The Mess and Stress of Having ADHD

Verbal Diarrhoea
A series about combating the most common traits of ADHD with effective coping strategies and learning to thrive in our own and in our own time.
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Mess is stress and stress is mess! That’s the true story of life for an ADHDer! We aren’t naturally tidy or organised; our thoughts are too chaotic, but that doesn’t stop us getting upset about it or decrease the frustration for the people who live with us or work with us.

So what can we do? Our thoughts are always going to be chaotic. Of course, medication might have an impact on this particular aspect, but what about those of us who are unmedicated or still have chaotic thoughts even while on medication. Well again, it’s all about having effective coping strategies.

“Don’t let mess or stress rule your life; time is too short and you are too precious.”


Ok, I hear you; you are probably sick of me mentioning the words effective coping strategies by now, but the truth is, everybody needs coping strategies whether they have ADHD and not. The more difficult thing is realising that not every coping strategy works for every person. The great thing about ADHD is that there seems to be some particular coping strategies that work for the majority because of the way our brains operate.

For mess, it’s difficult because we tend to avoid the things that are a source of stress for us, but then they also cause us stress because we’re forced to see it every day. It’s a never-ending cycle. So, what can we do to make things easier while still be kind to ourselves?

Well first things first, because we tend to see the bigger picture instead of the little things, we tend to get overwhelmed incredibly easy. Being able to see the bigger picture can be great in some areas, but stinks when it comes to things like cleaning or dealing with mess. So breaking things down into do-able non-overwhelming tasks can have a huge impact on coping with this.

Let me give you an example; laundry is something that drives me insane. When it used to be just me, it wasn’t too bad, but now I have too foster children, I need to make sure they have clean uniform every week. One day last summer, I was about to be the washing in the dryer when I noticed it was really sunny and became really torn; did I go for the easy route and shove it in the dryer still or did I hang it up? I was leaning towards the first options because it was less hassle as the amount of washing was huge.

“Doing the laundry is a massive source of stress for me, but I try to make it more managable through simple tricks.”

~ADHD Girl

I decided to compromise with myself; I thought I’ll just put a few on the line to make the load lighter and put the rest in the dryer. So, leaving the basket where it was I went and put a few on the line, then when I came back I put a few more, then a few more. Before I knew it the basket of clothes were all on the line and I felt like a bit of idiot because I could have just made it easier on myself and took the basket of clothes with me outside all along.

I used that example to say this; sometimes we need to take the longer route; it might mean it takes us longer or sometimes is a little illogical, but if we get it done in a way that’s less stressful for us then what’s the problem? It’s the same with mess, instead of saying “Ok, I really need to do the whole bedroom, because it’s a mess and I can’t see the floor.” Change it to “Ok, today I’m going to pick 5 items from the floor and put them in their place.” Who knows? after you’ve done that you might feel like doing more, but if you don’t that’s ok, just do some the next day. Eventually by the end of the week, the mess is gone, and you haven’t got yourself stressed out trying to deal with it.

The next way of coping sounds simple, but it can save a lot of time and I think I’ve mentioned this in a previous article but making sure everything has a place is essential to less mess. If it doesn’t have a place then either get it a place or throw it away. Since having foster children, I’ve invested in a few different storage strategies to help me and them. Simple things that in the long run have made life a lot easier. Things such as a key holder with tray storage on top of it (otherwise I’m constantly losing keys, it also helps me to keep the children’s picture books and communication books in a place where we can find them). Also, the children have hooks at their level by the door for their school bags and a box in front of this for their bike helmets, elbow pads and knee pads. If there is something I really don’t know what to do with, I look online for storage solutions.

“Having friends who help us cope with our messiness is a huge bonus. My best friend loves to help me tidy, which is so weird, but I’m not going to say no. One night she babysat and when the kids had gone to bed she cleaned my living room; coming home to it was such a lovely surprise plus she never judges me for my mess.”

~ADHD Girl

Also, speaking of everything have it’s place let’s go back to laundry for a minute; I absolutely hate folding with a passion. It’s the most mediocre boring task which I can’t do completely right due to my dyspraxia and the lack of ability to fold correctly. Yet, I can’t really avoid it as much as I would like to. So, to encourage myself to do it then as soon as I take it off the line or out of the dryer, I dump it on the dining room table. This means it’s not something I can forget about as it’s where we eat meals, and no one wants to eat with their socks on the table next to them. Sometimes, I’ll put music on or the other night because I really wasn’t in the mood I folded it while I was watching a movie with the children. I’m still working on the hanging of clothes; but I tend to do this while the children are brushing their teeth or getting in their pyjamas so I’m upstairs with them but doing what needs to be done.

Another thing that I have found very effective in the past is having an accountability partner, particularly if you live alone. One time my friend and I were complaining to each other how bad our mess had become. He said to me “I have an idea, why don’t we send each other pictures of the mess, then set a timer and see how much we can get done in 30 minutes.” Not only did it turn the process in to a fun challenge, but it also made me feel like I wasn’t alone in it. That someone else struggled too, and even though we were miles apart (my friend lives in America) we could still help each other to be responsible.

Dealing with mess as an ADHDer sure isn’t easy because we tend to opt for short term happiness over long-term outcomes. In other words, we live in the moment. However, if we can ensure that we are still happy in the short term while benefiting ourselves in the long run; it’s a win win situation and I don’t know about you guys, but the older I get the more I want the easy life.  


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