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Getting Organized: A Challenge for Those with ADHD

There is no bigger challenge for someone with ADHD than to get organized. And I mean truly organized — not just stuff in piles that you can’t find. It seems that every time I try to create lists in neat fashions or take a room apart and put it back together so I can find things, I am losing the lists and get overwhelmed with the next room. It is a constant challenge.

There are a number things that I have found to be very, very helpful with this. These strategies have saved me a lot of time and energy, and I would like to share with others out there who struggle with ADHD:

1. Create lists — and keep them all in one tablet of paper. If you can imagine my desk, with sticky pads everywhere, notes, to do lists, things on the back of envelopes, writings on receipt pads, etc., you can understand how this can easily get out of control.

Imagine a cluttered mind going to sit down at a desk to do great work. How in the world will it happen if there is more clutter everywhere? It confuses and complicates everything.

Now check out this photo:

Better? You can feel the brain calm down a bit. Relax. Even as you just look at it. Imagine what it is like to have a brain that is already working overtime, and then piling this on top of it?

For 12 specific tips on getting your desk organized and knowing what to add to your list, check out this link.

Tip: For those of you that have someone you love with ADHD, try helping them learn better ways of organization instead of getting mad of them! It will save you both a ton of stress and aggravation.

From cleaning your desk to cleaning your house to cleaning your life, write it down, break it up.  For suggestions on how to make great lists check Solution Watch’s review of online to do lists.

I don’t use any of the specific services mentioned there, but I do use Microsoft Project at work. I think I will try out Remember the Milk for my personal life and give it a review myself. Tell me what you think!

2. Create specific ‘homes’ for things you use everyday. I can’t tell you how much time I have saved myself by keeping the keys right inside the door in a little bowl. This may seem silly, but truly it has saved I am sure hours and hours of time and frustration. If I forget to do this at others’ houses when I travel, it is almost guaranteed I will spend some time looking for keys.

3. Get rid of clutter. This is so hard. We all like our ‘things’ around the house, but it can really start to mess up and disorganize our brains as well.

We don’t ‘need’ all the things we have; we really don’t. So if you start to feel overwhelmed and don’t know why, look around and see if what you see is calming or annoying / stressful.

I tend to clean out my house at least a few times a year – giving tons of clothes to charity, knickknacks I don’t like to friends as little thank you gifts (obviously in good condition and something they would like), and other odds and ends to those less fortunate. I find I get way more back in return, including peace of mind and a much easier time getting things done and feeling motivated / able to do so.

4. Lastly, always chunk it down. Take one step at a time. It is easy to walk in a room and feel overwhelmed, especially when you have been neglecting it for a while.

There is an almost immediate ‘fear’ or ‘dread’ that we can’t do it, it is too much. Try to take a minute and let that fear go through you, and then do one thing. That is all — one thing that brings you one step closer to that goal.

And do only one more thing when you feel you can / you are ready. You will start to understand that you can do one thing, and you can continue to do one thing, and before you know it the project is complete.

Good luck getting organized! Share your strategies here. I’m off to do some spring cleaning.

Getting Organized: A Challenge for Those with ADHD

Kathryn Goetzke

I own a company called the Mood-factory (, a company that creates products based on how sensory experiences effect moods. I also run a nonprofit for depressio, iFred (, we are working to change the brand of depression. And yes, I have ADHD, along with PTSD, major depressive disorder, and a host of other challenges, opportunities, and gifts.

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APA Reference
Goetzke, K. (2010). Getting Organized: A Challenge for Those with ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Feb 2010
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