ADHD Organization Strategies To Help Kids And Adults

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated March 28, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

One of the hallmarks of an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis, at least for many, is a lack of organization. What this looks like can vary, but in general, it includes having a hard time remembering things, understanding how to order and complete tasks, losing things frequently, and more. Developing organization strategies that help you keep things straight while living with ADHD can be beneficial in the long run, no matter how old you may be.

Living with ADHD can mean encountering many challenges

ADHD is commonly associated with both executive dysfunction and poor organizational skills. That means those with the disorder might have difficulty sitting still or concentrating, remembering things, understanding how to efficiently complete tasks, managing time, and more. The result of these challenges is often high levels of stress as those with ADHD attempt to balance their natural tendencies with societal expectations and demands. 

Pediatric behavioral health specialist Michael Manos, PhD, spoke with the Cleveland Clinic about time management for people with this condition. “People with ADHD have trouble directing their attention to tasks that don’t immediately engage or interest them,” explains Dr. Manos.

To avoid creating excess stress, it can be beneficial to understand how your ADHD impacts your ability to stay organized. From there, you can develop ideas to make life easier for yourself. Below are a few tips for keeping things organized, no matter your age.

Make a to-do list for important tasks and get organized

Structuring your days ahead of time can be a great way to help you stay on track. When you are having your coffee in the morning or are otherwise starting your day, pull out a pen and paper (or your smartphone) and briefly run through what needs to be done today.

Write down every errand you need to run and the chore you need to complete, then determine how long they will each take. Allot an appropriate amount of time to each and complete them at the times you have designated. It may also be a good idea to set reminders, whether they be alarms or something else, to let you know when it is time to work.

Creating lists can help. You can use a notebook and a pen, an app, or a document on your computer to create a daily task list. Write down every errand you need to run and the chore you need to complete, then determine how long they will each take. Don’t include any unnecessary items, and decide what is an appropriate amount of time for each. Complete them at the times you have designated. It may also be a good idea to set reminders, whether they be alarms or something else, to let you know when it is time to work or to help you incorporate a new project into your day. 

To stay organized, create an area by the front door where you keep everything you need to leave the house: your keys, your wallet, your phone. That way, everything is right there when you’re ready to leave, and you’re less likely to forget where you left it. Use clear bins with labels in your pantry or closet so you can see everything without having to dig through each container, and try to organize clothing items by the frequency in which you wear them. 

You can use this technique to help children, too. Helping your child complete these steps themselves or simply setting time limits for them can help them get started. 

Work it out

Being physically active is chock-full of benefits for both mental and physical health. But for those with ADHD, movement can strengthen more than just muscles. Evidence shows that even a single session of exercise can lead to improvement in ADHD symptoms and overall cognitive functioning. 

Exercise can also act as an outlet for excess energy, which may help reduce feelings of restlessness or anxiety. Find an activity you or your child enjoy and try to implement it into your routine at least a few times a week. You can do it alone, just the two of you, or ask your best friend to come along.

Alternatively, looking for little ways to incorporate exercise into your day works too; going for a daily walk, taking the steps instead of an elevator, or even walking to the mailbox each day can be good places to start.

Getty/Halfpoint Images

Keep it simple and enjoyable

Many adults and children alike find managing tasks with multiple parts – different steps, conditions, etc. – to be overwhelming, especially when they’re tasks that we’d rather not be doing. Whether it’s going through bank statements and bills or examining important documents for work, the executive dysfunction and poor organizational skills that ADHD can cause may make certain tasks especially daunting, so much so that you may procrastinate or avoid doing them entirely. 

A great way to combat this phenomenon and the stress that tends to accompany it may be to simplify things. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that doing something less efficiently is often better than not doing it at all. If you struggle to stay on top of laundry, for instance, try removing some of the steps you typically consider to be standard. For example, you might hang your clothes up right away instead of folding them first. Or, if you’re having a hard time staying on top of housework, give yourself a time limit. Set a timer for 10 minutes and spend time cleaning up clutter in one room or place a second trash can in the bathroom to prevent the first one from overflowing.

Another way to push through challenging tasks is by adding something fun to the mix. Because the minds of those with ADHD don’t receive and process dopamine the same way as others, the rewards that should come from tasks don’t always manifest. So, it can help to find ways to supply dopamine yourself.

Try listening to your favorite music or a podcast while you fold towels in the laundry room or munching on a snack while you study. Little things that help you complete your goals and stay on top of your schedule for the day can make a huge difference.

Rest and relax

While it may seem counterintuitive to manage organizational shortcomings by relaxing, giving yourself some time to unwind and recharge can be an important part of managing your ADHD symptoms.

Rest may mean taking a nap or spending some time lounging in front of the TV at night, but for those with ADHD, it can also mean so much more. Rest and leisure time can be a great opportunity to do something genuinely fun and exciting. By scheduling time in your day to relax, you can grant yourself permission to pursue the things that might otherwise act as distractions – in your own time, of course.

Getty/Sarah Waiswa
Living with ADHD can mean encountering many challenges

Know your needs, and don’t compare yourself to friends and family members

Many children and adults with ADHD tend to find that no matter what they do, there are simply some areas of life and behavior that are seemingly unavoidable. You may never be as organized as others, and that’s okay. Likewise, you might always struggle not to forget things or keep a tidy home. 

No matter what challenges you experience, recognizing that your ADHD may have an impact can help you rid yourself of any feelings of guilt you might feel. It’s okay to function differently, and it’s okay to have different needs. What matters most is understanding what you need so that you can communicate it to others and recognize it yourself.

Getting help beyond to-do lists: Consider seeking therapy

Living with ADHD is a lifelong experience for most, meaning long-term management of symptoms is likely on your mind. Working with a mental health professional, like a therapist, can be beneficial in terms of improving your organizational skills and addressing other ADHD-related symptoms. 

Online therapy makes it easier than ever to avail of care. Because you can connect with your therapist nearly anywhere, you have control over when and where your sessions occur. That means you can choose an environment that makes sense for you. 

Aside from being convenient, online therapy works, too. One 2022 study noted that online treatment options are effective at treating symptoms related to ADHD, including concerns related to focus and executive functioning. Online therapy can give you the tools you may need to feel more organized, more alert, and overall, more in control of how your symptoms affect your life.


While differences in organization may be a part of life for many people with ADHD, there are steps you can take to manage this challenge and more. Working with a mental health professional to develop techniques that help you keep on top of your responsibilities can help. With some time, practice, and a bit of trial and error, you can likely find solutions that make a difference.

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