Monday, July 13, 2009

Deciding What to Keep and What to Throw Away

Many people with AD/HD have problems with clutter. There may be many reasons for this, among some is the false hope that one day you’ll actually bake that exotic cake you saw the recipe for in a pile of cooking magazines you’ve had for 10 years.

Another reason is the inability to prioritize and to decide what to keep and what to toss, causing the person to get overwhelmed, keep everything, and simply give up on ever sifting through the piles.

It doesn’t matter the cause--the end result is usually always the same- a sense of guilt, shame and frustration is felt by the person.

The general rule I use is this: be brutally honest with yourself and ask, “Am I really going to need this? Will I ever REALLY get around to making that cake? Will I actually ever make that scrapbook of mementoes for my kids? If your answer is NO! Throw the stuff out! 99.9% chance is, that if you’ve not read or acted on whatever it is by now, you never will!

Next, ask yourself, “Will this (magazine, paper, etc.) Impede my progress forward or will it propel it? If it will impede it, throw it out!

I have dozens of other strategies on how to get through the clutter and paperwork and can make that an entire section of the blog! But some quickie ones are:

-Always go through clutter while standing up- never sitting down

-Divide things into 3 piles “keep” “throw away” and “I don’t know yet”

-Use the 3-second rule—don’t keep anything in your hand for than 3 seconds- hurry put it in one of the 3 piles- quick! ;-)

-Designate a time to start and stop


  1. These are great suggestions Nancy. I especially like designating a time to start and stop. This makes the process easier to start and much less frustrating. I think breaking the whole process into shorter time frames can be more productive in the long run because you can maintain your stamina.

    Laura Rolands

  2. Nancy:
    I just learned that I have adult ADD and have found your blog to be very helpful. I live in the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma area and there doesn't seem to be much support for adult ADD here. Thanks for sharing this blog.

    I need real help in getting through the clutter. You said you had dozens of ideas, did you ever post them? These are great but I'd love to have the rest of them too! Thanks for all you do!

  3. Thanks for your suggestions. I would also add that you should stay in one location on one task! My ADD causes me to go from room to room trying to declutter everything. You know the drill; "I will put these scissors up. Gee this drawer needs cleaning out!" And the mania begins!

  4. This is awesome advice. Especially standing up and not wasting more than 3 seconds.

    I find that because i don't put a time limit, i am eternally cleaning / reorganizing and it never gets done!

  5. I love your question, Nancy, will this impede or propel my progress forward? If I have a hard time giving something away, I take a photo of it.

  6. I have collected books most of my life (in an area that I work in) for research or referral purposes.... Now I see that anything I would to look up is available on the Internet. So for purposes of "need," are these books (no matter what the original cost) things I should just toss or give or sell? I don't look at them any more, but they always gave me comfort because I could refer to them. But I haven't in years.... Help! Some of them are really beautiful books.