ADHD and Spring Cleaning: 10 Survival Tips



Here it is, almost April early May, (don’t we always run “just” a little behind?) and every magazine you open contains articles about spring cleaning. With the weather improving (well, in some areas, certainly not here in Michigan), the urge hits to get outside more and enjoy the break in weather. It’s hard to imagine spending more time indoors to do what many of us hate to do: cleaning and organizing. Not only do we hate it, we’re often paralyzed, not knowing *how* to do it: which cleaner do you use for the floor? What’s the best way to clear out the garage, when there are so many steps to consider? As adults with ADHD, breaking down large projects into smaller ones can seem almost impossible when even deciding on where to start can be overwhelming.

Further, we get distracted, we procrastinate and before we know it, spring has morphed into summer, then fall and winter and the cob webs from last year are still hanging in the closet. As you read the richly detailed magazine articles, you feel a pang of anxiety, depression, guilt and even a drop in self-esteem, as you wonder why it seems so easy for others to do this, but for you, it’s an obstacle bigger than life.

Where to Start

We need to remind ourselves that cleaning, let alone deep Spring Cleaning, may not be an area of strength for us. Our ADHD symptoms prevent us from just jumping in and knowing how to attack the many chores needing to be done. Or at least the ones we’re told need to be done. Magazine articles don’t consider the needs of all readers, thus, we’re told to do a million different things to make our house, yards, garages and offices look spick and span. As someone with ADHD, it’s important to remember that these are often expectations that are unreachable. It’s best to “kick it down” a notch and allow ourselves to do what works best for us and not feel like we must follow a list of 150 “must-dos” for spring cleaning.

The very first step, then, is to accept your challenges and make your strengths work for you.

Terry’s 10 Tips for Spring Cleaning 

  1. Make a list of things that need to be cleaned and organized and prioritize them. Once that’s done, go back and put a line through the chores that aren’t 100% necessary to accomplish. Do you really need to mop down the floor in the furnace room?
  2. Set up a time-line. Take your calendar or whatever type of planner you use and set aside a chunk of time daily or weekly and write down which chore you’ll be able to work on. Be realistic about how much time you have and then deduct about ½ hour from that. That way, you are giving yourself permission to stop at the given hour but yet allowing yourself to continue if you have the time and energy.
  3. Everyone has his or her own style of managing large projects. Some like to stick with one till its completed; others prefer to multi-task to avoid boredom. Which is your preferred way of attacking big projects? Make sure you break down big jobs into smaller ones so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Consider writing down all the steps needed to complete the projects.
  4. Begin with the job you are dreading the most. Once done, you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment and will more likely have the energy and confidence to tackle the rest that are on your list.
  5. Be realistic: If you know you can’t wipe down every cabinet in your kitchen, choose the ones that need the most attention and focus only on those.
  6. Always try to have someone help you. Not only will you get the job done more quickly, you’ll have company while doing it, making the task more pleasant.
  7. Consider trading chores with friends/family. If you don’t mind raking up the backyard but hate the idea of clearing out the garage, swapping with someone is often an ideal solution.
  8. Hire someone to help with the big jobs, i.e. yard work, window washing, carpet cleaning, etc.
  9. Do a “good enough” job of it. Don’t compare yourself with others; make it work for you. If you’re satisfied with how your pantry looks with a light dusting or quick re-arranging, then leave it at that and don’t worry about it.
  10. Ask yourself if it’s really worth worrying and obsessing over. Perhaps you don’t need to even do a spring cleaning! Keep plugging away at your regular chores and think of it as a work in process.

How about you? What works? What doesn’t? Please share your tip below in the Comment section.

Still need help? Join the Queens of Distraction! Let me and your fellow queens  help you get through your tasks and chores- online! Join today HERE.



Sewing and Cooking and ADHD, Oh My!

Ten million years ago, when I was in Junior High School, I was forced to take the dreaded Home EC classes. I must have known early on that I’d need a decent career, since I’d never cut it as a homemaker. Cooking was a nightmare. I clearly remember being given the smallest kitchen in the smallest cubby with students who, like me, didn’t know the difference between a teaspoon and a teacup. We were given the assignment of making chocolate chip cookies and it was my turn to head my team. Sadly, they listened to my directions and we turned out one giant, melted 2-foot cookie instead of the required dozen, petite delicacies. I was mortified.

The following semester was worse: sewing. With my poor fine motor and math skills, I knew I was doomed. So did the teacher, when I’d asked her what a bobbin was. I thought it was something you did with apples at a Halloween party. While the girls zipped through project after project, working on harder and harder outfits until they reached the fancy blouses with darts, lace trim and oyster buttons, I was still working on the navy blue A-line skirt with a simple zipper. I felt humiliated that I didn’t even know how to pin on the patterns, let alone thread the machine. I squeaked by with a D, only because the teacher felt sorry for me. She must have figured I’d get nowhere in life, since I had zero homemaking skills.

Fast forward. I earn two college degrees, marry and start a family. Daughter #2 decides she wants to be a Brownie and I’m happy to oblige, hoping she will expand not only her social world, but also learn… skills. Secretly, I hoped she’d learn to cook and sew so that I could duck out of those chores sooner rather than later.

To my horror, I found out quickly that as a Brownie mom, my sewing skills were required, since Mackenzie would be bringing home cloth award badges on a regular basis that needed to be sewn onto her brown vest. When the first batch came home, I began to sweat. I quickly tossed them far back on the counter so I wouldn’t have to deal with them, then of course…quickly forgot all about them.

The following week, more badges arrived. I could no longer be a passive/aggressive Brownie mom- I had to face up and tackle this. After an agonizing time using thread and needle, trying to make the darn things look neat and right, I gave up. I knew I couldn’t ask an 8 year old to sew them on (her motor skills were no better than mine), so I decided to invent a better way to deal with this. Velcro? No- too complicated. Glue? Not permanent enough.

Then woooosh. It came to me and I began to smile. Smugly, too. Ha! The solution was easy- I would staple these obnoxious symbols of perfection onto her darn vest! And so I did. There were about 15 by then and chaCHIN chaCHIN- I got them all on and held up my daughter’s vest, bursting with pride- not because of all the awards she’d won, but because of my brilliant and creative solution. Yes, I had become a narcissistic Brownie mom.

Mackenzie proudly put on her decorated vest and ran to the bus. I was so relieved and smirked my way through the day, thinking of all the moms who had to deal with thread and needles (not realizing that this comes easily to most women).

My smile dropped to the floor at 3:15 when my daughter returned home in a pool of tears. She ripped off the vest and showed me all the scratches on her tender arms and chest, thanks to the staples that had been scraping her skin off the entire day.

Again, my ADD had gotten the best of me. My brilliant short cut had tortured my poor kid and she would never forgive me. What a horrible and inept mother I was!

What is the moral of the story, you ask? Had this happened years later when I was more comfortable in my ADD “skin”, I’m sure I would have come up with a better way to handle this. First, I would have asked someone else to sew them on for me. That would have been my accommodation, just like a child in school might need a grip on her pencil to help with poor handwriting. Next, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself for my perceived failures. Instead, I would have reminded myself of my strengths and gifts- my degrees, my art and music abilities, etc., etc.

As women with ADD, we are entirely too hard on ourselves, not acknowledging our many strengths but instead ruminating over our challenges. What can you change about how you see yourself? Can you re-visit some of your past horror stories and archive them into your family chapter book of funny ADD stories instead of letting them haunt you?

Join me for a Q and A Wed, Oct 19 , 9:30pm EST on Women with ADHD

In honor of ADHD Awareness Week, I’ll be offering a live Q and A on Wed Oct 19 at 9:30pm EST on “Women with ADHD” free- in my chat room at . If you have a question or would like to know more about how ADHD affects women, please join me- we will have lots of fun! You can send your questions in advance to me at terrymatlen (at) or ask them at the event.

NightWave Sleep Assistant, which WORKS- I use it for my ADHD daughter’s severe insomnia- is sponsoring the event and is offering a special 20% off it’s traveler’s version. You match your breathing to the pulsating light and gently fall asleep. Check it out here:

See you on Wed. Bring your questions!

Do Mouth Noises, Lawnmowers and Dripping Water Drive you Crazy?

Have you ever had the urge to smack someone because they’re smacking their lips while eating?

Have you ever felt like you were going to lose your mind at the sound of dripping water in the next room?

Does the sound of gum chewing, humming, crinkling bags, ticking clocks trigger the urge to put your fist through a wall?

Guess what? You aren’t alone.

I was reading an article recently on a condition called misophonia, which is a hypersensitivity to certain background sounds or visual stimuli that causes an acute negative emotional response, even rage, yet is generally ignored by most people.

I never knew there was a word for my intense reaction when hearing drilling of any kind, clocks ticking, lawn blowers, vacuum cleaners, construction sounds and oh…a host of other audio/visual triggers.

I always knew that people with ADHD are prone to being hypersensitive to stimuli, like clothes that are too tight, lights that are too bright, perfume, etc. But I’d never heard of misophonia.

Read more HERE

Check out the ADHD Awareness Expo!

ADHD Awareness Expo

This is a great event no one should miss!

During ADHD Awareness week,October 16 – 22, 2011 ADD / ADHD Experts, Service Providers, Authors and people affected by ADD / ADHD will come together online.

The ADHD Awareness Expo is a unique and innovative online event! This is the place to find the Help and Support YOU need to understand and treat ADD / ADHD. You will also have the opportunity make life changing connections with members of the ADD / ADHD Community.

The ADHD Awareness Expo is a FREE virtual event which means you can attend from anywhere in the world.

Learn more HERE

The Fear of Doing Nothing

So, I’ve had a bit of a revelation. If you read my last newsletter, you’d know that I waved my daughter goodbye as she left for 3 weeks + 2 days of overnight camp, leaving me with 555 1/2 hours of total freedom. It’s my annual vacation from the stress of caring for a daughter with ADD plus a variety of special needs that go from A-Z.

The first week she was gone, I was a lost soul. You see, when mom and daughter have ADD, the playing field is, well…different. As a woman with ADD, I need to have my brain and mind wrapped around something. That something could be a positive thing, like writing an article, blog post, consulting with someone needing help for their ADD. Writing a song. Even filing papers that have been stacking up for weeks- that lopsided tower glaring at me for attention.

Or, my brain could be choosing to focus on something very negative. After all, ADD brains need stimulation, whether it’s the good kind or the bad kind. Many of us obsess and ruminate over the craziest things, right? Well, with my lack of daughter-stress and constant supervision needed, my brain had to go somewhere. And on vacation, it’s not always easy to train the brain to focus on fun.

So what did I do? I ruminated for an entire week on what I should do to enjoy my vacation. Should I hang around the house and file, write, play guitar, eat out every night, read my new favorite author (Elizabeth Berg), play CDs, jog? Oh, the possibilities were endless, but my brain chose to whine and obsess over what to do. Each ecstatically free minute was ticking away and I wanted to have fun and be carefree. But I couldn’t seem to let myself do so.

Instead, I spent an entire week obsessing on what to do to have fun! It’s a bit like going off your diet for oh, just one day, and heading to the bakery to choose that ONE treat you’ll allow yourself before starting back on Weight Watchers: lemon tart? chocolate chip cookie? blueberry muffin? By the time you choose, you’re slapping yourself so hard mentally, you don’t really enjoy the guilty pleasure.

After a week of this self-torture, I put together a list of what I wanted to do for the last two weeks of my respite vacation. But even that didn’t quite do the trick. What worked, instead, was a Buddhist sort of thing that should have been obvious to me from the start. But it wasn’t. I chose to enjoy the moment- every second of having no ‘mom’ duties and stress. I smiled at the blue sky. I breathed in the wonderful smells of the falling rain as it tap-danced against the leaves outside my window.

I headed out to our little Canadian cottage for a few days. The tortuous thoughts returned- ‘what should I do while I’m here? Clean up the place? Read email all day? Hike in the national park?’

Instead, I did nothing but let the day play out its own schedule for me: walks on the beach. Lying on the hammock. Reading. And reading some more. I chose to enjoy the moment.

Bottom line? We can allow our ADD brains to torment us with the “I shoulds” or…we can take a step back and allow ourselves to mentally roam free with no schedules attached; a rather counter intuitive suggestion for folks with ADD who need and crave structure. I’m certainly not condoning this on a daily basis, but we have this tendency to be so hard on ourselves: our forgetfulness, distractibility, disorganization and the constant search for that perfect Planner.

Why not give yourself the gift of freedom from planning and organizing every minute of your day? Can you just feel the anxiety and pressure melting away at the thought of this? Can you give yourself this gift once a month? Or more?

Terry Flunks Puppy Class

Two months ago, we brought home Elliott, our Cockapoo puppy, at 10 weeks of age. Once he got all his shots, I enrolled him in puppy class. I’ve had enough dogs in my life to know that if you don’t curb bad habits early, you’re in for a lifetime of aggravation.

What I had forgotten, though, was how difficult it was/is to follow the trainer’s instructions. Again, my ADD was following me straight into puppy class.

Here’s an example:

“Class, we are going to work on ‘LEAVE IT. This will allow you to protect your dog from eating harmful objects like rat poison, spoiled donuts and screws on the garage floor.”

“Let’s begin:

Give your puppy the sit command. Stand in front of him so he can see you. Wave your hand in front of his face for 15 seconds. If it takes 25 seconds, that’s ok. If that’s the case, wave it 2 more times. Ok, good. Next, praise him for sitting. Now… place a treat (make sure it’s cut in half so you don’t fill him up and lose his attention) 3 feet in front of him using your left hand. With your right hand, hold on to the top of his collar. Better yet, take his leash and wind it around his belly.” (Teacher demonstrates and I have no idea how she pulled that off- I try to copy her but the leash flops all over Elliott’s shoulders and legs. I know already I am about to flunk puppy class and am imagining feeling 8 sets of eyes on me; 16 if you include the dogs).

“Now that you are holding him firmly at the collar or make-shift harness, drop the treat and say LEAVE IT. If he lunges at the treat, repeat LEAVE IT 3 times while pulling on the collar/harness. If he chooses to lay down instead of sitting, pull up on the leash. Good. Now if he DID leave it, take the treat and move it close to his face, praise him, then give it to him.”

“I want you to practice this at home 3 times a day for 5 minutes each time no less than 6 days a week; 7 days is preferable.”

By now, I have already forgotten the command words. Was it “leave it”, “drop it” or “stay”?

I’m doomed.

And how do you make that leash turn into a harness? How far away do you toss the treat? What if he lurches and grabs it? Do I scold him? Make the leash shorter?

I look around the room and am amazed that everyone else got it figured out on the first try. I see them going through the motions of harnessing their pups, dropping the treat and knowing exactly what to say, how and when.

We’re now on to the next lesson: Stay. All I can remember after that is that you’re supposed to wave your hand in front of the puppy. you hold on to his collar? Do you walk far away? Or just a few steps? Cripe, I have no clue and before I can even attempt to put all the pieces together in my head, she’s already on to Come, then Drop It, Sit (while opening the door), and 1 ½ hours of various other dog commands that are supposed to turn Elliott into a mechanical dog that won’t eat the gobs of food accidently dropped daily onto our kitchen floor.

Two more weeks of class and already I’m ready to quit. A good friend with lots of puppy experience suggested I use my cell phone to video tape the sessions. But by the time I figure out where the movie button is, the class will have ended.

ADHD! It follows me everywhere. Even to puppy class. But folks, I don’t want to leave you hanging. There is an explanation to why following all these seemingly simple steps can be so difficult for us.

It’s mainly about Executive Function. Or the lack of it for those of us with ADHD. That, plus being distracted (‘Where DID she get that cute pink studded collar for little Zoe?)’

Executive Function: a concept that can be a bit difficult to understand. Think of it as a symphony orchestra. Without a conductor, each musician will have no clue when to start, stop, play louder, faster, etc. ADD brains tend to have conductors who take long vacations to the Caribbean, leaving us stranded in confusion.

I think I just may take my Flip camera and video tape the next class so I’ll have a better chance of practicing the exercises at home correctly. After all, a Flip only has one button.

The Challenges of the ADHD Woman Entrepreneur: Join me tomorrow Mon 5-16 at 3pm EST!

Are you a woman business owner with ADHD? Or think you might have ADHD tendencies?

Join me tomorrow, Monday, May 16, 3pm EST, where I’ll be interviewed on the topic of “Business Brilliance for Entrepreneurs with ADHD”

Topic Title: My ADHD Isn’t His ADHD: The Challenges of the ADHD Woman Entrepreneur: “You Mean ADHD Affects Women Entrepreneurs Differently Than Men?”

What: I will be interviewed by Business Coach Marcia Hoeck and ADHD Coach Jacqueline Sinfield

Where: You can listen LIVE via phone! Register today at

When: Monday, May 16 at 3pm EST

Fee: There is no fee!

To learn more about how Jacqui and Marcia help entrepreneurs with ADHD and to listen to past calls, visit their joint Business Brilliance website, where you can get access to their past calls.

Register for this exciting event now at

Terry Matlen Teleseminar Tonight on Moms with ADD!

Please join me tonight (Wed, April 13) 8:30 – 9:30 pm EST for a special teleseminar at where I’ll be presenting on Moms with ADD: Tips and Tools for Surviving an ADHD Family. Bring your questions for the Q/A portion of the presentation.

See you there!

Enter my ADHD Contest! Yes- YOU! Win a Prize!

ADHD Contest!!!! Respond to my survey and win a prize:

I would like to invite you to join me in a 5 minute creative brainstorming session that will improve the lives of many thousands of people throughout the world who have ADHD.

You see, I am in the process of totally re-vamping and and could use some creative thinkers to help me come up with new services and fresh ideas that will help you manage your ADHD.

Those who respond to this short survey will be entered into a drawing to win a free autographed copy of my book, “Survival Tips for Women with ADHD.”

Get involved! Join the clan. Have a say in the matter…by filling out the short survey HERE.

Stop Staring at my Kid

Yes, that’s the lead article in my newsletter today. If you aren’t a subscriber, just fill in your email address on the homepage, on the right hand side. Yep- right there. If you’d like to read this newest issue, well, click HERE.adhd, procrastination

Terry’s ADD Checklist

Hey! If you didn’t receive my latest newsletter (What? You can sign up for it here- on the right- on my homepage), you missed my humorous ADD Checklist. Got something you’d like to add? I’d love to hear what’s on your list.

Read mine HERE

Contest! Win a Prize!

Announcing the first ever Moms with ADD CONTEST!

I am offering two prizes to two lucky winners. Here’s how it works:

On or before September 14, I will randomly draw one name from my Moms with ADD newsletter subscriber list and post the winner’s name in the next issue of Moms with ADD.

On October 1, I will draw one name from only the subscribers who have joined my newsletter mailing list in the month of September. That winner will be announced in an October issue of Moms with ADD.

Prizes: Each winner will receive a book on ADHD, handpicked by yours truly.


If you already are a subscriber to my Moms with ADD newsletter, you don’t need to do a thing. Lucky you!

If you are NOT a subscriber, simply subscribe to my mailing list on my homepage at (on the far right).

Can’t get much more simple than that!
Good luck to all!

Rules and blah blah: Must be 18 or over. USA/Canada only. Winners give Terry Matlen/MomsWithADD permission to use their full names/location in future publications.

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