Cleaning hacks for ADHD Kids!

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

My son is NOT a naturally clean person

*cue the shock and awe* I've had to really get creative with ways to help him clean up without everyone ending up in tears. I hate cleaning, the kids hate cleaning, hubby hates cleaning... If left to our own cleaning whims, our house would look like an episode of hoarders. For that, I have found a few pretty good solutions that have helped him keep his room clean, and make progress on the rest of the house.

What We Do


If you haven't heard of Pomodoros, it's okay. It's a grown-up tool that some ADHDers use to help them complete tasks or stay focused on a single project. For my kids, I've re-written the game plan and added some fun with music! I suggest using Pomodoros for cleaning spaces as a family, such as the living room, playroom, or any other common spaces. Here's how we do it.

  1. Make a playlist for your kids that alternates between a cleanup song and a fun song. There should be 4 cleaning songs and 3 fun songs with the first song being a cleaning song. This is ours!

Gather the family in the room that is being cleaned. NO ONE LEAVES UNTIL THE POMODOROS ARE DONE!

  1. Play Music! If a cleanup song is playing, everyone is cleaning. If a break song is on, take a break, but no one leaves the room that you are cleaning during your break.

  2. Done! When the music is done, everyone is done.

This has made the bigger cleaning spaces a much more tolerable task. If everything is picked up and the Pomodoros haven't finished I use that time to teach them to dust or vacuum. These skills will be important later, and since I already set aside the time I don't have any excuses.

5 Things

For tasks that are ongoing or could be quick if it was just done gradually, we do "5 Things". I have a timer attached to G's gaming system that shuts off his screen time every 30 minutes. To get more time he has to pick up 5 things from his bedroom or the playroom. When he asks for more time all I have to do is ask if he picked up 5 things. This was a number that we agreed on for him to not feel overwhelmed by and still be able to make progress throughout the day.

When Nothing Works

I Have All Day

Sometimes kids just dig their heels in and refuse. Our go-to punishment is sitting at the space until you're ready to join in. No fun. No games. You're just sitting there being ignored until you help. Simple. Elegant. Time how long it takes them to decide that they need to help, then let them know how long the task WOULD have taken if they just did it. I have an example of this in another post.


Sometimes you're on a schedule. A good timeout with one-minute per-year-they've-been-alive once they've calmed down. I'm on a schedule and I need to get this done. Sit them down. Remind them that you will start the timer when they are calm. Otherwise, you run the risk of a still angry child that hasn't learned the lesson.

No Electronics/Removal of Stuff

When you've tried everything, and you still can't get them to budge removing electronics or favorite non-bedtime toys can help them decide that helping is better than walking away. This works well when you're away from the home as well so long as you follow through at home.

Things That Haven't Worked

  1. Chore Charts/Prizes- My kid would rather get nothing than spend time cleaning... He may get that from me...

  2. Punishments Alone- He's mad. I'm mad. Dad's mad. All everyone has learned is that getting anything done sucks. When he was little we spanked and it got us NOWHERE. Timeouts were more effective... sort of?

  3. Nagging- Has this actually ever worked on anyone? I mean, we all do it, but does it work? Nope.

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