MOVE! Executive Dysfunction, Get Out the Way

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7 Tips ‘n Tricks on the Packing + Moving Process for People with ADHD

While the process of packing and moving can be hard for most people in general it can be especially overwhelming for marginalized individuals; folks with physical disabilities, folks with less money, folks being displaced quickly due to gentrification, and neurodivergent folks, like those of us with ADHD. 

This blog will not only shed light on why moving is especially hard for people with ADHD, but will also contain my Top 7 Tips ‘n Tricks from an ADHDer who has moved nearly 15 times within the last 10 years!

Packing + Moving with an ADHD Brain

People with ADHD tend have a smaller or less developed prefrontal cortex.  The prefrontal cortex is the portion of the brain needed to have what is known as executive function capabilities. Executive functioning skills are imperative for everyday life, and can help those with and without ADHD to best understand why accomplishing the variety of tasks involved in the packing and moving process can be especially rough for people with ADHD.

Some of the things that executive functioning capabilities allow humans to do are…

  • Initiate tasks, organize items in a coherent manner, having the ability to remember things, being able to plan and manage time, and being capable of regulating one’s own emotions.

Executive dysfunction in people with ADHD tends to look like…

  • Avolition, lack of organization that doesn’t even make sense to self*, lacking working memory, having hardships with time management, and not being able to regulate reactions or emotions.

* Not to be confused with your organization style needing to make sense to others - because it doesn’t necessarily need to be understood by others as long so as it works for you and your brain

7 Tips ‘n Tricks on Packing to Move for People with ADHD

Below are 7 pieces of advice that I believe could be helpful for anybody who is packing and moving, but especially those like me who are: packing and moving on a budget, moving within a short time frame, packing without a partner or packing as a single person, and especially folks relocating with limited executive functioning juice aka packing and moving with ADHD

  1. Start ASAP - as soon as possible
    Why? Many people with ADHD struggle with being cognizant of time, often making us late.  With that being said, many ADHDers do well under pressure, and are capable of meeting deadlines in almost inhumane ways every blue moon (ex: former college me starting 10 page Philosophy papers the night before due).

Moving generally is already full of pressure in a variety of ways.  So this is not one of the times that I recommend ADHD people being okay with our typical “I’ll pack the hour before heading to the airport” or “I’ll wait until that last minute dopamine surge hits to pack my entire apartment” state of mind.

  1. Use the 4 P’s - Pack it, pass it, pitch it, place it.
    With the weight fluctuation, numerous hobby supplies, losing items, impulsively replacing them, and then having 2+ of the same item realities that come with ADHD it can be easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of things you have.  

Struggling with having emotional attachments to certain items of clothing or things you have is real and really understandable, but something I had to remind myself of during this round of packing was that I have to get rid of some things, not everything, but some things! 

Pack it in a box, tote, or bag to take to your next destination.

Pass it along to someone else or a donation center, but be realistic and honest with yourself if you can’t make this happen.  It’s okay to get rid of things, I promise! 

Pitch it in the trash or recycling

Place it in a ‘Gotta Have It Before Moving’ Box so that you don’t preemptively pack things away that you need, having to backtrack and unpack your already packed items

  1. Give ya’ self hella breaks and hella grace.
    Why? While I urge people to start as soon as possible I simultaneously want to stress the importance of taking breaks and giving yourself grace.  Packing burnout is so real.  If I give packing my 100% energy everyday, the likelihood of me being able to focus on other areas of my life is not as possible.  Luckily, I am not working much, especially not in person during this time of my packing, and even though I am not working much during this process I am fully aware of the fact that everybody needs breaks.  

The tasks that comprise the packing and moving process utilize so much of our executive functioning that you’re liable to be more tired, less sociable, and in the house more; that doesn’t mean things have to be boring! 

  1. Make a list of things that can provide you stimulation as you pack.
    Packing can get or for the entire time be boring if you let it. Get you some stimulation!  Whether that’s utilizing a body double partner - someone to hold you accountable with staying on task, having a list of TV series (shameless plug for Lolo, throw ‘Sex Lives of College Girls’ on HBO Max to your watch list!), a juicy podcast, or a list of albums you’ve been wanting to check out; aynything is better than allowing your thoughts to ruminate or to get burnt out daily with the packing process.  

Pro Tip: I personally get bored with songs that I don’t know, so another tip would be to think of albums or playlists that you know you won’t get bored with quickly so that you stay off of your phone or whichever device you utilize for streaming.  I almost have to act as though my phone doesn’t exist during the packing process.

  1. Make lists and break things down.
    If I break my to do lists down it’s a bunch of little overwhelming tasks, but if I don’t break tasks down I can miss steps, can’t really win for losing sometimes with this ADHD stuff, hahaha.  The people that get it, get it, but yeah! Breaking things down in a way that isn’t overwhelming, but also reminds you of all you truly need to do is the way to go. 

One way that you can break tasks down in an ADHD friendly way is by sketching out or visualizing your space and making a task list based off of that.  Another way that you can do this is by not having one humongous list and rather multiple mini lists that are sectioned off by room, posted in each room.  

This structural difference while writing out and placing the lists throughout your place can make the lists less overwhelming and can serve as a visual daily reminder informing you of how many things you have accomplished, as well as how many things needing to be done.

  1. Say yes to offers of help and to seeking out help.
    While rejection sensitivity is real for many people with ADHD, moving is no small feat.  A tip to people who are loved ones of people with ADHD is to offer help without your loved one having to ask.  

A tip to thos of us with ADHD is that there are some things we truly have to just muster the courage up to do and do it! 

As previously mentioned, having lists and breaking things down can help in understanding what things have yet to be done within each room.  This can be tremendously helpful when it comes to asking for help with packing and moving because you won’t have to question what things have or have yet to be done, and can even mark things you don’t mind other people completing for you with an asterisk (*).  

ADHDers tend to get overwhelmed with on the spot questions or occurences.  When my fellow ADHD friend Julie hit me up to assist with my laundry, she also asked if there were other things she could help with. I hadn’t thought of other things preemptively which caused me to simply say no.  If I had my lists in each room there are things that I could have asked for her assistance with with little to no delegating responsibilities on my plate, and would have likely resulted in me receiving more help at that time.    

Sidenote: It’s okay to want things done a certain way, but those are tasks that you shouldn’t delegate to someone else, and are things you should should communicate with any helpers.

  1. Remind yourself it gets worse before it gets better.
    In the same fashion that cleaning your room or figuring out your ADHD medication needs - remind yourself that things typically get worse before they get better.  One way this shows up in packing and moving for ADHDers is the amount of visual and mental overwhelm that come with seeing all of your things packed up and thinking of the many tasks that lie ahead.  It gets worse before it gets better and it will get better!

The next blog I write for y’all will be in my new space, with my new roommate and fellow ADHD friend, and in a new year!  It has been an honor sharing my ADHD knowledge and experiences, and I appreciate your readership support. 

For more ADHD tips ‘n tricks and ADHD related content feel free to follow me, AD your homie with ADHD, @lexshedlight on Instagram!