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The ADDer’s Guide to Spring Cleaning

By Leslie Rouder, LCSW

It’s that time of the year to consider those spring cleaning projects.  Clean out your closet?  Maybe it’s the garage or attic that needs to be cleaned?   Or perhaps it’s just all those dresser or kitchen drawers that seem to have accumulated mounds of clutter.  Where does all that STUFF in my night table come from anyway? 

When I consider all the possibilities, it might seem like an Adder’s biggest nightmare.  But in truth, it really doesn’t have to be.  There are several ways that one can go about successfully tackling spring cleaning projects, despite having ADD.  This article explores some of those ways to be consistently more productive and to get those spring projects done.

Get Motivated.   Without motivation, many projects or tasks may seem difficult to even start, no less finish.  Consider all the reasons why this particular spring cleaning project is important.  Do you need to make more room for something you cherish in your garage or closet for example?  Or maybe the idea of having more order to your life reminds you that you can save a lot of time looking for items that are buried under mounds of clutter.  Get clear about the value of completing these projects and how it will positively affect your life.  And keep those reasons in your mind.  You might even consider making a list of all the benefits and posting it somewhere near the project location so that you will be reminded of the benefits. 

Know your engagement threshold and use it to your advantage!  What does this mean exactly?   Your engagement threshold is the longest amount of time you can consistently work, while staying focused on a particular project without being distracted or losing interest.  In addition, you will need to be able to evaluate how long you will actually need to accomplish the project being considered.  Since individuals with ADD often have difficulty estimating how long a project will take, try adding a cushion of about 50% more time than you think just in case, to cover yourself.  If the task takes less time, than you may be delighted to find you have a bit of unexpected extra time for yourself at the end of the project. 

Make an action plan.   How specifically will you accomplish this goal?  What are your specific action  steps?  For example, if cleaning out your closet, it might look like this;

  • Empty the entire closet    (30 minutes)                                                                                                                              
  • Separate items by type of clothing ( 1 hour)
  • Have 4  boxes ready to sort all items
    • One box for donating to charity
    • One box for shoes and bags
    • One box for clothing
    • One box for items that you may want to discard
    • Re- hang all remaining clothing items by type and color ( 1 hour)
    • Re-fold and place clothing on shelves (1 hour)
    • Organize placement of shoes and hand bags on shelves ( 30 minutes)


Schedule the time to do it.  Here’s an important piece of information for you to think about.  I know that many individuals with ADD think that the only way to get something done is to break it down into small action steps.  Maybe I will do 30 minutes here and another 30 minutes there.  This is true for some smaller projects but here’s the thing you need to consider.  Every time you transition in and out of a particular activity, you lose A LOT of time, which means you lose a lot of productivity.  For this reason, it is important to know the limits of your upper most threshold and set aside the time that most reflects that threshold.  If you only have 30 minutes here- and- there, you will never start those larger projects that require sustained attention and effort over a longer period of time, because you already know that you will never get enough done to make any difference.  So why even bother to start?   In addition, if you only have 30 minutes here and there, you will most likely end up checking e mails, going on Facebook and surfing the web, since not much else can be done in such short amount of time.  Those are actually appropriate actions to take in a 30 minute window, but they will never provide you with what you need to get those larger projects done.  

So, that having been said, knowing your engagement threshold, make sure to set aside the appropriate amount of time to get a good chunk of the project completed.  Consider those times that you have the most energy and ability to focus.  If you know that your Adderall wears off at 6:00 PM, don’t start that project at 5:00 PM just because that’s the time you get home from work.   If you are a morning person, don’t start that project in the afternoon. 

Work with your schedule and block it off your calendar.  If you don’t make an appointment with yourself, you may possibly procrastinate and put off starting the project all together.  Sound familiar?  

Don’t Be a Perfectionist.  Many people with ADD get caught in doing such a perfect job that they lose sight of the big picture.  So make a point of not getting stuck in the tiny minutia.  Do as much as you can as quickly as possible until the job is complete.  You can always go back AFTER it is finished to make it EVEN better, if you so desire.   It’s more important to complete the project in a timely fashion.  So work quickly and continue working till completion.  

Work with a Body Double or Professional Organizer.   For many people with ADD, having someone there to work with them, while keeping them on track can be extremely helpful.  Find a friend or family member who would be willing to assist.  Or, if you desire (or can) hire a professional organizer to work with you on the project.

Avoid Distractions.  Turn off the phone, television, or any other distraction that could interfere with your completing your project.  Once you get started, have a “ DO NOT DISTURB” sign placed outside the door of where you are, and unless there’s an emergency, tell your family, not to disturb you for your allotted amount of time.  Take this commitment seriously and other’s will too. 

Make It Fun and Interesting   Have fun music playing or have your friends come over and help.  Discover ways to make it interesting by using timers, or creating some kind of challenge that keeps it interesting. Provide yourself with a special reward when you have completed the project.    Bet your partner or a friend that you will complete the project by a certain time or else………. (You get the idea)

And one last thing, after you read this article, don’t just put it down and consider the ideas.  Take the time to actually write down and plan your spring cleaning project, as you follow each step above.  Imagine that it is already completed and see it in your mind’s eye.   Envision yourself having completed the task and imagine and enjoy the feelings of having accomplished your goal. Then, take action and do exactly as you have planned and envisioned.   As the great Tony Robbins once said, “In life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know. Knowing is not enough! You must take action”.  


Leslie is an ADD coach and therapist in South Florida.  To read more of her articles or to sign up for her free Newsletter, you may go to