Why Minimalism is hard for ADHDers and How to Create White Space

ADHDers need goals. We are typically results-oriented. That’s the reason I took 4 years to complete my first two years of college (What was the point of all these required courses, again?). It’s the reason ADHD elementary school students don’t finish the worksheet. And why more hours spent at your computer don’t always equal more productivity. ADHDers want to know. . . What’s the point? When I publish a blog post I have an immediate result. I can see if I gained any new WordPress followers, who liked my IG post and wait for and read comments.

Creating White Space at Home


So, as with most ADHDers, I’ve wanted the result a simple, clean living space induces for the past 10 years. And it’s not like I haven’t tried.  I’ve read billions of books, bought furniture with hidden storage, made sneaky monthly toy donations unbeknownst to my children, all to little avail. So what DOES bring results for ADHD mamas and their organizationally weak families? I think I’ve found the answer:  MOVE.


The Minimalist Benefits of Moving

As many of you know, we’re moving to Puerto Rico this fall and will sell our house as opposed to renting it out. This means we have TO GET RID OF OUR STUFF. In fact, we shouldn’t travel with much more than a few books, possibly a keepsake or 2 and our summer clothing.
I do plan to pack my kitchen supplies and some winter gear into small boxes to store in my neighbors’ attic, but otherwise, the STUFF has got to go.



When selling homes it is recommended to put 1/3rd of your belongings in storage. Lucky for us, we rented out our basement this past fall. A lot of things were discarded back then.


But, now, as we prepare to leave the country, it’s become a mad dash to donate, sell and alleviate ourselves of our stuff.
After our third Lupus and Salvation Army donation pick up (by the way LABEL your bags because we missed out on a pick up for lack of proper signage), there is a new feeling in our home. It’s one of calm.

Calm After the Chaos

I came home from work to find my toddler and husband coloring together this week. The usual seen would be lots of dishes, a trail of toys from the living room to her and our bedrooms and little messes of clothes strewn about wherever they were left from dress up.

Since our extreme donation binge has begun, this was my living room when I came home:

Clean living


Look!! There is not a bunch of crap on the floor!!!! That’s not because L didn’t play, it’s because THERE ISN’T A LOT OF MESS TO SPREAD ABOUT!
Honestly, with each GoodWill pick up, drop off, or good sold I have felt lighter on my feet and closer to my dream of Puerto Rico.



This is what Minimalists Do


This may seem extreme, but after some research, I found donating and severe decluttering is a common rite-of-passage into the minimalist lifestyle. A packing party and The 30-day challenge are 2 of the most popular posts on TheMinimalists.com website.


Here is a snippet from “Packing Party”:


“You see, I didn’t want to spend months slowly paring down my possessions like Josh had. That was fine for him, but I needed faster results. So we came up with a crazy idea: let’s throw a Packing Party. (Everything is more fun when you put “party” at the end.) We decided to pack all my belongings as if I were moving. And then I would unpack only the items I needed over the next three weeks.” 

–The Minimalists

The reason I haven’t been successful with clutter is simply that I haven’t had a compelling reason to get rid of it.  Here is a previous post on last year’s attempt at decluttering.


This time:


We forced ourselves into minimalism.  It was the unexpected benefit of selling our home.


Knowing I want to sell my house and move to Puerto Rico is a VERY COMPELLING reason to get rid of shit that doesn’t serve us. And, apparently, that’s a lot of s$&t!! The more we give up the BETTER I feel! The less in the house the calmer the children are, the calmer the dog is and the calmer our brains are.


ADHD and The Power of Less


I really do think ADHDers function better with more white space. Our brains are running at 1,000. If there is less in our view, there is less pull our attention away from what we need or want to be doing. Even as we clean up toys, now, it’s not a 5 year event. When there is a lot to distract, nothing gets done. And that’s been an uphill battle in my household for YEARS.

I’m leaving you with my shoe rack as an example of what minimalism means. Here is the shoe rack at our entry as we transitioned from winter to spring:


shoe rack

There is only 1 clothing “season” in PR: summer, so here it is now:

white space


Yep, completely gone. The kids only need 3 pairs of shoes each: dressy, sandals/water, and sneakers. And they only need one pair by the door, not 100.  So the shoe rack became this complicated metaphor of our lives. And, in the end, we didn’t need it.  Stop trying to organize the mess and just get rid of it. It will bring focus and calm to your home and I GUARANTEE it will make you a better human. Simply because it frees up space in your life and leaves room for what really matters.

Published by Family ADDventures

Nicole Santiago is a learning specialist, student advocate, and founder of Family ADDventures. As a specialist, she assesses and teaches clients (adults and adolescents) to manage and grow their executive functioning skills which include emotional regulation, task initiation, and time management. As an advocate (IEP coach), she is a member of COPAA and ensures inclusive (special) education students receive the most appropriate educational services possible. She often collaborates with OT's, SLP's and neuropsychologists all in the name of student improvement and success. Her practice is located in San Antonio, TX, and everywhere (virtually). The author grew up an army brat and spends time with her three ND children and husband in Puerto Rico whenever possible. She writes about mental health, parenting, education, and entrepreneurship on her blog: FamilyADDventures.com

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