Welcome back to Talk Clutter to Me for our first podcast episode of 2024! We are so excited to have Melanie Summers from I Speak Organized on with us this month to discuss how to Get Organized with Your ADHD Superpowers!
Melanie is the owner and founder of I Speak Organized, a home organizing company in the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver, Washington to be a exact. I Speak Organized specializes in life transitions, such as moving, death and divorce. They offer in-person organizing services as well as online resources for DIY-ers as well as resources for those who want to start their own organizing businesses.
Melanie also divulged how she got into organizing! Believe it or not, she grew up as a very disorganized person! She suffered from executive disfunction and procrastination throughout her schooling. Several years ago, one of her friend's mother was diagnosed with cancer and Melanie helped out clearing out and organizing their house, finding that she had a knack for it! When she was off on maternity leave a few years later she decided to take the leap and start I Speak Organized.
I met Melanie last year at the ASPO Conference where we were both speakers and her discussion on ADHD and organizing really spoke to me. While I have never been formally diagnosed, I sometimes wonder if I have ADHD. I always blame all of the different hats I wear as a business owner, but Melanie mentioned it's also a very common thought when you're a parent as well, especially of young children. She used the term "fractured attention". She also commented that our society (hustle culture) also lends itself to a short attention span as well. Both of these things can mirror ADHD. When you are formally diagnosed with ADHD, all of those things are exacerbated. Melanie mentions that in Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD, it says that people with diagnosed ADHD need to refocus on a specific task 6x more often than a neurotypical person. She uses the example of a person who notices they need a new razor before they shower. They can find it very difficult to make their way down the hall to their razor back stock and back to shower without facing several distractions. If you can apply that thought process to every task throughout the day, you can see how exhausting it can be for someone with ADHD to function.
How Professional Organizers Help Client's with ADHD
As a professional organizer, Melanie explains that her job for a client with ADHD is spacial organization, trying to clear flat services and minimize distractions, as well as trying to help them regulate their emotions. This is one of the most overlooked symptoms of ADHD. There's a frustration that comes with not being able to complete a seemingly simple task but also a frustration for them to expend their limited attention span on items that they don't enjoy doing. Melanie finds that client's with ADHD will use a professional organizer on an ongoing basis to avoid some of these frustrations. Sometimes it's just typical upkeep and other times it's reworking and implementing a new organizing system that helps alleviated boredom that also comes with ADHD.
Organizing Systems for ADHD Clients
Melanie also goes in to different systems that she has implemented for her ADHD clients. Typically, the systems that work best for ADHD clients are not the most aesthetically pleasing, but they work! The goal is always to "give function it's shining moment". Most systems are actually open, as in, not behind closed doors. She has found that some clients do get over stimulated by seeing the items and need them behind closed doors, but she has also found that the majority of her ADHD client's feel the opposite. They have issues with "object permanent" so if they can't see it, it doesn't exist, so systems "in the open" are a go-to for them. These will include open shelving with transparent bins and labels so everything has a clear and easy home. They ditch lids, use drop front bins, and everything has to be easier to put away than it was to get out (the one action test). She also utilizes a lot of hanging/wall space to organize items that would typically clutter flat surfaces and even goes as far as to take closet doors off
Organizing without Products for ADHD Clients
We all know how product (bins and lazy susans) can really take an organizing system to another level, but sometimes, it's just not in the budget. Melanie has found that her ADHD clients are actually some of her most creative clients so there is always a solution. Sometimes these clients already have a system in place but it's not working correctly. Sometimes the client is already in the know about professional organizing and has the tools because they know the value but just need a professional to implement the systems. But sometimes, Melanie just has to get creative and has used empty cereal boxes cut up to add segmentation to drawers or random shoe boxes (clear and otherwise) for bins when needed. She recommends checking out Pinterest for some DIY ideas but she also builds a Dollar Tree product budget into every client's package to ensure they can get the system the fits their needs.
Not Every Organizing System is IG Perfect
Melanie and I both agree that the main goal of our organizing services is to provide a functional system for our clients. Sometimes it does turn out Instagram ready but other times it doesn't. Melanie mentions that one of her major responsibilities is educating clients. A lot of them don't know how to use a system or don't know that a system even exists. They just know they have a problem and want it fixed. Part of Melanie's job to help fix the problem her client's are having and to try to fix it at the root. A lot of times that root is fear, so she tries to create a system that helps alleviate that fear, whether it's a physical organizing system or just a simple habit change.
Melanie's Top Three Organizing Tips for Neurodivergents
Declutter - Understand the connection between your physical clutter and your mental clutter. more clutter = more distractions.
Seek Accountability - That is what professional organizers are for! If you can't afford one, get a friend involved. Check out Will Power Doesn't Work to learn more about why we need outside motivation.
Whatever way works for you is the best way! - Sometimes the way you get something done isn't always the most efficient way. It's important to do what gives you the highest success rate!
These are all such great tips! The only thing I wanted to add was my 1-2-3 rule... Does it take 1 hand to get, is it two steps from where you use it, and does it take 3 seconds to put away?
What is Cluttering Melanie's Life?
As you know, I believe that everyone, even us professional organizers have clutter so I asked Melanie what is currently cluttering her life? She responded with her office. It's that time of the year when presents are "hiding" in the Amazon boxes in the corner of the office. She also mentioned that she has a lot of beverages cluttering her desk. At least she's keeping hydrated. She also needs some storage solutions in her garage so she'll be hiring her staff to come in and do some work in that area as well. I'm glad I'm not the only professional organizer who does this!
Want to Learn More About Melanie & I Speak Organized?
Use the links below to learn more about Melanie and her company I Speak Organized!