Are your reminders annoying?

Do you need visual reminders to remember to complete a task or attend an event? Could your “reminders” be clutter to your mate/roommate? One of my recent clients was very visual. If something was out of sight, it was out of mind, so he left items out to serve as visual reminders.

Dr. Russell Barkley, one of the world’s leading experts on ADHD, tells us that those with ADHD need to focus on the point of performance. Thus, leaving a screwdriver on the kitchen counter is a good structure, as it will remind him that he needs to tighten a few screws on the front porch. Simple enough, right?

But what if your significant other has an opposing style and your visual clue is just clutter? Some individuals are emotionally very sensitive to clutter and may not feel at home with it. If he or she thrives in an environment in which “everything has a place and a place for everything,” then this screwdriver might be tolerable if it’s the only visual reminder for a week or wasn’t combined with other reminders. But if multiple reminders are left on the counter every day, this may be a source of conflict.

There are 2 types of clutter:

  • I just drop it and forget about it (very ADHD prone, i.e., socks on the floor).
  • I need this part on the countertop to remind me to finish a project.

As the non-ADHD partner, you will want to respect this. You can consider areas of the house that are clearly the “clutter zones” and are left alone. The parts that really matter, perhaps the kitchen and areas where family and friends congregate, can be left clutter-free.

What about the “hurricane children” who come home from college? Take a laundry basket and move it into a “zone.” It helps the clutter-free person, but it doesn’t change the clutter-prone person.

Aha! – a compromise. Consider making a home for your clutter. Maybe place an “inbox” on the counter to hold the reminders to make it look like it is supposed to be there. It doesn’t have to be an inbox, but the idea is to co-design an environment for your styles to coexist.

You can’t change the other person. You can request, but negotiation is crucial. Their reminder systems are as legitimate as your need to put things in a drawer. Please think about your zones and how you work with your partner!

4 thoughts on “Are your reminders annoying?

  1. Fantastic ideas that do NOT overwhelm my ADHD mind. Also helps me to be more thoughtful,
    I know it’s a challenge at times to just be around us ADHD-Type folks so love and empathy will help me move towards staying de-cluttered and keeping the home stress-free and ……..clutter free. LOL

    Again, thanks so much!

    -Dan-0

    1. Love and empathy are important. The trick is for the non-ADHD partner to have love and empathy and for the ADHD partner to own their ADHD. When that happens, partners can design an environment for everyone to coexist. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  2. This is SO HELPFUL Jeff – thank you! My husband is a “store things where visible” person, and I am a “shuts down in the face of clutter” person. This has been the core challenge of our marriage – and probably the only thing we disagree about. (We are lucky to be so well-matched in all other regards!) This gives me ideas for how to honor my husband, while also honoring myself.

    1. Booya! Mindset is everything. Having an open mindset to witness and understand why others do what they do and then trying to design things around honoring their difference is SO much more productive than trying to change them. Thanks for the post.

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