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Are You Tired of Losing Things?

How to keep track of your stuff and find what you need.

Source: Stock photo ID:1087233556

It's 15 minutes until the start of your first class and you can't find your keys—again. You're frantically searching through piles of clothes, empty bags of chips and piles of papers. You know you put them down, but where?

Finally, at the last possible moment, you find them under your sweaty workout shorts and run as fast as you can to your class. While you hate starting your days like this, unfortunately, it happens more mornings than not. What can you do differently to manage your stuff?

Losing keys, your identification card, or a favorite jacket seems to happen to many college students with ADHD. You are not alone. Struggling with keeping track of your stuff and remembering where you put things can be both frustrating and embarrassing. You're not only searching frantically for something, but you're probably criticizing yourself at the same time. With thoughts such as "Where did I put those?" or "OMG, I don't have time for this now," your adrenaline starts to race through your brain and body, sending your anxiety through the roof. Now you have two problems: the misplaced object and panic about it.

Source: Stock photo ID:1127614653

Creating systems to organize your stuff only works if they are simple and do-able. Start small by making a space that's your launchpad. Set up a designated shelf, box, or table as your dump-it place. Only put things there that you need every day: keys, student card, wallet, purse, etc. When you come into your room or apartment, dump your stuff there. Then, the next day, you'll go straight there to find what you need. The trick is developing a habit of putting things on this launchpad.

Phones can stay closer to you not only because you'll want to use them but also because they'll probably need to be charged. If you can charge your phone on your launchpad, that's even better. You'll always know where to find it. If you pick a launchpad place that doesn't seem to work, regroup and try something else. Don't berate yourself. It’s not a big deal—just information about what’s most useful.

In addition to launchpads, decrease general clutter by making sure everything has a place. This will give you a greater sense of physical space in your room and lower the stress of trying to find things that are buried under random piles of stuff. Keep this simple too. Get some crates or boxes for storing papers, hats, and gloves, snack food, shoes, etc. Take a look at what items keep cluttering up your room and separate them into individual boxes. Instead of dropping things randomly around the room, put them in the container you've assigned them.

Once a week (if not more often), set an alert on your phone to remind you to pick up dirty clothes and put them into a bag or hamper to keep them off the floor. You can deal with the boxes and what's in them when they are full, during vacation, or at the end of the semester. For now, the goal is a tidier environment where you can find things when you want them. If it's hard for you to do this alone, ask a friend or a parent to help you. Most people with ADHD struggle with organizing their living spaces. Having someone around to keep you company, play some music, and motivate you along the way can be really helpful.

Fotolia 112923284
Source: Fotolia 112923284

Disorganization fuels anxiety and anxiety reduces feeling competent and resilient. Lower anxiety by starting and sticking with a clear strategy while expecting setbacks. Having a simple plan for what to do with your stuff decreases those low-level, persistent worries about where things are or losing them once more.

The key to any successful arrangement is to make it appealing by making it user-friendly and achievable. Start with your launchpad and then, when you're using this tool regularly, move onto decreasing general clutter. Make your best efforts but don't expect perfection from yourself. Setbacks are a normal part of learning. When you consider two steps forward and one step back, you are still moving forward. So, if you veer off course, take a deep breath and act like your GPS—recalculate and try again.

Using these practical tools will lower your anxiety and frustration about keeping track of your stuff. You'll increase your confidence in your ability to start and (mostly) stay organized and feel great when you easily locate what you want right now!

More from Sharon Saline Psy.D.
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