4 Keys to Stay Organized at Home with ADD

Tips for Organizing the ADD Household

calendar on refrigerator
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For many people, routines are simply an integral part of the day, often performed mechanically and without much thought. Individuals with ADHD don’t have these automatic routines. Each day is a new experience for those with ADHD. Organizing a household can help a person with ADD or ADHD function more effectively from day to day. It can also help relieve some of the responsibilities that family members without ADD/ADHD take on.

David W. Goodman, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, provides some ideas on how you can better organize your home if someone you love has ADD/ADHD.

Create a Central Calendar for Everyone in Your Home

A central calendar organizes all of the information for the household in one location. Social engagements, doctor appointments, school events, birthdays -- all of these important dates can be written down on the calendar.

The calendar is like a “the memory bank” for the ADHD individual -- a place to consult about upcoming events or appointments. The calendar relieves non-ADHD family members of having to be the source of this information. This ultimately reduces feelings of exhaustion, frustration and resentment that can arise from having to be consulted about every coming and going. If questions continue after consulting the central calendar, then the individual can go to a family member for clarification.

Use Visual Cues

Visual cues include any visual prompts, such as lists or colorful notes, that remind the ADHD individual about important things to do. Visual prompts may include taping a colored index card with a written message (such as directions to take a morning dose of medicine) to the mirror. Even better, says Goodman, “Velcro the medicine bottle to the mirror!” That is a prompt that is hard to miss.

Try Creating Auditory Cues and Alarms

Audible alarms can be set to go off to remind an individual to do something. Watches, cell phones, digital organizers, and computers all have alarms that can be set.

Establish and Follow Household Routines

Household routines follow the same procedure day after day, or week after week. Examples include --

  • Make your bed when you get up.
  • Brush your teeth before you go to bed.
  • Wash the clothes on Saturday morning.  

One simple, effective routine involves having the ADHD individual  empty his/her pockets in a central place immediately upon entering the door when returning home at the end of the day. The identified location may be as simple as a wicker basket that will hold keys, a wallet, glasses, etc. The main point is that the location contains all these necessary items, and that the routine of putting these items in place is repeated day after day after day. This strategy keeps things from getting scattered throughout the house, making the morning rush a little easier.

Divvy Up Household Responsibilities

Another way to relieve some of the burden off those without ADHD is to systematically divide up household responsibilities. This makes it clear who is responsible for which tasks.

It may be that a non-ADHD family member is better at the details that come along with paying the bills. Perhaps the ADHD individual enjoys the creativity that comes along with cooking. Family members can get together and identify who is going to do what. This helps to ensure equity in the family relationship.

Related Reading:
Help! My Partner Doesn't Seem Motivated to Change
Parenting with ADD


David W. Goodman, MD. Personal correspondence/interview. 12 Feb. 08 and 19 Feb. 08.