Laundry, kitchen cleaning, clutter management, and other repetitive tasks can be particularly challenging for individuals with ADHD. These tasks, often perceived as mundane or unending, pose unique difficulties for the ADHD brain. In this blog, we delve into the reasons behind these struggles and explore practical strategies to manage and overcome them.

Why is it so hard?

The inherent challenge with tasks like laundry lies in their ongoing nature. ADHD brains typically prefer tasks with a defined beginning, middle, and end, where the conclusion offers a sense of accomplishment and a dopamine boost. However, chores like laundry or kitchen cleaning often lack a clear endpoint, leading to a sense of never-ending work. 

woman overwhelmed by messy closet.

This can diminish motivation and increase feelings of overwhelm. Additionally, research shows that ADHD is linked to difficulties in executive functioning, which includes planning, organizing, and sustaining attention – all crucial for task completion. The repetitive and ongoing nature of household chores can exacerbate these executive function challenges.

On top of the logistical and task completion challenges of ongoing chores is the additional burden that ADHD symptoms can add to the workload of the tasks themselves. For example, sensory sensitivities can lead to frequent outfit changes throughout the day for different activities (eg. outdoor walk outfit, work outfit, errand outfit, lounging outfit, and pajamas all in one day is a normal ADHD phenomenum, sensory sensitive individuals always want to maximize comfort for each situation). This increases the volume of laundry, adding to the burden. Another example, is that challenges with executive functions such as working memory and organization can lead to extra clutter and mess around the house, ADHD piles are a thing. This again adds to the load to tackle when chores need to be completed.

Tackling A Problem Area

Start with an Assessment

Begin by assessing your current situation. Are you overwhelmed and in need of a reset or just looking to improve an area with a maintenance plan? Tailor your approach accordingly. If you are buried, always start by digging yourself out, before you even consider making a maintenance plan. I recommend focusing on one problem at a time.

Messy room

For the Buried

Chip Away: Set a deadline for yourself and break the task into manageable chunks. For instance, if your home is cluttered, decide on a two-week period for decluttering. Create a list of rooms or zones, and tackle them one at a time. Incorporate accountability by inviting friends over on your deadline day to celebrate your decluttered space or have a friend join you physically or virtually for support.

Dig Yourself Out: When the idea of gradual progress is daunting, dedicate a full day to the task. For example, with laundry, consider taking all your clothes to a laundromat, washing, folding, and organizing them in one go. This approach can be more effective and less overwhelming than doing multiple small loads over several days.

Two children doing laundry

For Maintaining

Time Homes: Assign specific days or times for chores. Structure helps in reducing the decision-making load, a common struggle in ADHD. For instance, designate Sunday for washing and drying laundry, and Monday for folding and putting it away. Include family members in these routines to distribute the workload.

Daily Practices: Implement a daily 20-minute decluttering session, perhaps after dinner, where each family member focuses on a specific area. This helps in maintaining a manageable level of order and reduces the buildup of clutter.

Additional Strategies

Visual Reminders: Use visual aids like checklists or calendars to keep track of tasks and deadlines.

Reward System: Implement a reward system for completed tasks to provide additional motivation and a sense of accomplishment.

Body Doubling: Engage in body doubling, where having someone else present (physically or virtually) can help you stay focused and on track.

Final Thoughts

Managing household chores with an ADHD brain can be challenging, but with the right strategies and understanding of one’s unique needs, it becomes more manageable. By breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable parts, creating structured routines, and using strategies that align with your ADHD traits, you can turn these daunting tasks into achievable ones. Remember, the goal is not perfection but progress, and every small step counts towards creating a more manageable and less overwhelming living environment.