I don’t know anyone, ADHD or otherwise, who hasn’t had some difficulty in learning household maintenance. Cleaning does not come easily to everyone, and can be especially challenging to those of us with ADHD! What can seem like a simple job to one person can seem like an overwhelming series of complicated tasks to us, and knowing where to start can be the hardest part!
The following tips represent what I have learned over the years about ADHD household maintenance made easy. The trick is to make cleaning simple and easy and to incentivize the tasks. Let me know how these work for you:
1. Make it convenient.
I don’t know about you, but when I notice a dirty bathroom sink or a mess on the floor but getting the items I need to clean it up requires making a trip downstairs, my next thought is, “I should definitely clean that up… later!” It’s already too temptingly easy to avoid housework. Remove this excuse by keeping everything you need to tidy an area right there. I have also found that easy-to-use products are much more likely to be used by reluctant helpers (and myself).
Keep a supply of one-step cleaners like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and Glass Wipes in various obvious locations in your home. You can also save time (and money!) with generic “Magic Erasers” (i.e. melamine foam ), available in bulk on Amazon. They work wonders on walls, tiles, cabinets doors, windowsills… almost everywhere!
In each under-sink cabinet in our house, I keep disinfecting surface wipes, glass wipes, a scrubbing sponge, no-scrub bath and shower cleaner, a small (but cute enough to display) brush/duster and pan, and small (smell-good) trash bags. This way, everything necessary to tidy most spaces is kept within reach and can be easily grabbed with a cleaning caddy under each sink. No excuses!
Low on space? I keep two Command Broom and Mop Hangars mounted inside a closet, hiding my broom and my 10-inch microfiber mop (with machine washable mop heads). Next to these is my wall-mounted Dyson Animal Stick Vacuum. This is, hands-down, the best vacuum I’ve ever owned. It charges while mounted on the wall, and its so lightweight that I can grab it from its dock with one-hand to clean up messes in a cinch, without any cords. Plus, the filter is washable. I love it!
2. Make it automatic.
This is NOT a lecture about cleaning regularly. We all know we should probably clean regularly, but I’ve never had much luck with schedules! I have also never been able to stay on top of my shopping, and when I did want to clean, I often didn’t even have the necessary supplies! My life got quite a bit easier when I discovered Amazon Subscribe & Save. This feature allows me to set up automatically recurring shipments for a lot of our household goods. Now I don’t have waste my brain space remembering to buy most stuff! Most of the stuff we need for lunchboxes, our household supplies like toiletries and kitchen supplies, and even much of our regular pantry stock is on a set schedule. I can order three cereal boxes a month, but dishwasher rinse-aid once every two months, for example. Whatever is due for ‘refill’ appears in a single monthly delivery. Genius!
Subscribe and Save has been a HUGE help because, after only one session setting it up online, it was done. Once a month, I get an email from Amazon reminding me of what is set to be shipped; at that point, I can alter the order if, say, I realize that I don’t more need more olive oil or shampoo yet. I can also easily adjust the frequency of one or two items. After a while, everything is synced up perfectly. PLUS, you get big discounts because, in addition to the cost-saving for buying with Amazon and buying in bulk, you can use instant coupons on Amazon with a single click (no clipping!), AND the more items you have in your monthly subscription delivery, the more you save (15% of your entire shipment with at least three items)!
Finally, Amazon Dash buttons can be a life saver. Amazon will send you a button for you favorite products, and when you run low, you just press the button. A wifi signal is sent and an order is placed for a refill. Two days later, your product arrives, just in time! The buttons are $4.99 each, but you get a $4.99 discount on your first order of each product, so they are effectively free to use (and you get free two-day shipping, of course!).
Join Amazon Family with a 30-Day Free Trial to take advantage of Prime benefits like Subscribe and Save, 20% off on diapers subscriptions, exclusive coupons and deals for Amazon Family members, unlimited instant streaming of thousands of movies, TV shows, and millions of songs, and FREE 2-day shipping.
(I don’t work for Amazon, but I should!)
3. Keep it simple.
To hear my kids, you’d think they don’t know how to clean. In fairness, when I was a kid, I also felt lost when I was asked to clean a room or do any task that involved more than one step. If your kids have ADHD, they likely have certain executive functioning deficits that actually make these tasks more difficult than for other children. Troubles with working memory, planning, prioritization, and organization mean that you won’t get good results with just suggesting they “clean the bathroom.” Instead, break it down.
In our house, I keep a simple, chronological list of the steps it takes to clean each area. This is posted on the inside of the under-sink cabinet door in the bathroom, right next to the cleaning caddy. Another list is in the kitchen, near the kitchen sink. There is another list in each of the kids’ bedrooms. And yup, we have one in the dining and living areas, too.
These lists are helpful for spouses and significant others, too! We don’t all grow up knowing how to clean! Creating a list with easy-to-follow steps visually breaks down what can seem like a big task into much smaller, less intimidating jobs. You may get much better results from everyone in the family this way!
- Download my Cleaning Lists as a PDF and print them to use in your home or use them as a basis to create your own lists! They can also be laminated to allow kids to write on them and mark off tasks as they complete them. These lists are made to be pretty simple so they don’t seem overwhelming for kids, but please feel free edit them as needed.
Another difficulty in getting kids to help is that cleaning isn’t fun or interesting! Add to that the issue that ADHD kids and adults both have problems with task initiation and motivation! Russel Barkley, Ph.D. has written that internal forms of motivation are often weak in ADHD individuals – but this is exactly the executive function necessary for sustaining goal-directed behavior like completing assignments or cleaning one’s living space! For adults and children with ADHD, external sources of motivation are more effective as reinforcement.
Identify what motivates your kids. For some families, and depending on the age of the kids, allowance for chores may be appropriate. In my house, I trade tokens for screen time when the kids do housework. Each token earned is worth 35 minutes of screen time for TV or gaming, and despite some occasional grumbles about it, this system has got my seven-year-old scrubbing the bathroom without me even asking! You might reward your kids with another special privilege or quality time doing a favorite activity of theirs. Get creative!
5. Set Yourself Up For Success
Protect your furniture, drapes, and carpeting from damage by applying Scotchguard for fabric and for rugs and carpet. This spray forms a clean and microscopic, but effective barrier that repels spills and makes for a much easier cleanup! It can be used on most fabrics and materials and protects everything from shoes and rugs to sofas!
Plan ahead and set up collection spots where “stuff” tends to accumulate: Make sure you have a laundry basket in every bathroom and bedroom of the house. I suggest a folding upright basket because they take up less floor space and can be stowed easily. Don’t allow laundry to collect on the floor (especially if you have pets!). You can even try a new rule: Laundry that must be picked up from the floor will not be returned for a few weeks. This will make you unpopular at first, but it will be effective (or save you the energy of washing so much laundry, at the very least!).
Keep a toy bin for each child downstairs. When we tidy up, the kids must put their toys, books, and small items in their own bin. It’s their responsibility to carry it up and put that stuff away and bring the bin back down. I threaten that I’ll start throwing things away if I run out of room in their bins (or they don’t bring the bin back), but this hasn’t happened yet. (In reality, I’d probably hide it in the basement for a month or two.) Other than what fits in the bins, the kids’ toys belong in their rooms and are not stored/put away downstairs. The exception is one shelf of board games that we keep in the dining room. This general rule makes a huge difference in how easy it is to keep our space clean!
6. Avoid overwhelm by minimizing
The last tip is to prevent creating overwhelming situations for yourself and the family by minimizing. Nothing makes me feel so crazy and stressed as when the kitchen is scattered with dirty dishes, the bathroom floor is covered in piles of discarded clothes, the living room is full of game pieces and miscellaneous toys and books, and “clean” laundry waits in a pile on the sofa. (Not that this is ever the situation! Bwhahaha!)
Don’t let this happen! Your environment has a major effect on your mood. Being surrounded by chaos like this will send you in a downward spiral, making you feel less and less motivated. Then the problem will get worse until you finally snap and clean like an angry, possessed person! (Not that I’ve ever done that!)
Try having fewer clothes in circulation. Weed through and get rid of what you don’t really LOVE to wear! If you really want to get radical, have fewer dishes in use. Kids will use every dish in the house before they will bother washing one. But if there are only a half dozen plates, bowls, and cups… well, there will be a lot less to wash and people are forced to start taking responsibility for cleaning things to use. Not only do we not own many dishes, but we buy ours at Goodwill. That way, it’s no big deal if something gets broken when kids are learning to wash! 🙂
The final minimizing tip: start “tossing” instead of “organizing.” You can spend as much time and money as you like rearranging all your stuff, but the best way to make your house easier to keep clean is to own less stuff! When you walk around tidying, consider throwing things away before you put them away. I’m amazed at how much stuff I try to find a “home” for without thinking “do I really want to keep this junk?” Papers, small tokens, toys from fast food restaurants… all into the recycling bins! It will free you.
So get started! And let me know how these suggestions work for you!
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