Housekeeping Strategies for the ADD Adult

The Frowzy house might as well be called the ADD house. Both Mr. Frowzy and myself are fully diagnosed in our ADDness. We have one child already diagnosed and at least two others well on their way. Seeing as it's a genetic condition, it isn't uncommon for there to be housefuls of ADD. I have always said that I would one day write an ADD parenting book for parents with ADD. I read these books and just laugh! Charts?! Reward Systems?! Who are they kidding?! I'm lucky to remember that I kicked the kids out of the family room for leaving dishes in there. I have to literally put up signs that have a child's name with a circle and slash through it. So is it possible to have a clean house when that house is bursting at the seams with ADD glory?

Well, first I think you have to define "clean." I think many people would consider my house "messy." But, then those people would never be at my house in the first place. Like most families, a main ingredient to our messies is clutter. It is such a huge part of ADD housekeeping that I'm going to dedicate and entire post to it next Friday. But, the second biggest challenge for us is motivation. There are so many shiny baubles out there, most of them on Facebbok, to distract me from the tasks at hand. Who wouldn't rather peruse some friend of a friend's wedding pictures than wash the sinkful of dishes?!

What helped me out immensely was learning my ADD cycle.  It's real y'all.  It can really crash down me on pretty hard. I was trying and trying to live my life by this shiny example of June Cleaver and Martha Stewart. What I finally realized was that these were both fictional characters. Personas like Marilyn Manson or Alice Cooper.  For me, they were completely unattainable. In my world, there are huge peaks and valleys of motivation. There is no constant "maintenance" setting on my brain.  I heard other people talking about how they do a load of laundry everyday so there laundry never piled up. The simple plan sounded brilliant and I would try and try to implement this simple, brilliant plan, but I failed EVERY TIME. I tried the Fly Lady but was quickly overwhelmed and again...failure. and then guilt. and then shame.

But, then it dawned on me. I wasn't the problem with those plans, the plans were the problem with me. Though they might be great for Maintainers, I am a Peaks and Valleys. I needed a plan for Peaks and Valleys.  I couldn't find one, so I just began to make it up as I went along.  If you have ADD, you'll probably have to do the same because what works for one screwy brain doesn't always work for another.  But, I'll tell a few key things I've found.

1.) Work with your cycle, not against it. Knowing that you will leave the valley and get back up to the peak, you can plan your work accordingly. When I feel myself in World Conquering Mode, I need to just go with it. Pay the bills, clean off the windowsills, organize the pantry, write three articles. Whatever I can accomplish during that time of hyperfocus and energy, I do. It usually means that I end up doing 15 loads of laundry at once and then not again for a week. But, then that is my system, because it works with my cycle. And sometimes I have to fight off the evil tempter of Mr. Frowzy who wants me just come sit with him for a minute and watch Glee. If I sit down for even a minute, the World Conquering Mode can shut off almost instantly.

2.) Keep your cleaning stuff in an ADD friendly fashion. Mainly, keep it everywhere. There is nothing more frustrating to me than to have to go looking for something so I can get a job done. For this reason, my house has no less than 10 pairs of scissors and hundreds of pens.  The reality is 9 times out 10 any member of the Frowzy Family is not going to return an item back to the right place.  Again, instead of setting myself up for failure by trying to change myself into a person who puts everything away, I work with who I truly am. Knowing this, in each bathroom and under the kitchen sink, I have a bucket that contains a bottle of What-EVER, a bottle of Wow, a bottle of Even the Kitchen Sink, scrub brush, and a toothbrush. This way when I need to clean the bathroom mirror upstairs, I don't have to go running all over the house to find the Wow.

bathroom cleaning kit

3.) Clean in sections. Instead of picking up a doll shirt in the living room and then putting it away in the playroom where I find a cup that I take to the kitchen but on the way there I see a permission slip that I need to sign etc. etc. never feeling like I accomplished anything, I clean room by room. I'll pick up and clean everything in that room and then turn off the light or close the door so I know I'm done.  The one thing I do all at once is vacuum because my first floor is all hardwood, so I just slap the vacuum on my back and suck up the whole first floor.  When we do our evening family clean up, I just yell out, "Pick a room!" and the kids each pick a room and straighten it all up.

4.) Sometimes when I am in a definite valley, but need to get stuff done anyway because the sink has filled with dishes even though there is an EMPTY DISHWASHER right there(!), I set a time limit. I know this is a classic parenting tool, but it works well for me and my attention-span-of-a-toddler brain, too. Looking at a kitchen filled with dishes and empty milk jugs and open cereal boxes is enough to make me crawl back to my bed and curl up with a trashy novel.  But, the job never takes as long as I think it will and is never as big a deal as I have created it to be. So, I tell myself I'll just clean for a half hour and then be done.  The entire kitchen is usually cleaned up in 15 minutes and I curse myself because then I have to go clean something else, too.

The key to living with ADD is understanding it and then working with it, both the strengths and weaknesses. And hopefully as I cope, my children are learning how they too, can work with it. Now, if I could just figure out how to get my mother-in-law to stop by for visits when I'm at the peak, instead of always when I'm in the valley.

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Ohhh yes! I live in a 4800 sq ft house and it completely defeats me. I have no kids to tel “Pick a room” to. I have a husband and a very hairy, sheddy, long-haired dog. We have moved my mother-in-laws AND my parents’ “things” into our house after they moved away from their livelong homes. There are photos, televisions, clothes, furniture, antique crocks and vases, clocks, framed art,lamps, and pillows. And we have at least two bureaus in each of the 4 bedrooms. I am an artist so I have all of my brushes, pencils, canvases, easel, drawing board…all in the same room with our computer and my mother’s 1949 wedding gown. As you mention feeling like crawling back into bed at the sight of open cereal boxes and dishes, so am I….It’s so depressing and I suffer from a constant fatigue. I think it’s just the weight of the insurmountable tasks I live in the midst of every day. When I was officially diagnosed with ADD, I was told that I needed to score at least a “6” out of whatever to be considered—-I scored an 11. But later, when administered an even more challenging test, I totally conquered it totally! Never did find out what the next step was to be because insurance did not cover anything further. So I live being eaten alive by dust and stuff. I like the idea of turning off the light and closing the door to a room. Will try it. If I can just stay in one room long enough, I may be able to accomplish cleaning. (Funny, I am always able to clean efficiently when company is ringing my door bell!!

Mary Jean Van Deusen

I just figured out that I have ADD and after some research I found your blog and just love it :o)
I love the tip about going with the cycle and going to try it out, thank you!



That was great. Never thought about it that way. I have ADD too. I have a hard time doing maintanence cleaning too. I always wait until it is dirty enough to look like it needs to be cleaned and then I might get to it.

Mary Banach

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