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Getting organised with ADHD

ADHD is something we often hear about. The old misunderstandings are gradually being eroded and most people living with the condition lead fulfilled and happy lives. Sometimes though they can find it difficult to manage the day to day aspects of life and 'stuff' can get on top of them. As professional organisers what do we need to know in order to help them when they turn to us for help?

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A related condition is ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder.

What causes ADHD?

It's a condition which affects the uptake of Dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical called a neurotransmitter which governs a range of activities from learning and sleeping to mood and movement. This means people with ADHD may struggle to concentrate and to control impulsive behaviours - such as fidgeting, talking too much and interrupting other people.

ADHD in adults

We undoubtedly all know of someone who has been diagnosed with this condition, mainly children. However, 60% of children who are diagnosed with ADHD go on to exhibit symptoms throughout their adult lives, although only in the last 20 years has it been formally recognised in adults. Some well known actors, business people and sports people have been diagnosed with the condition; Sir Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver and Jim Carey to name just three. (click here for more examples).    As people with ADHD grow up the hyperactive-impulsive elements often diminish but the inattentive and disorganised elements of behaviour often remain. This can lead to them suffering with emotional problems such as depression and anxiety. These behavioural symptoms can lead to society assuming they have lower than average IQ's, which is absolutely not the case - rather the reverse, with many being highly intelligent and well-informed.

Symptoms of ADHD in adults

  • Restlessness and difficulty in sitting still
  • Multiple, short-lived thoughts and poor focus
  • Unstable moods which can fluctuate from distraction to irritability
  • Impatience and frustration
  • Difficulties in sustaining motivation and interest

Getting organised with ADHD

Christine McLanachan is a life coach who specialises in helping people with ADHD. Her website is a mine of useful information for people who either have the condition or interact with someone who does. When coaching Chris says it is important to use clear, precise language with no ambiguity, particularly when giving instructions. She stresses the importance of asking 'Am I making myself clear?' rather than 'Do you understand?' to ensure her clients remain on track. If they indicate that they 'can't get the picture' she will change direction and try a different approach.

De-cluttering can be a stressful time. Chris highlights behaviours to look out for, which indicate the situation is becoming too stressful: repetitive movements, reduced eye-contact, rubbing their head or generally talking to themselves more. If this starts to occur, a change in direction, or reverting back to an activity which they enjoyed, should help.

Chris says, 'If there is one vital tool you should use when working with an ADHD client, it is total honesty and secondly complete clarity!'

So what does all this mean for Professional Organisers who want to work with clients with ADHD?

  • Plan short sessions with clear goals in advance so the client knows what is expected
  • Keep it simple. suggests getting 3 boxes labelling them; 'Use all the time', 'Sometimes use' and 'Haven't used in ages' to start the sorting process
  • Give clear, precise instructions, one task at a time
  • Allow for breaks with drinks and good snacks to keep blood sugar levels as normal as possible to limit possible mood changes
  • Make mental notes of activities the client seems to enjoy, which can be returned to at periods of high stress
  • Define clear objectives which can be revisited if the client becomes de-motivated or distracted
  • Plan activities in one room to limit distractions
  • Help keep an element of fun by using colour in your sorting and purging processes either stickers or coloured paper and charts
  • And last but by no means least, ensure your own energy levels are good as it can be exhausting work keeping on track.

Additional information sources


Orvention 2011

Don't forget this year's Orvention conference is taking place on the 7th October at De Reehorst Conference Centre in Ede, Netherlands. The 2011 topic centres on the future and all its new possibilities with guest speaker Susan Lannis. See for further details (click on the union jack top right corner to get the English translation).

New series for Channel 4 on Hoarding

In 2012 Hoarding (the compulsion to collect and store excessive numbers of objects) is officially becoming recognised as an illness in its own right. Experts hope this change will make a profound improvement to lives of sufferers. As new research sheds more light on the condition, Channel 4 want to tell the untold story of what it's like to be a hoarder. Contact Rachel Harris on 020 7424 7720 or email on

Regional News

This month we take a more detailed look at the offering of some of our colleagues from the Eastern region.

Working Order

Cassie Tillett of Working Order was one of the founders of apdo-uk back in late 2004. Together with Trudy Kelly and Sue Kay, she created the group and the original website when there were about a dozen of us in one simple alphabetical listing! Since then, she's been proud to continue with the development of the Association as our numbers have grown and the industry has gained recognition, and still (with invaluable help from Sharon Kellett and Jon Ramsay) loves to be your chief-cook-and-bottle-washer. She's recently had exciting and helpful conversations with the Presidents of our much larger sister organisations in America and the Australias, which will help us to improve the services we offer both our membership and our clients. Cassie's own business is all about your stuff, your space and your technology: managing them, organising them and learning about them so that you can enjoy them (and your life) much more!

Moves With Care

is a not-for-profit company that offers a range of services for older and vulnerable people in East Anglia who need to move from their current home into sheltered accommodation or residential care. De-cluttering is only one of the services we offer! We are able to help people find the right care accommodation and assist with the entire moving process, including help with selling their home, getting their home ready for sale, finding the right solicitor, estate agent, removal company, etc., helping to pack up and get rid of those items they can't take with them, writing change of address letters, unpacking and settling them into their new home. It is a bespoke service and, we believe, unique to East Anglia.

Amaliado Design & Organise

Amanda Lewis trained and worked in architecture and town planning before starting her new venture, Amaliado Design & Organise, in late 2010. Amanda is interested in domestic built design and interiors and has re-modelled a 1930s apartment, a Victorian terraced property, a modern town house and a modern semi-detached house.

As a frequent house mover, Amanda understands de-cluttering, packing and un-packing possessions, re-modelling, decorating, furnishing and equipping different kinds and sizes of home on a budget. She has two children and is familiar with the changing spatial and functional household requirements of family living as it evolves over time.

Clear Spaces

Clear Spaces offers a professional de-cluttering and organising service, individually tailored to suit your needs. You will find help to restore calm and order, so that you can live your life the way you want to. Services include de-cluttering and organising:

  • Individual rooms or whole homes
  • Paperwork and office spaces to provide workable systems
  • Toys, playrooms to enable play and creativity
  • Kitchens, so at demanding times of the day, you have a kitchen that works for you, so you can find the grater, tin or bottle opener...
  • Wardrobe consultation and streamlining, to save you time and make you feel good in the morning
  • Staging homes for sale or rent, a de-cluttered home, maximising space and light is a home that other people want

All work is designed to offer an aesthetically pleasing and restorative outcome

Bye Bye Pigsty

As a part-time doctor and part-time de-clutterer I am constantly reminded of the complex relationship between people, their health and their environment. If life gets difficult and you're not at your best, physically or mentally, it can become hard to keep on top of things. Likewise, if your environment becomes cluttered it can be hard to cope with everyday life. Clutter and poor organisation are common problems. Fortunately there are many simple solutions to both and with the help of a professional de-clutterer its amazing how quick, easy and fun it can be to make your life clutter free!


If you don't know where to start- or just need a little extra support - then we provide experienced, practical support and expert advice to de-clutter your home. We work with you to clear your clutter, devise storage solutions and organise your living or working areas including; Offices and paperwork, Moving house, Spare rooms and living areas, Garages and sheds, Sorting inherited belongings and Wardrobe makeovers. Our team of experienced clutter consultants covers London, the South East and the West Midlands.

Happy De-cluttering and Organising!

The APDO team

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