Division of labor in marriage, ADHD edition
January 15, 2021 9:08 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are struggling to find a way to divide up the to-do list in a way that is both fair and maintainable. Added difficulty: I'm like 90% at fault, in part because my lack of executive function makes me terrible at doing chores. Do you have (or are you) an ADHD partner, and did you find a way to divide up the list of stuff to do in a way that felt fair to both of you, and then find a way to keep it working?

I have read a lot of analysis of the gendered breakdown of household labor, and I really really really don't want to contribute to the problem in my (cishet) household. Yet here I am personifying it: we have two kids, we both work full-time, and the house is constantly a disaster. Every time we try some new way of dividing things up or adding accountability, I enthusiastically leap into it, do all the things I need to do for a week or two, and then fall back into my old habits. I'm being a shitty partner, I totally recognize it and don't want to keep doing it, it's definitely affecting our marriage in the worst possible way, but I don't know what else to try.

This is not a problem for me at work, for some reason I can't fathom--I have some sort of intrinsic motivation to keep track of tasks and get things done on time during the workday. That might be related to medication: I take extended-release Adderall every morning, and am much more organized and focused while it is in effect. Then I come home from work, and the medication has worn off (and I can't take more or I'll be up all night), and I slip back into having no drive to start tasks that aren't exciting.

Things I have tried that didn't work:
  • Checklists
  • Putting all the daily/weekly chores onto index cards, dividing them up on Sunday, and owning a specific set of things for the week
  • Apps tracking chores and color-coding tasks that have gone undone for too long
  • Talking with several therapists about how to trick my brain into doing things consistently
Hope me, MetaFilter.
posted by Mayor West to Human Relations (42 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Could you try getting up 30 minutes earlier, taking the meds, and then spending 30 minutes on anything that is house task related in the morning before work? We use to-doist so you could check to-doist and then do any task that is on the list. Doesn’t matter if you finish 1 or 3 or none, just do it for 30 minutes then move onto your day.
posted by arnicae at 9:17 AM on January 15, 2021 [34 favorites]


I'm not sure if this is necessarily the solution, but have you considered blocking out time rather than using a task list? For example, every Tue and Thurs 8-10 pm is for cleaning and laundry.

Childcare is the easiest thing to divvy up this way because the nature of the task lends itself inherently to time spent rather than tasks accomplished. But you can try it for other household tasks as well.

Once you are spending the time, you can stop feeling guilty even if not all the tasks are getting done. So maybe just focus on putting in the time.

Again, this is just a thought, it may or may not work for you, but might be worth a try.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:25 AM on January 15, 2021 [12 favorites]


I think that working full time and taking care of two children is A LOT for both of you. Adding all the household chores to this is difficult. Since it's affecting your marriage "in the worst possible way," maybe hiring an outside help could be a good and necessary solution?

As for getting better at chore division. I don't have ADHD (I don't think) but I have a similar problem of having the best intentions, feeling enthusiastic and doing lots of things, and then inevitably falling back to not doing them within a week. Maybe instead of committing to *all thing* try to create a new habit within yourself, but committing to doing ONE thing every single day, for 30 days. As soon as you get home from work. Consider this to be a continuation of your work day. You are not done, and not "home" (meaning getting into "I'm home now, can relax" mode) until that one thing is done. It takes 30 days to form a new habit, they say.
posted by LakeDream at 9:27 AM on January 15, 2021 [8 favorites]


One thing that regularly works for me in the never ending chore that is “the kitchen” is setting a natural timer. I know that I will always want a cup of tea in the afternoon, so I set a full kettle to boil. In the time that the water is boiling, I am already in the kitchen and waiting for a thing so I just do whatever needs to be done in the kitchen for that time. Emptying the dishwasher, washing pots, cleaning counters, getting rid of gross stuff in the fridge... but it’s all constrained to a single room that I don’t leave, and the amount of time it takes for water to boil and tea to steep. I don’t have a specific chore to do or a list of them that need doing.

I can get this to work semi-consistently in other ways too. For a while I have been watching the late show monologues online, which are about ten-fifteen minutes. When I do this, I do some exercise. I watch them in my room next to my little free weights and yoga mat so if I want to do floor stuff I can but it doesn’t matter what movements I do or when in the day I do them, it’s just when I watch this thing I also move my body around and get a little sweaty for just those fifteen minutes.

So maybe there is something like that for you. I know that some people use egg timers for this type of thing. For me I need something I would be doing anyway to be an arbitrary framing device because I am just not going to set a timer like that of my own volition. Maybe you listen to a podcast - when you listen, also make that your “picking objects up from surfaces around the house and find homes for them” time. Maybe your shower takes a few minutes to warm up, so while you wait for that you make that “wiping down cruddy areas in the bathroom” time. The key is that you get to stop and change gears when that time is over, and it doesn’t matter what you got through.

I also find it incredibly helpful to have a companion when I am cleaning. This doesn’t work well for me because I live with cats and a dude who wants to be left alone for all chores. But the companion does not have to be competent to keep me motivated - I have experienced this boost with both confused and enthusiastic dogs as well as “helpful” children. So maybe your kids are old enough that they can help you out. Teach kids to fold laundry, start with them matching socks. Get a little broom and they can help by sweeping while you clean counters. Conveniently, kids run out of patience about the same time I usually do.
posted by Mizu at 9:32 AM on January 15, 2021 [19 favorites]


Hi, fellow ADHD with a deeply broken executive function. I hear you SO GOD DAMNED HARD. Lists and reminders and all that don't work for me either. I have a lot of guilt? self hate? embarrassment? over it. I want to do my share, but my brain isn't wired up for regular tasks like that, so I always feel like shit. I have a long-distance partner, as well as a house-mate, so this is a problem that affects multiple people in my life pretty directly (moreso my housemate than my partner).

So, my line that I use is "I contribute in other ways". I'm bad at the day-to-day stuff, but I'm fucking great at ad-hoc things.

I take care of the garbage.
I do more of the cooking.
I "pick up the tab" on things more often.
I do mending and sewing.
I do home repair.
I do the lawn mowing and shovelling.
I work hard during periodic "deep cleans".
etc.

This doesn't absolve me from TRYING on the cleaning and dishes. I still try hard to remember to do that stuff, and stay on top of it. But my main contribution is for other stuff. Are there things that your wife does that you could take over? Maybe you do more the childcare, or more of the driving around to pick up some of her slack.

My housemate def wishes I was tidier, but she sees me trying. She sees clearly that it isn't just laziness or indifference to the fact that she inevitably has to pick up my slack. She might have had doubts when she first moved in, but she is EXTREMELY clear now that this is a brain wiring thing, my brain does not work like others' brains. Her having that understanding makes a big difference.

In terms of actually having a cleaner house, sometimes you play the cards you are dealt. Rather than screaming into the wind, i suggest looking at ways to work WITH it, rather than try to hammer your brain into doing the thing.

- Get a cleaner to come once every two weeks.
- Do your meal prep and cooking on the weekend so that during the week you have more time and less mess.
- just accept that during the week the house is going to be messy, and then do a joint big clean on the weekend.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:40 AM on January 15, 2021 [14 favorites]


Your note about enthusiastically leaping into your plans caught my eye. Not sure if this applies to you, but I have a similar cycle, and I have identified that part of my issue is my own standard for what doing the chore means. I'm a very thorough cleaner, so I tend to not feel "done" if I don't do every single task e.g. I can't just wipe down the counters, clean the toilet bowl and sweep the bathroom and feel good about it, because I didn't wash the tub. And yet, imagine how much less messy my house would feel if I did 3 out of 4 consistently and then added in the bigger task once in a while? Mind you, a lot of this is unconscious or barely conscious in the moment, but it's all quietly spinning in my mind and feelings.

I haven't totally figured out how to break myself of this pattern, but what has been helpful and I suspect I need to do more of is shifting my expectations of what it means to clean, and to start feeling ok with sometimes only hitting 70% of my ideal sometimes. Great marathon runners don't sprint the whole time - they modulate their speed to conserve energy. Perhaps that would help you too?
posted by amycup at 9:40 AM on January 15, 2021 [11 favorites]


I'm going to suggest the exact opposite to arnica. Can you take your medication an hour/hour-and-a-half later than you are now? Then you're not using up your A-game on getting there, getting a coffee, catching up with co-workers or reading emails. (Completely disregard this suggestion if you need it for attentiveness during your commute or operating equipment.)
posted by kate4914 at 9:51 AM on January 15, 2021 [10 favorites]


And yes, if/when feasible, outsourcing help.
posted by kate4914 at 9:53 AM on January 15, 2021


Chores that are on timers get technological reminders. Trash every Thursday - calendar item for trash, Thursday, 5pm. Make dinner every night, ideally before my partner is hangry-yelling into the office asking me if I KNOW what TIME it is (I do not) - alarm for 6pm with a ten minute snooze, reminding me that I need to be done working by 6:30 or tell him and make dinner arrangements if I have to work late.

Oh, and I've gotten in the habit that when I absent mindedly turn off a phone alarm I do it in the direction of snooze, I don't actually turn off an alarm entirely unless I have stopped and thought about what it is telling me.
posted by Lady Li at 9:55 AM on January 15, 2021 [3 favorites]


I'm a lot like you - terrible executive function unless there's some kind of extrinsic motivation or fear of disappointing someone driving me - and for me, a decent rubric that works in the moment is "Am I sitting around when my partner is doing work (or caring for the kids if you've got 'em) right this moment? Oh no! Better look around or check the list." To the point where I feel kinda rude if I don't step in to join the chores.

Obviously, there's little nuance in this and maybe it needs to bend if someone is a night owl and someone is a morning person, and I admit it starts to break down if my partner starts slacking and I start slacking in parallel and living in grumpy filth until I finally snap and do extra angry chores out of spite.

But if you've got kids in the mix, someone's almost always doing *something*. Which means you always have the impetus to be doing something in parallel.
posted by fountainofdoubt at 9:57 AM on January 15, 2021 [2 favorites]


For chores that are not on timers, it's more a matter of putting it at the top of my head. Just finished dinner and about to go start a thing for the evening? First, did anything need doing in the kitchen?

Oh, I was grabbing the dinner dishes to put away and the floor is sticky - quick let me grab a wet paper towel, it'll just be a minute. Scrubbing away the bathtub ring right after bathing. Setting aside time to wander around and make things better is also good, but as far as the ADD goes it's mostly a matter of letting myself get distracted INTO doing good things.
posted by Lady Li at 10:01 AM on January 15, 2021 [1 favorite]


It might help to have some examples of your chore schedules. How many of these are things that need to be done daily, vs. weekly (or less often)?

For weekly things, could you take meds on one weekend day per week and do as many things as possible then? Alternatively, if you're like me you have an easier time doing things when it's not just you alone: "Everyone cleaning together for an hour" is much easier for me than "everyone spends a different hour cleaning on their own, which they have to remember and initiate". If it makes sense in your family, you could try to do some group chore times where everyone's at it at once.

How old are your kids? Are there any tasks you can do with them? (Even just slightly 'with them', like "okay, now we're clearing the dishes off the table and putting them in the dishwasher!" with a toddler. "What day is it? Trash day!!")
posted by trig at 10:01 AM on January 15, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Warning: I am going to make an assumption here that you are male from your reference to a cishet relationship and a wife, and I apologize if that's not entirely correct.

This is a struggle for us too, and I am the one with more exec function and I am a woman married to a man and I want to point something a little bit uncomfortable: you get your work done at work because you give a shit about that work. You may even have internalized that professional work for money to pay for the housing and general survival is THE thing that makes you a good and successful person, and the actual details of the housing and general survival are, well, someone else's problem*.

That is a toxic masculinity problem that is then layered on top of an ADHD problem and you cannot fix it solely with productivity hacks.

You will have to find a way to care and consider it part of your identity to handle these additional tasks. And it can't just be "I'm going to end up single if I don't do this which ironically will then FORCE me to do it" (that can actually be an incentive, to the ADHD mind, because it files away that problem for Later You), it needs to be positively driven and high-value ie "this behavior is part of being a good partner and parent" and "this is an important example to set for our children or their relationships will suffer on the exact same grounds" and "I would actually enjoy my environment more if these things get done".

But for the hack side of that, I think these tasks and the time designated for them should be part of the family contract. If your kids are old enough to walk, they are old enough to participate in an age-appropriate way an an all-family effort to accomplish the things that need to be done in life.

Time-designation is probably the simplest way to handle this. We tidy the floor and vacuum the house on Tuesday evenings while one person prepares a simple dinner. Kids bring their dirty laundry to the laundry room on Friday evenings to get the wash started before dinner and into the dryer after dinner, and then we all hang and fold Saturday morning before starting sheets and towels. Adults do their laundry on other days. If you don't currently have homework woven into this pattern you will likely need to sooner or later, and that's a great reason to run this whole thing as a family operation, not a "I, one person who lives in a house with that family over there, must do these tasks in a vacuum."

I suspect there are a lot of tasks in your life that only get done with regularity because of the kids, and it's fine to lean into that.

If you're really lost about how to make this an ongoing activity in which your kids can be included, I strongly suggest you follow the Flylady system for a while. It's a bit much, and just brace yourself that the religion and certain lifestyle signifiers are going to be there, but it works - even when my anxiety and depression and physical injury have left me with almost no molecules of executive function, I still know HOW to do this stuff even if I can't in that moment, that's how well it works. It is valuable and permanently thought-changing even if you only do a quarter of tools and steps. And it's a little more kid-friendly than Unfuck Your Habitat.

*My struggle as a woman, and you might have this convo with your wife to see where she falls on this topic, is that I am supposed to Do It All...but there's a rolled-in expectation there that sacrifices are taken out of the professional side. We can't give 110% at work because we give that at home, we use our time off for sick kids and home projects, and ultimately if someone had to quit and stay home, it's likely us. We HAVE to care about the domestic side because somebody f'in has to, and it leaves far fewer fucks for work even when we want to work and have careers as part of our personal satisfaction or need to not end up homeless even if everything else goes south.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:02 AM on January 15, 2021 [82 favorites]


My partners and I did best with explicit division of labor for a lot of things. For example, I always did the laundry and he always made sure the floors were clean... knowing that it was 100% our responsibility helped, and even if one of us didn't NOTICE something needed to be done, we could set calendar reminders and recognize that it was not an option to just dismiss them without doing them, just like it's not an option to ignore your boss's e-mail.

With one partner we each cooked dinner half the time (designated nights) AND cleaning the kitchen afterwards was tied to that. This enabled some extra kitchen chores to get done while cooking, ensured no one trashed the place cooking, and meant that we all had a clean kitchen (including all dishes done) in the morning. Having the kitchen clean with plenty of functional workspace made our days go more smoothly too.
posted by metasarah at 10:09 AM on January 15, 2021 [6 favorites]


I asked my spouse what got him to finally be more or less consistent on his share of the chores and he said "I have no idea." Here's a few things that have happened.

* I stopped making him do everyone's laundry. I want it done weekly so we don't get a giant pile that has to be alpha-striked and spills into 2 days because of the volume. He can't activate himself to do it like that. So I do my own and he does his and the kids' because the kids don't care. Kids will learn to do their own laundry as soon as possible.

* I still have to prompt/remind. I have to say please do this right now, or it becomes an object of procrastination. I have accepted that I will have to prompt and he has accepted that he will have to sometimes drop the more interesting thing to do this other thing, because chances are it's not the first time I have asked if I say right now. I have learned to be mindful of my tone in asking because if I am frustrated or complain harshly that "this is the fifth time what's taking you so long" he will either get stressed, shut down or become oppositional which solves nothing.

* (He says this made it worse not better, but...) I forced him to have many conversations about division of labor, fairness, values, that our relationship doesn't function like the one he saw growing up so he can't expect to just operate from his default patterning. I think the repetition bludgeoned him, and was very unpleasant for us both, but eventually got through to him.

* Things don't have to be 50/50. They just have to work for everyone. So, he doesn't do 50% of the recurring stuff that has a firm deadline to meet my standards because that sets me up for frustration and him for failure. But I outsource most of the one shot, super involved, or annoying stuff to him to compensate for me doing more of the recurring stuff. When I can remember that he helps in these ways, I feel less put upon. I don't have to go to the grocery store in the freezing cold because we are missing a critical ingredient and can't finish dinner. If I wait long enough he will decide on his own to reorganize some giant area of the home, once it is on his radar and annoying him.

* I often initiate and ask him to take over. Seems that starting the task is the major issue in many cases. So I will start unloading the dishwasher while we are talking, he walks over to help and then I go do something different.

* Family chore time. We set a timer and everyone does stuff around the house for that time. Not ideal for my standards and timeline but keeps me from resentment about doing more.

* Listen to music or a podcast while doing chores. The entertainment makes it easier to get it done.

* For leaving trails of stuff, I put out pretty containers to corral things, give designated chaos zones for him to use, and take pictures of stuff he left behind to send him rather than having to ask over and over.

* Routines. I have helped my partner establish some sense of routine for some of these things. I ask for tidying to be done certain times of day. Given enough repetition of the request (made with a neutral or pleasant tone) it starts to become a habit. If he doesn't realize he's creating a routine it actually sticks pretty well. Once he is intentional about making a habit or aware of becoming consistent that inner rebellion kicks in to break it but generally a habit made unaware works well.
posted by crunchy potato at 10:11 AM on January 15, 2021 [6 favorites]


And by the way, one weird trick to doing this stuff as a team effort instead of in a vacuum, and which is super important when there are kids involved: when you guys complete a task, CONGRATULATE YOURSELVES. Say, "Hey, you know what? We did a good job here, high fives!" Teach your kids, and yourself, how to get a dopamine hit from useful tasks!

If necessary, this is also where you say, "Next time, let's try to make sure we find ALL the Lego before we vacuum!"

Also, in the early stages of getting all this on a shared calendar, it can be super useful to track how long it takes or set timers in 15-minute increments until you are done, so you know how long it actually took. One of my most valuable lessons from FlyLady was that yes, it can take three weeks to actually sump out the room that's turned into a storage dump, but it only takes about 5 minutes to find 27 things in that room to throw or put away.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:13 AM on January 15, 2021 [5 favorites]


Additionally, partner said what has changed the situation is amphetamine. He used to have to save it for work like you. He's currently not working and better able to time his dose to fit his circadian rhythm and natural focus time for chores. I agree with those who suggested taking it earlier or later than you have been so you have some medicated time at home. Your ADHD symptoms probably impact the romantic elements of the relationship too, and it might strengthen the relationship to have some medicated time around your partner.
posted by crunchy potato at 10:18 AM on January 15, 2021 [4 favorites]


To not abuse the edit function, I would add that as the more organized person who turns out to also have ADHD one HUGE help has been to try to purge unneeded stuff and live more minimally. This goes against my partner's approach to stuff, sentimentality etc, but the less things you have the less they need to be managed. My ideal is:

* Capsule wardrobe for everyone, so that laundry can't pile up.

* Color coded or personalized sets of eating dishes and each person cleans their own.

* One pot dinners.

* Products that serve multiple purposes.

* Digitizing all the paperwork so there's no filing needed and no piles forming til one of us finally does the filing.

* Getting rid of everything that hasn't been used recently, or can't be replaced in 20 minutes for $20 or less.

* Kids take responsibility for managing their things. Things go to toy jail, get vacuumed away forever, or get donated if they don't. (harsh I know)

* Kids get help purging their clothing, toys, etc regularly so they can manage their own things. I have told my preschooler if he needs help putting his toys away then he must have too many and have helped him decide which ones to keep.

You can find plenty of other ideas along these lines. The more minimal my home has gotten, the less chore wars we have had because there's overall less to do and deal with.
posted by crunchy potato at 10:25 AM on January 15, 2021 [12 favorites]


I want to second crunchy potato that part of your motivation at work, beyond your meds, may be that you have a sense that it is your job and your role to work for income, and these are obligations, and keeping the house clean is not so much your job (even though I know you intellectually think that it is). The way to figure this out: make Saturday or Sunday your cleaning day, when you take meds (though not if this means your wife is solely responsible for childcare, which you might normally do). Are you motivated to do all the things on those days? If not, it's maybe not just the medication. It's hard to unpack all this, even when you have feminist values. But it might not just be about finding the right ADHD hack.

Part of the problem might be that you don't see the messes or things that need to be done because you're not primed to do it. You might think "the kid's room is chaos" not "oh wow kid needs laundry done," for example. Sometimes it's easier to be fully in charge of something. As an example that's not just gender-based: I'm a woman, and I'm ADHD too, and, when married, I was the primary breadwinner while my now ex-husband worked part time and was home more and managed more of the household. He was frustrated when I couldn't pull together dinner without any advance notice like he always did. After we separated, I realized that I can do this -- when I'm also the one doing meal planning and shopping on a regular basis. I wasn't in the mindset to have responsibility for certain things, so it was extraordinarily difficult for me to pinch hit. Now that I'm managing the entire household, I have a much better sense of what needs to be done when. It's a lot, because it's all on me now, so I'm not saying it's easier; my point is just that you might find it easier to have one or two things that are completely your responsibility, and where you are also the one who deals with the consequences of those things not happening.

There's one other suggestion I want to echo:
Since it's affecting your marriage "in the worst possible way," maybe hiring an outside help could be a good and necessary solution?
It's a lot to have two kids and two jobs and a house to manage. Hiring someone to clean can make a big difference. It sounds like you might benefit from someone coming in and helping you all do a big clean and tidying and then having someone come in regularly. Because then you also might find that you become more accustomed to the house being clean and you are more motivated to keep it that way in between visits. Here's my suggestion: do this if you can afford it, but (and this is really important!) you must manage the hiring and supervising and scheduling process with the cleaner (and hire someone independent, and pay them a good wage). Don't make finding, hiring, paying, and managing this person just another thing your wife has to do.

Now, hiring someone doesn't mean that your wife still has to do all the non-cleaning stuff and you have free time. But it should reduce workload within the household and give you both a bit of a break. There's definitely a mindset you need to shift. For example, maybe you could make it so that if your wife is doing household work, you are too; you don't get to play on the computer/exercise/watch a movie if your wife is doing laundry/cleaning/managing kid stuff. You also mind need to shift your mindset from after work time being "your" time. Many of us grew up with the image of the black-and-white TV dad getting home and reading the paper while the mom continued to bustle about the household. If, when you leave work, you tell yourself that your work day is done, you're not going to be able to get yourself to do more work at home.

If hiring someone is something you really can't afford (and there's definitely a real cost to your marriage in what you are doing now, so think about what other things you might be able to give up for that), then I think it's worth thinking more about totally owning some traditionally-stereotypically-female household chores and just owning them completely and developing some pride in having them well done.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:59 AM on January 15, 2021 [13 favorites]


Seconding crunchy potato's suggestions of listening to music. I don't prepare much of the food in our household, and my wife would like me to do more. At some point not all that long ago, I realized that I could listen to techno while cooking, and that has made it 300% more enjoyable!
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:26 AM on January 15, 2021 [4 favorites]


I would consider a different task split -- she tells you what to do and when, and you do it without complaint, but her telling you what to do and when is pretty much her only job.

I have ADHD, I have had partners with ADHD. I find that I can either know what needs to be done or I can consistently, reliably do it. Both is legitimately too much. It's a very real disability and not just not trying hard enough. It isn't fixed by really wanting it and changing your attitude. I'm sorry about that, but it's true. Too many people spin their wheels because they have the deep-seated (and, sorry, ableist) idea that secretly there is some kind of magic button or system or technique to make the ADHD person be able to copy a neurotypical person. But that is not true. You'll always be different.

That all said, you can certainly put your back into those things that you can do. But it needs to start from a realistic assessment of your abilities, not from a sort of fantasy land where you can act neurotypical.

The other thing is that I suggest you stand up for yourself a bit -- gently, but do it. It is a real, meaningful contribution to go to work and do something that is not natural for you for x hours in order to help feed and house your family. Accommodating your disability should not be a relationship-breaking problem; if there's too much to do it's not your fault and don't let yourself become the identified "problem" to be solved. It's not healthy.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:40 AM on January 15, 2021 [9 favorites]


I have to admit that I (a cishet woman) am also not the person who is good at doing home tasks on a reliable schedule. If someone needs to figure out how to drywall a ceiling I am fantastic at that task. If there are things that can be done on a flexible schedule, like cleaning the bathroom every few weeks instead of every Saturday, I'm okay at those things. If someone needs to have a thing done every day/week at a specific time, it's a struggle.

For the most part, we manage this by the responsible partner doing the small things on a schedule, and me taking on things I can do more intermittently. Honestly, it's not a great solution though, so I try to make up for it by being especially attentive to times where my SO is tired or mentions something needing to be done. I also have worked on recognizing that I am just never going to prioritize weeding a garden, so perhaps I should figure out ways to lessen those kinds of optional tasks. I also have over time worked on my own sense of how neat things need to be. Thankfully, I've always felt that I shouldn't be any more opinionated on cleanliness than I am willing to maintain (which I guess that's the blessing/curse of recognizing that the blame for a messy house is likely on my shoulders as the woman).

A couple of thoughts:
- The schedule specific tasks each day is terrible for me in that it creates that bit of obligation that hangs over other things. Creating a mentality of looking for small things to do as I'm interacting with spaces is much more effective (bored in the bathroom? Oh, look at that grout!)
- The rebel in me doesn't want to do a specific thing at a specific time, but having times where we're both working on things and a list of options to pick from makes it easier for me to decide on the one thing that's the most doable in the moment.
- I know having kids adds to the necessary maintenance considerably. What age are your kids? Are they able to take on some of the maintenance?
posted by past unusual at 11:58 AM on January 15, 2021 [2 favorites]


I have ADD and some executive function issues, and my partner tends to use up most of his executive function on work. We don't have kids, so the stakes are lower, but here's a few things that have helped for us:

If medication makes a big difference for you, talk to your doctor about adding a non-time-release prescription. I was finding that my meds wore off at the end of the work day and made it hard to get things done after, and my doctor was able to give me a supplemental prescription to take as needed in the evening which only lasts for a couple hours.

Cleaning up together (working on different things, but at the same time) rather than worrying about who's responsible for what. It's a lot harder to forget or slack off when you're both bustling around the house together. It also makes the work that each of you are doing more visible to the other, which can help internalize ideas of what needs to be done and division of labor. Depending on the age of your kids, it's also a good way to get them involved in helping out, and make sure that they see and normalize both of their parents contributing.

This one may be a little more specific to the patterns I've ended up with around guilt and procrastination, but it's been a huge help for us. Train yourselves to notice what each other are doing around the house, brag when you do something, and thank each other for the things that get done. This should be a space with accountability but no blame. So, if you're a week behind on the dishes and you finally get them done, you can say "I finally did the dishes! Sorry that took so long." You acknowledge the failing, while also celebrating the success. You partner can thank you, maybe even acknowledge that it's a thing that's hard for you ("Thank you for getting that! I know it's hard once you get behind.") but they shouldn't have a " but" to that thank you. So, no saying "Thanks, but you should have done it days ago," or "Thanks, but you've still got all these other things to do". For me, knowing I can get some credit for doing the thing without any accompanying shame really helps overcome the procrastination and avoidance. When you notice that your partner has gotten something done, thank them, even if it's a small thing. "Oh hey, thanks for taking the garbage out!" The more you do it, the more you'll start noticing each others contributions without being told, and the more you'll start to associate chores with feeling good instead of bad. And training yourself to notice what your partner has done will also start to help you notice what needs to be done as you internalize the tasks that are happening around the house.

Another thing that might help is to find tasks that your partner finds particularly stressful or onerous, but that aren't as big a deal to you, and focus on taking those things on first. That way, even if your partner has to remind you to do them, it's still a significantly lowered load for them. This can work especially well for one-off or infrequent tasks. I've also found it easier to take on things that have a specific trigger, rather than ongoing maintenance tasks. So, my partner does more of the day-to-day cat care, but I deal with it whenever they puke or pee somewhere they shouldn't since it's a thing that has to be dealt with as soon as it happens, not something that you have to remember to keep an eye on.
posted by duien at 12:05 PM on January 15, 2021 [6 favorites]


I'd like to address the idea to "train yourselves to notice what each other are doing around the house, brag when you do something, and thank each other for the things that get done."

Ask your wife how she would feel about this before trying it. Some women I know whose husbands lag in their domestic share find the "make a big deal over a basic task that should be done regardless" very off-putting and have rather contemptuous commentary about it. (I don't see this problem with the idea of expressing appreciation. Just the idea of talking about the stuff you did in any way that isn't purely practical/logistical book balancing.)

I asked my partner to tell me when he does stuff because I won't necessarily notice, and I want to mentally give him credit. But in my circle of cishet-appearing relationships where there is griping over chores, I'm the exception.
posted by crunchy potato at 12:22 PM on January 15, 2021 [2 favorites]


Another thing that might help is to find tasks that your partner finds particularly stressful or onerous, but that aren't as big a deal to you, and focus on taking those things on first.

I was a pain in the ass to my ex about the fact that he wanted me to make all the phone calls about anything household related and that felt unfair to me. In some ways, it was unfair; I was doing all of the things when it came to our kid and their school and their doc and all that stuff. But also, I was not well medicated and my ADHD meant that there was clutter everywhere all the time unless he cleaned up behind me, which he mostly did.

We shared cooking and cleaning up after cooking, so I would make dinner for a week and clean up after and he would do that the following week. We tried to split cooking and cleaning but no surprise, it did not work because I made huge messes while cooking.

If I had to do it over again, I would have been more gracious about the calls (which I mostly made), more demanding about splitting the emotional labor involved in raising kids, and paid money to other people to do anything that was just too much for me and unfair to him. We were good about laundry, though; I did mine, he did his, the kid did theirs after we taught them. (Maybe we took turns with the towels and stuff, but I think mostly whomever was doing laundry just grabbed that stuff).

When I split with my ex, I spent as much time as a parent as he did but we split up the time to accommodate a new job I had while he was still unemployed. So he was the primary parent during the week, from Monday after school to Friday before school and I was on duty from Friday after school until Monday am. We did it that way at my request because my brain could not handle coping with a kid who was also atypical after a demanding work day at a new job. (Later we shifted to the standard week-at-a-time shared custody.) Might something like that work?

I mention the odd custody thing because it is both true that ADHD is a disability for many of us and also true that plenty of folks divorce or leave their ADHD partners because we are too damn much work. There were times when I had more fun (at an older job, long before we spilt) at work and preferred to work late (badly and inefficiently but at least I got a pay check for it) rather than going home at a reasonable hour to try to deal with my domestic duties (which I did badly and efficiently and without, at that time, benefit of a diagnosis). This stuff is super challenging, and I hope you can come up with a solution that works for your partner and works fairly well, at least, for you.

These days I still live in chaos but I have learned that I can do tedious shit by doing it 20 minutes at a time. I went to a class for ADHD adults and we were given an exercise to measure our attention span when doing boring domestic-type stuff and that's the best I can do on my own. So when my brain tells me I cannot do X at all because I don't have all day, I reply, as kindly as possible, "bullshit, sweetheart. I don't need all day." And then I just tackle in in 20-minute spurts over as many days as it takes. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 12:33 PM on January 15, 2021 [2 favorites]


Not sure how helpful this will be, but I'm similar to you, and was recently diagnosed with ADD. Couple of things spring to mind:

- Can you speak to your doctor about varying your meds? It sounds like maybe you're not taking them on weekends, would that that help?
- In my household we have mostly set tasks. So I'm always doing dinner, and it always fits the routine - come home; put keys, wallet, work ID in a set place so I don't spend ten minutes looking for them tomorrow; cook dinner. It's something that's just there, so it gets done. Likewise I have meal planning for the week as a standard thing every Saturday morning. It's always there, so it gets done. (And it means I don't have to think about what to cook before I start).
- I kinda hate this from an EL perspective, but it does help for my partner to do some exec-level planning and just ask me to do things.
posted by Pink Frost at 12:35 PM on January 15, 2021


PS: ADHD coaches are a thing. Make sure you talk to references; the person I hired was delightful and personable and also had ADHD and we did not get a damn thing done because the two of us together were just tangents all the way down for the three appointments I had before I cancelled.

Honestly, the emotional labor of keeping track of shit (I have ADHD, but who made sure there was always milk in the house and when new sneakers were needed they got bought and who made the doctors' appointments for the kidlet? That's right, me. I did all that shit) is exhausting. Having to remember the stuff and schedule the stuff and follow up on the stuff is exhausting. As a mom, someone had to do that and it wasn't going to be Dad so I did it consistently and felt my resentment growing with every passing day. I don't know your situation but I just wanted to say again, that emotional labor is especially hard (IMHO). My ex, who did not have ADHD, used to agree to do something and then would ask me for the phone number, which I never had, because he had agreed to take care of that.

So for all that is holy, see if you can get your meds adjusted and see if you can afford a good coach because being able to focus at work but not at home sounds like a nightmare situation. So sorry that you are dealing with this.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:40 PM on January 15, 2021 [1 favorite]


+1 to all of the above comments about your subconscious thinking about home tasks being less important than work tasks.

I have not been diagnosed with ADHD but I have a lot of executive dysfunction related to depression, so YMMV.

What works for me: having a task buddy. External accountability is where it's at. Rallying the kids, getting on the phone with a friend while you do housework, or finding one of those websites/apps that connects you to someone else who needs a productivity buddy for an hour over video.

I like having a specific sensory input associated with "busy periods" and for me it's an apron. Apron's on, cleaning mode activated.

I'm better at off-the-cuff stuff by myself, and I take an approach somebody on tumblr called "junebugging" -- which isn't so much about a particular task, so much as just stringing along tasks as they occur to you and you are finished with the last thing. So, you kick off by taking some laundry upstairs, notice that the bathroom mirror could use a wash, wash it; the doorbell rings for a package, you head downstairs to bring it in, notice that the floor needs a vacuum, vacuum it, notice something else, do it, etc. I like this method because you're not spending a lot of mental energy tracking tasks, just cultivating a mindset (for a limited time) of noticing that something needs doing and then doing it as soon as you're freed up from the last task. It's helpful, for this approach, if you store cleaning materials near where they are used instead of a central location. Junebugging can be done wherever or you can focus your junebug on a specific space.

I like duien's point about bragging (and crunchy potato's point about asking beforehand). I find that talking is a really important component of keeping my brain on the ball and cultivating a healthy attitude. "Thank you for doing x" helps your partner feel appreciated, and mentioning "I did y" helps your brain think about it again before forgetting it entirely. (It's good to establish ahead of time that you're saying that to help your brain, not to cultivate validation/cookies.) Having a family culture of noticing each other's efforts and thanking them, and modeling that in front of the kids, is a good thing.

In terms of specific tasks, I find visualizing them ahead of time to be really helpful. Mentally walking through - what do I need to do this task? Visualizing gathering the items. What steps do I need to take to get this done? Visualizing those. What do I need to do to return to neutral (returning items to their homes, throwing out any garbage generated)? Visualizing that. Do it for maybe five minutes over lunch and then put it out of your brain until you're home.

You mention a specific and predictable time at which your enthusiasm fails -- about one week. If you can predict it, plan for it. Have a buddy call you at that time. Ask your wife to leave the apron hanging on the outside of the front door (or your apron equivalent), so as soon as you get home, you're in go mode. (Outside of the front door because aprons belong inside and your brain will skip over it if you see it inside.)

+1 to suggestions for an ADHD coach and bringing in a cleaner. You might want to consider picking up Gretchen Rubin's "Better than Before" - she doesn't discuss habitmaking specifically for ADHD folks, but more about people's tendency to meet or reject inner expectations vs outer expectations. I am more motivated to meet other's expectations, and I think you might be that way too -- so her discussion might be helpful for you.

Good luck, and let us know how you do :) we're cheering for you!
posted by snerson at 12:55 PM on January 15, 2021 [8 favorites]


I'm a woman with ADHD in a relationship with a man who could not be more organized, clean, or neat, and a few things have really helped our relationship re: household tasks.

1. He read a lot about ADHD. He understands — really understands — that I am not lazy or forgetful, it's just something about how my brain works that makes me not notice things or think to do things or be proactive. This is very helpful for both of us, and when he gets frustrated with me, he's able to vocalize it by saying, I know it's not you, it's your disability, but it's hard sometimes. And I can wholeheartedly agree!

2. We came up with some non-negotiables. This was a tool I learned from my therapist when I was single and had a really hard time getting out bed and getting to work on time. Getting out bed by 8a became a non-negotiable, as did taking a shower in the morning, as did going to the gym after work. I would still find myself trying to say to myself, you can do this later, or five more minutes, or not tonight, but then there'd be the record scratch and I'd remember - this is non-negotiable. Now in our household, there are a few tasks that are non-negotiables: if there are dishes in the sink, you do them. If there is something on the floor, you pick it up. We make the bed each morning, tidy the living room each night. My husband still ends up doing moooostttt of this, but when I do notice something, I do it, because it's not negotiable to "do it later."

3. Deeper cleaning times. We used to have a cleaner who came once a month and that really, really helped keep my husband happy with the state of the apartment. We don't have a cleaner right now, but about once a month we say, OK let's take the next hour and do a deep clean (this is usually my husband's idea). But one of us will take the kitchen and one the bathroom and we'll both work on that and then we'll sort of divvy up the rest of the tasks to get it done. Doing it together is really good! And it always takes less time than I think and then it's done and over.

We're about to have our first kid so who knows how these techniques will work in the Future but for now, this is what is working for us. Good luck!
posted by monster_a at 1:32 PM on January 15, 2021 [9 favorites]


"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" explores the significance of caring about things that, on their surface, shouldn't warrant such attention. Some of the quotes I've saved that might be helpful to point the way:

"We were all spectators. And it occurred to me there is no manual that deals with the real business of motorcycle maintenance, the most important aspect of all. Caring about what you are doing is considered either unimportant or taken for granted."

"The difference between a good mechanic and a bad one, like the difference between a good mathematician and a bad one, is precisely this ability to select the good facts from the bad ones on the basis of quality. He has to care!"

"When one isn’t dominated by feelings of separateness from what he’s working on, then one can be said to 'care' about what he’s doing. That is what caring really is, a feeling of identification with what one’s doing. When one has this feeling then he also sees the inverse side of caring, Quality itself."
posted by ajr at 2:15 PM on January 15, 2021 [5 favorites]


As I posted this, it reminded me of this little piece of MeFi history that I posted to MetaTalk about ten years ago. Incredibly, the first response nailed the answer. It still brings me joy thinking about this today.

Take some solace in knowing that your struggles have been shared by many for a long time. The tips and tactics are all helpful, but they are only scratching the surface of the underlying issue. Dig deep and find your "why" and the "how" will fall into place.
posted by ajr at 2:24 PM on January 15, 2021 [2 favorites]


What works for ADHD is a star / rewards chart. Print out a calendar page, and you get stars for small tasks. Break down tasks as much as possible. 5 stars and you get a sticker, 5 stickers and you give yourself a small reward. The reward could be that you remove something you enjoy, like a video game or access to netflix, and earn it back by changing your behavior. Star charts make you feel like you're 7, but they're effective.

Put 2-3 tasks in your calendar every day. My gmail calendar really helps with attention issues. On Monday evening, it reminds me to take trash out, and this has been a huge help. At least once a week, put in a task of "look for tasks to accomplish" and walk around the house looking for stuff to put away/repair/clean. Sometimes you might ask your partner if there are tasks she'd like to have accomplished. If she can't think of any, go clean the bathroom.

And/or, make certain room or tasks your job. Like keeping the bathroom clean, or washing the kitchen floor.
posted by theora55 at 2:54 PM on January 15, 2021 [1 favorite]


We often tell people with ADHD (especially men who may not be socialized to "see" messes) that schedules are important for managing division of labour. But, consider this scenario:
Let's say you stick to a schedule of cleaning your toilet once a week. You've internalized the schedule. But a day after toilet cleaning, you have the most epic beer/rancid 7-11 taquito shit that basically hoses down the toilet with ass that can't merely be flushed away. Are you going to clean the spew away ahead of schedule? If so, will you be able to do so without your wife telling you to?
This might sound ridiculous, but I've dealt with this with a neurodivergent partner. This is a good example of where doing things in a rote way because it's easiest for you to adhere to ends up being far less useful than using some sort of heuristic to identify whether you need to take care of something. You probably already naturally do this in domains that you're tuned into, but it can be far more difficult to do with things that you aren't paying as much attention to.

Honestly, if the end goal is "clean house" rather than "task completion", a lot of household tasks don't need to happen on a schedule and more optimally involve some sort of non-time-based trigger. Part of the problem, though, is that a non-time-based trigger requires paying attention to whether stuff needs cleaning or fixing, or deferring to someone else's evaluation of that. How you get to being able to pay attention is up to you and your wife, but it's an alternative way of managing chores that might improve your quality of life.
posted by blerghamot at 3:08 PM on January 15, 2021


I love what ajr posted! The idea there of "try to love being good at" being a husband / father / partner is actually something I have not been sure how to express but is the only way I was ever able to get "try to care?!?" to stick. And it was also a way to be happy with the situation, not to force myself screaming to do a thing but to be like, hm, I bet my partner would like if I do this, let me go do this. That included pointing it out not in a "gimme my points!" kind of way (did THAT long enough and it just made me resentful) but a "hey babe, I dealt with that mess in the living room, mwah love you" kind of way. Bring it from a place of love and kindness.
posted by Lady Li at 3:09 PM on January 15, 2021 [4 favorites]


(I got a couple of asks for the productivity buddy site I mentioned above -- https://www.focusmate.com/ is the one I've heard most about.)
posted by snerson at 3:29 PM on January 15, 2021 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of great suggestions here. Given the way your medication works, I think setting out blocked time to do the same set of tasks on either a Saturday or Sunday will be a big part of the solution along with starting your day earlier so that part of your pre-work medication time is used doing a task every weekday. This sounds fun to no one, so something that I do to get over the hump of the 1-2 weeks of doing things before they fall off is to give myself a prize for getting 30-90-120 days out from a new habit being started. Prizes for me are something that are an indulgence that I wouldn't normally impulsively buy for myself, but something that I want. They don't need to be excessively expensive, though I usually save something really good for day 120. Getting a habit into "non-negotiable" territory can be hard, that's why people usually aren't successful. Building rewards into the structure help me by giving myself a goal to reach and also a little positive reinforcement celebration.

How you describe your day after you're home from work really stood out to me, "having no drive to start tasks that aren't exciting." Neurotypical people also have a lot of this. No one finds the grind of domestic tasks to be exciting. Well, almost no one. But, what very commonly happens in households with typical hetero gender makeup is that the woman is left having to do a hugely disproportionate part of the work or it will not get done. It's not that she's excited about it, in fact, she's probably very tired and resentful about it. But, it's one of the main things that prevents things from sliding into chaos at home - chaos that can easily ripple into the rest of your life. The emotional labor burden of feeling like the only adult at home burns joy out of life. It steals happiness. When things that aren't exciting don't get done, the buck stops with her. That's why deeply investigating why you feel obligated to take your career seriously but take things for granted at home can be helpful. Also, as others have mentioned, reframing your idea of a task needing to be exciting vs doing tasks as a meaningful way of demonstrating love to your family can be helpful.
posted by quince at 3:33 PM on January 15, 2021 [15 favorites]


Oh yeah, when I gave the advice to congratulate yourself (and the kids, when they do their part), I seriously meant do not expect that reward to come from your partner. YOU be satisfied with the work YOU did, and if you want to create a rewards program for yourself that's fine but it's yours to administer.

I think a lot of deeply unhappy "unresolvable" marital issues actually stem from the fact that most people are extremely non-negotiably hardwired to not feel partnership, romance, or sexual attraction to people they're responsible for in a non-adult developmental caretaking way. Especially when they are not doing so with full enthusiastic consent (as when two adults meaningfully negotiate an on-paper imbalanced set of responsibilities because one person is understood to be unable to take on more, temporarily or permanently) but rather because the other person turns everything into a game of chicken to see if someone else will take his responsibilities if he holds out long enough. It is painful to be treated that way by someone who was supposed to be a partner, excruciating to then have to make and administer the sticker chart for doing once a task they themselves had done hundreds or thousands of times.

So, be real careful asking for something like that. That's a real potential "last straw" moment.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:25 PM on January 15, 2021 [18 favorites]


I have ADHD which makes it hard for me to stay on top of household things, and my husband is a non-ADHD person who is extraordinarily inattentive to his environment. He literally does not notice or become bothered by mess, chaos or dirt. We met online, and the first time we planned for me to come visit him, he mentioned he needed to clean his bathroom because it had been a while. When I asked how long, he sheepishly replied "never." He had lived in the apartment for over a year.

I see mess and I care about it, but I generally don't notice it until it's built up enough to be a big chore. Like, a sink with two or three plates, a bowl, some silverware and a pan doesn't even register that "dishes need to be done." That doesn't kick in until both sides of the sink and the counter are full of dishes. And it's like that for everything. My bathroom gets cleaned when a noticeable level of yuck has built up, rather than swishing and swiping things on a regular basis like I imagine 'cleanies' do.

So between the two of us, our apartment is almost always somewhere between messy and disastrous. I don't love it, but considering that we are who we are, the first order of business has been to relax our standards. If the mess doesn't bother him and only bothers me when it gets super out of hand, that means most of the time we are pretty happily cozied into our mess so fixing it isn't usually that urgent. Of course we clean like maniacs before the few times a year we have company, but that provides its own deadline, strong motivation and a nice surge of adrenalin, all of which are lacking in the day-to-day.

So that being said, here is how we divide up the labor. The criteria we use tends to be loosely based on one or more of the following:
Who makes sense to do the thing
Who cares more about the thing being done
Who hates a particular thing more
Fairness

For example, I do all the cooking because for reasons, it makes sense for me to do it. And because I do the cooking, I care more about the kitchen being clean so I take care of that. I considered asking him to unload the dishwasher but realized I didn’t want kitchen cleaning to ever be held up because he hadn’t gotten around to it. So I just do it in the morning while waiting for my tea water to heat up.

I also do the meal planning and shopping because I know what I need for the things I want to cook (plus he just hates grocery shopping.) Sometimes we order delivery more often than is ideal from a budgetary standpoint because I haven’t felt like shopping or I’m too tired to cook.

When I get home from the grocery store, he fetches the groceries from the car and helps me put them away. This to me is a fairness thing. Shopping is a big effort, and that is a way of sharing the burden.

I do the budgeting because I make more spending decisions than he does.

I loathe paperwork (and the online version of same) so he does our taxes. I also requested that he deal with anything health insurance related such as managing the FSA, paying medical bills, etc.

He assembles things that require assembly, because he has an attention span and the patience to read the directions.

He scoops the cat box because I have a sensitive nose and a tendency to gag uncontrollably when dealing with anything stinky or gross. He barely has a sense of smell so it works out. He takes out the trash for the same reason.

We each do our own laundry, and have each devised a system that involves storing the clean clothing in laundry baskets because neither of us wants to spend the time folding or putting things on hangers.

We each clean one bathroom, whenever we get around to it. I often have to ask him to take care of his because he simply doesn’t notice it getting grubby.

We each pick up our own mess/clutter, on the rather infrequent occasions it gets picked up.

I will occasionally present him with a list of things I’d like him to do, usually on a Saturday. It used to bug me to have to ask him to do stuff, but at some point I just accepted that he is never going to be the kind of person who notices that housework needs to be done and just does it without prompting (he doesn’t notice, and if he did it wouldn’t necessarily occur to him that he should take care of it.) So I give him advance notice that there will be a list, so he can mentally prepare… lol. A typical list might include things like taking a pile of empty boxes to the trash, cleaning his bathroom, sweeping the living room and dining room, hauling something out to the car to take to the storage unit, clean up his catch-all area, etc. He pops in some ear buds and listens to music or an audiobook while he tackles the work.

When we go somewhere I normally drive. Mainly because I am horrible at navigating (too inattentive) and find the GPS annoying. So he takes care of figuring out our route and making sure I know my turn is coming up, etc. When we travel long distances I drive us through the hairy parts at the beginning and end with him navigating, and he takes over driving for the long stretches (“stay on I-80 E for the next 247 miles”.)

It’s probably not a perfect system. But it’s the one we’ve settled into that seems to cause the least amount of friction and/or resentment. Keeping our expectations and standards fairly low and our acceptance of one another’s personality and capabilities high is probably the biggest key.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:28 AM on January 16, 2021 [2 favorites]


Tagging on to what ajr said and linked, for me, as an ADHD mom, I often used my kids as the catalyst to do better. What did I want them to grow up seeing? How could I help them to be better than I am at life? It's funny, because now that they both don't live with me so many of my terrible ADHD habits feel insurmountable again, but that has nothing to do with your question. However I can tell you both of my kids- even though they both show signs of ADHD in other areas of their lives, both keep very tidy personal environments, and this fills me with so much pride- because they come from a long line of very chaotic hoarder types.

So, I would add your kids into the equation of division of labor- not only because you all clearly need help getting the house to a place that isn't making life upsetting, but also because you want to train them to (hopefully) not deal with the same stuff you are dealing with. I did run into some trouble with this when my kids were more ruthless than me in getting rid of stuff. But I had to let go of that. I see parents posting on our two local give away groups saying- my child is ready to pass on this toy- which is a wonderful way to move things out of the house.

Personally for me, one big take away I have from reading and learning about ADHD and how it manifests for me, is that I try and have as few things as possible- and this is always a battle I am fighting, but really does make my life so much better. This means ruthlessly weeding items from my home that I do not use. The second thing that has helped in my household is having a spot for things, and labeling those things, in my mind, but also with my label maker if I want other people to follow my guidelines (and this might be something your wife needs to take on if she is the one who wants the knives to go in a specific drawer etc.) I often try and use the organizers line "like with like" when I am cleaning. I also keep a trash can in every room, as well as a recycling container below my mailbox so any junk mail goes in there and not into my house. Lastly, I have given myself permission to have one "junk" room- which I am able to have because I now live alone in a big condo. In your life this might be a closet or a basement or even a drawer. This is the place where things I can't deal with go. Every few months I have to deal with that room, but it makes the rest of my house nice and clean.

None of these things have to do with the division of labor, obviously, but they might help getting the labor done because the chaos is better under control.
posted by momochan at 8:07 AM on January 16, 2021 [2 favorites]


Every time we try some new way of dividing things up or adding accountability, I enthusiastically leap into it, do all the things I need to do for a week or two, and then fall back into my old habits.

sorry to lean so much on the very obvious, but if you do so consistently well with novelty, why not just use this strength and change up the system every week or two on purpose? and cycle back through the old systems once it's been long enough for them to feel new again.

if you're accurately recalling how it's gone and your spouse agrees about the "every time", it isn't an issue of fatigue or ability at all. you see clearly what kind of conditions make you successful at home. if they have to be recreated every two weeks, try just doing that.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:55 AM on January 16, 2021


I find putting chores *first*, before doing other things, means they get done. If I try to fit them into other bits, they get done, or they don't, and it's random.

The other bit is not all chores are equally well suited to ADHD. Pick the ones you're good at, and pay attention over time to which those are.

Finally, my spouse and I... we value different "chores" differently. I find a clean counter and the dishes done to be really important. They find dusting and clean sheets to be far more important. They want a limited set of things clean on a weekly regular basis. I want a wider set of things, clean, whenever they're dirty. For the counters, you clean them as they get dirty; I worked in kitchens, and you "clean as you go". For the pillows, that's a weekend thing, on a regular cadence.

Trying to do the chores I just don't value is a motivational disaster. Trying to do the chores on a schedule that doesn't make sense for the task at hand, also a disaster. So it helps to just do the ones I *can* motivate on, and somehow show that I really am putting in a reasonable amount of time here.
posted by talldean at 9:45 AM on January 17, 2021


option one: I am only capable of doing chores in the morning. In the evenings I'm Done. So if you can only do chores in the morning-- then do them, in the morning.

option two: as someone only capable of doing chores in the morning, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to trick myself into doing chores in the evening. Nothing I am about to suggest has worked for me consistently thus far but feel free to give them all a whirl:

1. Exercise. Do chores to burn off the resulting adrenaline high before bed.
2. Reset with a shower, and then do some chores.
3. Blast upbeat music to get my body moving to do chores
4. Five minute rule-- I only need to do chores for five minutes but I MUST do five minutes. there's a timer.
5. the app NowDoThis orders me around so I don't have to order myself
6. Set an alarm on my phone to tell me to do things
7. Have horrible insomnia and do chores at 3am (listen, this works... it just... uh... it's not a solution)
8. Sit on the couch mentally berating myself about what a horrible person I am until the weight of the self disgust is so much I do a chore just to get myself away from it.
9. Politely request my spouse "manage" me by telling me what to do (aware that "managing" is a job, also).
10. Keep a list of chores I feel more capable of handling at night and check it for ideas

And strongly seconding looking into the possibility of hiring outside help if financially feasible. Seriously, two full time jobs + 2 kids + ADHD? That is A Lot.
posted by Cozybee at 5:34 AM on January 18, 2021 [2 favorites]


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