When you have ADHD, cleaning is a daunting task. In this article, you’ll learn practical tips and strategies to stay on top of your house (and teach your kids to do the same)!
Why is it harder to stay on top of cleaning when you have ADHD?
Living with ADHD comes with plenty in the “W” column, but it can also present some challenges. Daily tasks, like staying on top of household cleaning, feel overwhelming due to executive functioning issues and the fact that cleaning is just not fun or interesting. ADHD paralysis can make it particularly challenging to start a task. Below are eight powerful tips that we’ve found to be effective for us and our little neurospicies. These strategies will help you conquer your own cleaning challenges – and supercharge your next cleaning sesh with the family.
ADHD Cleaning Tips for Adults
1. Just do it for 15 minutes.
“Clean the kitchen” might conjure images of scrubbing on your hands and knees until the end of time.. Try setting a timer for 15 minutes and focus on cleaning during that time.. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make within a short burst of concentrated effort. If you’re cleaning with the family, make it a race! Once the timer goes off, you might even find yourself motivated to continue and finish the job.
Sometimes, having someone in the room with you while you clean can provide the extra support and accountability you need to stay focused. Consider inviting a friend or family member to hang out with you as you tackle your cleaning chores. Their presence can help you stay focused, engaged, and motivated. A little company goes a long way when you’re doing something that’s not very fun.
3. Clean a room top-down.
There isn’t one single “right way” to clean a home, so try a few different methods to find what works for you! You might have fun starting with the highest items and moving down. Start by dusting or wiping down high surfaces such as shelves, ceiling fans, and light fixtures. Then work your way down to lower surfaces like countertops and furniture. Finish with vacuuming and mopping the floor. By cleaning from top to bottom, any debris or dust that falls will be captured when you clean the lower areas, preventing the need for re-cleaning.
4. Invite friends over for accountability.
When you know your friends are coming over, it’s easier to want to get those dishes in the dishwasher or get your laundry off the floor. After all, they’re going to want to sit on your furniture, not your dirty socks. One thing to note with this method: if you’re comfortable with your guest seeing your mess, the strategy is less likely to work.
4 More Tips: ADHD and Cleaning with Kids
5. One-minute pickup
This is like the 15 minute cleaning strategy, kids edition. Engaging children in cleaning activities can be a challenge, but the one-minute pickup strategy can make it more manageable (for both you and the kids). One minute is such a small amount of time, that it’s much easier to get kids to help than if you’re trying to get them to tackle an hour-long project. You’ll be amazed at how much tidying up can be accomplished in such a short burst of focused effort. You can pair this with other ideas to make it even more fun, like racing or adding a silly element. This helps to teach kids that cleaning doesn’t have to be a daunting task.
6. Make it a (friendly) competition
Lots of children love friendly competition, so why not turn cleaning into a fun challenge? Start by saying, “I bet I can pick up ten things before you can!” and then just begin picking up items. Make sure to count out loud and show enthusiasm, so the kiddos can see that if they don’t start, you’re going to win! As soon as your kiddo sees you getting started and playing the game, they’ll be motivated to join in and maybe even beat mom or dad..
7. The (cleaning) power of choice
Empower your children by giving them a sense of autonomy and control over their chores. Instead of micro-managing the way they help, let them choose a category of things to pick up. This might sound like, “Let’s begin by picking up everything in this room that’s just one color. Which color do you want to focus on?” Or, you could give them options: “Do you want to put away all the green things in your room first, or all the blue ones?” By involving them in the decision-making process, children will feel more invested in the cleaning process and more motivated to help.
8. Body doubling (Kids edition)
Okay, so it might seem like we’re cheating by counting “body doubling” as a tip twice. But the earlier tip focused on how you benefit from having someone hang out while you clean. This tip flips the suggestion to how you can be an effective body double for kiddos. See? Different tip.
It’s important that you clarify to your child that they’re still the ones doing the cleaning, you’re just hanging out with them. If they are old enough to be responsible for cleaning their room, then they should own that responsibility. You can help them stay on task, though, by making it a fun environment (ex: “You start with putting your clothes away while I get some music going!”) and by giving them positive prompts to get back on task when they get distracted. We’ve found this to be most effect when there’s less of a focus on correcting behavior, and more focus on what’s next. For example, the kids in our lives respond better to, “Yes, that toy IS really cool! Where does it belong when we’re not playing with it?” than, “Put the toy away and please get back to cleaning, I need you to focus.”
Cleaning together can turn an otherwise tedious chore into a fun and social activity, plus you get the opportunity to teach them the cleaning strategies that work for you.
Try Out Different ADHD Cleaning Strategies
Living with ADHD doesn’t have to mean constantly struggling to keep a clean and organized living space. Try these strategies out and see what works for you! Something is bound to help make the process easier and more manageable, you just need to keep trying new things until you find things that work. If one strategy works for a while and you get bored of it, that’s completely normal, too.
Now, select your favorite tips and start cleaning with confidence!
A final note about us
We’re not doctors, and we absolutely believe in science. Our resources here are informative only, and should not be taken as medical advice. We’ll update our content as new research emerges, so if you see something that’s gotten out-of-date, please send us a message!
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