Why Is It Hard to Clean with ADHD?

It’s no small feat to keep a home clean. Every room requires multiple tasks, especially if you’re aiming for a deep clean. For a neurotypical person, that might be seen as a time-consuming annoyance. But for an individual with ADHD, it can feel like an insurmountable feat.

One of the main contributors to this feeling is the fact that executive functions like planning, focus, self-control, and memory don’t come as easily to someone with ADHD. Here are some examples of how that plays out.

It’s hard to get motivated

People with ADHD may end up procrastinating when it comes to cleaning because they have a harder time getting motivated for dull tasks like cleaning.

You’re never really done

Cleaning is something that you’re never able to truly finish — eventually, you’ll have to do it all over again. That can limit the amount of satisfaction you feel after completing a task.

Multi-step tasks are tough

Following detailed directions can be difficult for ADHDers due to working memory issues. They may struggle to remember all the steps they need to complete for some cleaning tasks.

There are lots of potential distractions

It’s very easy to get distracted while cleaning. Someone with ADHD might go to put something away in another room, then end up staying there and forgetting about the cleaning task they were doing beforehand.

How Cleaning Helps with ADHD

Cleaning seems like such a simple thing, right? It’s something we’ve been taught to do from a young age, yet even neurotypical adults can struggle with it. The problem is that activities like scrubbing down surfaces, doing the laundry, and vacuuming rugs and carpets feel like chores. The act of cleaning is seen as something that sucks up our free time.

While that may be true in some senses, cleaning also has a number of positive impacts on our lives. It’s not just about the pressure to have a tidy home. Cleaning is really about our quality of life. The following are some of the key benefits of cleaning that someone with ADHD can experience:

  • Fewer distractions: Cleaning (especially decluttering) can minimize distractions, allowing for better focus on other tasks, interests, and activities.
  • Less stress: Messy spaces can increase stress and anxiety. The repetitive and mindless actions required for cleaning may have a calming effect.
  • Happier relationships: Taking on cleaning responsibilities at home can help to improve relationships with family members or roommates.
  • Healthier environment: Keeping a clean home can alleviate allergies and deter pests. Some studies have found that a clean bedroom with fresh sheets can improve sleep quality.

Tips for ADHD Cleaning

The benefits of cleaning are well worth the challenges you might have to overcome to do it. For those with ADHD, it can help to practice some of the following strategies for being more productive when it comes to home cleanliness.

Incorporate it into your routine

Habit stacking can be a great way to get better at keeping your home clean. Add a small cleaning task to something that’s already part of your routine, and over time, it will become second nature. For example, you could put away clean dishes while your morning coffee brews or devote five minutes to tidying up each day when you get home from work.

Don’t aim for perfection

Some people with ADHD are prone to perfectionism. This can actually be a deterrent for cleaning since it can make someone avoid a task unless they can do it flawlessly. Try to remember that cleaning is more of an ongoing responsibility than a task that can be completed to perfection, so doing some is better than doing nothing at all.

Do a little at a time

To make cleaning feel more manageable, try breaking tasks into smaller chunks. This can help someone with ADHD who has trouble knowing where to start or forgetting which tasks need to be completed. For instance, you could break down the task of cleaning the bathroom into wiping down the sink, cleaning the mirror, scrubbing the toilet, etc. Write down each of the smaller tasks, and mark them off as you complete them. If you need a break partway through, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off.

Plan ahead for distractions

ADHD can make it harder to focus on uninteresting activities like cleaning, so make a plan to stay on task when distractions arise. If you feel your attention slipping, for example, you can have a notebook handy to jot down the idea so you can return to it later. This can help you sustain your attention on cleaning rather than getting sidetracked by a random thought.

Make it fun

ADHD brains crave stimulation, which makes it harder to deal with boredom. Cleaning is generally very mundane and repetitive, so it helps to come up with some ways to make it more interesting or even fun. For example, you could play upbeat music or listen to a podcast to keep your mind stimulated. You can also turn it into a game, like racing to see how much you can get done in a 10-minute period.

ADHD Treatment and Productivity

While the tips listed above can be very useful for someone with ADHD, the first priority should be finding an effective treatment plan. If you’re dealing with ADHD and want to be more productive with cleaning, cooking, work, and other everyday responsibilities, talk to your healthcare provider about your ADHD treatment options. At Done, our team of licensed clinicians can help you find the best medication to make your symptoms more manageable.