In my 12+ years as a professional organizer, I have come across many couples and families in conflict over clutter, failing organizing systems and productivity concerns when one person has ADHD and the other(s) do not. I often get called in to “fix” the person with ADHD and it takes a lot of empathy, support, and education to get partners and families to understand the different approaches and accommodations required for long term organizing success.
Here are my top five tips for organizing success and minimized conflict:
Recognize that having ADHD doesn’t make your loved one lazy. This is a tough one to truly accept, because it can be frustrating when seemingly simple tasks and appointments are forgotten, projects are overlooked, or focus seems to be on the “wrong” things. Individuals struggling with executive function challenges aren’t intentionally running late or being forgetful; and placing blame or adding to anyone’s own internal sense of guilt and shame causes more harm and doesn’t help bring about change.
Be open to compromise. Chances are, the partner with ADHD has very different organizing needs than the partner without. It may not be possible to put everything away behind closed closet doors or into drawers, for example, if “out of sight” means “out of mind” for your family member. Creating systems that work for everyone will involve some give and take. Maybe some easy-to-access hooks are the answer, with a commitment from everyone to keep things off the floor. Or perhaps a high profile spot on the counter needs to be designated as a “drop zone” to keep things from collecting all over the place.
Create a support system and delegate tasks that aren’t getting done. If conflict is significant, make sure you engage the services of a professional therapist or coach to help resolve underlying issues. If regular tasks are at the root of the problem, and they can be delegated to a house cleaner, landscaper, handyman, bookkeeper, etc., then go for it. Having a house cleaner come every other week has eliminated an enormous amount of conflict in my home!
Assist your partner with organizing maintenance. Practice organizing spaces together to help keep your loved one focused on the task at hand. Body doubling is a powerful strategy to help keep others grounded and present. Fold laundry or pay the bills while your partner clears off their desk. It will make the task more fun and manageable.
Embrace the benefits. Is your ADHD partner entrepreneurial? Creative? Spontaneous? Could you benefit from a break in routine? Try going along for the ride once in a while and enjoy the energy and fun that often comes with an ADHD brain.