How My Junk Drawer Supports My ADHD Brain

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Every place I’ve ever lived has had a junk drawer. In my childhood house in Texas, the kitchen’s junk drawer was full of my mother’s stash of Hershey’s Kisses, unfastened uncapped markers, and grocery retailer mailers. My school dorm room’s junk drawer hid crumpled-up syllabi, rogue packets of soy sauce, and additional Scantron sheets. And now, as an grownup dwelling with my long-term boyfriend for the primary time, our junk drawer homes random instruments; shared sticks of Burt’s Bees chapstick; paint samples for our bed room; and, like, 5 in another way flavored, half-empty bottles of MiO. Whereas I’ve gone by way of the motions of emptying it out numerous occasions, tossing some gadgets and giving others a brand new house, it inevitably refills. However that is additionally why I am studying to embrace it: Its presence—nevertheless messy—generally is a comforting fixed.

Coming to phrases with my junk drawer has been a journey of releasing the disgrace I’ve lengthy related to it. Whereas, as a younger child, having such a spot for random stuff appeared largely benign, my notion of litter shifted drastically at age 12.

My mom acquired a name from a Louisiana hospital alerting her to the truth that my then-estranged grandmother had struck a phone pole at 3:00 a.m. whereas driving herself to the emergency room as a result of she’d suffered a stroke. When my mother and father, brother, and I arrived at her residence with a U-Haul to gather her issues and transfer her to reside with us in Texas, we have been shocked to witness what may solely be described as the house of a hoarder. Piles of pairs of footwear, various solely barely in coloration and elegance, crammed her closet; make-up compacts and lotions toppled out of each rest room drawer and cupboard. And no piece of furnishings was left uncovered: Each floor was stacked excessive with junk.

We quickly discovered that my grandmother, who has since handed, had been dwelling with untreated bipolar dysfunction, and after her stroke, would endure with dementia. The tie between her cluttered house and her psychological sicknesses was plain. Whereas her years-long estrangement from my household had as soon as been a call she made attributable to a distinction in perception methods, it was additionally clear that her messiness had turn into a supply of disgrace for her, additional isolating her from the individuals in her life who beloved her… and certain anybody else, as there have been few uncluttered footpaths to stroll in her area.

Whereas my junk drawer is definitely a a lot smaller mess than what we encountered in my grandmother’s area, it has equally made me ashamed of my incapability to reside a clutter-free life—particularly within the six years since I used to be recognized with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), at age 22.

At occasions, I’ve felt like my junk drawer is a logo of my incessantly disorganized thoughts, a reminder of my govt dysfunction.

At occasions, I’ve felt like my junk drawer is a logo of my incessantly disorganized thoughts; a reminder of my govt dysfunction; or a sign fireplace to unassuming company searching for cutlery that appears to scream out, “See? SEE?! This woman doesn’t have her sh*t collectively—she’s a large number. Don’t let her idiot you!” And at different occasions, my junk drawer has served as a terrifying reminder of my grandmother’s residence—a logo of my household’s imperfect psychological well being historical past and a possible precursor of what may occur if, sooner or later, my mess have been to increase past the confines of a drawer.

Amongst neurodivergent adults, such emotions of deep disgrace round struggling to handle care tasks and hold home are widespread, says medical psychologist Andrew Kahn, PsyD, affiliate director of conduct change and experience at Understood.org, a nonprofit that gives informational assets for neurodivergent people.

Societal norms have a tendency to carry adults—and especially women, who’ve traditionally been appointed to the homemaker position in household items—to high standards of home cleanliness1, and when neurodivergent individuals like myself fail to satisfy these requirements, emotions of incompetence and otherness can observe. “Nothing makes you look much less put-together than whenever you spend minutes a day digging by way of a pocketbook, or a briefcase, or an workplace desk, and you may’t entry belongings you want,” says Dr. Kahn. “There’s one thing about it that’s childlike, like you possibly can’t set up your life. When you end up in full maturity, and also you’re having the identical issues your 12-year-old self with ADHD was having, [it] results in emotions of disgrace and embarrassment.”

And but, my junk drawer has additionally come to really feel like an extension of myself. It is at all times been there for me after a protracted day, after I desire a clutter-free area however cannot deal with the psychological toll of organizing each unfastened merchandise I come throughout. I will clear off surfaces and put any random mail, pens, or different gadgets that do not have a delegated house into that drawer. And every time I am searching for one thing, I do know to double-check the junk drawer earlier than turning my house upside-down. There is not any denying that the drawer has served a constant objective in my life, even because it’s triggered disgrace.

Reclaiming my junk drawer as a useful area for my ADHD mind

In line with Dr. Kahn, the ADHD mind, specifically, craves consistency because of distinctive challenges with executive function. Because it jumps shortly from one thought to the subsequent, it depends on reliable routines to remain on observe with every day duties—and having one drawer that serves as a container for random gadgets can provide that dependability.

“Typically, our junk drawer is definitely simply our frequent ‘drop’ location for issues we use recurrently,” says Dr. Kahn, who additionally has ADHD himself. “If you consider it from an organizational perspective, in order for you to have the ability to discover the belongings you want, the number-one technique for doing that’s at all times placing these issues in the identical place.” And there isn’t any purpose why that place cannot be a junk drawer, not less than for sure sorts of issues.

“Typically, our junk drawer is definitely simply our frequent ‘drop’ location for issues we use recurrently.” —Andrew Kahn, PsyD, medical psychologist

I’ve additionally discovered that utilizing my junk drawer as a catch-all for random issues—versus permitting these issues to stay on counters and aspect tables—may also help me higher focus when I haven’t got time for a full clean-up job. And that is sensible from an ADHD perspective: Visible environmental clutter2 has been proven to be distracting for these with ADHD, pulling the mind away from the extra essential duties at hand. However when that litter is out of sight (like when it is tucked away in a junk drawer), it will also be extra simply out of thoughts, conserving distractions at bay.

Nonetheless, the customarily blurry line between what qualifies as an merchandise that ought to go within the junk drawer and what would not can simply as shortly make my junk drawer really feel dysfunctional and less-than-satisfying. In spite of everything, individuals with ADHD are inclined to have low levels of dopamine in the brain3, that means we favor finishing duties that yield clear, fast outcomes as a method to dial up the dopamine. An ever-evolving junk drawer with little rhyme or rhythm would not fairly match that mould.

On deep-cleaning days, I’ve dumped out our junk drawer solely to find expired Previous Navy Tremendous Money coupons and sticky ketchup packets—precise trash that will’ve been higher off thrown out, however that I put within the junk drawer with out pausing to assume it by way of.

“Muddle equals stress, and when you have ADHD, it may be overwhelming,” says cleansing skilled Becky Rapinchuk, creator of Clean Mama’s Guide to a Healthy Home. “That could be why you may postpone [handling a junk drawer]…since you’re not precisely certain the place to begin. And should you’re somebody with perfectionist tendencies, that may exacerbate it, since you assume [the cleaning] must be excellent and 100% performed with a view to depend.”

Guaranteeing my junk drawer continues to serve a constructive position

Admittedly, I’m nonetheless studying the best way to strike a stability in relation to my junk drawer—to take away the disgrace I’ve lengthy felt round it and settle for its position in my life, whereas additionally conserving its attribute litter from getting out of hand.

The deep-seated embarrassment tends to rear its ugly head after I discover that gadgets with one other devoted house (like my “good” scissors or essential items of mail) have made their manner into the junk drawer. These moments make apparent my neurodivergent tendencies to hunt out fast options over everlasting ones, and worse, reignite my worry that possibly I don’t have the management over my litter that I assumed I did.

To get forward of that feeling, every time I choose up an merchandise that has been left on our espresso desk or kitchen counter as of late, I take a second to consider the place this merchandise (or one thing prefer it) normally lives, and the place I would use it probably the most; typically, the junk drawer does take advantage of sense as a spot to place it, however in different circumstances, it might need a house some other place, and even simply belong within the trash.

On this vein, Rapinchuk means that I begin calling my junk drawer a “miscellaneous drawer” as a substitute. In spite of everything, it should not be full of precise junk (higher to simply toss that stuff). And calling it a “junk drawer” can allow it to extra simply turn into a trash hub, internet hosting unused or out of date gadgets like misplaced buttons and take-out receipts. The miscellaneous drawer, against this, merely homes gadgets which are purposeful and used usually, however could lack one other clear house.

Implementing such a considerate technique for a junk drawer—like purposefully making it a checkpoint for motley gadgets—can dismantle the frustration, guilt, and disgrace that has lengthy accompanied my obvious disorganization, says Dr. Kahn. In spite of everything, simply because my junk drawer system could be completely different from how somebody who would not have ADHD chooses to arrange miscellaneous gadgets would not make it any much less legitimate of a system, as long as it is intentional.

Breaking free from my damaging relationship with litter can also be serving to me assign impartial that means to my junk drawer. Having one messy area in my house doesn’t imply that sooner or later I’ll magically get up to seek out myself in a Louisiana residence suffering from piles of footwear and make-up compacts. And even when I did in some way wind up in that situation, I do know that I’ve household and buddies who would drop every part to assist me get out of it, with out judgment.

In flip, I’m selecting to embrace, not combat, our newly-promoted junk miscellaneous drawer this 12 months. It may not be the prettiest spot in our house, and I may not be opening it on objective in entrance of dinner company anytime quickly, per se… however ought to they should borrow a pair of scissors, I received’t cease them from checking it.

Our junk drawer serves as an important anchor for my and my boyfriend’s family, a constant house for a few of our most-used, albeit completely random issues. It additionally helps me reside my life and concentrate on the issues that actually matter—like spending time with family members and filling our 4 partitions to max capability with gentle and love. And that’s all of the justification I have to hold it in our house.


Properly+Good articles reference scientific, dependable, current, sturdy research to again up the data we share. You possibly can belief us alongside your wellness journey.

  1. Thébaud, Sarah, et al. “Good Housekeeping, Nice Expectations: Gender and Housekeeping Norms.” Sociological Strategies & Analysis, vol. 50, no. 3, SAGE Publications, Aug. 2021, pp. 1186–1214, https://doi.org10.1177/0049124119852395.
  2. Woody, Sheila R., et al. “Impact of Environmental Muddle on Consideration Efficiency in Hoarding.” Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Associated Problems, vol. 31, 2021, p. 100690, https://doi.org10.1016/j.jocrd.2021.100690.
  3. Blum, Kenneth et al. “Consideration-deficit-hyperactivity dysfunction and reward deficiency syndrome.” Neuropsychiatric illness and therapy vol. 4,5 (2008): 893-918. doi:10.2147/ndt.s2627


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