ADHD Boy ScoutIn a talk that my friend and ADHD expert Dr. Ari Tuckman gave awhile back, he offered this piece of advice to adults with ADHD: “Give yourself less to worry about by being diligent and setting yourself up for success. Like the Boy Scouts,” he said, “be prepared.”

I hear from a lot of significant others who’ve gotten caught up in the whirlwind of their ADHD partner’s daily lives. In other words, the ADHDer’s habits have eclipsed their own–stuff is everywhere, decisions are made on the fly, things don’t get done until the last minute, and everything is an emergency. Perhaps you can relate.

These non-ADHD partners and spouses can’t take the heat, but they don’t see a way out of the kitchen. They don’t want to control their partner’s every move (nor should they), but they can’t continue to live with the chaos. I totally get it. And my advice is the same as Dr. Tuckman’s: be prepared.

I am fortunate that my partner spouse manages her ADHD challenges extraordinarily well, and I recognize that not everyone’s ADHD partner has reached the point of managing their daily lives as effectively as she does. But successful as she is, she will always have ADHD, so when things get hectic around here, it can quickly become an ADHD household.

What do I mean by ADHD household? I mean two things–stuff is in weird places, and nothing is planned for. Where are my keys?! It’s 6:30, what are we having for dinner?! And there’s an endless stream of things that need to get done, with no time or energy to do them. The house descends into “mayhem and foolishness,” like they say on the Style network’s Clean House.

No one can live well under those circumstances. So like the Boy Scouts, your best defense is to be prepared. Like Dr. Tuckman said, be diligent. If you come upon a stray sock that the dog has left in the kitchen, don’t ignore it. Pick it up and walk it to the laundry bin. If while making your morning coffee you notice there’s nothing in the fridge for dinner, don’t shrug it off. See if there is something you can defrost. If not, figure out when you or your partner can run to the store. If you see dishes are starting to pile up in the sink, don’t leave them for later. Take 10 minutes and wash them. You get the idea–it’s really a matter of managing crises before they turn into crises.

Most importantly, you have to do it without being resentful. If your ADHD husband left a coffee mug in the bedroom, it’s not because he was trying to piss you off. Just put the mug back in the kitchen and don’t give it a second thought. Remember that your ADHD partner isn’t necessarily wired for organization, time management, or preparedness in general. Some days will be worse than others. So you have to stay one step ahead. Be prepared, be diligent. And take pride in it! I certainly do. It will make your whole family’s lives a lot easier.

Do you have any tips for keeping your household from descending into chaos during hectic times? Please feel free to share them in the comments!


Erin Korey About Erin Korey

Erin Korey is the Managing Partner and Chief Operations Officer of the ADD Management Group, LLC and


  1. This is SO TRUE. I believe it also goes for ADHD’ers who find their counterpart. You may function incredibly well with your ADHD, but when you find your ADHD counterpart, oh Lord.

  2. Definitely takes a bit to get into step with the mantra of “Be prepared” and it definitely requires diligence with how fast entropy works around ADHD. Slowly working on both of us having strategies in place for success and I’m glad for technology aids such as alarm reminders. And oh, how we wish we had a dishwasher.

  3. Erin Korey Erin Korey says:

    Oh, Michael, I hear you. We were together for many years before we moved into a house with a dishwasher. Kim and Susy, I have no doubt that you and your families are really fun to be around!

  4. In other words, “Be prepared to do two adult’s worth of work 24/7”. No small order. :/

  5. Yes, Ash, I agree. The article does seem to point that way.
    I’m sorry, Erin, I’m not sure I understand. Can you clarify as to why only the non-ADHD person should “be prepared”? Perhaps I’ve misunderstood, but that appears to be the direction of the article (as I’ve read it).

    • Erin Korey Erin Korey says:

      You know, JD, it’s funny. I wrote this article almost four years ago, and if I were to write it again today (or maybe I should write a separate one), I would say that you as the non-ADHD partner have two choices: you can do extra work to keep an orderly home, or you can decide whether or not you really care. That bit about the husband leaving the coffee mug in the bedroom—I recommended you take the mug into the kitchen yourself without resentment. Now, I would say you can either do that (which is great), or you can just leave the damn mug in the bedroom and when your husband is tired of looking at it or he has no room left on his nightstand, he will bring it to the kitchen himself. And Ash, yes, I totally hear you. But my point was that the ADHD person brings so much to the table in other ways, so much so that the non-ADHD person typically has to take on the executive functioning stuff. Think of Bert and Ernine. If you married an Ernie, you gotta be Bert. I realize there are a lot of couples out there that are two Ernies, and boy are you fun at dinner parties. But for me personally, and for mixed-ADHD couples, this is just how it is. I guarantee your partner brings something to the relationship or the family that you yourself never could.

      • Unfortunately, I’m a fun-loving creative thinker and a free lance writer who had to work really hard to learn to manage myself into doing “unfun” things. 😛 Bert I ain’t. It’s completely unnatural for me to play the straight guy, and it stinks to be forced into the role, honestly. Not all ADHD people bring fantastic amounts of humor and creativity and “fun” to the table (my guy has anxiety and buries himself into solo, messy hobbies), unfortunately.

        Forcing myself to see myself as Mr. Clean the Responsible is soul-sucking, frankly. Not to be contrary; I just read over and over how people with ADHD are all wonderful and warm and zany and dynamic, and this isn’t always the case. 😛

  6. Yes. The non ADHD partner has to be the grown up in the relationship and the manager.

    I dread whenever I am sick or busy, because my husband just lets the house descend into chaos. And I resent it when I am well again because I have that much more work to do to keep the house intact.

    I have a job I can do from home now just so that I can have a better handle over the house, my son, and housekeeping ….

    And our bedroom .. it’s a pigsty .. It used to bother me, now I just live with it … it makes me sad … but I just don’t have the energy to turn things around.

    • Erin Korey Erin Korey says:

      I feel for you, Samantha. I know it feels like a hopeless mess sometimes. But I bet you do a wonderful job with the house and with your son, and I’m sure your husband brings his own unique gifts to the family.