Did you know that in the U.S., 6.1 million children under age 18 have ever been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder)?
As professional organizers, we work with many clients whose children have ADHD. Kids with ADHD tend to be high-energy (hyperactivity) and might struggle with focusing on tasks. While these traits can be challenging at times, children with ADHD can also be great at thinking outside the box and multitasking, and they are generally very sociable and highly empathetic.
Tips for Staying Organized with ADHD
Like any child, a child with ADHD thrives when they’re supported in ways that take into account their unique needs. Recently, we spoke with Dr. Elissa Gonzalez (Dr. G), pediatrician and founder of Blue Monarch Pediatrics in Lakeway, TX, about a few ways parents of children with ADHD can help the whole family maintain a more organized home.
Tip #1: Have a Place for Everything
Knowing where things go – in other words, having a designated home for every belonging – is especially helpful for children with ADHD. You want to avoid the dreaded “stuff piles” that can be overwhelming for kids (and adults!).
For example, when kids come home from school or sports practice, their shoes, their backpacks or sportsbags, lunchboxes and water bottles should always go in the same spots. Think about creating drop zones where clutter normally congregates in your home. And don’t forget labels for bins or cubbies! Labels help ensure that everyone in the household can maintain the system.
Dr. G sees many families who use large baskets or bins to contain lots of different toys or other items. This isn’t recommended for kids with ADHD – it’s too overwhelming for them. You want to make it simple and clear: this bin is just for Legos, this bin is just for Hot Wheels, etc. (we call this “micro-organizing”). This way, it’s easier to find the toys they want and put things away. Kids with ADHD also tend to be visual, in that they like to see all of their things. Try using clear bins or containers, but only keep a few toys in each bin to help reduce overwhelm.
Tip #2: Keep Distractions to a Minimum
Getting distracted can be a big challenge for kids with ADHD. Doing what you can to minimize distractions will help them focus.
Lots of loud and colorful toys and books in a space can feel too stimulating, so it’s important to reduce visual clutter wherever possible. You might place a curtain in front of a bookshelf or keep some items in a small cabinet (you can even add cabinet doors to IKEA’s popular KALLAX system). The goal is to create a comforting, relaxing environment that doesn’t pull their attention in a million different directions.
Tip #3: Routine, Routine, Routine
We all thrive with a bit of routine in our lives, and children with ADHD are no different. Many parents Dr. G meets with tell her that their kids do well in school but struggle when they get home. When children are at school, they’re on a schedule, they’ve got a routine – they know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. If kids don’t have set routines at home, they may start feeling overwhelmed and distracted.
To help them feel more in control, work with your child to create clear routines at home for after school, bedtime, before school, and even weekend mornings. Write out the routines (checklist form works well!) using words or pictures, and post them where your child can easily see them. They may get off track now and then, but you can gently redirect them to check the routine and make sure they’ve done all the steps. Be flexible, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments when needed!
Tip #4: Remove Duplicates and Items with No Purpose
This tip gets back to the core of all of these tips: to simplify and reduce distractions in your child’s life as much as possible. Kids can get lost in an abundance of stuff; for example, unused toys or multiples of items. Too many options leads to a lack of focus.
Help your child reduce the number of toys and overall stuff in their spaces. Items they’ve outgrown can be given away, and some belongings can even be stored elsewhere for a time and rotated back in to keep things fresh.
We live in a chaotic world where we’re inundated with stuff and information all day long – kids and adults alike. The most important thing is to be intentional about what you’re keeping in your home and in your child’s space. By following these tips, you can help your child thrive!
Dr. Elissa Gonzalez is a pediatrician and founder of Blue Monarch Pediatrics, based in Lakeway, TX. Her mission is to provide accessible and personable integrative healthcare that focuses on the whole child.