Unfortunately, disorganization is a common symptom of ADHD. It’s almost as though the jumbled thoughts and distractions in your head end up reflected in your physical environment. But the good news is that there are a number of ideas and tips you can turn to when you need to reign in the mess. Check out this guide covering the connection between ADHD and disorganization and what you can do to stay on top of things in the future.

Disorganization as an ADHD Symptom

Why is disorganization a common element of ADHD? One of the primary reasons that people with ADHD struggle to stay organized is impairments to their working memory, which is an executive function affecting the part of short-term memory that retains recent information. It’s like a mental notepad where we jot down the details we need to remember for the near future, like a shopping list for the grocery store or the rules of a game about to be played.

Because people with ADHD often have working memory deficits, they struggle with things like following directions. Even though they just heard the step-by-step instructions, they have trouble remembering them. It’s like they have less room on their mental notepad, so things are sometimes forgotten quickly.

The same working memory issues can affect someone’s ability to stay organized. A person with ADHD might set down their keys, then quickly forget where they placed them, or fail to remember which five items were on their shopping list when they go to the store.

Distractibility is another ADHD symptom which can contribute to disorganization. For instance, some folks with ADHD may start projects but then lose interest partway through, leaving behind a bit of a mess with half-completed components.

How to Organize More Effectively with ADHD

Not all people with ADHD have trouble with disorganization. But if you’re one of the many who do, there are a number of strategies you can implement to get more organized in your day-to-day life. Here are some of the top tips for adults with ADHD who struggle in this area.

Create a launch pad

Starting with the basics is a good way to begin your organizing journey. Think about the things you need to have every time you leave your home: glasses, wallet, keys, etc. Create a “launch pad” near your entryway where you can keep these items, like a basket or bowl on a console table. Every time you come home, the items should be returned to this location. This makes it easy to keep track of your essentials.

Organize in small spurts

The task of organizing a whole room can be daunting, especially if you struggle with distractibility. Start by organizing one corner or area of a room at a time. Breaking the project into smaller tasks can help you stay motivated and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Another option is to set a timer for 15 minutes and take breaks in between organizing sessions.

Declutter your space

Having lots of unnecessary items around the house creates more of a mess and makes it harder to locate the things you need. Take time to go through your belongings and declutter by deciding which items to keep, donate, or throw away. The less “stuff” you have to deal with, the easier it is to stay organized.

Set reminders

ADHD issues with working memory can make it harder to keep on top of things, so use reminders on your computer or phone to stay on track. For example, paper bills might get lost in the shuffle with other documents, but if you set a monthly reminder to pay for rent, utilities, and other necessities, you’ll be less likely to forget about them. You can use the same method to remember things like deadlines, meetings, and social activities.

Find the right treatment plan

One of the best ways to address disorganization is to find an ADHD treatment plan that works for you. The right medication can help you manage your symptoms more effectively so tasks like organizing and planning aren’t as challenging. In addition, consider participating in cognitive behavioral therapy or working with an ADHD coach to strengthen your organizational skills.