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5 Helpful Hacks to Simplify Cleaning with ADHD

Woman in apron dusting book.

​Cleaning can be a frustrating task for anyone, but it gets even more complicated when you have ADHD. The inability to focus and stay organized prevents many people from accomplishing household chores despite their best efforts. Studies have even found links between ADHD and a proclivity for clutter, with inattention being a key driver for hoarding disorder.

If you’re in the small group of adults dealing with ADHD, it often takes a unique approach and hard work to take on everyday cleaning challenges. To help you get on the right track in making a tidy, healthy home, here are five simple ways to conquer the clutter once and for all.

1. Create a Chore Chart

Unsurprisingly, many of the tricks for getting kids with ADHD to do chores also work for adults! For many struggling with attention issues, a cleaning schedule, or chore chart, is the best first step toward staying organized.

You can find chore charts online, or you can make your own with a dry erase board. It makes an excellent visual representation of the chores you have accomplished so that you always know what you have done and what comes next. 

At the same time, chore charts break down an insurmountable whole-house cleaning project into manageable chunks. You can decompose various household chores into small checklist items, making them easier to track and the process more rewarding. For example, rather than list a broad task like “do laundry”, you can put down “load dirty clothes in the washing machine” and “fold clothes in the laundry basket”.

Create Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Chores

Cleaning falls into daily, weekly, and monthly duties, and it’s best to organize a chore chart that accounts for all three segments. Daily chores are the upkeep items that prevent clutter from getting out of hand and keep the house healthy and functioning. These can include:

  • Washing dirty dishes and cleaning the sink
  • Washing and folding a load of laundry
  • Cleaning countertops
  • Making the bed
  • Sweeping the hallway

List your daily tasks, making them as specific or broad as you need to be comfortable with them. Make a checklist for every day of the week. Check your chores off daily as you complete them.

Set weekly and monthly goals as well. You can pick a specific day, like the first Saturday of the month, to complete labor-intensive chores like garage organization or a whole-house deep cleaning.

Develop a Routine

Once you know the cleaning tasks, you have to think about how they fit into your daily routine. 

Should you do laundry for an hour before fixing dinner? Does it make sense to load the dishwasher as soon as you get home from work?

Depending on the demands of your schedule, you may have to employ different time-management techniques around your cleaning tasks. No matter how you do it, make sure you keep the house cleaning schedule reasonable and consistent.

2. Use Alarms to Your Advantage

Keeping track of time is challenging for adults with ADHD, and it can have a seriously negative impact on how efficiently they clean. It’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of cleaning and take too long on intensive cleaning chores. Before long, you’ve gone way over your allotted time without accomplishing what you set out to do.

People with ADHD are more susceptible to time blindness, meaning that they can have a poor sense of how much time has come and gone. It’s easy to overcook dinners, miss deadlines, and mess up a cleaning routine when you can’t account for the passing minutes. Rather than rely on yourself to keep up with chores, alarms and calendar reminders can remember for you.

Set Reminders

Automating your life makes it easy to develop a consistent daily routine and reliable habits. Use your phone alarm and calendar reminders to let you know when to start and stop your daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning chores. Set alarms throughout the day, labeling them with the task you need to do at that time.

The Pomodoro Technique

When you have ADHD, it doesn’t take much to get distracted from a cleaning job. But when you have a set block of time to do the work, you can become more focused and subsequently more productive. That’s the concept behind the time-blocking method called the Pomodoro technique.

The technique follows a simple 4-step process:

  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on your chore until it goes off
  2. Take a 5-10 minute break
  3. Repeat these steps three more times
  4. After the fourth 25-minute block, take a 20-30 minute break

Chunking up your chore like this helps you stay locked into the cleaning effort, making you race against time to get as much cleaning done as possible.

Creating Time Blocks

The Pomodoro technique is a timeboxing strategy that helps manage arduous cleaning chores. It’s easy for time to get away from you when you’re deep cleaning a bathroom or kitchen. Rather than get lost in the task and run off schedule, set a timer for 30 minutes or so. When the timer goes off, put a hard stop on whatever you’re doing.

It’s okay if you don’t accomplish the entire task in the set time frame. Doing it this way will at least allow you to complete as much of the chore as you can because it keeps you invested, gamifying the cleaning in a way as you try to beat the clock.

3. Use Storage Containers to De-Clutter

Storage containers throughout the house are a great way to organize and reduce clutter. Use storage bins and baskets to keep items conveniently at hand. For instance, you can keep all of your coffee supplies in a basket next to the coffee maker to make it easy to tidy.

Containers can also help you keep clutter in check and create a system of getting rid of old, unused items. Use clear plastic containers and colored labels to organize items by category throughout the home. 

Rather than commit to finding specific places for every individual item, categorized bins will help you keep clutter at bay while staying organized until you can sort through them. Categories can include toys, school supplies, books, clothes, mail, or anything else that makes sense for each type of item that you have.

When your bins are packed full, you can go through them and start to find final homes for the items contained therein. Keep whatever you need (or find joyful, if you’re using the KonMari method from Marie Kondo), and dispose of the rest. A bin system will make it much more efficient to tidy up and reduce the stress of clutter as your day progresses.

4. Partner Up

Although there have been no scientific studies to research it, self-help experts swear by body doubling for managing household chores with an ADHD brain. The idea is to bring another person in to spend time with you while you clean. Individuals who use this technique find it helps them maintain focus and motivation to do their job.

The other person can help you with the work or do their own thing, whether it’s homework, another chore, or just hanging out. In any case, the simple act of cleaning with someone in the room is enough to make household chores more pleasurable while providing a calming presence who can hold you accountable for completing your task. 

5. Eliminate Steps to Cleaning

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you have ADHD. That may be why household chores are such a problem. No matter who you are, cleaning chores are ALWAYS there, and they all require at least some level of effort.

While you can’t eliminate the need to clean, you can cut back extra work that will burn you out sooner rather than later. Part of that means keeping your items to a manageable amount (see the bin system above), but it also means reducing the literal number of steps you have to take to keep things clean.

Make it convenient to keep your house tidy. Piles of laundry building up next to the bed? Put a clothes hamper there. Q-tips and floss picks overtaking the bathroom sink? Slip a wastebasket underneath it. Make it as easy to clean up as it is to make the mess.

Do Things Your Way

Your bin system will always give you a quick organizational solution until you have more time to go through your stuff. The real key to efficiency, however, is shedding any preconceived notions of what it means to be tidy.

Everyone has different standards and routines, and the only thing that should drive your organizational strategy is your convenience. If you brush your teeth at the kitchen sink, keep your toothbrush and toothpaste stored nearby. Don’t feel like it has to go in the bathroom because that’s what everyone else does. There is no right or wrong when it comes to keeping tidy — there’s only effective and ineffective.

Helpful Tip: Store needed cleaning supplies in the room where you need them. That will keep you from having to go to other rooms to get cleaners, reducing the risk of getting distracted by other cleaning opportunities. Whip up several batches of homemade multi-purpose cleaners and keep them in your kitchen, bathroom, living room, and even your bedroom so you can tidy up without having to go out of your way.

Helpful Mantras to Maintain a Cleaning Mindset

Throughout the day, you can keep your cleaning tasks manageable by dealing with opportunities as they arise. That will reduce the massive chunks of time you have to spend cleaning up. To help you in that regard, try these helpful mantras to make a habit out of staying tidy.

“Don’t Set It Down, Put It Up”

Whenever you pull something out of place to use it, put it back immediately after using it. Your bin system and custom organizational scheme will be a huge help in staying true to this mantra.

“Clean Up, Plus One”

When several people are in the house, it’s easy to collect clutter even when you’re staying tidy. To help keep the mess to a minimum, adopt a “clean up plus one” strategy where you put another item away when you put your stuff away. For example, if you get up to put a plate in the sink, pick up another dish on the way.

Don’t let this get away from you. Only pick up one item and only if it’s conveniently nearby. You’ll do more cleaning than you mean to if you start picking up more than one item or start searching for cleaning opportunities.

Know Your Limits, Hire Help

The final hack for doing household chores with an ADHD brain is to know when to call in help. If you still have trouble keeping tidy after trying these helpful tricks, your ADHD may not be all that’s keeping you from a clean space. 

A busy, demanding work and family life can get the better of anyone. We all only have 24 hours in the day and only so much energy and effort that we can devote to housework. Rather than burn yourself out and try to accomplish the impossible, can a professional cleaner.

When you need that extra help with keeping clean, use Anita’s for a quick and easy shortcut to finding the best local cleaning pros in your area. Request a booking today to get the relief you need and the sparkling clean home you’ve always wanted!


Anita's Housekeeping Editors