Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on
July 31, 2021
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on:

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The following article discusses the difficulties of being messy and disorganized. It also provides you tips for handling messiness. 

Being a little bit of a slob might not be bad if you’re just an average Joe, but your boss likely won’t be happy with his office looking like a bomb went off in there. If you have ADHD or are neurotypical and find yourself constantly forgetting where things are, this article may help!

Why do people with ADHD struggle with disorganization?

Some theorists are convinced that the symptoms of ADHD are caused by a difference in executive functions.

People with ADHD might have weaker executive or frontal skills than neurotypical people.

Executive functions are located in the frontal lobe. They generally help us get organized with our time, our life and help us to be logical machines. 

Lower level executive functions are:

  • inhibition
  • working memory
  • cognitive flexibility

Higher-level executive functions are:

  • planning
  • reasoning
  • problem-solving
  • cognitive and stimulus control

If executive functioning is impaired, that might lead to some troubles with organisation and motivation. Not only is it difficult to control your impulses and more difficult to not procrastinate. It is also an explanation of why you might be disorganized.

How to organize my house with ADHD?

If you seem to always lose your keys, sunglasses or wallet, then this is the article for you. Applying the following tips will make your life easier:

Everything in their spot

When you have ADHD or are a messy person, it can be difficult to find your stuff. People keep saying to look in the last place you saw it. Your messy brain however does not remember that. 

Putting things in their own place is a real strategy. Keys, sunglasses and wallets should have a place by the door, this way you won’t forget them. Make it a routine to first put those things there before doing anything else.

Organize it or put it in the trash

You might have a big house and no room to walk anymore. Or maybe you have a closet full of clothes and still nothing to wear. The essential mess and nostalgic items seem to pile up.

Saying goodbye to those things is not easy, however it will help you clean the clutter. The less clutter in your house, the less clutter in your head.

Having so much stuff can become overwhelming, especially for someone with ADHD. Make it a rule, if you haven’t touched or used it in 6 months it is time to bin or donate it.

In sight, in the mind

If you have trouble remembering where things are, then putting them in their place is a first step. Making them as easy to notice and impossible to ignore, is a second strategy that you should implement. 

You can do this with your keys, maybe having a hook by the door on eye level will do the trick for you. However you can use this for other stuff as well. 

Organize your kitchen in glass wear, so you can see where it is. This way you will not have to open every jar in every cupboard. Organize your stuff per category. Nuts, raisins and dry snacks can be put in one cupboard, the other side of the kitchen can contain rice, pasta and all those tasty carbs you use. 

If you still have trouble remembering, use lists or apps with what needs t be done weekly or daily. Use symbols on your drawers so your kids and husband also know where to leave the stuff. 

How to organize my time?

Troubles with time management are a symptom of ADHD. To help you manage this, there are some tricks.

Use a planner

Use a planner to keep an overview of what is needed when. Note down all the tasks that you need to do on a list. When it is on the list, it does not need to be in your mind, leaving you with more mental space to work on what is important.

You don’t need to plan everything on the list in your day, be realistic. Rome is not built in a day, if they could have that patience, so can you.

Use time blocking

Using time blocking can help you to stay organized. If you use a google calendar you can maintain visual cues to work on a certain task.

Plan your breaks

Plan in your breaks as well. If they are social media breaks, use apps or timers to stop yourself from mindless scrolling. Turn off the wifi or notifications during your productivity tasks, as to not get distracted or sucked in the stream.

Taking breaks is a form of selfcare. If you need to, you should also plan selfcare. Selfcare is shown to lower stress and boost productivity.

Plan for travel time or unexpected events

Travel time can easily take an hour to two hours of your day if you are unlucky. Further, you never know when a surprise, unexpected activity or accident can pop up.

Use a visual or auditory cue to know how much time passed. 

Make a plan for your day, and attach tasks to those time slots. Stick to the plan and plan the tasks you usually procrastinate as well.

When planning time slots, plan per priority, not per interest (or how big or small the task is). Not planning these things will lead to procrastination and the consequences like fines for paying your bills too late. 

Not only will it help you get more organized, it can also help your hyperfocus. With hyperfocus you tend to forget how much time passed by, an alarm can be a solution.

Use this trick to schedule decision-making as well. When you need to make a decision, plan a timeframe in which you should make it.

You will notice your productivity going up and your stress going down. 

Plan around your natural timeline

Everyone has hours in a day in which they are more productive. For many people this is the beginning of the day. Plan the tasks that way so that you use those hours to your advantage. 

Keep your eye on the prize

Keeping your motivation high for tasks that don’t have a direct impact is not easy. Make your life easier by breaking down these objectives in smaller goals and remembering the why. 

Remembering the why. Remember the negative feelings that come with procrastinating. These could maybe motivate you to do those big tasks earlier than later. 

How to organize my tasks? 

Get a routine

A weekly and daily routine can keep the clutter down. Everyone needs to clean their house and might need to clean the dishes. 

Set a moment in a day aside to wash your clothes and declutter the house. If you have the possibility, outsource the work you can. Maybe a cleaning lady can make your life easier. A dishwasher can also solve your big problem of doing the dishes every day.

Use SMART goals

Divide your big chunks in smaller chunks. SMART goals can help you with that.

SMART is an acronym for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Imagine your goal is starting a t-shirt business. You can make that goal SMART by 

  • Setting up a Shopify website with three t-shirt designs.
  • This is achievable and realistic. You can make it timely by saying you want to do all that by the last day of the month, by 10 am. 

Focus on your priorities

When putting your SMART goals in place, it is also the moment to take a look at what is priority for you, and for the law. Some deadlines are set for you, like when to file your taxes. 

Although these things are horrible and might just not motivate you, they should be part of the list.

How to prevent my mess?

If the tips above are not enough for you, then there might be other things to try.

Embrace the mess

Embracing that you are messy is sometimes easier than fighting it. That does not mean that you should just let the mess accumulate.

It can however be an organized mess. Assign a space for your messes. 

Every mess has a category that you might not want to go through and we understand that. Get yourself some baskets or maybe some small boxes. Collect the papers in one box and the other mess in another space. Go through that on sunday. You don’t have to be the person with the most order in the world, however it can help by not being overwhelmed every day. 

Tackle three at a time

Make a top three of outcomes you want in a day, a week or a month. Instead of focusing on solely, you will tackle these problems one by one without having the pressure of certain activities.

Sometimes the SMART goals can be overwhelming as they can feel very big. OKR frameworks can help you focus on the achievements and the outcomes instead of being overwhelmed by the big tasks. 

OKR stands for objective and key results. Following this theory, you should define an objective, or clearly defined goal. Taking the same objective as before, that should be the webshop with t-shirts. The key results could be:

  • designing two t-shirts
  • an amount of profit
  • an amount of clients.

This framework measures success by a rate of 70%, that means there is no room for perfectionism here.

When to seek help for being so disorganized?

When you can’t see through the mess anymore and your daily life is impacted, you might want to ask for help. 

If you are paralyzed by the stress and panic that comes with not being organized anymore, then these small changes might not help anymore. You can hire professional cleaners or organizers to set a system in place that works for you.

Further, a virtual assistant or bookkeeper can take over those things that you don’t like to do.  Lastly, if you are messy because of your ADHD and you don’t get treatment yet (medication and/or therapy). The panic you are feeling might be a good sign to take steps in that direction.

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