How to Organise your Stuff from a Maker with ADHD
Updated: Apr 3
Hey all, this was going to be a video but I'm starting full time work soon and I'm not sure when I will get to this, but I believe some of this know-how can help folk now. This isn't the most well structured content I've created, it's still a work in progress, but I didn't want folk missing out while I work out my new normal!
I have ADHD and I’m a maker, and for a long time I though it was kinda impossible to have a tidy space.
Since launching my craft room tour video (https://youtu.be/eh8-M5brw04) I've had a lot of comments about how tidy and well organised it is, and it made me reflect upon my growth. You see, tidiness never been in my nature. Since I was a toddler up until the last couple of years, anyone entering my dominions would have to literally wade through piles of my belongings.
Exhibit A my craft room before the great cleanse (more on that later)
But over the last few years I've found systems and methods that work for me, a highly creative human with ADHD who sometimes hyper-focuses to the neglect of everything else, and at other times flits between a million different projects.
These are some of the pics of my old room, and honestly this is it looking pretty good. It was usually much worse than this, I just didn’t take pictures because guilt and shame. But thankfully for you! I have people who knew me then.
How did it make me feel?
Frustrated (I would tell people I know where it all is! But I really didn’t, if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t. and worse, every time I wanted to start something new I had to pick through it to collect up everything , losing hours honestly, that I could have been making
And it broke my concentration and it broke my flow.
I wouldn’t make in my craft room. I had to pull my projects into the living room so I had space for them. Which encroached upon the calm of the people I lived with
And as an adult a lot of the time my craft room was my bedroom, it’s a wonder I ever got laid tbh.
Maintaining after this should pretty much take care of itself.
If you haven’t used that big expensive tool in the last few years, you won’t in the next few either.
If you’re not currently, in your every day, wrapping all your fabric into neat little evenly sixed cards, and storing them categorised by colour and fiber on a shelf, you’re not going to do that in future either. You’re just not. And pretending that you will is setting yourself up for failure. Know yourself. Observe your behaviour, when are you succeeding in tidying up promptly after finishing something? Why do you think that is? I have a bunch of suggestions that have worked for me a little later.
If you never succeed, then ponder this; if you always do what you’ve always done, it’s never going to change, so try some things. Take some of the tips I’ll be giving you and just try them.
Costs more to keep in square footage, in emotional energy. And we want to preserve our emotional energy for making.
If you have 5 pairs of fabric scissors that’s 5 times you can leave them lying around the house each with various projects before you are prompted to have to tidy them to do something else. If you have one pair, it has to go back in it’s place each time, or at worst it makes one small mess. That said I still have a lot of stuff. But all of this stuff is THOUGHTFUL, INTENTIONAL, LOVED and ACTUALLY USED.
Yes; you can get rid of supplies and tools and not miss them. Yes, seriously.
It’s doable, and it can feel good. And you can not regret it.
Yes. Seriously. This is the MOST important rule because the more stuff you have the more problems you'll have.
You'll feel guilty for seeing long-unfinished projects.
Or broken things you never got to repairing.
Or expensive purchases you never put to good use.
Or just general untidiness because you have so much crap.
And as a creative you'll always see the possibilities. But you must temper the possibilities with your actual and honest reality...
Cheap but rarely used parts are not worth keeping. Just buy them again in future if you need them.
If it's expensive and you never use it is costing you emotional energy. You see it and you feel guilty. get rid. Donate it to your makerspace or a friend if you really think that one day you might just want to use it again.
Less stuff = less to get messy and less to tidy up.
Sentimental items that you just store in boxes because you don't want them in your everyday room, but you like seeing them every now and then; take a picture. You’ll get the feeling without the clutter.
Strategy: what system you will use for removing junk.
Gather allll your craft supplies together, outside the ‘maker’ space.
Yes this might mean taking over the living room for a weekend, but you probably do this regularly anyway and this will be the last time. If you do this right you’ll only have to do it once, and maintenance beyond this will be easy.
You might even need the front lawn. But start with a clean slate in your making space. Everything coming into that ‘new’ space will be thoughtfully chosen.
I used to tidy my space up once in a blue moon, but I didn’t do it right. I spend hours categorising things into neat little orders that when I later wasn’t hyperfocused on the task, I couldn’t maintain. I wouldn’t wrap all my new embroiderly floss onto cards and I hadn’t left room for new colours to look neat
Not think it’s nifty
Not think it’s a good deal – it’s not a good deal if you’re spending money on something that will only collect dust and cause you a pang of angst every time you see it and think “I really should do x”
Does it work? Will you ACTUALLY fix it? Truly? If you haven’t done it in the last 6 months, you’re not going to do it.
Not think it’s really versatile
Not think it’s something you want to try one day in the distant future Not just ‘it’s useful’ but I, PERSONALLY, will actually use it.
It’s just as important as your supplies and tools.
It's not a luxury to set up systems that maintain mental wellbeing.
Save up. Make it happen.
That said, the more expensive doesn’t automatically mean better.
If you can afford craft supplies you CAN afford this, you just need to prioritise it.
Pick something that can grow and change with you. Pick something you will be able to expand upon in future. Look for long-standing lines of furniture by well established companies.
I would lean toward off the shelf product, if you have to whip up a cabinet when you get a new tool, be honest about if you will ACTUALLY do that, reflect on your past behavior.
Made up of sides and shelves, with cross braces to support
There are other accessories, but these are the core.
Deep & Shallow
Wide & Thin
Tall, Medium & Short
I can add and change parts as I go.
When I move house I can easily pack it down for removal.
Deep and shallow wide and thin tall, medium short
Existed for more than 50 years and is one of their best sellers
Pick storage solutions that are easy to maintain.
If you have to wind every ribbon onto a peg then put it in a jar, after this initial sort, you just won’t do it.
But if you only have to tuck it over one bar on a big ladder, you might just do it.
If you have to fold every bolt of fabric you own over some carefully sized cardboard, then slip it into colour order on a shelf that you haven’t left room in, then you just wont.
But if you only have to roughly fold it and pop it in a box, you will.
Make it as easy as possible, think about the act of putting something away and how you can make it the easiest possible.
like you could open up your new purchases from the craft store and dump them in the respective box.
I used to keep ‘like’ stuff together. All the brushed here, all the rulers there, etc. But doing it this way meant I spent ages collecting up all my supplies for any project from all the different areas and worse: ages tidying up. Which basically meant I didn't.
Now I tend towards making "kits" for example, everything I need to pattern make and sew is in this drawer (pens, rulers, pins, paper and fabric scissors, everything).
Everything for painting large objects is in this one: sanding blocks and papers, PPE, brushes, tack cloths, rags, rollers, tape, etc.
Theyr’e easy to access and easy to pack up, everything goes back in the box and the box goes on the shelf. Done
This is less a tidiness tip and more a creative one. Seeing your tools and supplies will jog ideas and encourage you to finish/use things.
Hiding them away well cause you to forget them, creating "dead" supplies (un-utilised, un-loved things that make you feel bad when you finally fully open that 4th drawer down 5 years later...)
It also means you don't need to write labels and things are easier to find.
I used to keep everything in neat little opaque labelled boxes that looked lovely on my shelf, but which I ended up rarely opening or using the contents of.
They remind you constantly what’s in them, so you can be inspired by those materials and tools.
Plus they don’t need labels, making them even easier to maintain in future.
And easier to spot what you need, conserving emotional energy.
I thought they might not look as pretty, but given how many compliments I get on my room, that turned out to not be true. And I think it's because it follows the rule of repetition. Humans like repetition. Clear drawers, even, if you can get them. I’m designing some as replacements to these, that I’ll laser cut I think.
Most used at eye level
Less, up higher.
I’m using the 30cm deep Ikea IVAR shelves. I love them. I double them up when I want a bit more room for larger items, but I stick within the 30cm range, so I can always move it around when I get new equipment or pick up new hobbies.
Powerpoints, usb extenders for your pc, pens, rulers, etc (run through my desk)
Receipts, meds, water etc.
Place to put WiP nearby.
Places to put kicknacks off desk itself so this returns to a blank state. It’s easier for mess to grow if it has a ‘seed’
Most used tools and materials closest, arms reach preferably. 3d printing tools near 3D printer SKADIS
If you get a new, better version of something get rid of the old. Give it to someone just starting that hobby, or a school or makerspace. Sell it and make some money.
Review project boxes regularly. Will you finish that thing? Do you still want the outcome? Has the magic faded? Get rid. Or finish it off as a gift to someone who might actually enjoy it!
* self compassion/forgiveness
* don't get bogged down in detail, keep it simple.
* Marie Kondo book and minimalism podcasts.