It's been about five years since I've started altering my environment to reduce stress. I'm not talking about soothing paint colors or quiet music or fluffy pillows. Those things are wonderful, and they do help reduce stress, but I'm talking about more about my stuff and where it is.
I started to get a clue about this when I read the upteenth psychological report for a child with ADHD that recommended they have a set of textbooks at home and one at school. I hadn't really done any reading on ADHD at that point because I'd just recently been diagnosed myself. At that point my son had not been formally diagnosed, so I was still in the dark about how the ADHD brain really functions. This idea of duplicates seemed pretty cool. A rather elegant solution to leaving stuff behind all the time.
One of the small things in my life that caused a great deal of stress was never seeming to have a hairbrush when I needed one. I had started carrying a very small purse, and the hairbrush I liked would always get stuffed in last. When I had to dig something out, the hairbrush was the first thing out, and inevitably left where I put it down. Lots of bad hair days. I finally realized that like a duplicate set of textbooks, I needed duplicate hairbrushes in several different places EXCEPT my purse. So now I have one in both bathrooms, all three cars, my desk at school, and in my suitcase. May seem like overkill, but I'm never without one.
The hairbrush thing turned out to be the start of other things that changed small stressful areas of my life. My car keys are now either in my ignition, or clipped with a carabiner to the outside of my purse. I only keep my carkeys on that carabiner so that I don't use them for any other purpose than to drive the car. I looked at every horizontal surface in the house and removed as much visual clutter as I could. I pared down everything in my closet to a minimum. Most weeks I go to the grocery store only once, and I tend to buy the same stuff. I come home and make food for the entire week. I take the sheets off the bed, wash and dry them and put them right back on so they don't add to the laundry pile.
All of these things are small, but they make a big difference in my stress level on a day-to-day basis. I know that my brain does a poor job of keeping me conscious of where I put things, so important things always have to be in the same obvious place or places. I need duplicates of some things in several places. (Like my phone charger.) I know that I have a hard time "getting going" when it comes to housework and laundry. Having a huge pile of laundry to do invites my brain to suggest putting it off until I "have more time". Seems like a piece of cake to wash, dry, fold and distribute a small load. Somehow it seems easier to keep a house clean that has less stuff laying around. I'm still not sure exactly what executive function is involved in that. I know that the visual stimulation of all the stuff at the grocery store tends to stress me out. I want to be out of the place so sometimes I don't make good decisions, buy stuff I really don't need, or leave without getting everything I need. Telling myself that I only buy the same detergent regardless of what is on sale, and doing that with other items beside, actually saves some money and definitely a lot of time. My phone has a location-specific list maker. (So when I drive to Target or BJs, a list of items I need at those stores pops up...) That has helped a lot, but no technology is foolproof.
I still struggle with other issues of disorganization, activation (getting going), and maintenance. You ought to see my craft room right now. Whew! I'm always on the prowl for some new strategy to add to my life, but I'm really happy about what I've done so far. If you have tips that have helped reduce your ADHD stress, feel free to share them in the comments section below.