Paperwork clutter is a huge problem for most adults. When you add a diagnosis of ADHD into the mix things can get a little crazy.
I have gone through periods of time where I didn’t open my mail for weeks. Luckily, nothing terrible happened, and I didn’t miss any important bills. I got lucky, but for many adults with ADHD paperwork causes major issues.
What happens when you don’t open your electric bill? It doesn’t get paid.
And then a month later you get a letter in a brightly colored envelope telling you that your service is going to be disconnected if you do not pay your bill, with interest, within forty-eight hours.
Panic sets in because you don’t have the money for the now large bill. You end up having to borrow money from friends or family, and then the cycle of shame continues.
One of best things you can do for yourself if you have ADHD is to manage your paperwork.
Paperwork Organization for ADHD Adults
Open Your Mail
This sounds obvious, but you might be surprised how many people avoid opening the mail. Avoidance will not make it go away, no matter how much we wish it were true. In fact, avoidance tends to compound our issues.
Open your mail each day. If you do it this way there (hopefully) will not be as much to deal with each day. Five pieces of mail are much less daunting than a pile of over one-hundred envelopes.
If you want to get fancy, open your mail while rewarding yourself with a snack or cup of tea. Worst case scenario, you will open a bill or something equally unpleasant.
You need to know what is in those envelopes. Not knowing causes more stress than being able to see the problem clearly.
Sort Your Mail Every Day
When I open mail, I do it on a flat surface like the kitchen table. This way I can put it into piles. Most of the time I only have a handful of items to sort so it takes less than a minute.
Keep it simple:
Hold pile – Items you need to read or respond to in some manner.
Bill pile– This is pretty self-explanatory.
Trash – Junk that you can toss immediately.
File– Items that need to find their home in your file cabinet or personal records.
Hold items go into a paperwork sorter similar to this one pictured below. I use the big section for magazines, newsletters and that sort of thing.
Bills go into the same sorter, but in the front section so that my husband sees them. Sometimes I actually put the bills on his desk so that they don’t clutter up my paperwork sorter. It just depends on the volume of paper.
Filing items go into my filing cabinet, and junk mail goes directly in the trash or recycling bin.
**You probably want to have at least one drawer or filing cabinet set aside for important paperwork such as insurance information, mortgage documents, passports and the like. Even better, get yourself a fireproof safe and keep important items in there.***
For parents with ADHD, the school paperwork creates a whole new level of clutter and disorganization.
I will admit that for several years I threw my son’s school paperwork into a cardboard box. Then I shoved the box under my desk. After that I tried putting things in a binder, but I didn’t like punching holes in his artwork.
Recently, I got tired of this overflowing box of paper and decided to take control of the situation. So I bought a filing box and used some of my husbands drop folders and labels and created a system for myself.
Nothing I am doing is original. In fact, you can find numerous posts on Pinterest, I am not even sure which one finally inspired me.
When it comes to report cards, 504’s/IEP’s and that sort of thing I have one colored folder that I keep copies of those items in. Then I have another folder that has all of his evaluations, occupational therapy, and social skills paperwork in it.
Both colored folders go inside a red accordion folder and that is kept in a drawer of my desk.
Set aside time to deal with paperwork
Remember that post I wrote about creating a weekly house cleaning routine?
When I wrote that I mentioned that one domain of my housekeeping involves general maintenance. What I meant was paperwork. Not sure why I didn’t just call it paperwork, but anyway…
Commit to going through all of the items in the “hold” and “bills” categories above at least once per week. Choose a day, and then sit down and dive in.
Pay your bills first, using online banking to keep track of your accounts. Then go through the items you must respond to. If you need to make a call, do it then. OR choose a specific time to make the call.
If you need to respond in writing, or fill out a form, take the time to do it during this work session. Set a timer and work for fifteen minutes, and then give yourself a break to stretch as necessary to keep your focus.
If you have been sorting your paper every day, you should be able to pay your bills and respond to everything within a reasonable amount of time.
You will not have to spend hours on paperwork organization if you do a little bit each day.
Pay Bills Online Or automatically
If you have access to a computer at home, I highly recommend setting up your bills for automatic monthly payments. Most banks offer online banking for free to account holders, it is just a matter of setting up your account.
You can also have recurring bills automatically paid using a bank draft. For someone with a bad memory, this is a convenient option so that you don’t forget to pay your bills. Plus – it eliminates how much paper you will get in the mail.
I recently switched my student loan payments to automatic draft and I got a 1% reduction in my interest rate. It doesn’t sound like much, but in the long-term it will add up. AND I do not have to look at that depressing loan statement in the mail each month.
You can limit the amount of paper that is coming into your home, it just takes some work.
Finally, be patient with yourself. It is not easy to solve a problem that has been around for years. Changes don’t happen overnight.
Implement these ideas one at a time. Perhaps start with just opening your mail every day – then progress to sorting it every day next week.
Avoid letting yourself get overwhelmed with paper clutter. Paper can make you feel like you are drowning.
Again, one of the best things you can do for yourself if you have ADHD is to manage your paperwork.
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