In our attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) house (my husband, 2/3 kids and I all have ADHD), keeping the house clean can feel like a struggle, but using these tips and hacks has made a huge difference. As a nurse, I love putting that old science degree to work and doing some research. Here are some things that work for us and things we will be trying in my house!
Those of us with ADHD brains often struggle to keep our homes tidy and clean. Not because we are lazy or “bad” at cleaning, but because we have too many tabs open in our brain.
👉 Don’t feel pressured to try all of these things, but use this as a guideline for ideas.
1. Use a checklist for your cleaning routine so you don’t have to rely on your brain to remember anything.
I love making checklists because it takes the ‘think’ out of doing the actual task when I’m doing my daily chores. I just do the task and move on to the next one. Click here to get your free checklist
2. Set a Timer: Break tasks into short intervals, like 10-15 minutes, and use a timer to stay focused.
Have you ever decided to tidy your living room, only to lose track of time because you got distracted by dusting behind the TV? Timers are a great ADHD cleaning hack to ensure you’re not spending too much time on any given task.
3. Create a Playlist: Make a cleaning playlist with upbeat music to keep you motivated.
If you’re entertained, doing chores is much more enjoyable. I like to listen to my favourite podcast (Stuff You Should Know), Audible books or a fun music playlist full of 90’s grunge music!
4. Declutter First: Remove unnecessary items before cleaning to simplify the process.
When you have too much stuff, it’s hard to clean around it all (not to mention it increases the overwhelm). Consider decluttering to make the cleaning process easier. And no, you don’t need to completely declutter in order to clean, but how about working a bit of decluttering into your daily routine until the decluttering is complete?
5. One Task at a Time: Focus on one cleaning task at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Have you ever tried to do multiple things at once, but feel like you’re not making any progress? Try to accomplish one item on your to-do list at a time, so you don’t get distracted and then end up feeling like you’re not getting anything accomplished.
6. Reward Yourself: Treat yourself with a small reward after completing a cleaning task.
After you’ve completed something on your chore chart, reward yourself with something small like some social media time, a delightful peanut butter cookie, or, my favourite: tea. Knowing a reward is coming is a wonderful way for task initiation in the future.
7. Make it a Game: Turn cleaning into a game to make it more engaging.
How about trying to break your cleaning chart into manageable chunks? See if you can do one section before your 5-minute timer goes off. How about the 30-day minimalism game when you declutter 1 thing on day 1, 2 things on day 2, etc.
Read all about it here: The 30-day Minimalism Game to Declutter your Home in 2024
8. Label Everything: Clearly label storage bins and containers to quickly find what you need.
Another way to keep a clean space is to keep items in storage bins and to use a label or write clearly what is inside.
9. Visual Reminders: Use sticky notes or visual reminders to stay on track.
If you’re anything like me, your ADHD brain can quickly lose track of what needs to get done. Use reminders like Post-it notes or even just leave a visual cue out to alert you of what to do next.
10. Divide and Conquer: Break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
One fun ADHD cleaning hack is: Instead of getting overwhelmed by the idea of climbing a mountain, I like to see it as path by path and bit by bit. I love breaking a daunting task into smaller steps to tackle a messy house.
11. Delegate Chores: If possible, share cleaning responsibilities with family or roommates.
I like to use a chore chart for how my family can work together for a clean house and to delegate certain tasks to each family member. It’s also great because the family can feel proud of taking ownership. Using a reward system like stickers to work towards a movie or lunch is another great motivator!
12. Incorporate Breaks: Plan short breaks to avoid burnout during cleaning sessions.
After a cleaning session of hard work, how about taking a little break? Here’s a fun tip: put your feel up, watch some Pride and Prejudice, and then you’ll feel good to go when you get back to your household chores.
13. Create a Cleaning Schedule: Establish a routine to make cleaning a regular part of your week.
One of the best tips is to create a cleaning schedule or even just follow a cleaning schedule like FlyLady or Clean Mama. Another awesome thing for us ADHDers is to take the think of out it and just follow a schedule.
14. Prioritize Tasks: Focus on the most important cleaning tasks first.
Despite our best efforts, often the day can get away from us. This is why I like to prioritize the most important things first like when I’m out of underwear, and when the cat throws up on the floor– that always takes the number one spot!
15. Zone Cleaning: Divide your living space into zones and tackle one at a time.
This is another great part of some of the common cleaning systems like FlyLady to focus your deep cleaning on one particular zone for the week. Or you can even assign certain tasks to each day of the week. Monday is for vacuuming, Tuesday is for dusting, etc.
16. Set Realistic Goals: Don’t set yourself up for failure—choose achievable cleaning goals.
Sometimes we get excited and make a big long list of things to do, but we quickly get overwhelmed by the insurmountable task of a to-do list and get paralyzed and end up locked on the couch Instead, use this ADHD cleaning hack: put your top priority on the list and try to get that done, then the next and the next.
17. Create a Lost and Found Box: Collect lost items in a designated box and deal with them later.
I like to call it the “bring it home box” to bring things home to their right spot at the end of the day! Just make sure to set a timer so you remember.
18. Hire Help: If possible, hire a cleaning service to handle more challenging tasks.
Sometimes we need to hire professionals whether it’s plumbers, mechanics or mental health professionals. Occasionally, I hire a cleaning service if my house is feeling crazy busy and I need extra help. No shame when you just need a clean home and feel like you can’t get the day-to-day tasks done.
19. Go Paperless: Minimize paper clutter by opting for digital alternatives when possible.
I LOVE the option of “save as PDF” whenever I have the option to print. I also like to create folders to keep track of receipts, bills, etc.
20. Rotate Tasks: Switch up cleaning tasks to avoid monotony.
The neurodivergent brain can get bored fast! One helpful tip is to mix things up to keep them fresh and fun! Maybe you want to focus some time on decluttering your kitchen, then the next week organize your closet.
21. Use a Planner: Schedule specific cleaning tasks in your planner or calendar.
I’m going got be honest, I’m a planner girl through and through. I wasn’t always like this though. Now I use it to make lists of priorities and LOVE crossing things off. This is another example of how making the lists takes the ‘think’ out of things. I just do the next things on the list and move on with my day.
22. Invest in Tools: Quality cleaning tools can make the process more efficient.
I used to have a vacuum that only lasted about 2 minutes. Sure, it helped gamify things, but I also made getting anything done almost impossible. Make sure your tools work well to be efficient.
23. Create a Donation Bin: Have a designated bin for items you want to donate.
Perhaps this should be cleaning hack number 1 for us ADHD-ers: Having a spot to put things you come across as you’re cleaning is a great way to keep a clutter-free home and to streamline the cleaning process.
24. Take Before and After Photos: Document your progress for motivation.
I shudder at before and after bikini photos, and before and after decluttering or organizing photos can be just as scary. If you can work the serious mental fortitude up to recognize that you will be AMAZING if you can look at those before photos to celebrate how far you’ve come.
25. Involve Others: Make cleaning a group activity for social support.
Sometimes having a friend who you can check in with is a great way to keep yourself accountable. You could do a live FaceTime or even chat while you work.
26. Set up a Cleaning Station: Keep frequently used cleaning supplies in an easily accessible location.
Keep all of your cleaning supplies together. You can even use a cleaning caddy to keep bottles and scrubbers organized.
27. Create a Mail Station: Sort and handle mail as soon as it arrives to prevent paper clutter.
Before you do anything, after you get home, deal with your mail. A mail station can be helpful to make this run smoothly.
28. Use a Central Calendar: Keep track of cleaning tasks on a shared family calendar.
This is a helpful house cleaning schedule technique for all family members to keep track of who needs to take care of the dirty dishes and who is on kitty litter duty!
29. Set a Weekly Reset: Dedicate a specific time each week to reset and organize.
Ideally, we would do this cleaning session daily, but honestly, this ADHD hack happens on Saturdays for us and that’s just fine! Whatever works for you, do it!
30. Utilize Technology: Use smart home devices for automated cleaning tasks.
“Alexa, mop the floor!”, ok, so I don’t have that technology in my house, but we do have an iRobot Roomba called Grogubot and he’s fabulous! I just set him up and he takes care of everything. Even an Alexa can be great for reminding you of what you’ve scheduled yourself to do.
31. Take Advantage of Momentum: If you’re in the cleaning zone, tackle additional tasks.
I’m all for doing smaller chunks at a time, but if you are feeling like cleaning, then do more if you like! Throw in another load of dirty laundry or even do some organizing in your storage space.
32. Create a Chore Wheel: Rotate cleaning tasks among household members.
Another hack to keep things fun for you and the family so no ADHD-er gets bored cleaning the same area.
33. Use Aromatherapy: Incorporate pleasant scents to make cleaning more enjoyable.
It’s amazing how essential oils or other nice fragrances can liven your home up and make it feel cleaner just because it smells so nice!
34. Prioritize High-Traffic Areas: Focus on areas that get the most use first.
Consider doing a focused hour on the high-traffic areas to keep the home feel cleaner. When you have time, you can do a deeper clean on corners and under tables.
35. Plan for Distractions: Accept that distractions may happen and plan accordingly.
Distractions happen and that’s ok. This is why it’s great to have a short list with the biggest priority at the top, and if it doesn’t happen, there’s always tomorrow.
36. Visualize the End Result: Keep the end goal in mind for motivation.
Sure, it might look messy and a bit dirty now, but just imagine how great it’ll be when you’re done. You can do it!
37. Break Down Tasks by Sensory Input: Group tasks based on senses (sight, touch) for better focus.
I REALLY relate to this one from a neurodivergent perspective. My ability to cope with too much sensory input goes down if I’m tired or stressed. Sometimes you just need to do the thing that doesn’t make your skin crawl.
38. Create a “Home” for Everything: Reduce clutter by assigning a specific place for each item.
Preeeeeach! Yes! A place for everything and everything in its place. The best hack to create a functional clean space for any ADHD-er is to know where everything goes. It makes cleaning and finding things easier!
39. Use the Two-Minute Rule: If a task takes less than two minutes, do it immediately.
This is a nice one for time management because you’re leaving small things to pile up and stress you out over time. If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it!
40. Visual Progress Chart: Create a chart to track your cleaning progress visually.
I am just like a kindergartener when it comes to stickers. They motivate me because I can see progress. I really love a nice and simple calendar. (I made this one if you need one).
41. Use a Step Stool: Reach high places easily with a portable step stool.
This hits close to home. At 5’1”, caving in and buying a step stool has made my life much easier. I no longer need (choose) to wait for someone to get home to reach for me or don’t have to drag a kitchen chair across the house.
42. Regularly Empty Trash Bins: Prevent odours and overflow by staying on top of trash removal.
I like to do this during my Saturday reset because empty garbage cans make the home feel cleaner.
43. Rotate Seasonal Items: Store seasonal items in accessible containers and rotate as needed.
Stash the winter mitts, scarves and jackets in totes when it’s summer, and then switch them out with summer great in the winter. Do the same with seasonal sports and outdoor gear as well. And don’t forget to label them!
44. Habit stack or anchor things together.
If you tend to forget things (silently raising my hand), then stack them together. Here’s how you do it, consider anchoring something like decluttering after lunch.
45. Try body-doubling and work alongside a friend either online or in person for added motivation.
Co-working is another name for this cleaning or productivity hack to get your friends to work alongside you. The good news is we can now do things on Zoom or Facetime to work together.
46. Don’t stress over folding every piece of clothing. Perhaps your underwear and workout gear can live crumped in drawers…who will know?!
I use the Marie Kondo folding style for my shirts and pants, but WHY would I fold my workout gear, socks and underwear?
47. Be Kind to Yourself: Remember that perfection isn’t the goal—progress is what matters most.
Have grace because progress looks like a wavy line. Sometimes we get a lot done, and other days it’s just one tiny thing. Do your best, but if you miss a day, just let it go. Tomorrow’s a new day.