If you are diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, one of the first pieces of advice you’re going to come across is to create a structured environment. But a lot of the practical how-tos on doing so are aimed at kids. There’s plenty of advice about setting up homework space, but much less about making the kitchen less overwhelming or how to create visual reminders without postits.
An ADHD Journey
ADHD affects space in a few ways. People with ADHD tend to like visual reminders of what they’re working on as a memory aid. Combined with difficulty organizing and initiating uninteresting tasks, this tends to lead to some pretty messy spaces. And while messy is not inherently bad, it can pass a threshold where it goes from creative clutter to pure overwhelm.
What I’ve noticed is that while there are organizers who address ADHD, there isn’t much about design. And while organizing is an important piece of the puzzle, the solutions can tend towards the utilitarian or childish (colour coded boxes and post-its come up a lot).
This is not a post about how Lenore can solve all your ADHD problems with design. This is about me, Carmen, who has been recently diagnosed with ADHD trying to combine ADHD advice with design principles to see what happens.
I’m at the beginning of my journey. The official diagnosis is just a few weeks old, although the process has been going on for some time. I’m starting to rearrange my life around the idea of an external support structure that helps me stay on track with my goals (and my housework).
Not all of that requires changes to the house, of course. There’s stuff about setting up routines and schedules and alarms and things like that. But the space is definitely part of it… and since I co-own an interior design business, it seems like an obvious thing to take advantage of.
I’m sharing this for a couple of reasons. For one, I think it goes to show that design isn’t just about fashion or style. It’s very much key to solving problems. That is a core mission statement of Lenore Brooks Design, and now we have the chance to show how that focus come into play in our own lives.
The second, and maybe more important, reason is because I know that there are a lot of other adults out there like me, recently diagnosed and wondering how to climb this hill of “creating a structured environment” when that’s exactly the thing that’s been impossible all these years and why they finally sought help in the first place!
So I envision “The Structured Space” as part of a blog series (and eventual YouTube series) about figuring out how to use interior design as a part of creating a supportive space that is also an adult space.
A beginning, and an invitation
I’ve been working on routines since January (inspired by How to ADHD, and if you have ADHD and haven’t checked her out, you should!), but I decided that my first space task needed to be my workspace.
In classic ADHD fashion, I planned to start the project with an Ikea trip on Saturday and be ready to post before and afters in this blog by Tuesday. That is not *exactly* what happened. We did successfully go to Ikea, where we successfully did not overbuy furniture (although we did impulsively buy a rug) and we successfully came home and moved stuff out of the space so that we could repair walls and paint.
John repaired walls and did a priming coat over top with our old can of paint, since we don’t want to change the office wall colour. Then we discovered that I had identified the WRONG can of paint. Of course, we’d already gone and bought a new can in the wrong paint, so now have an extra gallon of our daughter’s wall colour (that she wants to change, of course) which is much brighter and more intensely blue than the intended office colour.
Ah well. One thing you learn when you have ADHD is to roll with the mistakes. So this week’s blog has before and during pictures, and perhaps next week we will have some afters to show.
And now, if you have ADHD and you’re feeling inspired, intrigued, or in any way want to join me on my journey and share yours too, I’ve started a facebook group where we can talk about creating structured environments that support our needs. The group is just getting started, so you can help me define it. We can chat about successes or trouble areas, and set group goals to work on certain problem or topic spaces together. There’s a lot of possibility, so come check it out, join, and let’s talk!
Or check out my first office update!