By Kelly Corkery
I recently responded to a plea from a friend who was struggling with organizing her clothing. Although she is undiagnosed, she very much acknowledges that she experiences many typical markers of individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
(Side note-Most women with ADHD only receive an accurate diagnosis in their late 30’s or early 40’s, much later than men. There are several reasons why, including how symptoms present but that’s an entirely different article topic!)
Executive Functions and self regulation skills are the set of cognitive processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and handle multiple tasks successfully. Essentially, they control our behaviour or the self-management system of the brain. Most people with ADHD will experience many areas of executive function impairment (although people can have executive dysfunction without ADHD).
Health experts have classified three types of ADHD according to the kinds of symptoms people experience:
Inattentive: difficulty with concentration, organization, and instructions
Impulsive or hyperactive: difficulty sitting still or controlling impulses
Combined: a combination of the two types
ADHD impacts Executive Functions. Beginning work, staying focused, maintaining efforts, and utilizing memory can be affected.
My friend said she also has issues with “object permanence.” Simply put, what’s out of sight is out of mind. In my experience as an organizer, this can be a common experience with neurodiverse individuals. The need to see or lay out possessions may act as a visual cue and reminder for the person.
In the case of my friend’s clothing, if she doesn’t see her clothing pieces, then they cease to exist in her mind, which leads her to wear the same outfits repeatedly. Or it may lead to buying extra products or duplicates of pieces she already owns.
If you recognize you’re having problems with object permanence, what can you do to organize your life to make things better? I looked into what strategies my friend had developed by having her send me pictures of her kitchen cupboards, counters, the inside of her fridge, and her bathroom and storage closets. Based on those spaces, I was able to determine her organizing style and how she prefers to organize. Also, they helped me to determine what organizing solutions that she naturally discovered to work for her.
Organizing Strategies for Individuals with ADHD
If you think you may be having trouble with ADHD and object permanence, here are some strategies that can help.
Open shelves—Dressers may not be the best solution for clothing storage. Place obvious articles of clothing like undergarments, socks and pjs in drawers. Cupboards or wardrobe without doors are also an option.
Clear bins, no lids & label—You can visually identify contents immediately, lids add an unnecessary step. Labels my act as content reminders.
Streamline—By reducing the volume of clothing, you have fewer choices. Consider putting outfits together in one location or explore the concept of a capsule wardrobe.
Eye level shelving for stacking folded clothing like t-shirts and sweaters.
- Don’t Work Alone—Body Doubling is a productivity strategy in which another person works alongside you as you complete a task you might otherwise find challenging. Having someone nearby may help you stay focused, engaged, or motivated to finish the job. I suggested that while she is going through her wardrobe, have a friend or family member close by to assist with providing support and trusted opinions on whether to keep or let go of items.