October is ADHD Awareness Month

 

CHADD, the leading resource on ADHD, estimates that 17 million adults and children are living with ADHD.

At Reclaim we often work with those effected by ADHD, whether having it themselves or living with someone who does. Being organized is a common challenge for those with ADHD. We set up systems and strategies for our clients to ensure that they are able to easily maintain them on their own. We also often recommend that our clients consult with an ADHD coach. We reached out to our favorite ADHD Coach Patty Blinderman of Positively Coaching ADHD and asked her to share her thoughts on executive functions and the role they play in becoming more organized.

Executive Functions- the keys to getting- and staying- organized

When we think of executive function (EF) skills, we may not connect them to our ability (or inability) to become more organized. The truth is that having weak EF skills can be a huge factor in whether we are able to succeed in this area.  If you experience difficulties in getting–or staying–organized, take this quick quiz to see if weak executive function skills may be at play.

The following is a list of EF skills, as defined by Guare and Dawson in their Smart but Scattered books.  Respond  “yes” or “no” to the question related to each skill to see if it is presenting an organizing challenge for you.

_____Response Inhibition– aka self-control.  Can you resist the urge to say “I don’t feel like doing it today,” “I don’t have the time,” “I’m too tired”…?

_____Working Memory– the ability to hold in our brain the steps to getting something done.  Can you remember everything that needs to be done to organize the master closet–or are some tasks/areas forgotten?

_____Emotional Control– The ability to manage emotions in order to complete a task or direct behavior. If you feel anxious about the amount of time or work needed to organize the kitchen, can you still manage to get it done?

_____Sustained Attention– Maintaining attention on a task despite boredom, distractibility, or fatigue.  Can you continue organizing your bedroom, even when someone rings your doorbell, or you have to sort 50 pairs of socks or you discover organizing it is harder than you thought?

_____Task InitiationCan you get started on cleaning out the fridge without procrastinating?

_____Planning/PrioritizationCan you formulate a plan to get the piles of office paperwork completed?

_____OrganizationCan you create and maintain systems so you can find what you need when you need it?

_____Time ManagementCan you accurately estimate how much time it will take to organize the pantry, allocate the time to do it, and stay within the time limits?

_____Goal-Directed PersistenceCan you set a goal to organize the pantry and follow through until it is finished without being distracted?

_____FlexibilityIf organizing the garage doesn’t work as you thought it would, can you revise your plan to get it done?

_____MetacognitionCan you stand back and take a birds-eye view of the work you are doing and ask “How is this going?” or “How am I doing?”

_____Stress ToleranceCan you cope with expectations/pressure (from yourself or others) to begin and complete tasks?

How many EF skills did you respond no to?  The truth is, any one of these skills can make it difficult to reach your organizing goals. The more “no” answers, the more challenging it will be to get and stay organized.  Hiring a professional organizer to work with you to set up organizational systems aligned with the way you live can provide a level playing field to set you up for success.

Knowing which EF skills are getting in your way is the first step.  Since EF skills can be improved by practice, working with an executive function coach to target your weaker skills is one way to support yourself to build routines to keep your stuff organized.  Which EF skills do you need to develop more fully to support your organizational goals?

Patty Blinderman, PCAC, PCC
ADHD and Executive Function Coach

Before & After: Medicine Closet

This medicine closet provided a lot of storage, but was in desperate need of some decluttering and organizing. Our client had admitted that she had not decluttered this closet in several years, so we knew there would be tons of expired medicine (the oldest one dating back to 1998!).

We first pulled everything out, then checked expiration dates and trashed medicine that was no longer good. We then sorted the usable items into categories. All of the medicine you see below was expired!

Once we saw what we had left and the size of each category we put those items in appropriate bins (which the client already owned). We then labeled the bins so it was easy for the whole family to easily access what they need when they need it.

Before & After: Master Bedroom Closet

This shared master closet provided a lot of space, but it was not functional due to an odd layout, very high ceilings, and inaccessible shelves and hanging space. We were up for the challenge to make this a practical (and pretty) closet!

Our client had already decluttered her clothing and worked with a stylist so her wardrobe was in check, but her husband’s side needed a major overhaul. Once he decluttered his side, we were ready to go!

We first had to decide what went where. We had a ton of storage, which was great, but because so much of it was not easily accessible we had to make sure that the items accessed everyday were in reach.

The shelves were tall but not very deep, so instead of stacking items we stocked the shelves with labeled baskets.

We then stored out of season clothing and items not worn often on the higher shelves in decorative boxes.

This client now has and beautiful and functional master bedroom closet!

Pro Tips for Packing & Unpacking

Spring and Summer are the most popular months for home sales, which means lots of people are moving. Whether you’re moving down the street or across the country, there are things you can do to make the process more efficient and less stressful.

Love it or Leave it. There is no better time to declutter then when you are preparing for a move. If you are unsure  of what items to keep, before packing them, ask yourself, “When is the last time I used this?”, “What would be the worst thing that would happen if I got rid of this?” and “Why am I keeping it?” Anything that you no longer want to keep should be donated, sold, or trashed depending on the condition and the value. By taking the time to pack only what you need and use, you’ll save time when it comes time to unpack. Frequently we are contacted by people who moved into their home years ago and still have boxes that are not unpacked. If you are taking only what you need and use, you won’t have to worry about stacks of unopened boxes. This is the perfect time to sell or donate all of those wedding gifts you never used, but felt you should hold onto!

Purposeful Packing. Put like-items together and label boxes clearly with the contents. It will save you time when unpacking to label boxes Kitchen, Garage, etc. For those items you’ll need right away, write OPEN FIRST on the boxes. Too often when we unpack clients we see lots of things haphazardly thrown into boxes either by the client or the movers. You would be shocked at how many times we’ve opened boxes that are filled with trash. We are also frequently contacted by people who moved into their homes years ago and still have stacks of boxes in their garage that have yet to be unpacked; when we do finally unpack them are almost always filled with items that the client no longer wants.

Tools of the Trade. To be most efficient you’ll need the right packing tools.

-Durable packing boxes
-Quality packing tape
-Sharpies
-Packing Paper
-Color Coded Labels

At Reclaim we’re busy working with clients to help them pack and unpack. We are currently working with two families, one packing and one unpacking. The family that we are packing is moving into temporary housing before their new home is ready. We are decluttering room by room and then packing items into two separate categories–storage and apartment. This will make it easy for the movers to know what goes where. In one three-hour appointment we decluttered and packed two rooms. With a trunk full of donations, a handful of items to sell and five bags of trash, we’re off to a good start!

We are also working with a family to unpack and set up systems in their new home. This is another situation where a family was in temporary housing. When we arrived the bonus room was filled with boxes from storage. The contents were unknown, so we dug right in. In just two hours we went through all of the boxes and put the items in their appropriate places. 75% of the items were trash. The client also found several items she had been searching for for the past three months. We are now going room-by-room, perfecting each space so that everything has a home.

Are you moving or still have boxes that have yet to be unpacked from a past move? We can help!

Before & After: Kids’ Cabinet

There is no question that kids require a lot of stuff. When doing meal prep for the little ones, whether it be a snack or dinner you’ll want to be able to easily access the necessities and not have to navigate through overstuffed cabinets.

We first pulled everything out and removed the items the client no longer needed. In this case, the client had already done a great job of decluttering, so with only a few things left to discard we had to get creative by maximizing the little space we did have. We put like items together and used white mesh stackable shelves to separate stacking items so that everything is easily accessible.

You’ll see that the upper cabinet was home to a pile of plastic ware. A frequent problem our clients have is dealing with heaping piles of mismatched plastic ware. Our all-time favorite plastic ware is Easy Find Lids by Rubbermaid. The lids snap right on to the bottom, taking up less space while being able to keep matching sets together.

Before & After: Her Closet

Your bedroom closet should have one purpose and that is to store you clothing, shoes and accessories. This closet was also home to an entire bookshelf of schoolwork. With a spare bedroom closet available, we decided it was best to store the bookshelf there, freeing up an entire wall for shoe storage.

We first decluttered. Getting rid of 12 large garbage bags full of clothing! We not only decluttered the closet, but two large dressers as well.

This is just a sneak peek at the decluttering process. Creating piles for what stays and what goes was no small task, but necessary to ensure that only things that were going to be worn were kept.

Once we knew what was being kept we purchased a few items to maximize the space in the closet. We used slimline hangers to make the most of the hanging space we had available.

We used purse boxes for large purses and pull down linen shoes boxes for small clutches.

Because we had limited shelving space, we needed to create our own. These hanging cubbies were the perfect solution.

Lastly, the shoe wall. This Chrome Metal 10-Tier Rolling Shoe Rack fits up to 50 pairs of women’s shoes fit perfectly.

Before & After: Medicine Cabinet

Often we see clients filling their cabinets to the brim. With the right organizational tools you can maximize space without using every square inch.
medicine-cabinet-before-edit-with-text-1

When we organized this kitchen medicine cabinet we disposed of a lot of expired medication. We then used a lazy susan on the bottom shelf so that daily supplements are easy to access. We then used a tiered organizer for children’s medicine and on the higher shelves placed pain reliever and adult medications.

 

Now everything is visible and easily accessible.

 

Before & After: Linen Closet

With no real system in place a linen closet often becomes a catchall to an overabundance of toiletries, towels and sheets.

 

5 half used cans of hairspray…holey towels…Aways running out of toilet paper…That is what our client was dealing with. Years of purchasing items without decluttering, led to several duplicate items and items she no longer needed or used taking up space.

 

We first decluttered, removing anything that was expired and no longer used. In order to keep products organized and ensure that the client knew what she had on hand at all times and to prevent overbuying we grouped like items together in bins. Open plastic bins kept items visible, but contained. The finishing touch was labels so it’s clear what goes where. Small drawer units are now home to smaller items that would easily get lost in large bins.

 

 

Before & After: Jewelry Drawer

No one has time for tangled necklaces and missing earrings. If you have an extra dresser drawer or two, they are a great option for keeping jewelry organized.


This client had felt-lined drawers but with no real system in place she struggled with keeping her jewelry organized.


We first decluttered, removing anything that she did not wear. Once we saw what was she decided to keep, we put jewelry trays in place so that everything stays tidy and visible. These trays are the perfect solution because they keep necklaces from tangling by separating them. If you have deep drawers you could also stack the trays and slide them side to side. An added bonus is that the flocked interior of the trays prevent jewelry from tarnishing.

 

 

School Daze

If your schedule is jam-packed with everything from soccer practice to school orientation, you’re not alone. Back-to-school time often means being on the go 24/7, which can be fun yet leave busy parents frazzled. Here’s your homework: make sure you don’t lose track of all of your children’s school stuff amid all the coming and going! Instead, use these practical tips to get an “A+” in organization, and the coming school year is sure to run that much more smoothly.

Head of the Class

With Art Do You Part: It’s tempting to want to keep all of your child’s artsy creations, but over time, they can make a bigger mess than spilled paint. Keep everything in check by starting a keepsake box that can house all of the art assignments throughout the school year. At the end of each year, review and keep only those that are truly special. As for the rest? Take photos and create a special scrapbook that you and your child can cherish in the years to come! (Even better, take photos of and recycle all of the assignments, and start fresh with the keepsake box next year.)

In It To Win It: Permission slips, forms, and tuition bills, oh my! Don’t let the paper trail lead you astray—you can keep everything centralized by setting up an inbox for school items that require parental attention. Depending on the volume of paper and nature of the correspondence, set aside time at least once a week to deal with these pending items.

Making It Easy: Though rewarding, homework, extracurricular activities and other commitments can leave your children—and you—feeling overwhelmed. Simplify the chaos by creating checklists and a shared family calendar that will keep you and your little ones in sync. (If doing it digitally, try a service like Famjama or Cozi, both of which get high marks from PC Mag.)