According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6.1 million children in the United States are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

People with ADHD may be easily distracted, have trouble focusing, or have memory problems, among other symptoms.

If you have ADHD, you may have noticed that cognitive and emotional components of the condition spill into your physical environment. In particular, some people with ADHD find it hard to keep their spaces organized and clean.

You may be wondering: Is this just a personality trait or a direct result of having ADHD? And is there anything that can help?

Here’s what we know so far about the prevalence of messiness in people with ADHD, why this may occur, and strategies for getting organized.

A 2018 study found that many children with ADHD had working memory deficits. Working memory is a part of our short-term memory that allows us to retain recent information for ongoing tasks.

Impaired working memory can have a negative effect on organizational skills, making it difficult to plan and follow through on actions toward a specific goal.

ADHD’s cognitive effects can cause you to have trouble finishing tasks, such as homework, or scheduling appointments. This can also include tasks relating to the organization of a physical space, like your room or office.

For example, maybe you did the laundry but haven’t folded it, so it just sits on the ground all week. Or you might start several creative projects and leave their elements out and about, cluttering the room. You may also find yourself constantly misplacing items.

There’s a strong connection between disorganization and ADHD. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) lists “often loses things necessary for tasks or activities” as one of the possible symptoms that can add up to a diagnosis of ADHD.

It’s important to note that not every person with ADHD will experience tendencies toward messiness or disorganization in their space. And for some people, certain treatment and management strategies for ADHD may help them get more organized.

Of course, it’s also entirely possible to be disorganized and not have ADHD. A busy schedule, life stresses, other mental health conditions, or even just a lack of care for tidiness can cause a messy room, too.

More symptoms aside from being disorganized or forgetful are required to qualify for an ADHD diagnosis.

As we’ve established, being easily distracted, having trouble focusing, and forgetfulness are common symptoms of ADHD.

Other signs of ADHD can include:

  • having difficulty with impulse control
  • having trouble sitting still; fidgeting
  • interrupting people while they’re talking or working
  • talking excessively
  • being impatient or finding it difficult to wait your turn
  • missing details or making frequent mistakes

People with ADHD are frequently diagnosed with other co-occurring conditions. These include anxiety, depression, and certain learning or behavioral disorders.

People with ADHD may find socializing more difficult than their peers. They also have a higher chance of having autism spectrum disorder.

If you’re a person with ADHD who struggles with organization, there are plenty of strategies you can try.

For younger people, it can help to:

  • follow a specific daily schedule or routine
  • set aside specific spots to store everyday items
  • use physical planners and organizers to keep track of homework, tests, or events
  • get clear and consistent rules to follow from parents and teachers
  • receive positive reinforcement for keeping organized

For adults, it can be helpful to also prioritize having a regular routine, plus:

  • always use a paper or digital calendar for scheduling
  • leave reminder notes for yourself (or schedule reminders on your phone/computer)
  • assign specific places for bills, paperwork, keys
  • break large tasks into smaller steps (and celebrate accomplishments along the way)

These tactics can help provide some structure and support as you manage your ADHD. And in general, even people without ADHD find a well-organized calendar and tidy space helpful for their productivity and peace of mind.

There’s no cure for ADHD, but there are treatment options to help manage its symptoms. Two of the most commonly prescribed treatments for ADHD are medication and therapy, often in combination.


Talk and behavioral therapies can both help with the symptoms of ADHD. Therapy can help you process overwhelming experiences and emotions, create a safe space to vent about life stresses, and help you practice coping techniques.

In talk therapy, an individual can discuss the challenges their ADHD is presenting and work with a therapist to find ways to manage symptoms. Behavioral therapy helps translate this understanding of your thought patterns and habits into action.

In addition to working with a licensed therapist, there are also support groups for those with ADHD, both online and in person.


Stimulants and non-stimulants are the two main types of medications used to treat ADHD.

Central nervous system (CNS) stimulants are the most commonly prescribed ADHD medications and work by increasing your levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. Examples of these types of medications include Ritalin and Adderall. These drugs can reduce fatigue and improve focus.

If stimulants aren’t working for you or create unpleasant side effects, non-stimulant medications may be prescribed instead. These medications can take longer to work and affect the brain more directly. Examples of non-stimulant medications include Strattera and Wellbutrin.

Learn more about medications for ADHD.

While medications used to treat ADHD can have many benefits — like helping an individual to focus and better control their impulses — they can also come with side effects. Make sure to discuss the pros and cons of any potential treatment regimen with your doctor.

Always tell your doctor about any other medications you’re on to avoid adverse drug interactions.

Lifestyle changes

In addition to therapy and medication, there are a variety of lifestyle adjustments you may wish to consider or prioritize.

These include:

Losing focus and being forgetful are common symptoms of ADHD. These, among other factors, can impact your ability to keep your space clean and organized.

Managing your ADHD is the best way to learn to recognize thought and behavior patterns causing messiness and use coping skills to adapt. Therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes are all effective approaches for treating ADHD.

There are also simple tips to practice that can help keep you on task and encourage organization. Maintaining a reliable schedule, leaving notes for yourself, and always keeping important items in the same place can all help.

Even if you’re not currently experiencing issues with clutter and scheduling, managing your ADHD can lead you to feel more secure and in control.

Talk with your doctor if you’re worried you may be experiencing symptoms of ADHD or if symptoms are interfering with your quality of life.