Marie Kondo Your ADHD

ADHD Strategies    March 31, 2019

I’ll admit…I’m a huge fan of Marie Kondo…the petite, bubbly Japanese de-clutter-er. I first read her book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” years ago. I took to heart the “does it spark joy” question to help reduce some of my home’s clutter. Using the spark joy prompt…I was able to say good-bye to items I had held onto for years.

When my daughter told me that Marie Kondo had a Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” I was thrilled! I don‘t know if my binge watching was curiosity about Marie Kondo the person, or the transformations that occurred under her tutelage. Either way…I am smitten.

Being such a huge fan, I couldn’t help consider how some of the tidying principles might apply to living with ADHD. The physical decluttering application seems obvious. However, it is how the overall Marie Kondo tidying message can be applied to other areas of our lives that I wanted to explore further. And this is what I came up with.

One of the key questions Mari Kondo asks people when decluttering things in their homes is “does this spark joy?” In Marie Kondo’s world, it’s important to take a moment to hold and consider the item while asking if the item “sparks joy”. Doing this helps people notice the difference between those things that “spark joy” and those that don’t, which is important. If it doesn’t “spark joy,” then out it goes! Why? Because if something doesn’t “spark joy” for us, it is a burden to us. It is draining mental, physical, or emotional energy from our lives.

The Marie Kondo system of decluttering starts with areas and things in our homes that are easier to sort, like clothes or books. After becoming comfortable with the joy or no joy process, it’s time to move on to more emotionally charged areas, like memorabilia, photos, etc.

Oh, and one last thing about the letting go of things. Thanking them before we let them go. When we realize something does not spark joy for us any longer, it’s important to take a moment, say “thank you” and pass it on.

Now when you are living with ADHD, our homes aren’t the only things that need decluttering. There are also our thoughts and beliefs. The longer we have lived with ADHD, the more beliefs, rules or habits we have collected. Many that need to be aired out and possibly tossed out.

So, when applied to your ADHD life, does what you’re doing/feeling/believing “spark joy”?

When Marie Kondo-ing your ADHD life, start with areas that feel easier for you to sort through and work forward from there. You get to decide the order that works best for you.

You may want to get a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Write “Sparks Joy” on one side of the page, and “Does NOT Spark Joy” on the other. Starting at the top of the page in the left hand margin working down, write the words: systems, sleep, food, movement, environment, plan, relationships, work, rules and beliefs. Leave several lines between the words on the left to allow space for you to write your responses.

Here is a list of things you might want to consider:

  • Do the systems or strategies you use to manage your ADHD spark joy? Are they interesting, engaging and effective in helping you accomplish your “to do’s”? Consider the current strategies and habits you use to manage your ADHD. If a system is not sparking joy for you, think about what needs to change. Allow yourself to revisit what worked or sparked joy in the past. Be curious as to the similarities between those systems and structures that spark joy for you and those that don’t.
  • Does your sleep spark joy? Adequate sleep is essential for optimal brain function. So, does your sleep spark joy? What about where you sleep? Do your sheets, blankets, and pillows spark joy? Do your pajamas spark joy? Does the temperature of the room and your covers spark joy? If not, what might need to change?
  • Does the food you eat spark joy? The food we eat with ADHD can add to the healthy functioning of our brain or not. Food can be enjoyable…or not. Consider if the food you are eating sparks joy for you. Does it feel nourishing? Healthy? Enjoyable? If not, why? What can you add or change? What new recipes or old favorites might you add. Recently I have started eating a lot of finger food. Cutting cheese into cubes, slicing and rolling lunch meat, adding more raw vegetables and dips. For me, eating food with my hands is definitely sparks joy!.
  • Does movement and exercise in your life spark joy? This is a biggie for me. If I don’t like it, I won’t do it. Although exercising may never get easier for me, I have found that the right music, sights and shoes do wonders for my enjoyment of it. If exercise doesn’t spark joy for you, consider what you can change to make it more interesting, engaging or stimulating for you.
  • Does your overall environment spark joy? Consider the places you spend most of your time. It could be your home, office or even school. With ADHD it might be a given that our physical areas are more cluttered, but this is more about the overall space where you spend your time. Does being in that space spark joy? If not, consider what is getting in the way of that feeling. Begin to break down what specific things either do or do not spark joy. What might need to change?
  • Does your planning spark joy? With ADHD, “plan” or “structure” can feel constricting and limiting. Certainly not joyful. However, the right planning system can also provide just enough structure so we are actually freed up to do other things. So, does your planning or external reminder system (EMS) spark joy for you? Is it visually interesting and engaging? Is it organized in a way that fits with your needs? If not, what might you change?
  • Do the relationships in your life spark joy? Which relationships do, and which do not. Start with noticing the feeling you get when you hold the thought of someone that does spark joy for you. Now, notice the feeling you get when you hold the thought of someone that doesn’t spark joy for you. What is the difference? Begin considering what might need to change in your relationships. What relationships are you holding onto that are draining you rather than energizing you? What might need to change in your circle of support for you to experience more joy in these relationships?
  • Does your work spark joy? If not, what is missing? Work is a major part of our lives. Typically we spend at least a quarter of our lives working, whether you work for yourself, work for someone else, work out of the home or work in the home. What about your work or parts of your work spark joy? What themes or similarities do you notice about what sparks joy and what doesn’t? What might need to change for your work to spark joy?
  • Do the rules or beliefs you have about yourself spark joy? Living with ADHD for any length of time means that we are going to have internalized lots and lots of mind clutter. This is a great time to Marie Kondo those rules and beliefs about yourself that no longer apply. Separate those thoughts and ideas that are positive and make you feel good verses those that are limiting, zap your energy and are not encouraging or helpful to hold onto. What beliefs do you have about yourself that spark joy? Which do not? Which might you want to let go of?

If areas of your life with ADHD don’t spark joy for you, try tidying it up with the Marie Kondo approach. Life with ADHD can mean that clutter is not only in our homes or offices,  but in our minds. Remember to start with what’s easy to declutter in your life. Acknowledge those areas and things that spark joy for you. Then, step-by-step, thank and let go of the things in your life that are no longer serving you and adding to your ADHD clutter.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about tidying up your ADHD life.  Let me know in the comments section below.

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