Like many ADHD households, mine fights a constant battle to keep clutter managed. One of my fave ADHD cleaning hacks is keeping a sponge and spray bottle of cleaner in each room that needs frequent cleaning, so that I don’t have to go looking for supplies to clean, and can just clean when the spirit moves me (instead of allowing distraction a change to take over). This means that several times a week I will take a sponge and wipe my bathroom counters because hey, the supplies are right there. Obstacle: The kids leaving stuff all over the counter in the bathroom. So…quite a while ago, I got everyone their own box to keep their things in, in the bathroom (there’s no closet in our bathroom…old New England houses are often short on storage space). The boxes are sturdy and easily wipeable/cleanable. Of course, for this idea to work, they have to put their stuff IN the boxes. The oldest child is generally pretty good about this – the younger two frequently forget. Well I don’t like to clean up the clutter every time I want to wipe a counter – but because of ADHD, I kept forgetting to ask them to stop doing this.
So I created a cue system, to make sure that I would remember to tell them.
I put all of their stuff that was on the bathroom counter in my underwear drawer.
Why the underwear drawer? I use that drawer every day, so I was unlikely to forget where I’d put the stuff. Plus – when the kids went to look for their toothbrushes and whatever else, they were going to have to ask where they went…right. To me, this makes all the sense in the world. Well I’m sitting at the table the other night with my husband and our oldest child. The youngest comes down, concerned that he can’t find his toothbrush and toothpaste. I say “OH, I’m glad you asked, it’s in my underwear drawer. It’s in there because I wanted to remind you to please stop leaving it on the counter. I don’t want to have to put your things away for you when I wipe the counter, so please put your things in your box.” Youngest child cheerily says “OH, yeah, my box!” and goes back upstairs to retrieve his toothbrushing supplies. You should have seen the faces on my husband and oldest child.
“Why is his toothbrush with your UNDERWEAR?!” Oh my goodness, hilarity ensued and for the next several minutes they teased me, laughed, made fun of me, pretended to be horrified. Finally, second child says “wait, why IS it in your underwear drawer?” For those just tuning in, my husband and oldest child also have ADHD. So I explained to my fellow ADHDers in the house, why, exactly, I’d put it there. My husband wanted to know why I didn’t just write myself a note. I said…and it’s true…that I have SO many notes I have to write to myself that it gets overwhelming and sometimes setting up this kind of indirect triggering system is just easier and less stressful. And…it worked. My husband had fun making more fun of me (he’s one funny bitch…I kind of love it when he gets on a roll like this, it’s hilarious and not intended to hurt my feelings…) but my stepdaughter was like “wait, I get it!”
And y’know what? I think that’s the best part. I was able to model a creative way to trigger memory, for my child who needs that kind of skill the most. She ended up thinking it was a little bit clever and I think it showed her that living with ADHD doesn’t have to be one big blob of post-it notes, it can be adaptive and fun. And funny.