I’ll admit…I’m a huge fan of Marie Kondo…the petite, bubbly Japanese de-clutter-er. I first read her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” years ago. I took to heart the “does it spark joy” question to help reduce some of my home’s clutter. Using the spark joy prompt…I was able to say goodbye to items I had held onto for years.

When my daughter told me that Marie Kondo had a Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” I was thrilled! I don‘t know if my binge-watching was curiosity about Marie Kondo, the person, or the transformations that occurred under her tutelage. Either way…I am smitten.

Being such a huge fan, I couldn’t help but consider how some tidying principles might apply to living with ADHD. The physical decluttering application seems obvious. However, it is how the overall Marie Kondo tidying message can be applied to other areas of our lives that I wanted to explore further. And this is what I came up with.

One of the key questions Mari Kondo asks people when decluttering things in their homes is, “does this spark joy?” In Marie Kondo’s world, it’s essential to take a moment to hold and consider the item while asking if the item “sparks joy”. Doing this helps people notice the difference between those things that “spark joy” and those that don’t, which is important. If it doesn’t “spark joy,” then out it goes! Why? Because if something doesn’t “spark joy” for us, it is a burden to us. It is draining mental, physical, or emotional energy from our lives.

The Marie Kondo decluttering system starts with areas and things in our homes that are easier to sort, like clothes or books. Then, after becoming comfortable with the joy or no joy process, it’s time to move on to more emotionally charged areas, like memorabilia, photos, etc.

Oh, and one last thing about letting go of things. Thanking them before we let them go. When we realize something does not spark joy for us any longer, it’s important to take a moment, say “thank you” and pass it on.

Now when you are living with ADHD, our homes aren’t the only things that need decluttering.

There are also our thoughts and beliefs. The longer we have lived with ADHD, the more beliefs, rules, or habits we have collected. Many need to be aired out and possibly tossed out.

So, when applied to your ADHD life, does what you’re doing/feeling/believing “spark joy”?

When Marie “Kondo-ing” your ADHD life, start with areas that feel easier to sort through and work forward from there. You get to decide the order that works best for you.

You may want to get a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Write “Sparks Joy” on one side of the page and “Does NOT Spark Joy” on the other. Then, starting at the top of the page, in the left-hand margin working down, write the words: systems, sleep, food, movement, environment, plan, relationships, work, rules, and beliefs. Leave several lines between the words on the left to allow space for you to write your responses.

Here is a list of things you might want to consider:

  • Do the systems or strategies you use to manage your ADHD spark joy?
  • Are they interesting, engaging and effective in helping you accomplish your “to-do’s”? Consider the current strategies and habits you use to manage your ADHD. If a system is not sparking joy for you, think about what needs to change. Allow yourself to revisit what worked or sparked joy in the past. Be curious about the similarities between those systems and structures that spark joy for you and those that don’t.
  • Does your sleep spark joy? Adequate sleep is essential for optimal brain function. So, does your sleep spark joy? What about where you sleep? Do your sheets, blankets, and pillows spark joy? Do your pajamas spark joy? Does the temperature of the room and your covers spark joy? If not, what might need to change?
  • Does the food you eat spark joy? The food we eat with ADHD can add to the healthy functioning of our brain or not. Food can be enjoyable…or not. Consider if the food you are eating sparks joy for you. Does it feel nourishing? Healthy? Enjoyable? If not, why? What can you add or change? What new recipes or old favorites might you add? Recently I have started eating a lot of finger food. Cutting cheese into cubes, slicing and rolling lunch meat, and adding more raw vegetables and dips. For me, eating food with my hands is definite sparks joy!
  • Does movement and exercise in your life spark joy? This is a biggie for me. If I don’t like it, I won’t do it. Although exercising may never get easier for me, I have found that the right music, sights, and shoes do wonders for my enjoyment. If exercise doesn’t spark joy for you, consider what you can change to make it more interesting, engaging, or stimulating.
  • Does your overall environment spark joy? Consider the places you spend most of your time. It could be your home, office, or even school. With ADHD, it might be a given that our physical areas are more cluttered, but this is more about the overall space where you spend your time. Does being in that space spark joy? If not, consider what is getting in the way of that feeling. Begin to break down what specific things either do or do not spark joy. What might need to change?
  • Does your planning spark joy? With ADHD, “plan” or “structure” can feel constricting and limiting. Certainly not joyful. However, the proper planning system can provide just enough structure, so we are freed up to do other things. So, does your planning or external reminder system (EMS) spark joy for you? Is it visually interesting and engaging? Is it organized in a way that fits your needs? If not, what might you change?
  • Do the relationships in your life spark joy? Which relationships do, and which do not? Start with noticing the feeling you get when you hold the thought of someone that does spark joy for you. Now, notice the feeling you get when you hold the thought of someone that doesn’t spark joy for you. What is the difference? Begin considering what might need to change in your relationships. What relationships are you holding onto that are draining you rather than energizing you? What might need to change in your circle of support for you to experience more joy in these relationships?
  • Does your work spark joy? If not, what is missing? Work is a major part of our lives. Typically we spend at least a quarter of our lives working, whether working for ourselves, working for someone else, working out of the home or working in the home. What about your work or parts of your work spark joy? What themes or similarities do you notice about what sparks joy and what doesn’t? What might need to change for your work to spark joy?
  • Do the rules or beliefs you have about yourself spark joy? Living with ADHD for any length of time means that we will have internalized lots and lots of mind clutter. So this is a great time to Marie Kondo those rules and beliefs about yourself that no longer apply. Separate those thoughts and ideas that are positive and make you feel good versus those that are limiting, zap your energy, and are not encouraging or helpful to hold onto. What beliefs do you have about yourself that spark joy? Which do not? Which might you want to let go of?

If areas of your life with ADHD that don’t spark joy for you, try tidying it up with the Marie Kondo approach. Life with ADHD can mean that clutter is not only in our homes or offices  but also in our minds. Remember to start with what’s easy to declutter in your life. Next, acknowledge those areas and things that spark joy for you. Then, step-by-step, thank and let go of the things in your life that are no longer serving you and adding to your “no joy” ADHD clutter.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about tidying up your ADHD life with the Marie Kondo spark joy method.  Let me know in the comments section below.

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