overwhelming is a huge success.—-That is my opinion and I am sticking to it.. But what do I know? I am just a guy with ADHD. (THE EXCUSE as it’s referred to by those not in the know) Good Luck!

Posted by JustAdHd on Jun 12, 2014 at 12:37am

Wow!  Like you, I had a busy life.  I did not have a boyfriend, he is the husband.  His career kept him away from home a lot—US Navy—so he would be gone for months at a time.  At the same time, I was working full time and going to college part time.  I was busy and needed to use time for my studies.  The house got cluttered and so did my head from trying to keep everything under control.

Have you heard of Flylady?  She wasn’t around when things were as described above, but the concept was.

Deal with routine matters as “routines” and deal with clutter on a scheduled basis.

It takes time for everything to get to where it needs to be.  Be patient with yourself.  If the clutter belongs to the boyfriend, then pile it up where he cannot miss it and tell him to get that mess taken care of “post haste”.  You are done being his mother replacement.

Here is now I handled my mess.  Yes, I hired a housekeeper.  Together we worked out a schedule for her to be in my home to do the cleaning.  I also requested extra hours so that she could help me get to work on what was just “clutter”.

I did the double sessions with her for two years.  At the end of that time, my house was noticeably cleaner.  The clutter was pretty much gone, too.

What I learned is that clutter is sometimes the result of indecision.  If I didn’t know what to do with something, it got placed on a surface and left there.

My housekeeper also taught me some lessons on shortcuts in cleaning.  She taught me to simplify my own routines and to always keep in mind that what was missed in one cleaning could and would be caught in a subsequent one.  “Just let it go.  You will be back again.’

Deep cleaning can be handled by your housekeeper, but if you do not know how to do it, then work with her so you can learn.  How often to deep clean would depend on how you develop your routines for managing your home by yourself.

Perfectionism is the biggest stumbling block for many ADDers.  We have all been told that we are “lazy, crazy, stupid, or inept”.  Those are lies, but you have to deal with that by telling yourself the truth.  Most of the time, we just do not know where to start.  “At the beginning” is not a valid answer.

I deal with clutter by going after my flat surfaces first.  I have three containers with me.  “Throw away, give away (donations), and Put Away” are taped to the containers on a 2 inch strip of tape.

When I start to declutter any area, I only work at it for 15 minutes at a time.  If I have the time to deal with it longer, then I do so, but there is usually something else that is scheduled or something of a higher level of urgency that should be done.  If I have time, I return to the decluttering project.

Clutter does not go away overnight and it is better that it goes like that.  Within the clutter may be things that you need to keep or things that you need to attend to, so do not just toss a while pile of stuff if you do not know what is in it.  It is tempting, but do not do it.

When you feel that your need for outside help is ended, then you have the choice to continue with the housekeeper, or not. 

One word of caution.  Your housekeeper will not clear your clutter.  She will move it out of the way to clean, then put it right back where it was.  She has no way of knowing what you want to do with it, so she will not attempt to deal with it.  Knowing that ahead of time helped to motivate me to get a start on the clutter before she arrived.

I hope some of that is useful.  Keep what works and just lose the rest…

Posted by Dianne in the Desert on Jun 12, 2014 at 10:25pm

What a wonderful, honest post! So many of us can empathize. I say hire the housecleaning service and do whatever else you have to do for you. It’s easy for others without our issues (even though they mean well) to put their 2 cents in that usually makes us feel guilty and deflated. Just remember that you didn’t pick this disorder and it’s not your fault you feel the way you do… so I say kudos to anything you do to make life more simple for you. Good luck, girl!

Posted by purplecat on Jun 16, 2014 at 8:09pm

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