One reason ADHD people are prone to clutter

acquiring things is super easy. I furnished my whole first apartment from things in the trash in Newton and from yard sales. I think the entire apartment from furniture to dishes cost about $150. When I talk to my clients about the concept of stimulation seeking, shopping is one of the categories of stimulation seeking. We get a little dopamine hit when we acquire something. And yes, both impulsive and compulsive shopping can be associated with ADHD. But, as I think I mentioned in my post about my infinite possibilities theory, we acquire things through a variety of means, not just by purchasing them.

of course, there is no inherent problem with that. The problem lies and how much more difficult it is for us to organize and then eventually get rid of the things we bring into our world. I once made a client laugh and coined a phrase when I said to her, “do you want to live your life or do you want to be the curator of the museum of your own crap?” This question came out of many sessions of her intense difficulty getting rid of things which I would objectively categorize as junk.

and that’s no judgment on this client. I want to be clear that I don’t judge anyone who I work with. The point is to illustrate how difficult it is for people to get rid of things once they are acquired. I think there are a couple reasons for this that are directly related to our adhd. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned in the past the idea that we are reluctant to get rid of things because of their potential use. Emphasis on the word potential. There’s this famous ADHD book entitled late lost and unprepared. That tells you a lot about what we’re dealing with.

Most of us have a track record of being unprepared in some way. Often, that means not having the thing that we need when we need it. Maybe we forgot to bring our book home to study the night before the final. Maybe we drove all the way to the DMV and waited in line for 2 hours without the paperwork we needed to bring. Maybe we got all the way to the tournament and realized we forgot our hockey bag. The details are not super important. But the psychological damage done is. We often overcompensate by not wanting to get rid of anything because it might be useful someday and it might be the thing that we will need.

as with many other aspects of ADHD there is a very counterintuitive result to this. If you keep everything, good luck finding the thing you need, the moment you need it. So what’s that all about? Why do we keep everything? The answer to that is a lovely segue into the other reason why we have difficulty getting rid of things and why we are clutter prone. To decide what to keep and what to get rid of requires a lot of attention and a lot of executive function. And it requires a lot of decision making, a thing I’ve written about many times because it is executive function and attention adjacent.

my math tells me that it’s roughly a bazillion times more difficult to get rid of something that it is to get something in the first place. So what’s the answer? The answer is be in charge of your acquiring behavior, and it will save you downstream by not emphasizing your weaknesses of poor executive function and difficulty getting rid of things. At least, that’s the hope.