How to Make Life Easier in a Neurodiverse Household
In our household there is ADHD, Autism, PTSD and there have been extreme issues with anxiety, postpartum depression and other issues at times. It’s a large, blended, multicultural family with kids aged 15, 14, 9, 2 and 1.
I was diagnosed with ADHD as a teen but never got help and lived my life feeling something was wrong with me until recently. My teens were diagnosed as kids with autism and ADHD, as well as anxiety and PTSD when we left their father (it was an abusive marriage).
The possibility I have autism as well, given my kids, the research it is hereditary, is something I will look into further. We’ve all had therapy as needed or wanted and PTSD isn’t an issue for them anymore but recent birth trauma has triggered mine.
Because of all of the above, we have experimented a lot over the years to find what works for all of us and makes our lives easier.
When we needed to be super frugal, such as when I was fighting for custody, it was harder because we were unable to do some of these things. However, when we could, these things made a significant difference.
This list has been compiled with the help of my teens as I wanted their input. Being children of a neurodiverse mother, as well as being neurodiverse themselves, I feel their views here are valuable.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to products and services we use. This is also based on our experience. I strongly advise professional advice and assistance in managing your life.
We are sharing what has helped us, it’s up to you what you feel is worth trying or would help you. These things are done in conjunction with therapies, understanding each others needs and being considerate/accommodating with each other where possible.
1. Meal Kits
It is cheaper for me to plan our meals and do a strict grocery shop but it takes so much time and energy. Once we switched to meal kits, it was a relief for all of us.
We can log in, and select our meals, my kids can choose as well, we decide who is cooking what and it’s delivered. Meals are planned a month in advance so we only need to log in and plan once every 4 weeks.
Switching to this was amazing for reducing my mental load, enabling my kids to cook more and be more independent plus we discovered new recipes.
We tweak the recipes to our own taste and sometimes don’t use the recipes at all and instead create whatever we want with the ingredients. But we don’t have to think about it all much anymore and that is what helped.
Anything to reduce how much we have to think, plan, discuss or do for basic needs is a winner.
If you want to try meal kits, you can get a free HelloFresh box and/or a free EveryPlate box. Or, there are discounts for all the meal kits we’ve used available at The Thrifty Issue.
I have at times use meal replacement shakes for myself too when I simply didn’t want to eat. I’d use them during the day for myself but always made sure my kids had proper meals.
2. One Day Each for Chores
My kids are great at doing anything I ask and we usually work well as a team when it comes to anything house related. I taught them young how to do everything and whenever they showed interest, I let them.
We’ve tried a variety of approaches to keep the house running smoothly and the one day system seems to work best for us.
One day of the week is assigned to each family member. Monday is me, Tuesday my second child, Wednesday the toddlers* (well, me), Thursday my eldest and the weekend is for anything that needs catching up.
On that day, we are responsible for the daily tasks and changing our own linen. The person responsible for that day gets up, strips their bed, puts on a load of washing and hang it before going to school.**
They unload the dishwasher and when they get home from school they bring in any washing, check the kitchen, make their bed and vacuum their room.
In the evening, we alternate cooking and everyone gets in to help clean up after dinner. One packs the dishwasher, and one moves dishes from the table to the kitchen and helps wipe it down. I usually clean up from the toddlers then do a full sweep and mop through the house.
Being responsible for it for 1 day has reduced the mental load for all of us and I don’t have to remind anyone to do anything. It’s been unbelievable.
On the fridge, the daily chores are listed at the bottom of the weekly calendar. Each day has the name of who is responsible for what and it just happens now.
*Note: When I said the toddlers have a day, that means their linen and everything in their room gets done, if I haven’t had to do it during the week already. Also, I usually hang washing after the kids go to school.
** My teens choose to get up at 5 am to workout as they both do sports and want to improve speed, flexibility and strength. Doing some chores before school is easy as they have plenty of time.
3. Multiples of Essentials
In many ways we are quite minimalistic e.g we lived 4 of us in a 2 bedroom apartment in Noosa plus many other tiny homes over the years and travelled with only a suitcase each for ages).
However, now we are in a home, we quickly noticed a few things would frequently go ‘missing’ or needed multiple homes. My glasses for example.
So I got 5 pairs and now I have glasses in the car, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in my handbag and in the spare drawer.
Cleaning products are in the laundry, kitchen and each bathroom. I tried having a bucket with all items but we’d forget and move things around, not put them back etc. Having whatever we need in the room we need it made it easier.
We only have one vacuum and mop though. Both have specific homes.
There are garbage bins in every room which get emptied each night. We also each have a laundry hamper in our own rooms instead of only one next to the washing machine. Once it is full, we do our own load of laundry usually or at any time we feel like it, we add our laundry to the machine.
There are a few other things that we have multiples of to make life easier. All the kids plastic cups, plates etc are in one basket in the pantry. Another basket has 10 tea towels and another 10 dish clothes.
If it won’t overwhelm the house or take up a lot of space and makes life easier, I am ok having multiples now.
4. Homes for Things
I know this sounds ridiculous after I just said we have multiples of some items but hear me out.
Placing a key hook right at the front door so it is placed there as soon as we walk in helped. It is the first thing I see and did take me a few weeks to get in the habit but now I am not running around looking for my keys.
Using a carabiner in my handbag to attach my keys also helped me when out and about since they were hanging just inside.
A few specific baskets in the kitchen e.g. one for the toddlers’ plastics, another for tea towels and dish clothes, another for fruit instead of having a fruit bowl etc. We did have a fruit bowl but once the toddlers could get to it, they’d bite into all of it, wasting a lot of fruit.
The corner of the lounge is set up with an old bedside table. In those drawers, we keep the remotes, my laptop, chargers, microphone and little tech items related to my work.
We’ve also allocated a cupboard each in the bathroom which made that whole area cleaner and more organised.
Small changes like this around the house have helped all of us keep it cleaner and more organised.
5. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
My teens use these more than I do. Growing up it was considered disrespectful to walk around the house with headphones on.
The noise level in the home with toddlers is intense. Being able to cancel that out so they can focus on schoolwork is essential. Also, being able to chill, listen to music, and do their own thing is important.
At times, when I need to work and the teens are helping with the toddlers, I will use headphones then. For the most part, I don’t but I do have some that reduce the noise a little so I can still hear them but don’t get overstimulated as easily.
There are times such as at dinner when no one is wearing headphones. I am fairly relaxed about whatever my kids need to do to prevent overstimulation and overwhelm though because that is what I wish I had growing up.
6. Our Own Items
Some items that are specifically ours e.g. we each have our own towel that has a different pattern, different coloured sheets, the toddlers have their own plates and cutlery sets etc. We all have our own skincare and personal hygiene items with our own cupboards in the bathrooms.
Doing this has made life easier because we can take ownership of our own items that would otherwise be communal items. We did this while travelling too (e.g. towels).
Growing up, we had colour-coordinated towels, sheets etc so we never knew who left the towels on the floor or anything like that. Swapping it to having our own towels (plus a set for guests) made this easy. I can instantly see who left something where it shouldn’t be.
7. Sensory Items
Being able to fidget helps us focus and destress so having things to do that with helps.
Adjusting other things to be more sensory-friendly made a difference to. For example, menstrual underwear (and a cup for me) is preferred to disposable pads etc. We find it more comfortable whereas using pads was mentally difficult and distracting due to how they feel during that time.
Knowing the brands we are comfortable wearing. Most of us buy the same brands, we know what suits us, what we like and what we want to avoid. As such, shopping for clothes now is easy and more comfortable because we know what we want.
I include this in the sensory part because wearing clothes we find uncomfortable creates a sensory overload and we can’t focus on other things easily.
8. Group Chat
Ok, so not so much ‘in the home’ but it is used by all of us. I set up a group chat on WhatsApp for our family. When they need something it goes in there or if there is a change of plans, it’s messaged so we all know what’s going on and don’t need to send multiple messages back and forth or explain further.
It’s drastically reduced the mental load and increased organisation for us. Plus, if they have their noise-cancelling headphones on, I can send a message that dinner is ready and they hear the alert so they come get it.
My teens and I have different schedules but our specific schedules are each designed to help us. Morning routines help us set up our day and feel our best, the one day for chores mentioned above helps us each know what is happening.
An evening routine enables all of us to wind down in our own way and we respect what each other needs to do.
On top of that, we have a joint family Google calendar, a calendar on the wall, whiteboards on each bedroom door and one on the fridge. Here’s why:
Digital Family Calendar
This enables all of us to see what is happening and when. It means my teens can see if we already have something booked in and if we do they know they can’t do something so don’t ask.
Reducing questions, decisions and organisation frees up our headspace for other things. Setting up a digital calendar is easy in Google Calendar.
Everything gets written on the regular calendar as well which is on the kitchen wall. Everyone is colour coded so we can see at a glance who is doing what and when.
We get a big one so there is plenty of space to write anything plus a notes section on the side for anything extra I need to schedule in or do.
Mini whiteboards on each bedroom door make it easy to leave notes or reminders and plan things for the day. Having 4 kids, it can be hectic so in the evening, I often write their schedule or anything I need them to do/remember on there.
One of my kids used to forget their towel all the time so having a little reminder on the whiteboard helped them develop the habit of taking their towel with them.
The whiteboard on the fridge is a weekly one and each day has the chores plus meal on it and who is responsible. Everyone can see it and not much needs to be changed. It also has a space for the shopping list everyone can add to as we run out of things or get close to running out.
Writing out and showing my kids exactly how I want things done such as cleaning the car or the bathroom made it easier for them. The specific instructions were easy to follow and ensured they developed good habits with how they were doing these things.
Being exact about the order I do things, what I use, why it is that order etc makes everything make sense.
10. Easy Meals and Fakeaway
Aside from the meal kits, we have other easy meals or “fakeaway”. Pizza, pancakes, cheese toasties, wraps, butter chicken, meals frozen in advance all help us avoid buying takeaway and are ideal for nights we cannot be bothered cooking much.
They might not be the healthiest options but we prioritise mental health in our home and overall, eat healthy.
11. Personalising our Environments
Smell, air quality, decor, bedding, everything in our spaces have been personalised. One teenager has a bedroom that looks like a jungle with wooden furniture and a lot of plants. The other has an extremely organised room with collections of things they like and tech they’ve bought.
My room has a 4 poster bed, plants and seating all set up in a way I love and feel good about every time I walk into my room.
The lounge room has 2 lounges which recline, are fully adjustable, have cupholders and storage. We each have our own seat and love that it can be adjusted to how we feel comfortable. It’s not the style I wanted but the comfort mattered more than the colour or style.
Diffusers for each room so we can have our area scented how we want to help with the mood. Although we all tend to like tropical scents most of the time which makes it easier.
Everyone has the mattress they prefer and the linen they chose. When we walk into our own spaces, we can relax and know it is ours and that no one will come in or change it. We have full privacy and autonomy over it.
Having a place that is only ours is empowering. And since each space is individual, it is also private. No one enters any room without knocking and having permission.