February 2005 - Volume I - Issue XIV

ADHD: Hoarding and Packrat Tendencies

Hoarding and tendency to be a packrat are problem areas for many persons with ADHD. I include myself in this group. I find it very difficult to throw away almost anything. I still have clothes from when I was in my twenties and I am approaching 52 years old. I also have junk and "stuff" all over my house. I have, since I started coaching others, forced myself to throw out some items that I don't think I would have. I guess I feel I have to walk the walk, to talk the talk. But I am still prone to save things most people would not hesitate to throw away. I always get this feeling that as soon as I throw it away, I will need it. Unfortunately, the few times that this indeed has been the case has justified my continued pattern.

Maybe some of you could relate to this. How many of you have about 4 to 5 hammers, 4 cans of WD-40 lubricant, several tape measures, many sets of fingernail clips and toenail clips, hair combs and brushes? How about multiple tubes of toothpaste, several toothbrushes, several packets of dental floss (that are like torture to remember to use). I try to position these multiple items around the house (unfortunately in no particular pattern) with the intent of being able to locate at least one of them when and if the time comes to use one. Then despite this, I still struggle to find even one of them.

If I decided to make the deadliest of deadly sins, and that is putting something where I won't forget it....that almost assures me that it will be lost forever. When working on a project, I bring out my tools and set them down, and within minutes I seem to be looking for the screwdriver or other tool I know I just used minutes earlier. The search begins only to find the missing item right where I left it, or put it such as my back pocket. Trying to get our stuff organized is very difficult. Often times it is the mere fact that we have so much stuff, we get in panic about where to start first, and then justify not starting at all by saying, "I will sit and watch T. V or play video games until I get less stressed". Unfortunately by the time our stress has been alleviated, some other task seems either more urgent, or perhaps in all honesty, easier to deal with at the moment.

Our houses, cars and wallets or purses look like they are overstuffed suitcases. We find kitchen items in the bedroom or bathroom. We find bathroom items in the living room or family room. We find bedroom items almost anywhere. Clean clothes sit in baskets unfolded, and sometimes laundry that is clean and folded sits in the laundry basket, and we retrieve things from the basket, rather than our dresser drawers. I think this has something to do with our tendencies to know that for us ---out of sight means out of mind---.

For many, medication will help us get motivated to clean up or organize, but too often in a few days, we find ourselves right back where we were. We have no idea how the stuff accumulated again. Frustration, self blame and validation of others opinions that we are lazy slobs is common. We judge ourselves by those many people we know that operate at such organizational levels, that we both admire them, and are jealous of their seemingly God gave gift of structure, efficiency and organization. Most of us would give almost anything for these abilities.

Well, we are stuck with who we are. Some with ADHD use almost obsessive compulsive tendencies to organize their lives. Some of us would love to be able to get to a stage of obsessive compulsive behavior in order to get organized. It's like many other things in ADHD, what is a problem for you, may not be a problem for me, and visa versa.

I guess I don't feel that I have overcome my problems sufficiently to offer advice to others on how best to deal with this. I would urge you to try different methods. Something may work. For some reason, when we sold our house last spring, we got it organized and managed to keep it that way 'til it sold several months later. I think it was the fact we really wanted to move, and that no one would buy it if things didn't look in reasonable order. I told my wife when we moved to our new house maybe we should put a FOR SALE sign out front forever in the hopes that the pressure of having to show our house on a moments notice would force me to keep things in order. I think it is the paradox of knowing that I can, and having proved that I can do it, that frustrates me and results in reduced self esteem.

Well, we keep living and hopefully learning. If you have any sure fire methods, please send them to me.

Thanks and talk to you next month.

Patrick Hurley

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Author's Bio: 

51 years old, diagnosed with ADHD in 1996, 17 years as a deputy sheriff, 5 years as a probation parole officer, 2 years as full time ADHD Life Skills Coach