Five Tips for Minimizing ADHD-Related Conflict in Relationships

In my 12+ years as a professional organizer, I have come across many couples and families in conflict over clutter, failing organizing systems and productivity concerns when one person has ADHD and the other(s) do not. I often get called in to “fix” the person with ADHD and it takes a lot of empathy, support, and education to get partners and families to understand the different approaches and accommodations required for long term organizing success.

Here are my top five tips for organizing success and minimized conflict:

  1. Recognize that having ADHD doesn’t make your loved one lazy.  This is a tough one to truly accept, because it can be frustrating when seemingly simple tasks and appointments are forgotten, projects are overlooked, or focus seems to be on the “wrong” things. Individuals struggling with executive function challenges aren’t intentionally running late or being forgetful; and placing blame or adding to anyone’s own internal sense of guilt and shame causes more harm and doesn’t help bring about change.

  2. Be open to compromise.  Chances are, the partner with ADHD has very different organizing needs than the partner without.  It may not be possible to put everything away behind closed closet doors or into drawers, for example, if “out of sight” means “out of mind” for your family member.  Creating systems that work for everyone will involve some give and take.  Maybe some easy-to-access hooks are the answer, with a commitment from everyone to keep things off the floor.  Or perhaps a high profile spot on the counter needs to be designated as a “drop zone” to keep things from collecting all over the place.

  3. Create a support system and delegate tasks that aren’t getting done.  If conflict is significant, make sure you engage the services of a professional therapist or coach to help resolve underlying issues.  If regular tasks are at the root of the problem, and they can be delegated to a house cleaner, landscaper, handyman, bookkeeper, etc., then go for it.  Having a house cleaner come every other week has eliminated an enormous amount of conflict in my home!

  4. Assist your partner with organizing maintenance.  Practice organizing spaces together to help keep your loved one focused on the task at hand.  Body doubling is a powerful strategy to help keep others grounded and present. Fold laundry or pay the bills while your partner clears off their desk. It will make the task more fun and manageable.

  5. Embrace the benefits.  Is your ADHD partner entrepreneurial? Creative? Spontaneous?  Could you benefit from a break in routine?  Try going along for the ride once in a while and enjoy the energy and fun that often comes with an ADHD brain.

About Wendy Buglio

Wendy is the CEO & Owner of Living Peace, a Certified Professional Organizer who has earned both Level II CD (Chronic Disorganization) and ADD Specialist designations from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. She is dedicated to discovering what’s most important and then developing strategies to get everything else out of the way. With her non-judgmental approach and calming energy (combined with a healthy dose of reality and a sense of humor), she works with clients to make decisions and take action to create desired change. She applies this approach to physical objects in residential and office environments, but also to intangible “clutter” – such as tasks, obligations and goals – helping to maximize her clients’ productivity and organization. Some of her favorite clients have ADD – something that Wendy sees as an asset to creative thinkers and entrepreneurs! Wendy lives in Arlington, MA with her husband Mike (bookstore owner), their 7-year-old son Tony, and rescue dog Rosie. In her free time, she loves to entertain and plan events, visit Downeast Maine, and is a competitive fantasy football player. She is a repeat 39-mile walker for the Avon 39, The Walk to End Breast Cancer.

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