I have talked some about my executive dysfunction as a neurodivergent human with anxiety and depression. Over the years, my ability to push past some of the executive challenges has varied. My best has been pre-pandemic when not employed outside of our home and on following my partner on a morning shift schedule. Regardless of those conditions above, I have a few ways to override my executive dysfunction so I don’t completely drown. I am going to share a few of those today and I hope they are helpful, or at least spark an idea.
Housework has been the failure of my existence since I was a child, and I now know that it is because of my wiring and not because I’m bad or broken. The strategies below have helped but the biggest help is having attainable expectations for myself….and buckets of grace.
Room Rotation- focus on one larger or two smaller rooms per day, ONLY. No other rooms exist as far as maintenance is concerned. I have a chart and it is the same rooms each day per week (I need to pick this back up as it worked so well). I also have specific lists of what to do in each room if I get off track.
Beat the Clock- I usually like to set myself a timer for 20-30 minutes (I don’t always set an alarm, in fact I usually just check the clock periodically) where I hyperfocus on the day’s room(s). Whatever I get done in that time is what I get done, no guilt, no shame, no pressure.
Routine- I am most successful when I do the things at the same approximate time per day, not rigidly per se but because if it’s not in my routine, it doesn’t exist. I also tend to follow the same order of tasks each time I clean a room. Kitchen is dishes, counters, sweep, trash if needed then mop (if I get that far).
Task Stacking- this is how I remember to take my sea of pills every morning because I take it with my coffee and if I’m out of coffee, I am at risk of forgetting my pills. Task stacking is doing two tasks consecutively because one cues the other. So I’ll often load the dishwasher while making a meal because I’m already there.
Partnership- my partner does things too. He does more laundry than I do and we both are not good at getting to folding clothes so we just sort them by person and that person gets a basket of clean clothes. My partner also tries to keep up with things that end up being barriers for me like a full trash can, or unloading the dishwasher so I can load.
Pick Up 10- this one is good for our high traffic areas. I try to pick up, tidy, whatever 10 things whenever I walk through the room. I don’t usually have to do it more than a few times and it’s done.
Half-Assing- giving myself permission to only do a partial job. This one is HARD because it involves talking back to my brain words. The voice in my head repeats things I’ve heard in relationship to housework before “don’t do a half-ass job”, “that’s not the right way to sweep/mop” etcetera. So I have to have a moment to be like, you know what this is my dang house and I’m in charge now. Half done is more than I’d get done if I stayed in a shame cycle.
Focus on Function and Safety- I am 100% never going to live in a magazine ready house. I live in this house and we prioritize rest and togetherness more than we prioritize cleaning. So I make sure there is adequate traffic space to get around and to exits and I make sure potential hazards are put away in child-locked areas. Anything else is a bonus.
Take days off- sometimes I’m done. I didn’t sleep or I’m working through something mentally and I just don’t have the energy. A year ago, I would have stayed in the guilt loop and pushed myself to a mini-burnout. I don’t do that anymore. If I need rest, I rest.
Creative Solutions- I already talked about our laundry solution. There are others that we did such as dropping a basket where we normally put our shoes so they are not in the way but it’s a doable thing. We also purchased a simple storage bench for the living room to hold our copious amounts of blankets so instead of 9879879870 of them on the couch, there are one or two (because we use them all the time). I have repurposed things to hold potential clutter and just keep it off the floor where it can be triggering and hazardous.
Intentional Tools- I very specifically use a spin mop and a non-electric spot mop (both by O Cedar). Touching the mop to wring it out and lugging around a giant bucket were barriers for me, so I removed them. I definitely do not mop every time I clean a room but having these tools sets me up to be successful when I do. My partner also installed shelving, hooks and cabinetry to hold my cleaning supplies so they are conveniently located and easy to put back away.
Lower Expectations- I cannot and do not need to be superwoman. I do not WORK at my home, I live here. So while everyone who lives here has responsibility over our space, it does not need to be to external standards. We will make our own standards.
When I am doing well, I can do all of these at once and appear to have my life together. When I am not doing well, I’ll struggle to do even one. Most of the time I’m somewhere in the middle. If you come to my house, expect to see that we live here and we’re doing our best. If you’re struggling right now, I hope you found something helpful to add to your arsenal or even just let it spark on idea that works better for you.