When DIY Projects Meet ADHD Persistence & Hyperfocus


I like to do my own fix-it chores around the house, but I make so many blunders along the way that I often wonder if I should have just hired a professional.

Then I get enthused about another DIY job around the house, and I downplay my previous missteps, mistakes, and failed home improvement projects. “This time will be different,” I think optimistically. But do I believe it?

As much as people with ADHD hope something will be different, it rarely is unless we change our habits — and that entails remembering what we need to change and wanting to make the change happen. Poor working memory and hyperfocus are aspects of my ADHD that makes this difficult.

Case in point: Painting my bathroom.

Before: I used to finish a paint job with paint on the walls — and my clothes. I wouldn’t notice my error until the paint had dried and ruined whatever I was wearing. Are most people with ADHD as messy as I am?

After: No matter how small the paint job, I always change into my designated painting clothes before I begin.

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Before: Immediately after sparking the idea, “Let’s redo the bathroom,” I would start painting. I thought putting down masking tape and covering the floor was unnecessary and time-consuming. I’d tell myself, “I will be neat this time.”

After: Countless mess-ups later, I realized I would never be neat enough not to need masking tape and a drop cloth. Now I do both. Doing this routine prep work has improved my paint jobs.

Before: I didn’t take the time to carefully remove hardware and screws from fixtures.

After: I remove all hardware and screws and properly store them, so they do not get lost. I learned that if I take care of the removed pieces, I won’t need to shop for missing parts later. Also, removing the fixtures ensures that I won’t get paint on them, causing more work later as I try to remove the unwanted color.

Yipee! As I’ve learned to do things differently, I’ve gotten smarter. I have become more proud of the progress I’ve made, and yet….

[Self-Test: Do I have ADHD? Symptoms in Adults]

I recently had to caulk the seam between the walls and baseboards — and I wore my everyday clothes. If I had the thought to “put on my painting clothes first,” I ignored it. After all, this was caulking, not painting. I would be fine.

Later, I discovered dried caulk on my slacks. Did you know that dried caulk is as impossible to remove from clothing as is dried paint? I do now!

In getting ready to paint the bathroom, I set the paint tray on the drop cloth covering the floor. I might have thought, “That isn’t a good place for the paint tray.” But due to my poor working memory I quickly forgot.

I also forgot about the paint tray, backed up, and put my left foot in it! I wiped the paint off my shoe’s bottom and thought I was good to go. Then I left the bathroom and went down two flights of stairs to finish cleaning my shoe in the basement sink.

Later, I noticed every other stairstep had paint on its edge. I could not understand what had caused this strange pattern, and I got to work removing the paint. It was only then that I realized I had not cleaned the backside of my shoe, where most of the paint remained, and had tracked paint on each step when I lifted my left foot.

The bathroom was almost finished. I just needed to reattach the fixtures. Okay, I admit I lost some of the screws and made a trip to the home improvement store to buy replacements.

But all and all, I finished the paint job with fewer mishaps than previous DIY projects and new learnings. My next DIY job will go even better.

DIY Projects for ADHD Adults: Next Steps


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