“How to Get Motivated to Clean: Revamp Your ADHD Approach to Chores”

Household chores have a way of piling up, don’t they? Work and other obligations take up most of our days, so when we do have free time, the last thing we want to do is even more work. Yet, as we all know, routine maintenance supports a functional household — and improves our mental health.

My clients with ADHD have shared with me all the ways that chores get sidelined, interrupted, and avoided due to ADHD. The never-ending nature of chores makes getting started and staying motivated nearly impossible. Distractions and competing priorities keep chores in a perpetually incomplete state. And no matter the issue, problems vanquishing household chores almost always lead to feelings of frustration and incompetence.

The only way to help you start, persist, and finish those pesky household chores (and do it all again) is to come up with a system that works for you. That may require you to take a step back and reassess your current approach to chores. Here are five steps to help you rethink chores, get motivated to clean, and follow an upkeep process that fits your life.

[Get This Free Download: How to Tidy Up Your Home Like a Pro]

1. Identify all the household chores that are important to you. Think of the bare minimum that you need to feel good in your living space. Is it a dining table clear of clutter? No clothes on the floor? Take the time to write out a list of realistic to-dos that matter to you, even if they are challenging to complete.

2. Break down all chores into their smallest steps to reduce overwhelm. A multi-step chore like “doing laundry,” for example, turns into sort clothes; wash clothes; dry clothes; dump dry clothes into basket; bring basket to the bedroom; and so on. Smaller steps are easier to tackle and allow you to be more realistic about what you can accomplish.

3. Set times for completing chores (and tasks) in a way that fits with your lifestyle. Is it best to schedule a block of time to work through all the chores on your list? Or would it be better to do one or two small chores daily? Would you be more productive first thing in the morning or at end of your day? Can you do the first two steps of a chore today, and the rest tomorrow? The key here is to be honest with yourself about reasonable ways to incorporate household chores into your daily life.

4. Identify your sore spots and obstacles to starting chores. What makes starting a particular chore difficult for you?

  • Does it seem like the chore (or a step within it) will take too long? Then set a timer and commit to working on the chore or step for just 10 minutes. (Or any amount of time that is doable for you.) When the timer rings, reassess if you want to continue or come back to it at your next designated chore time.
  • Does the thought of gathering supplies and tools to do the chore turn you away? We’re often quick to dismiss pre-chore work as an actual step to complete a chore, so be sure to add “locating supplies” on your chore breakdown. To save time, store supplies for a given chore in a single container and/or within a space where they are more readily available. (For example, consider keeping tub cleaning supplies in your shower instead of somewhere else within the bathroom.)
  • Are some chores simply too tedious? Infuse some enjoyment to help you persist! Listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook while you work. Chew gum and blow bubbles while you tidy up. Call a friend while you clean. (A form of body doubling.) Splurge and buy a fun tool or supply that will make a chore more enjoyable. Gamify chores by competing against others (or even yourself) until the timer stops or until the end of a song.
  • Do you only feel “activated” to do chores under pressure? It’s good to let go of strict rules and “shoulds” around house upkeep and chores. That said, if a sense of urgency is the only thing that motivates you to do chores, consider inviting guests to your place so that you have a firmer deadline for getting chores done.

[Read: “I Absolutely Hate Everything About…” Your Most Detested and Avoided Household Chores]

5. Help yourself stay on track while doing chores.

  • Create visual reminders of your chores and tasks. Externalize your to-dos to jog your memory. Some ideas: A simple to-do list on a large whiteboard; a color-coded chore sheet (on your calendar or on an actual sheet of paper); a notecard deck of individual chores (completed chore cards can be put in a separate pile or moved to the back of the deck). Put your visual reminder of the chosen chore in a noticeable place so you can look at it periodically to check that you are still on task.
  • When you start a chore, set a timer to go off every few minutes. Each time it goes off, ask yourself, “Am I still on my intended task?”
  • Keep sticky notes on hand to write down other things and to-dos that cross your mind so those thoughts don’t interrupt your chore time. Stick the note anywhere where you’re guaranteed not to miss it. (Like on your bathroom mirror.) If sticky notes aren’t your thing, consider adding it to your calendar or a to-do list app. You can even set the to-do as an alarm on your phone (to ring in a few hours).

6. Take time to notice your accomplishments. Once you’ve completed a chore, take in how the area looks and feels. Grab a picture of your space and print a copy to remind yourself of how good it feels to successfully manage your home. With each step of a chore, share your progress with a friend or family member who will cheer you on. Reflect on the strategies that were most helpful to you in the process so you can continue to use them in the future.

How to Get Motivated to Clean: Next Steps

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