Getting ready for the holidays at home can test anyone’s patience. With ADHD in the mix, you may get overwhelmed quickly. You may find it difficult to start or stay on task. Can you offer to co-host holiday events with another family member, perhaps even at that person’s home? If that's not going to happen, we've got some tried-and-true suggestions to offer you.
Maintaining a home is such a big project that a few generations ago, nearly every family had a full-time home manager. Today, it is more common that single and partnered adults work outside the home. The challenge can still be met, even with ADHD in the mix.
FlyLady (flylady.net) is the best-kept secret of many CHADD members, according to what they tell us. So named for her love of fly fishing, FlyLady is all about “baby steps” and routines. She explains how to develop a routine to tackle the holiday season and the rest of the year, and her plans and control journals work well for anyone affected by ADHD. Since you design your own routine with her guidance, it will fit the needs of your life.
Make a plan
Scout your dwelling and note what needs the most work, what needs the least work, and the best hiding places for stuff. That includes cramming things under the bed, but only for quick cleanings during the holidays.
Set a timer
Once you have a plan, set the kitchen timer for 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Then attack the first room. Pick up, stuff away, clear out of sight. When the timer dings, reset it for the next room, whether the first is done or not. Repeat the picking up in the second room. Ding; same for the third. Set the timer again, grab something to drink or nibble and sit. Rest for the fourth round. Ding, and you’re back to the first room. Do this until each room is picked up, dusted, and vacuumed and any additional scrubbing is completed. Repeat the process for as much time as you have available. Breaking it up over a couple days or a week is a good thing, too.
Follow these handy tips
- Leave a second garbage bag at the bottom of the pail, underneath the current one. That way you have one handy in a pinch without having to hunt for it.
- Keep one extra of each household product — soap, can of soup, paper towels, etc. — on hand. Don’t fill your cupboards with more than you need, but make sure you have a back-up at the ready so you don’t lose your stride.
- Keep all cleaning supplies together — a mop bucket makes a great container to stick everything in so you can move from room to room quickly.
- A good rule of thumb: If you use it in that room, find a place for it to live in that room. That goes for brooms (kitchen pantry), vacuums (living room closet), laptop computers and accessories (family room entertainment center), and tablecloths (dining room china cabinet). This works well with cleaning supplies, too (perhaps high up in a cabinet if there are small children in your life).
The best ideas often come from those who walk the same walk. Here are some strategies submitted to us by CHADD members.
Make running lists. Notebooks and smartphones are great for this. Make a list for everything from groceries to library books, and keep your lists in one place for easy reference.
Limit the number of guests. Make it a small party; a dinner party of six is more manageable than 26. Since this is a holiday season, make use of the time by having two small dinner parties with different guests. Another possibility would be to host a small, intimate party at home, and then make reservations for the larger group at a favorite restaurant.
Call your favorite grocery store and find out about its holiday meals. Many stores now prepare the entire meal at a reasonable cost. Order ahead, pick it up the morning of your holiday meal, and follow the store's reheating instructions. Serve in your own dishes — and who would know?!
Online shopping is good. If the online store includes gift-wrapping, go for it! Have gifts sent to their recipients rather than to you. One wise member pointed out that wrapping gifts as soon as you get them helps to avoid the 3 AM crunch before the big day.
As another wise member wrote to us, “Change the expectations so the holiday works for you, not the other way around.”
If all else fails…
Humor and spontaneity go a long way during the stress of the holiday season. Allow yourself to be creative when faced with a domestic challenge.
Perhaps one of the most creative solutions we’ve heard came from a CHADD member who wrote that he once had a stack of newspapers piling up in the dining room for a couple of years. As company was coming rather soon, he struck upon a plan: He placed a board across the tops of the piles and draped a holiday tablecloth over it. The piles were successfully hidden, and the set-up “didn’t look bad, really.”
With a touch of irony, he added that his newspaper/holiday table stayed in place for a few more holidays before finally making its way to the recycling bin.
Karen Sampson Hoffman, MA, is the coordinator of the NRC's Ask the Expert series. She writes from St. Denis, Maryland. This blog is cross-posted on CHADD's Creative ADHD Parenting blog.
Another version of this post appeared in Attention magazine. Join CHADD and receive every issue!