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6 Designer-Approved Ways to Create an ADHD-Friendly Home

Learn how to incorporate home design solutions for the most common ADHD symptoms: working memory, executive function, and concentration issues. (Especially if you're working from home!)

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Diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, I've learned that what I need to thrive in my environment might look different to a neurotypical person. As an interior designer, it became evident that the latest design trends don't consider neurodivergent symptoms. To my relief and surprise, there are easy ways to optimize your home for ADHD while avoiding the dreaded "organization tools" that tend to fall short for us.

To give you the best design ideas to make your home more accessible, I turned to Katie Bowen (or @cartoonreject as she's known to her 422.5k followers on TikTok), who launched ADHD Home TV last summer to make neurodivergence design mainstream.

Keep reading to learn how to incorporate home design solutions for the most common ADHD symptoms: working memory, executive function, and concentration issues. (Especially if you're working from home!)

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Start with the basics: Keeping your home clean with "cubbies."

ADHD impacts your executive function, which is needed to plan and achieve goals, such as struggling with time management, self-control, and organization. Maybe the sink is always filled with dirty dishes, or there's a pile of clothes in the corner of your bedroom that rivals Mount Everest. Katie suggests starting with "cleaning cubbies."

The concept is simply giving yourself permission to buy cleaning supplies for each room—allowing you to clean as needed. "By the time I've walked through a door to find cleaning supplies, I'm already distracted with another task. When I have the supplies I need, in the place I need them, I can clean at the moment."

Cleaning cubbies can also help you tackle smaller areas rather than the whole house at once. While this isn't as fun as picking out new paint colors, maintaining a clean space can improve your perception of the home.

Open storage combats working memory impairment.

The phrase, "Out of sight, out of mind," is a simple way to describe working memory impairment, a common symptom for those with ADHD. This can look like forgetting to put on deodorant if it's hidden behind the door to your medicine cabinet or setting down your car keys for just a moment to discover you've already lost them. A label maker is one option to find what you need quickly, but Katie prefers open storage.

"If you display all of your items at once, you'll know where everything is at a glance," Katie said. So whether you're utilizing floating shelves, installing a mounted toilet, or removing the doors on your closets, you have more visual access—which means less "rejection."

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is a common symptom of ADHD where you are easily emotionally triggered by falling short of expectations. "While Rejection Sensitivity Disorder is characteristically related to rejection in a social setting, it can also influence feelings of frustration due to an inability to complete a task correctly," Katie said. However, she suggested using curtains or a sliding door if open storage is overstimulating—how much sensory you receive affects your ability to function.

Balance beauty with function when it comes to interior design.

While it may be tempting to copy what we see on Instagram and Pinterest, this may not work for your individual needs. "I get a lot of imposter syndrome because I worry if my place is not pretty enough," Katie said. "But I always remind myself that my space works for me, and it doesn't have to look like everyone else."

While Katie is a big fan of tchotchkes, she encourages her followers to make their decor multi-purpose—items that can act as decoration when it isn't needed for its functional purpose.

For example, Katie keeps her embroidery looms on the walls because it's her hobby. Now she can grab it off the wall when she feels motivated.

When working from home, work with your body.

One of the benefits of working from home is the ability to control the environment where you work. If you struggle with bouncing up and down in your chair, Katie suggests experimenting with active rest.

Active rest is when you exercise muscles that aren't usually engaged. For example, sitting on the ground activates your core, lower back, and various muscles. That little bit of activity regulates your nervous system so that you can focus more easily. "This is why I love working at my coffee table." (Note from the Author: I wrote this article sitting on the floor while using my coffee table as a desk.)

If you prefer to set up in a permanent workspace, Katie used art principles to develop concentration cues or parallel lines on either side of your workspace. "It's essentially line-of-sight in action, meaning they act as vision blockers to create bold stopping points to designate a working space."

A good patterned rug is the stimulant equivalent of Xanax.

When I asked Katie about the importance of using rugs in design, she referenced this quote from Abbott Elementary: "Rugs are a calming space for kids...Like a huge Xanax for kids to sit on."

When looking for a rug, you want to find a pattern that will draw you in. "I need a checkered rug as a reminder to sit here and engage in active rest." Essentially, go for what makes your brain work and not necessarily what looks good in pictures. We all have different sensory inputs, so find what works best for you. Katie suggests a medium pile as a safe texture rather than a more distracting shag carpeting. For colors, try to stick to deeper, intriguing colors. "I have so many patterns, but I try to stick to neutral when possible. Earth tones can help keep you calm while also being visually stimulating."

A midcentury modern interior space
Source: Etsy

Prioritize the layout of your home for your routines.

A solution you can execute immediately is to walk around your room and notice where you sit, stand, and drop your keys or dirty laundry. You can do this for hours over days until you recognize how you interact with the current layout. Then, once you assign designated spaces based on your natural routines, you can update the configuration to design a better-functioning space.

Like the adage, "You don't have to fit in your clothes; your clothes have to fit you," find a layout that functions for your needs rather than a format based on a trending style. "Forget the idea of being perfectly organized," Katie said. "You don't need to have your stuff put away neatly, but you can optimize your home for your brain so you can continue being a creative, innovative ADHDer."

Photo Credit: (Left) Serena & Lily

Get to designing your ADHD-friendly home with the help of Spoak.

Date Posted
August 11, 2023
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