Doing laundry is the never-completed household chore we all love to hate, and a common pain point for individuals with ADHD.
Laundry rarely rewards with a sense of completion or accomplishment, which is why many people put it off until all the clean underwear is gone. It’s also a chore of opposites – it takes sustained effort but not full attention and is, therefore, often “started” but left incomplete.
How can an individual with ADHD deal better with this undesirable chore? Here are a few helpful hints I share with my clients who complain of clothes piling up, staying in the washer or dryer for too long, and never finding their way to designated drawers and hangers.
Doing Laundry with ADHD: 5 Sanity-Saving Tips
1. Simplify Your Wardrobe
The fewer clothes you have to wash, the easier the laundry process. Try minimizing your wardrobe to only the clothes that you really need and that suit your lifestyle. (This is easier said than done, especially if impulse shopping is a habit!)
Keep articles of clothing that are interchangeable for numerous outfits and can be worn in various settings. Eliminate high-maintenance clothing that requires special washing instructions or ironing. By keeping your wardrobe small, your laundry won’t pile up, and it will feel more manageable on laundry day.
2. Use Sorting Baskets
Set yourself up for easy washing by automatically dividing items into distinct baskets or divided hampers for darks, whites, towels, and perhaps exercise gear. This eliminates one step in the laundry process and makes it easier to start this chore.
3. It’s OK to Multitask This Time!
Laundry mostly involves muscle memory and our undivided attention at irregular intervals. Use this to your advantage to make the process less grueling. Do your laundry as you watch TV, listen to music, enjoy a podcast, or read a book. Think of it as getting something accomplished while you are enjoying some down time.
Make sure that the activity doesn’t completely distract from the task. Always be sure to set timers on your phone for the length of the washer or dryer cycle so you don’t risk leaving your laundry unfinished.
4. Make a Game Out of It
You can make a game or fun challenge of almost every step in the laundry process. Practice your shooting ability when tossing your clothes into the hamper or washer. Set a timer on your phone for the length of the wash cycle and then race to see if you can finish another chore or workout before the laundry needs to be switched to the dryer. Race yourself against the dryer cycle. Then time yourself when putting away clothes and keep track of your speed record. Now you have all kinds of chores completed, including your laundry!
5. Readjust Your Expectations
Often, our stress over doing laundry and other household chores comes from unhealthy and unattainable expectations about order and organization. We also tend to assign moral value to these tasks. (“I’m a good person if my clothes are always stowed away and folded neatly. I’m a bad person if I let my laundry piles up.”)
Consider the expectations you may have around doing laundry and push back against the ones that cause most stress. Make changes accordingly. Ask yourself, what is a reasonable finish line with laundry? Do clothes really need to be folded and stowed? Would it be easier to hang everything on hangers or on hooks? Or would it be even easier if clothes were just sorted in drawers or bins? The finish line is clean clothes to wear, no matter how we get there.