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Making My House ADHD-Friendly. How to Organize YOUR Life.

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I say, bend the world to suit you

I want to talk about owning ADHD-friendly.  Owning it, taking charge of it, and doing with it whatever you want. For you.

I’m not talking about “owning your ADHD.”  Because sometimes, especially in the early days, but even now when I’m having a difficult day, my ADHD owns me.

I’m talking about owning our personal lives, our stuff, our homes, and making things work for us.  Having things our way.  Customizing.  Bending the world to suit us. 

Doing whatever it takes to make it work with our mindset.

We have to do a lot of things to fit into the world out there.  We have to bend to fit in with everyone else, because there’s way more of them than there is of us.  We’re only 4 or 5% of the population.

That agenda, book, TV remote, keychain, bookshelf… those are yours.  You paid for them.  [At least I assume you did. If you stole it, well that’s a whole other conversation.  Starting with, “How the heck did you steal a bookshelf?”]

Organize Your Life For You

Recently I spoke to an elite group of organizers. The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) has about 4,000 members. This group have taken it to a whole new level.  They call themselves the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD).

One of the top people is a retired Navy Admiral. 

She told me that all of her clients are required to be in therapy with a psychiatrist or a psychologist.  The members of the ICD are dealing with hard core disorganization. 

The kind that would make one of those lurid A&E TV shows.

[Am I the only one who thinks those programs are basically a freak show where viewers are entertained by people struggling with mental disorders?  I don’t watch them. 

It’s too much like the old days in Great Britain when people would go to the lunatic asylum on the weekend and pay according to stairs through the peep holes at the crazy people.]

Professional Organizers vs. ADHD (The Fight of the Century)

The members of the ICD knew a lot about ADHD.  A show of hands revealed a surprising number of those in attendance are dealing with it in their own family circle. 

I have to admit I was a little intimidated.  What can they possibly learn from me.

Quite a bit, as it turns out.

I talked about some of the strategies that Patrick McKenna and I use and which became the backbone of our documentary ADD and Mastering It!

One of the 36 Strategies, number 3 or 4 as I recall, is ‘BEND THE WORLD TO YOU.’

As I said at the top we spend so much time, energy, and precious willpower trying to bend ourselves to fit in the world.  Before we’re diagnosed we feel different, weird. 

Square pegs trying to fit into those damn round holes.

Once we are properly diagnosed and begin to understand our own personal blend of traits, we realize what was behind that feeling. 

We find strategies that work for us.  We find ways to fit in, or at least appear to fit in.  We may decide that some of those round holes are just not worth the effort.

[I would like a round of applause for resisting the urge to make the previous paragraph sound naughty. It’s not like me.]

Home Should Feel Like Home

But when you’re home it’s a whole different story.  That home is your square hole. It should fit you perfectly.

You can do whatever you want.  Organize your life in any way that works for you. (Get this video free by becoming a Patron of TotallyADD)

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? 

But we are so used to constantly bending ourselves to fit into the world and other people’s expectations and ‘do things the proper way,’ and not be asked, ‘Why can’t you just do it like everyone else?”

So when we arrive home we can be forgiven for still trying to do things ‘normally.’  Rather than granting ourselves the freedom to do what ever the heck we want.  Or rather, what works for us.

A simple example:

We kept losing the elegant, simple, tiny remote control for our Apple TV.  It’s about the size of 3 sticks of gum. 

And with all the cushions and blankets on our living room couches, the cracks between the cushions, and the many flat surfaces between the living room and the kitchen where the remote might get sent down and forgotten… well, we spent a lot of frustrating time trying to find the remote.


Apple’s Motto is “Think Different”

The Apple remote is so thin and slippery and curved that I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point it slips accidentally into an alternate universe.

Every time I had to search for it I’d mutter, curse quietly, and harangue myself for being so stupid.

Eventually I’d recognize the ‘negative self-talk’ and interrupt it.  But on some level the damage was done.  I’d reinforced a belief that I was trying to eliminate—that I’m unreliable.

Then it occurred to me that this remote is ridiculously small.  I didn’t ask them to make it this small, did I?  Why should I just accept someone else’s idea of what a remote should be.

In fact almost every remote control I’ve owned is incredibly small.  Why don’t they make them twice as big?  With big lettering?  It’s not like our living room can’t handle a remote control that’s twice as big.

I am not the only person who has tried to push the Fast Forward and accidentally switched from Cable Input to the DVD player.  And pushed 9 other buttons trying to get back to watching Shetland.

Bending The World To Me

ADHD Losing TV Remote

My Apple remote hack

Rather than me try to remember or keep track of this little slippery wedge I modified it.

Yes, I apologize to the designers at Apple who spent 5 million hours creating this elegant masterpiece. 

It’s an incredible engineering feat. So was the space shuttle.  I just want to watch TV.

So, I took some bright red duct tape [Doing the Red Green show paid off in many ways] and taped an 18 inch long tail of bright gold and purple ribbon to the remote.

You can’t miss it.  Even when the remote slides down between 2 questions that tail is visible. “Where’s the Apple rem… Never mind, I see it.”

It’s awesome.

It’s Ugly – But It’s Awesome

I wanted it to look semi-neat, so it took about 10 minutes. Since then it’s probably saved me five weeks of burrowing into sofa cushions and blankets, emptying pockets, scouring counter tops…

Furthermore, I’m not going to name names, but I’m not the only person in the house who loses that remote.  Or rather used to lose that remote.  My wife thought it was ugly when she first saw what I’d kluged together.

Now she appreciates it’s practicality.

The ribbon is growing ragged.  I’m thinking about replacing with something new for the holidays.

Next Up?  I’m On a Roll!

A week later I took action to bring the television remote to heel.

It’s jet black.  Our couches are dark.  When the TV’s on and the lights are low, that remote would vanish in plain sight.

Or it used to until I took two wide rubber bands, one pink and one yellow, that were used to wrap bunches of broccoli or asparagus, and I strap them around either end of the remote. 

In the 2 spots where they wouldn’t be pressing down on any of the buttons.  The elastic bands make the remote easy to spot.

Bonus: the rubber stops it from slipping between cushions, or under my tush.

It Works – For Me

I know for many people this may seem trivial.  Petty.  Silly stuff.

A grown man excited about some duck tape, ribbon and elastic bands?   Perhaps because you don’t have ADHD.  Perhaps you haven’t lost the same remote control 3 times in one night.  And again the next night.  And night after night, or so it seems.

It adds up.  Like the drops of Chinese Water Torture.  No wonder, at some point you think, “If I can’t even keep track of one remote control how could I ever expect to earn a degree.

Or start my own business.

Or be trusted to raise children.

Or train for a marathon.

Or… whatever. The trivial can build to tragic outcomes.

As I says, if you don’t have ADHD this blog probably strikes you as ludicrous. All I can say is you should thank your lucky stars.



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  1. ruthie October 27, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Wish I’d heard that speech you gave.
    Absotlutely going to try out this trick. Hate losing our remote controls. I might even get my daughter to do it as a kind of arts & crafts project. Maybe with some of her hairband elastics which are these bright day-glowy neon colors.

  2. Skattered October 30, 2016 at 3:22 am

    I have discovered the BEAUTY OF BUNGEES!!!
    I attached the Remote Control to the frame of the couch via a bungee. Even if the remote ends up buried amongst the cushions . . . I just go to the attachment point and follow the cord!!!
    Bungees have also been utilized to attach my “Hairbrush” to my dresser . . . for attaching “Kitchen Scissors/Snips to the leg of the kitchen table and hang them from a small hook at the edge of the underside of the table (the younger members of the family have been known to cut the bungee and make off with said scissors . . . GRRRR!!!)
    There may even be a pen or two bungeed about the house . . .

  3. wee_pad October 30, 2016 at 3:47 am

    I pair those tiny, tiny USB sticks with a brightly coloured lanyard, the sort that are normally used for hanging ID cards around your neck.It makes the stick a little unwieldy, but much harder (though unfortunately not impossible) to lose.

  4. impoftheyard October 30, 2016 at 7:08 am

    Any suggestions for glasses? I’m at that age where they are off as much as they are on but I’m scared if I put a niice bright ribbon on them it will still be there when I leave the house. I suppose I might just have to bite the bullet and get one of those things that means you can hang them round your neck.
    Thanks for the idea that the house should be a square hole. (And I’m resisting the same urge you were here). I’ve become less awkward with my eccentricities sister nice I got older but it’s still nice to see someone else write about how my home should reflect me and work for me.
    On another topic (I get away with changing the subject here? ;-) ) – I did a search on ADHD and bullying. I tried wording it a number of ways and what I found was that I still exclusively got results on people with ADHD as bullies – nothing about being bullied as a result of ADHD. I think this is more a reflection of prejudice and a lack of understanding. I can think of no other condition which has a serious impact on mental health where I would get this kind of result putting these two words together in Google. I must try other search engines and conditions.
    Anyway, thanks for your website, it is a gold mine.

  5. IanFromBarrie October 30, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Cool. Lanyards are good, too. I hang a lot of stuff around my neck. Of course, I get “are you a school teacher” a lot, but as long as I don’t take off the lanyard, I can find my car keys, guitar picks, multitool, little flashlight … Kinda hard sleeping with it, though, so I hang it on a hook by the door … usually

  6. sdwa October 30, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Love it. My house is not an oasis, but looks a lot like the inside of a dumpster, and even though I go on cleaning snits once in a while, with a vow to get and stay organized, deterioration follows, and I’m right back where I started. One possible solution? Don’t own a lot of stuff. Oops, too late. I am afraid it may take a retired Navy Admiral to right this ship.
    I recently learned this is not an uncommon challenge for ADHD folks. I was invited to a “hoarder’s anonymous” meeting where 75% of those in attendance had ADHD and basements that look like mine: floor to ceiling junk, with a narrow pathway cleared to travel through. And a living room that looks as though a hurricane swept through, with clothes and papers and coats and books and dirty dishes and dogs and cats and half-finished craft projects, etc. I felt so normal.
    So far, I have managed to truly master the contents of my shoulder bag. My essentials, such as keys, credit cards, identification, phone, computer flash drives, and so on, live in that bag like roommates in a college dormitory, each item with its own pocket or room. They are always there. Anything that comes out of the bag goes right back into its pocket immediately after use. It’s magical. I never have to guess where they are, even if I haven’t thought about them in fifteen minutes. It’s one of my proudest accomplishments. Another is actually having learned to use a hand-written planner (after years of trying, I finally found one that works for me, and I’m religious about entering appointments).
    I put a ribbon on my USB/flash drives also, to make it easy to spot. Great minds think alike.

  7. sdwa October 30, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Oh – and another thing I learned at the hoarders’ group is that many of us are afraid to invite people into our homes, for obvious reasons, and many of us have children who are embarrassed to bring their friends over unless their friends come from exactly the same type of home, which, not surprisingly (because ADHD kids tend to bond with one another) a number of them do.
    The chaos is unwieldy and such a great weight on our lives.

  8. becky October 30, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Now if you could come up with a idea of how to keep from losing a wallet which my son has done a month ago while having one of his very hyper moments and not focusing .. Great ideas for remotes.

  9. Vanilla October 30, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    So simple, but a brilliant principle. By the way, the Red Green show, which my husband and I enjoy so much, is not only extremely funny, but it is true, it inspires creativity as well. Thank you so much, Rick!

  10. shercha October 31, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Who knew that rubber bands could be so inspiring! Thanks for the article. You have inspired me to think about fun ways to make things easier. We call this “kombinowanie” (combination) in Polish. “Combination” doesn’t begin to explain the deep cultural meaning behind this word – takes at least a paragraph but in a nutshell, it’s finding creative ways to get things done that need to be done. (I do try to avoid doing anything illegal or immoral…)
    Also, coming up with ideas like this will help remember we aren’t stupid but incredibly creative and intelligent people. I have my keys on a lanyard (didn’t realize it was a coping strategy, just seemed like a good idea.) I can always find them in my bag, backpack or pockets. I also had a problem with cables (too many gadgets and cables around here.) Anything not used on a regular basis went into a pretty box. Everything inside is bagged and labelled. So when spring cleaning finally comes, I can throw out anything which no longer has a gadget to match or if I need a spare cable or plan to pull out some gadget from hibernation, I know where the cable/charger/whatever is.
    I make clutter all the time, even though I hate it. (Can’t put away anything I’m working on until it’s finished, which unfortunately is often never!) I got this brilliant idea one day that maybe if I first put everything away and then started cleaning, it would be so much easier. (Rather than simply moving things from room to room and completely frustrating the cleaning process….) What a difference! Maybe this seems like “duh!” for some people but for me, it’s the greatest idea since sliced bread. (And it’s amazing how little it takes to make us happy….which makes our relationships better…..because we aren’t blowing up with frustration….) Please, share your simple but brilliant “fixes”! More brains are better than one!

  11. wildweeder November 2, 2016 at 4:39 am

    I bought myself a four pack of a tracking device called Tile. And I’m thinking of picking up some TrackRs (another brand of tracking device) for some other crucial but frequently misplaced items. Lost my key ring one time too many. It was the loss of the keys on the lanyard that did it… I spent many hours a week for a month looking for that one. My work around was having multiple sets of keys for home, bicycle, and vehicle because I knew the other set would eventually show up, but the set on the lanyard had a key that I couldn’t duplicate.
    One tracking device on critical key ring, one taped to top of laptop, one in my frequently misplaced – even though it has a hook – bag. And fourth on my favorite pruning tool. An added bonus is I can use the tracking device to find my phone if I have my keyring but misplaced phone! I’m going to use the rubber band idea for television remote!
    Rick, I am so glad to have found TotallyADD.

  12. diamondr November 3, 2016 at 12:09 am

    Rick, you always put a smile on my face! You are a blessing!
    WildW, I always wanted to hear about the tile! Thanks to all of you who commented…it helps to feel like part of a team! On a recent trip, I finally discovered what I needed for the last 20 years of trips! Look for those hang-up jobbies for shoes, sweaters or scarves–preferably with clear, see-through pockets. I could hang it up and see all of my belongings that I had packed instead of leaving neatly stacked items in the suitcase which is unrecognizable by trip’s end. Also, I am a firm believer that the clear zip lock bag is the best invention since the paper clip. ADHDers need to get to our belongings fast 1) because looking for it takes too much time and 2) we’re already sick of THAT 70% of our day. I put all of my jewelry I wear on a regular basis in zip lock bags. Who invented jewelry boxes? I can’t SEE my stuff and end up opening all the drawers anyway.
    One more thing Rick, while you always make me laugh or smile, I teared up on your blog’s conclusion—fighting with that never-ending voice inside our own head.. Thanks all & cheers. We might as well toast…–we’re special!

  13. Rick November 7, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks diamondr, and everyone. Yes, it’s this kind of simple, practical stuff that can take away so much of the frustration, mistakes, and failures that slowly add up until we just snap, “I’m an idiot!” An explosion of rage from a dozen petty annoyances… and they’re not that petty if it means I’m late for an appointment.
    I remember when I was producing and directing History Bites, I was 30 minutes late arriving to one of the shoots at this beautiful location that had cost us a bit of money to rent. The crew and cast were pros, they’d already started working and setting up, but I was so upset, being late when it was my show and I was in charge.
    The reason? I couldn’t find my keys. I had them in my hand… And then… I finally found them in the basement, on the dryer. I spent a good part of the drive to the location trying to recall what I had gone downstairs to get that would have had me set my keys down for a second. I still shudder at the memory, even though no one else was upset.
    But tiles, beepers, and other gadgets? Awesome! People think they’re small things, and they are physically small, but oh, the difference they can make.

  14. donsense January 17, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    What were all thos places you looked for it Rick, ive done the sofa cushions and down the back, under the sofa and chair, all my pants pockets and shirts, on the kitchen counter the Bathroom( dont ask) At the front door on the parsons bench and even in with the mitts ( think Buffalo for snow but I am just in Winnipeg ,not as much but here for a lot longer. Ive looked in the Magazine rack, on and in the Tv stand,, plant stand, (i once found it in the plant) on my night stand and dresser. Even in the drawers. Bookcase, tables, and everywhere else i can think of but cant find it.
    Good thing the first Thing I did when recd it was to pair all the remotes to the apple Tv and the next was to add the app to my ipads.
    Not only is it missing but one of the TV remotes I use with it is gone as well.
    Rick you and the others have come up with Brilliant ideas, i just hope when i do find it i remember to add the tape, tail and is that my cane over there. Whats it doing here.

  15. docjill May 17, 2020 at 1:10 am

    Having a Apple Watch has saved me the phone hunting as it has the location function to make your phone beep. So helpful.
    Definitely think decluttering and getting rid of a lot of stuff helps to make things easier to find and harder to lose in the first place. Got a long way to go but downsizing to a 1 bedroom apartment definitely helped.

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