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At Home with ADHD

By: Lannette Guerra   |   July 6, 2022

August is similar to SMondays (Sunday evening Monday work anxiety), as summer fun days are coming to a close. School is around the corner and now is the time we can prepare to make our family time more successful and less anxious. As a designer, I can tell you one problem every household has to deal with—the clutter that appears around a home’s entrance.


It seems that kids and adults are like wild animals when we enter our homes, unloading everything onto the first surface we encounter. This surface then becomes the grab-all for the family, and it’s one space that gives many tidy parents a point of contention with other family members.


This month I’d like to address how ADHD at home can significantly impact clutter—the pile system. I’ll explain the science behind why you have a pile system, and then I’m going to executive function the clutter right out of your entrance with a bit of design tip magic.


“Why do I seem to have piles of things around my house?” “Only I know what’s in each pile, I get mad if someone messes with my piles.” “No matter how messy the pile may look, I have it there for a reason.” Does any of this this sound like you?


Did you ever watch the episode of Friends where Monica’s closet is revealed? Monica, a “clean freak” and super organized person, has a dirty little secret. It’s a closet where she shoves everything she doesn’t want to deal with at the moment. Think of the piles around your house as Monica’s closet.


People with ADHD often avoid the pressure of making quick decisions and leave things to deal with later. We feel as if we need to physically see things in order to remember to do something (this leads to procrastination, a symptom of executive dysfunction). We think we will deal with it later, but it ends up stacked away in a corner and forgotten. Sometimes the number of piles causes enough anxiety to avoid them all together—but the piles keep growing and deadlines get forgotten, adding to ADHD shame.


As a person with ADHD, I understand “the pile system,” but as a residential designer, I can 100% design away my own and my clients' unnecessary clutter. There is no better time to tackle this problem than in August, right before school starts.


We combat piles by forming daily habits that are shared by all members of the home and performed, like a military operation, every time one enters the house. If you have to create a chant or song for the afterschool entrance to aid in this, do so.


I understand why mudrooms, and what some call command centers, have become popular in recent years. It’s an entrance where the family can unload and stash away backpacks, papers, shoes, shopping bags, etc. before entering the house.


Once you enter the house with mail and bags in hand, you have to mindfully go into focus mode. There should be a space adjacent to the entrance that functions as a mudroom/command center.

  • Your goal is to toss all junk mail right away. Don’t leave it for later. Toss it straight in the recycle bin.
  • Promptly put all purchases in their proper place.
  • Unpack and store children’s bookbags and lunch boxes.
  • Place at least 3 baskets in your command center.
    • File basket. Important documents that need to be filed. Make a weekly time slot in your calendar where you will force yourself to file items in this basket and set an alarm to do it.
    • Action Basket: In your phone's calendar, make a note of a deadline or action to take by a certain date of whatever piece of mail you’re placing here. This is the space for outbound mail or packages or a child’s form that needs to be turned in by a certain date. Tell Alexa, Siri, or Google to set a reminder too.
    • Children's Art to scan or photograph: Don’t keep physical drawings. Take a picture of the artwork at the end of day or school year and make a printed book of it. Use services such as Shutterfly, Chatbooks etc. Unless your child is Picasso, the chances of you framing all your children's artwork and putting them on the wall is slim. Unless you have an area in the house where you can pin the art up temporarily, I suggest the digital route.
  • Physical Calendar somewhere near the center to write down deadlines in bold Sharpie or colors.


Clutter creates clutter. The last thing a person with ADHD needs is more clutter and anxiety within our daily lives. The pile system really stems from a bad habit we can replace with routines and physical structures that support our mental health.


Lannette Guerra has a decade of experience working for large and small high-end residential firms, throughout Northern California. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture, a Bachelor of Arts, and is a LEED accredited professional. Before moving to California, she spent 4 years as an Exhibit Designer in Kansas City, MO. 
She resides and virtually works for her current employer, from her home in San Rafael, CA.  When she is not hyperfocused on work she enjoys hikes in the Marin headlands and couch cuddles with her family and furry friend. She is currently staying away from engaging in any new hobbies except for being a mentor & advocate of mental and physical well-being.
She is also a strong believer that the only way to build yourself to personal fulfillment and reach your true potential is to quiet the mind, eliminate distraction, and listen to what your heart has been telling you all along. Only then will you be able to see your authentic self reflected within your home, your soul, and in the workplace.

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