How to clean your house with ADHD

DISCLAIMER: I speak from my own ADHD experience. I cannot guarantee that my ideas will work for anyone else, but I’d love to hear about your experiences with ADHD and cleaning!

First of all, there are two kinds of cleaning: “cleansing” and “tidying.” The first is what you do to the sink bowl; the second is what you do to a cluttered table. My ADHD strategy for cleansing is unremarkable — to the extent I have any strategy at all, it is to let Sara point out that a very specific thing needs to be cleansed (e.g., the toilet), gather all the supplies, and then just do it. At that point there are no distractions in my field of view, so I can often get into a state of “hyperfocus” (characteristic of ADHD) and literally scrub the crap out of that toilet bowl for an unreasonably long time.

Tidying is a different story altogether. Every tiny act of tidying carries carries within it a potential distraction. Here is a paper I printed out that I intended to read a while ago. What was it about, again? Oh, that’s interesting! Here is a folder containing my Brandeis health insurance plan. I was going to check if I’m supposed to be getting dental coverage. I should log on to the Brandeis website and read more. Here is a copy of the Atlantic. Before I recycle it, I should read the article about the Common Core… and so on.

Based on these experiences and on my heartfelt desire to actually do some tidying up in spite of them, I have developed a system that leverages my ADHD to tidy the house rather than letting it bog me down. I’ll explain the process, and then the rationale.

  1. In the middle of the mess, designate a location for things that are not easy to “put away” in a place they belong.
  2. Find a thing near you that does not belong where it is. If it has words on it, DO NOT READ IT, or at least not more than a title.
  3. If you can immediately come up with a place that it belongs, immediately put it there. If you cannot come up with such a place (or feel that you have to read it to s, put it in the designated location.
  4. Here’s the key step: the moment you have put the thing away, find something within your reach that does not belong where it is. If you can’t find anything, look a little farther, but DO NOT DO ANYTHING ELSE until you have something in your hand that needs to be put away. DO NOT READ THAT THING; instead, repeat steps 3 and 4, moving faster and faster until everything is either where it belongs or in the designated location.
  5. Look at the things in the designated location (WITHOUT READING THEM). Why don’t they have anywhere they belong? Can you throw them all away? Can you put them all in a box and hide the box? If not, why not? At this point, you can start being creative because the rest of the house is now tidy.

This method turns me into a cyclone of tidying fury. Not only does it eliminate my tendency to read things and stop tidying, but it cuts out the time spent walking back to the place I’m trying to tidy.  It seems ridiculous, especially because my house is so tiny, but I’m pretty sure that time is prime distraction time.  With my new method, tidying is nonstop action.  I am always either on my way to return a thing that is in my hand to its natural habitat or aggressively seeking such a thing.  With this method, I never have to pay attention to anything outside my field of view.  The intense stimulation of moving quickly keeps me focused, as does the fact that the only thing that matters is physically in my hand.

If you have ADHD or ADHD tendencies, give it a shot and let me know if it helps!

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Original tunes: Willow Session and Salt Flats

Slow reels. Willow Session was named in memory of a really cool jam session that Jonah Sidman brought to my house, with Amelia Mason and Bethany Waickman. We played Camel’s Hump and Derry Reel super slow for like ten minutes apiece. So good.

Sheet music is available in the “Tunes” section of the website!

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Bodhran repair

I bought a bodhran (Irish drum) at one of the regular instrument yard sales held near Powderhouse Circle in Somerville. (If you don’t know about these, keep an eye out for posted flyers in Davis Square!)

It sounded great, but after I had taken it home I saw that the skin wasn’t taught in one area. It turns out the skin was beginning to tear off of the tacks. Stupid cheap Pakistani bodhrans!

But after a little research, I realized that there was something I could do. I wet the skin a lot to loosen it, and then I stretched it in the right direction with pliers and pinned it in place with good old-fashioned thumbtacks (green, for Ireland!). The original tacks alternated left and right as they circled the ring, so I just put the thumbtacks opposite them.

Now it’s working great! I wish I had thought to take a “before” picture, but this is after:


Don’t know how long it will last, but it looks pretty solid and I’m keeping it in a humidified room, so I’m optimistic.

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Original fiddle tunes: My Music Face and Jonah’s Pepper

Here are a couple more. These days, I generally try to keep things simple — since most of my tune writing actually happens without an instrument in hand (and sometimes no writing tools either), this is easiest, and the products are often more satisfying. But these tunes happened anyways. Enjoy, and if you want to learn them, you can find the “dots” in my tune library.

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Original fiddle tunes: Napoleon Crosses the Line and Audrey’s Dream

My pace of tune-writing has accelerated, and now I have a library of sheet music gathering dust.  But some of the halfway decent ones want to see the light of day, so I’m videotaping them and posting them to Youtube.  Here’s some tunes in cross-A!  Enjoy, and if you want to learn them, you can find the “dots” in my tune library.

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Upward Mobility

To see a clear demarcation of the social classes in American society, one need look no further than the boarding process on US Airways.

First, the announcement: “We are ready to begin boarding the aircraft by zone.” Then they immediately begin to board the aircraft by caste.

First, military personel.

Second, “first” class.

Third, Dividend Miles Preferred members

Fourth, Star Alliance Silver, Gold, and Platinum members.

Fifth, US Airways Premier World MasterCard® holders and US Airways® Visa Signature® card holders are invited to board via the Priority Access line, while Zones 1 and 2 (consisting of Bulkhead seats, exit row seats, and ChoiceSeats) boards via the “coach class” lane. Passenger is the Priority Access line are encouraged to cut in front of the rabble in the coach line. To be perfectly clear, Zones 1-2 have nothing to do with actual physical region of the plane.

Finally, Zones 3 – 5. “Does anyone want to gate check a roller bag?” they ask. “If you’re in Zones 3 to 5, you’ll probably have to do it anyways.”

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New Orleans

My family and I recently returned from a delightful jaunt through New Orleans, in celebration of my parents’ thirty-fifth anniversary. I felt like everyone there was trying to cram sticks of butter into my ears, either musically or culinarily. In other words, the trip was fantastic, and Sara is pretty sure I gained weight. The highlights among highlights were dinner at Arnauds (look up “Pompano Duarte”) and a show at Kermet Ruffins’ Treme Speakeasy (where the horn-tooting bandleader is also the restaurant owner and chef).

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Pineapple surgery

Another successful operation.



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Cereal Reviews

I have posted a set of cereal reviews.  They are more exciting than they sound.

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Fun with pancakes! Not bad for my first time. Thanks, Saipancakes!

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