The Real Truth About ADHD And Clutter

ADHD and clutter

Every person I know with ADHD has some issue with clutter.

Clutter exists in the mind as well as the environment.


The other day I posted this picture on Instagram of a paper bag overflowing with crap.

ADHD and clutter

I cleaned out my office

I had cleaned out my office two weeks prior and when I arrived home I dropped the bag in my entryway. And it stayed there for quite a while, taunting me each time I walked past it.

I actively created clutter. But why?

One of my group members pointed out to me that I could not make a decision about the contents of the bag.

Should I toss the whole thing into the trash?

Should I go through it piece by piece?

Who has time for that?!

We create clutter when we cannot make a decision.

 The real truth about ADHD and Clutter


Emotional Baggage

Much of the time when we try to make a decision about something, it has an emotional component.

Throughout our day we make decisions. We decide what to wear and what to eat.

On the surface, deciding what to eat seems very straight forward, but in reality the thought process is quite nuanced.

Decision making happens at lightning speed in our brains. In less than 10 seconds we can determine that we are hungry and we want to eat chocolate. (Or at least I can.)

The reason we arrive at this conclusion so quickly is because we have a lifetime of memories and experiences that influence our way of thinking.The neural pathways are well worn.

But sometimes we can’t come to a decision that easily.

In order to figure out why we are struggling with a decision, we need to unpack some of our old ways of thinking and behaving.

We need to initiate change.

Deferred decisions due to emotion

Here is a picture from my home office. This is 2 years-worth of school art projects and paperwork.

The real truth about ADHD and clutter

You will notice that I do have a filing bin that I had been using. But you will also notice that I still accumulated an entire box, which is sitting right next to it.

Every time my son sees that I am throwing away his stuff, he gets upset. On top of that, I don’t know how to choose what to keep.

My emotions get involved, and I cannot make decision about what to do.

Deferred decisions due to overwhelm

On New Years Eve my son and his good friend started doing magic science experiments with his new kit.  Affiliate link to Magic Science. Please see my full disclosure.

At the end of the night I noticed the boys had put each of their potions into a Ziplock bag.

The next day, I asked if I could toss the bags because there were more potion ingredients left. My son had a total meltdown.

Listening to my son freak out while I cleaned up the house from the holidays was less than pleasant. So I took down the tree, put away the decorations and moved on with my life.

When you have ADHD the combination of sensory overload and emotional distress can push you into a state of overwhelm quickly.

Overwhelm leads to avoidance, which leads to clutter. The potions are still on my dining room table.

Deferred decisions due to avoidance

I need to clean out my closet. In fact, a good friend of mine is a professional organizer and she has offered to help.

But yet, I still haven’t done it.

Do you have anything like this? Something that you know you “should” do, but it just seems so unpleasant or boring that you avoid it?

When clutter becomes unpleasant to our senses we tend to avoid it. Clutter begets clutter and then all of a sudden your closet looks like this.

ADHD and clutter

Getting rid of clutter is a decision by itself, and the commitment to declutter has huge emotional weight.

Some people do not form attachments to things.

We all have that one friend who just tosses all of her baby stuff and declares herself, “done having children.”  This same friend probably does NOT have a problem with clutter.

But this is the exception to the rule. Many people, with or without ADHD, have trouble letting go of things.

For most ADHDers, clutter is a lifelong issue.

Understanding why and how it happens is just another step in the path to dealing with it.

We create clutter when we cannot make a decision.

What are some of the other reasons you struggle with clutter?

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