If you saw my house you would probably laugh at this one. We aren’t terribly ordered on the surface. Underneath, however, we have specific places for everything. We have calendars and schedules and budgets, although I’m the one who keeps up with it all. A child with ADHD is notorious for being hopelessly disorganized. It is up to the parents to create a balance of structure for the home. It’s not an easy job, for trying to organize most ADHD children is like trying to teach an elephant to dance. If one or both of the parents also has attention or organization problems, the task is even more difficult, but not impossible.
Our family’s first line of defense is to have a schedule for everybody, and for that we use Palm for the grownups. Palm is a small electronic organizer (also available with a cell phone!) that includes a calendar and address book. Palms can be ‘synced’, leaving the dad, the mom, and the computer with exactly the same information. All doctors’ appointments, soccer games, tutoring sessions, and the number to Domino’s Pizza are effortlessly posted at home, and on the portable handhelds. On Sundays, we look over the week’s activities, and every night, we check the next days’ schedule. It’s also easy to post lists, medication information, classroom schedules and the like on the Palm. Since they’re portable, all information is at hand no matter where you are. Before our brains moved to our Palm, I used a day planner, and my husband just tried to remember everything.
It’s a challenge to keep up with the trappings of four messy boys, their equally messy father, and almost as messy mother. Our organization system starts as you walk in our back door, with four hooks for jackets, and a shelf for sports supplies. We have one central chest of drawers for socks, and underwear and pajamas are kept in crates under the bathroom sink. To cut down on clutter, I try to limit the amount of clothes the kids own, and when they were little, I kept their clothes in a spare room. The four boys and their toys were in one room, and all of their clothes in another. Today, they are required to put their stack of laundry away every day. Sometimes they actually do it neatly.
Each of our boys also has their own personal two drawer file cabinet in our back hall. Into (or on) each boy’s cabinet go clothes for the next day – including shoes, bookbags, lunches, projects, lunch checks, permission slips, and signed notes. I also use it to deposit any loose paper or personal belongings I find around the house. When a child is missing the homework assignment he worked on for three hours, the first place he should look is the mailbox. Currently, one of the boys has an eight day late progress report languishing in his. He can’t remember to return it, but at least he knows where it is.
Read about the wonder working planner we devised for our disorganized boys here!
I always thought toys were supposed to be something to educate children, and to keep them occupied while grownups are otherwise involved. Unfortunately, they have become another source of headache and housework in most families. The first thing to do about keeping your child’s toys organized is to get rid of about 90% of them. After our big purge, we were left with dress up (read that Army) clothes, construction toys like Lego’s and K-nex, cars, rubber animals, blocks, and action figures. In addition, we keep games and puzzles in an out of the way closet. That’s it. The toys are in plastic shoeboxes and crates. If we are given another type toy, the boys can keep it until I find it out of place. Then it disappears. It sounds cruel, but nothing can be so harmful to boys as the struggle to manage the chaotic assortment of toys we previously owned.
When it all boils down, the main source of disorganization in a home is time management. The main sources of clutter are clothes, toys, and paperwork. Get a handle on these, and you’ll be one step closer to creating the settled and ordered physical environment your ADHD child craves.