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ADHD in Women

Where to even begin

I have such a problem with even knowing where to begin with getting my life organized that I just refuse to start.  I am lounging around this morning knowing that there is a house to be cleaned, mountains of laundry to do then I start thinking I would love to organize all of my pictures but to do that I need to scan tubs of old pictures, then my mind wonders to all of the clutter that is in my house and how I need to get rid of it but I seem to want to hang on to everything!!!  And the list goes on and on I want to live an organized life.  I know if I were organized my ADD life would be so much better.  Just knowing where things are, not being embarrassed to have friends over and just an over all sense of well being.  How do I even begin this?  I am on ADD medicine and I have had this wanted to deal with this for years and years.  I hope that if someone can help me with a plan I can follow it.  I don’t really have anyone that will take time out of their busy schedules to come over to be my organizing buddy therefore I am on my own to get this ginormous project started.  I know I need to break it down into little parts but where do I begin?  Any and all suggestions are welcomed.  I am not sure if I need to ignore everything around me and get a plan down or just jump right in.  Thanks in advance for all of your help!!!


Thanks those are some great ideas.  Have you found any apps that have helped you with your ADD?  I have even considered getting a coach to help me with my issues.  I am just not motivated I believe due to being so overwhelmed.  I have been told over and over again that I just have to get started but I am not sure where that is.  I want to snap my fingers and everything be in order so I can just try to maintain the order.  I find I cannot just go thru my house, pick up and clean.  I start cleaning out drawers, cleaning the cabinet fronts and the such.

Posted by Klippy on Sep 01, 2014 at 4:44pm

Hi Klippy!

THIS IS NOT HOPELESS smile !!! Trust me, I have a super-sized case of ADHD, and as a middle school teacher, I have a lot of “case studies” with whom I can compare myself!

I also take medication, and I also find it is not enough.  Strategies and supplements help me A LOT!!

1.) Best book on organizing with ADHD: 
Susan Pinsky’s “Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD.”  I have read the other books on this topic, but this one wins the gold medal!  She has a daughter with ADHD and KNOWS we don’t think the same, and she tailors her strategies around that.  I am no longer paralyzed by fear or overwhelm when my office or classroom gets cluttered. I know what to do and I can do it because I have better strategies!

2.) I have a Naturopathic Doctor who has prescribed/recommended supplements and recommended dietary changes which help my brain work better and render me more highly functioning.
In no particular order (hey, I’m ADHD):

a)  pharmaceutical strength fish oil (I like Nordic Naturals, but that’s me)

b) Methylated (broken down form of) B12 and folate.  Definitely one of the top three.  I detox better, and am down to 1/4 of previous med dosage!!!

c) Vitamin D3 (calming, good for mood, overwhelm, just like fish oil)

d)  O.K.  So in my case, my thyroid was making my ADHD worse.  I switched from Synthroid to Armour Thyroid.  My mood is better, I feel truly optimistic that I can handle anything (this is a benefit of the med, apparently, which I didn’t know until I asked my ND), I am more awake and energetic in the morning and more productive.  Thyroid problems are common in women and in those with ADHD.  Check your eyebrows.  Are the the outer third a bit sparse?  That is a red flag.  Also, you can have “normal” test results on traditional tests, and still feel like crap, which is why I recommend an ND.  You never know how good you can feel until you try.

e)  I have food sensitivities to gluten, sugar, and many more.  I feel like a rock star on my new and improved diet. 

f)  Epsom Salt baths.  Magesium is a calming mineral, which it sounds like you need!  Great for ADHD!
Two baths a week for 20-30 minutes might seem like a lot when you are feeling unproductive, but your stress and ADHD are doing that anyways!  Rinse off in the shower after as this works by also pulling out toxins.  Too much marination in the water means toxins re-enter your pores; yuck!  It helps me sleep better, too. 

This list may seem overwhelming.  It is.  So if your insurance covers it (assuming you have insurance, mine covers it), google an ND in your area who understands ADHD.  It’s a very comprehensive approach, and addressing the biology of ADHD makes the practical application of strategies go SO MUCH MORE SMOOTHLY…  Just know it’s a process.

There is hope! 

I listen to Additude magazine podcasts on my iPod while cleaning…

Posted by TimeMgtQueen;) on Sep 01, 2014 at 4:48pm

WOW!  This is so much help.  I am going to look into these things—I do have insurance so I will check about an ND.  It sounds like at first you were not a morning person - neither I am I but I have to get up early because like you I work at a middle school.  But on mornings I do not have to work I sleep till 10:00 or so and then lay around playing on the computer.  Like I said I feel so over whelmed I don’t know where to begin so therefore I just don’t. 
One thing I would like to ask you or anyone else who might can help.  Seeing all I have to do does overwhelm me, when I start doing laundry then I start working on cleaning the kitchen and then I end up trying to organize my cabinets or worse work on organizing my drawers in my bedroom because I found something in the kitchen that belonged in the bedroom so I found my way to the bedroom and BOOM another task is started but none of the task ever get completed.  How should I handle this?

Posted by Klippy on Sep 01, 2014 at 5:21pm

Hi Klippy!

So today has been one of those days where I am drifting a bit, so thank you for getting me back on track (hey, no one is perfect!).

This lead me to thinking about your question:  what am I doing when things are going smoothly?  Answer:  I have a little whiteboard from “The Board Dudes” which is pre-numbered 1-14 and is roughly 6X14 inches.  I prop it up on a cookbook rack so it is vertical (I suppose I could hang it but I didn’t).  I write my list to keep me focused.  My kitchen is my home base, and I always end up there, so I keep checking it.  I have tried my phone, which works at the grocery store for lists, but generally, for me, out of sight, out of mind.  I know where the list is so I keep checking it. It doesn’t get lost like paper lists underneath the horizontal clutter of counter space. The big thing with ADHD is that we go to extremes:  garbage on the kitchen counter to scrubbing a kitchen drawer handle with a toothbrush, because all of a sudden, it bugs us, and we HAVE TO fix it.  This to me, is unwelcomed hyperfocus.  So now, with that in mind, I always focus on
1)getting the house decluttered first,
2) cleaning second,
3) and microfocus tasks, such as cleaning out a closet or drawer, are saved for a vacation, when I actually have time for them.  STAY AWAY FROM THE MYOPIC TASKS until the rest of your house is in order, unless doing so will make your daily life more manageable.  Distraction issues will improve with treatment from an ND, in so much as you are a cooperative patient smile.  I’m extremely cooperative, because I will do ANYTHING to help myself, so long as it doesn’t break the bank or a law wink.

Finally, when the list isn’t helping because I am doing things that are important but not urgent, or unimportant, I ask my husband for help prioritizing.  I don’t know about you, but my DH is quite good at this. 
I don’t need his help quite as much as I used to, because I make him explain his reasoning, so now I “get it” much better.

Hope this helps!

Off to decluttering nirvana wink !

Posted by TimeMgtQueen;) on Sep 01, 2014 at 6:02pm

Just cleaned the kitchen!  Thanks for the re-direct smile!

One more thing:  Which are the top three areas of your house, which if messy, hinder your concentration?
Mine are the kitchen (where I almost always start),
my office (like cleaning this the least), and my bedroom.
My car can also lead to disaster (thinking I have something with me that I need, but I don’t because I can’t see anything.  Start with the areas which cause your brain to scatter like marbles…

O.K.  Off to the bedroom to clean and put laundry away.  My office has no AC and is too hot to clean now…

Posted by TimeMgtQueen;) on Sep 01, 2014 at 6:39pm

Thanks for all of your help TimeMgtQueen.  Picture certainly appreciate it.  I do think it would be helpful for me to have a hard copy of a list.  My mind is always thinking of all these things I need to do.  You are so right about hyper focusing on things that really don’t make a difference in the big picture.  I am at the point now. My dream is to come home to a fairly clean, picked up house and not having 15 loads of laundry that need to be done.  I really think I have far too much stuff but there is a part of me that just refuses to get rid of truly junk.  Because goodness knows I might need that one day. But that comes as a catch 22, because I have so much clutter and junk I sometimes cannot find what I need so I end up buying duplicates.  My closet is not large but is jammed packed with clothes. I think that is one issue.  But the thought of cleaning out my closet when the house is already a disaster and my laundry is so far behind just makes me want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head.  Maybe I am having a pity party today when my time would be better spent trying to get something done instead.

Posted by Klippy on Sep 01, 2014 at 6:44pm

One thing to remember, even a waterfall must begin with one drop. I fell off the ADHD wagon two years ago and am now just reapplying what I have taught myself over the years. I never grew up with clutter and went to boarding school. I have very little possessions. I can’t stand clutter, it makes me depressed. My car is always clean and spotless. The truck, is to start with one task and learn to do it well before taking on another task. It’s easier said than done. I felt careful myself and still do. I will feel awful anyway, might as well get back on the wagon. I am at the first step and still hate being this way. I am in the process of a life changing moment and that will be tough, but I need to do it. Tough times won’t last, only tough people.

Posted by Isp75016 on Sep 01, 2014 at 7:00pm

O.K.  Just did some laundry smile!

The book I recommended will help with the decision-making process of getting rid of the “someday clutter pile syndrome.”  I think part of it is most of the decluttering advice for people with ADHD is geared toward how to break the task of decluttering into smaller steps, but almost NO ONE (save the author I mentioned, Susan C. Pinksy) tells you HOW to make the decisions as to WHAT IS JUNK YOU WILL NEVER USE and WHAT YOU SHOULD SAVE.  Decision-making is the worst part, the part that causes you to procrastinate endlessly, at least in my case.  Now that I know HOW to make decisions, I don’t procrastinate quite as much.  I make decisions MUCH quicker, which means I know before I begin that I am not about to tackle Everest which means less anxiety/procrastination.

Posted by TimeMgtQueen;) on Sep 01, 2014 at 7:13pm

I have not read the book, and it was remiss of me not to mention my philosophy. If I don’t use something within 6 months, is clutter and it’s gone. There are charisma decorations, which are only used annually and don’t get thrown out. I have a bin for them, and open it once a year. I have some tools I rarely use, but they. Also fall into that category and are in a tool box. I hate baskets on shelves,it’s just more backers which hold more clutter. If I can’t find a space for something, then I don’t need it that badly, or I would have.

Posted by Isp75016 on Sep 01, 2014 at 7:43pm

I just looked in my bathroom which is a terrible mess and I know I should clean out just my make up and get rid of crap BUT I start to think well… I might use that one day.  But in my mind I know that I do not need 100 different colors of eyeshadow!  Why can I not just break down and get rid of 25 of them?

Posted by Klippy on Sep 01, 2014 at 8:57pm

I used Post-It Notes to get myself started with using standard routines to deal with my home.  They got pasted on mirror, cabinet doors, in my planner, on the dashboard of my car…  Wherever they would be seen and prompt me to do “the next thing” on my list.

In a sense, it is simply a matter of changing your mind, but with ADD in the way, it takes some “brain training” to make new habits “stick”. 

I use two planners, actually, but one of them is only used in my home.  I worked through the Flylady system, developed the Control Journal that was specific to my home, and I modify it when needed to keep myself on track.

My primary planner Is a half sheet planner with my calendars, To Do lists, and other information that I want to have with me no matter where I go.

I have a smartphone and a tablet and a laptop, but they simply do not work a well as my paper-based planner.  I use software and apps, but when the power goes off, or there is no signal for some reason, the planner will work while the other items do not. 

The paper planner is backed up by snapshots uploaded to the “cloud”.  I have never lost a planner, but I have misplaced it. 

You do not need a planner?  Great!  Get a 5 x 8 notebook to make your lists in and go from there.

Keep us posted on how you are doing.  You are definitely not alone with these kinds of problems….

Keep what works and just lose the rest.

Dianne in the desert

Posted by Dianne in the Desert on Sep 01, 2014 at 10:02pm

Being overwhelmed keeps you from getting started. I think an ADHD Coach ( sounds like a fantastic idea - they will help you break it down and keep you on track ( A professional organizer could be helpful as well.

You have received a ton of good advice above as well.

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Sep 02, 2014 at 4:12pm

From what you wrote alone, it doesn’t sound so much like you are disorganized, but rather just overwhelmed. I am exactly the same way (in the ADHD Adults forum I posted about my “weekend anxiety” and in the Work forum I posted about how I have so many different projects and tasks I can’t decide what to do so I just don’t do them).

I really related to your post, but I am not a disorganized person (I actually might be overly organized), which makes me think you might not be either. Personally:
1) thinking about one thing that needs to be done makes me think about all the others
2) it’s all or none baby—why clean the kitchen if you don’t have time to spend the entire weekend and clean the rest of the house too? What’s the point of having one clean room and then a bunch of dirty ones? What’s the point of having a clean house if all the closets are disorganized?
3) perfectionism. what’s the point of cleaning the kitchen if you’re not going to REALLY clean the kitchen?
4) I want to organize the photo books, but I can’t have “internal order” unless I have “external order,” i.e. I can’t focus on organizing the photos until I have a completely organized environment to work in.

All this leads to overwhelm, which leads to being frozen, which leads to anxiety. Honestly, I have beat myself up about all this stuff so much—if only I were more organized and efficient, I could get all this done. But while I still feel a lot of overwhelm and anxiety about this stuff at times, I also have learned, to some degree, to say “c’est la vie.” No one is going to die if I don’t clean the kitchen TODAY. Some day I will either feel like cleaning or it will be necessary (guests coming over or whatever) and I will do it then. Same with the little projects like organizing the photos—some day I know I will just have the urge to do it and I will just do it, and probably hyperfocus on it for days to boot.

I guess I am trying to say that I am trying to learn to do things that are not absolutely critical when I want to do them instead of trying to force myself against my will. To listen to what I am feeling. It is sort of the same way I feel about eating—if you tell yourself you are cutting out sugar completely and you have a real biological craving one day, you’re not going to be able to stop thinking about it and it’s going to make you crazy. On the other hand, if you realize it’s perfectly ok to eat a little sugar when your body is telling you it really wants sugar, then you eat it and forget about it, you feel better, and life goes on.

For a concrete example, all summer I have basically been living out of laundry baskets. The combination of having a very small bedroom with no storage (I have to move my bed to get into the closet) and not having many clothes that fit right and I like to wear but having a ton of clothes that are ten years old and don’t fit but are filling up all the drawers and closet has been driving me nuts for months. I’ve just been wearing the same few outfits every week and I didn’t even know what else I had. I’ve been planning to spend a whole day or weekend really digging into it, really throwing stuff out, trying stuff on, it doesn’t fit donating it, etc. This seemed like a very big, overwhelming task, not to mention depressing because I got out of shape and now can’t fit in all this stuff I’ve wasted money on. Anyway, at like 4pm yesterday, I just sort of wondered into my bedroom and started doing it. I didn’t even really consciously make the decision, I didn’t hyper organize, etc. I just walked in and starting throwing out old underwear and socks. Once I did that, it just flowed from there. All the days I tried to make myself do it, it just caused anxiety. But yesterday I didn’t even think about it and made huge progress. It kind of bugs me that I didn’t finish it completely before I went to bed, but I got so much of it done that’s not bothering me as much as I would expect at all.

Posted by LLB827 on Sep 02, 2014 at 9:13pm

LLB827 you have hit the bull’s eye with me.  For years I have tried to explain to people I am either 150% or nothing.  It does not matter what I am doing.  That sounds crazy to say I am a perfectionist when my house is a disaster and laundry is so far behind but I am in a certain way.  If I cannot have the kitchen 100% clean why even bother loading the dish washer?  If my bedroom is not 100% organized and cleaned why just do one drawer?  I understand the concept of doing one thing will make things alittle better and that my house did not get in a mess over night BUT my mind cannot get itself wrapped around it.  I am going to try to do things that need to be done such as organizing when the mood strikes and perhaps I can program myself to try to keep my house at least half way picked up and cleaned.  I am just tired of beating myself up over this day in and day out.  Some of my friends say their house is in such a mess they cannot stay home—I am just the opposite.  I feel guilty going and doing anything if my house is a mess.  That is not to say that I do anything about the house being messing while I am staying home punishing myself but I am at home.

Posted by Klippy on Sep 03, 2014 at 2:31pm

Hi. We all can empathize with your situation. It’s such a hard part of living with AD/HD. I recently hired one of my super organized friends to come into the house and work with me on four Mondays in a row. We made a list together, first, of the things we were going to do, and then we created a supply list. I can’t tell you how much better my place looks already. I’m so much happier. Most people will do the work with you, if you pay them well to do it. Without money, I would not have found anyone to tackle the job along with me. She planned the entire project. Keeps me working and on-task the entire time. Other than this, the Premack Principle works fairly well for me. I have a rule; no second load of laundry until the first load is washed, dried, and put away. Dishes washed and put away as soon as there are five items in the sink. Toilets washed on Friday. Sheets changed on Saturday. It’s hard to stick to, but when I keep up with it, it’s so worth it. Try, and try again, my fellow AD/HDer. Last thing. A part of my organization plan included getting rid of furniture I did not need. Downsize!!! Regarding my mountain of books—Literally a mountain—I went through them and made piles of keepers and donation items. Then, I googled book donation organizations in my area. I found an organization that came out to the house and took them all away: 10 boxes. Most of these strategies were acquired from asking my organized friends how they run their lives. They all seem to do little things consistently that help to keep their lives and homes in working order. I wish you the very best in your journey. YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!

Posted by Dr. Deana on Sep 05, 2014 at 11:38am

My Best Tip:

Identify 1 (very specific) problem at a time and devise a strategy to fix it.  Stick with strategy until it becomes routine.

For example:  I love cheap jewelry but I would take it off in random places and just leave it lying around, never being able to find what I wanted when I wanted it.  I finally got tired of that and bought one of those bag things with all the pockets.  Now, at the end of the day, when I get home I walk directly to my room and put my jewelry away when I change into my house clothes. 

Initially I challenged myself to do it for 2 weeks because competition fires up our brain, and after that it was a habit.

I’ve also done this with things like mail, shoes, meds, etc.  But the trick is only doing one at a time until it becomes routine and noticing if you start to backslide.

Posted by okiefamily on Sep 05, 2014 at 4:04pm

Wow can I ever relate to this! I used to feel as if I were lying down at the bottom of a mountain, paralyzed. I could write lovely ToDo lists, and make wonderful plans of how I would manage all the stuff, disarray, and papers that filled up every room in my house.

But I just couldn’t force myself to take action.

I’m not like that anymore. Things changed for me, and now I’m mostly organized, and my home is mostly picked up and clean.
Here are some tips of what helped me:
(1) to get some control over my clutter, the very first thing I will do is make a list of very specific things tho do that will make my de cluttering easier. On this list are things like “gather trash bag, recycling bag”. “Pick up clothes on floor and put away”
(2) then I do those things. It always helps get out of the slump if I write a detailed list. 
(3) I carry a little notebook and pen with me always. I read about having a “Capture Pad”, where you either capture the distraction (write it down) and keep on working, or Capture what your next step is with your work, and tend to the distraction instead.
(4) if I don’t know what to do next, I will clear one part of a room. Like, really totally neat and clean. It’s very motivating to SEE a cleaned up space

Posted by MalleyMae on Sep 06, 2014 at 6:41am

Hi Klippy,

I TOTALLY relate to what you are saying, and I am stuck at exactly the same point you are.

I am at a stage where I won’t even LET people help me (which is a shame because a few have offered to) because I am so ashamed of my home!!!

I was wondering if maybe we could help each other out by brainstorming techniques we could use, writing out lists, and then checking in on our progress? Not sure if it would work, but it may be worth trying…

I live in France but I was thinking we could use Skype or such.

Let me know what you think!

All the best,


Posted by catwin on Sep 08, 2014 at 8:35pm

Thank goodness I am not alone!  I can relate in so many ways. 

I have feelings of being overwhelmed by the time the weekend is here because I am unable to tackle tasks during the week so all cleaning and organizing gets pushed to the weekend.  I’ve tried checklists, agendas, to do lists but often don’t know where to start or don’t stick with it.  Or I start and can’t seem to stay on task so by the time I am done cleaning I’m exhausted and grouchy. 

Yesterday I was emotional, grouchy with the kids and just overwhelmed at all that I had to do (and felt guilty about not getting it done).  I decided to run some errands (clearly procrastinating) and started crying because I felt like I am such a failure.  When I came home I told my husband how I was feeling (we’ve only started talking about ADD lately and he had no idea what I deal with in my head on a daily basis).  I explained how I was feeling overwhelmed because I had so much cleaning, laundry, etc. to do.  I also had forgotten to take the meat out of the freezer for supper so it felt like my brain was stuck on what I was supposed to cook and couldn’t plan another meal.  Should I start by cleaning the kitchen and dining room, putting away the groceries and library books or switch the load of laundry? 

My husband stopped the work he was doing outside and helped me come up with a plan.  He said “think of each room as a “box” or “category”.  Start with one “box” (I chose the kitchen).  If you need to move something to the living room (ie. library books) just move it to the living room and go back to the kitchen.  Don’t start putting away the books.  If something has to go upstairs, leave it at the base of the stairs and go back to the kitchen.”  I kept telling him that I have this idea in my head that when organizing I’m not supposed to handle something twice.  He said it may not work in my case because I forget what I was originally doing. I then said when I sweep the kitchen, I end up sweeping the rest of the house because I have the broom out.  He suggested sweeping the kitchen and then leave the broom in the next room that I am to clean.  I tried his suggestions and kept reminding myself that I needed to finish cleaning the kitchen everytime I was distracted.  It helped me so much and I was done in less time than usual. 

I also couldn’t find the time to organize the kids’ drawings/crafts from last school year and it had been piled in the den.  My husband suggested keeping 3-5 things each and toss the rest.  After weeks of seeing the piles of paper, I can now say that the task is done.

I am really excited to continue this way of cleaning and I am hoping that I can stick with it.  It’s nice to know that there isn’t just one way to do something and that as long as we find a way that works for us it’s half the battle.

Posted by eadiec on Sep 21, 2014 at 1:37pm

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