Updated: Apr 17, 2022
Our routines slip, and suddenly we have an epic mess we think we'll never get out of. Ever again. Is your ADHD household drowning in chaos time and time again?
And you're drowning in shame? Welcome to the club. We can’t have people over because they could see our mess, and we can’t let that happen, right? So we sit at home alone, distracting ourselves with video games while playing the shame record over and over in our heads.
Read on to discover manageable tips that will help combat the chaos that seems to haunt so many of our ADHD rooms, apartments, houses, or whichever place we're lucky enough to call home. And, most importantly, how to handle the shame our recurrent mess is causing us, as feeling ashamed about being "messy" can completely block us.
stop trying to be consistent
People with ADHD are consistently inconsistent. This is why, no matter how hard we try, we'll slip once in a while. Inconsistency is like gravity with ADHD. A given. And you're not wasting any energy fighting gravity.
So stop expecting yourself to be consistent. Instead, keep working on your map from this post, so it's easier to get back into your routines when you inevitably fall.
stop shaming yourself
Are you still shaming yourself in a perverse attempt to motivate yourself? As I've said in this post (about how shaming yourself kills your motivation and what to do instead), when has that ever worked? Stop treating yourself poorly and work on speaking to yourself kindly.
Now, what can you do to solve the problem at hand and get rid of your epic mess?
Weird, but potent tip: Enlist a fellow ADHDer and ask them to maybe come by your home
Do you have a fellow ADHDer who lives close enough that they could - theoretically - come over? Enlist their help. Ask them to make a date to visit you. And tell them right from the start that they don’t actually have to come over; they can cancel the date at the last moment.
What is important is that you can trick yourself into thinking that they might actually show up. Because you do have a date, right? And you wouldn't want them to see your mess, so you'll most likely suddenly have the motivation to tackle the previously insurmountable task.
I’ve found this to work like a charm, even when I knew perfectly well my date was never going to show up. Because potentially, they might.
This trick works because we can turn our people-pleasing trait, which is common with ADHD, into a brain hack that actually helps.
More tips on how others can help you beat household Mess
Are there household tasks that seem to get out of control particularly easily? Can you perhaps trade them off with someone else (e.g., someone with ADHD who doesn't live with you)? As I've said before, we often find it easier to do things for other people than for ourselves, and you can take advantage of that.
Or could you meet online with someone with ADHD or if you know English through the Focusmate platform? Or can someone who understands ADHD come over to your house and just do their own thing while you tackle the housework that's been bugging you? The important thing is that you don't ask for help from people who don't understand ADHD and shame you or expect consistency from you.
With supportive, non-judgmental people by (and on) our side, so many things are so much more manageable.
Don't skip this tip: Find your own standard of what counts as an "orderly home"
This is a bit of a touchy subject, but how do you define chaos and order in the home? Is it by your standard and by a mutually agreed-upon community standard with the people you live with?
Or have you unwittingly adopted the standard from your childhood home, even though it doesn't suit you at all?
Or are you, for example, still unconsciously rebelling against the standard from your parents' house, even though you haven't lived with your parents for a long time? Or from other people you grew up with? Or an ex-partner? Or a former roommate?
It's really worth finding out which level of order or chaos YOU're most comfortable with. This way you won't fall into the trap of - for example - conforming to or rebelling against the standards of your life partner or roommate. Unexamined standards often lead to quarrels or being passive-aggressive, which can strain relationships in no time.
Invest some thought and find your standards instead. If you live with others, you now have the basis for finding a thoughtful, common standard and incorporating and advocating for the necessary ADHD flexibility.
Try the tips and let us know in the comments what works for you against ADHD chaos in your home. Or write me if you don't want to out yourself here and I'll anonymously add your tip to the blog post. Thank you so much!
I would also like to highly recommend these videos from a therapist who has ADHD herself. They've helped me a lot.
Focusmate is an English language platform for working together in silence via video call with others. Many people with ADHD, including me, find it very helpful. I have no financial interest in promoting Focusmate, I simply find the platform beneficial and easy to use.