Don’t Beat Yourself Up, Just Prepare for Your Weaknesses
Adulting is hard. Yes, I’m in my late 30s and I said that. There’s so much to keep track of! If you live alone, you have to do it all yourself. If you have a family, people depend on you. For autistic adults or others with executive function issues, it’s especially hard because the truth is, we will all slip up. And when we do, we beat ourselves up for not being able to keep up with adult life. But we don’t have to. There’s more than one “right way” to keep your house livable, get your bills paid, or feed and care for yourself and your family. You just need to be aware of your blind spots and prepare for your weaknesses.
I don’t want you to ever beat yourself up again. Try some of these ideas and see if you feel a bit more on top of things.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling of “Oh crap, it’s 8 pm and I haven’t even thought about dinner yet!” If you have kids, this can be panic-inducing; if you live alone, it can make you feel really stupid. But you don’t need to feel like a failure! You just need to plan for these moments.
Plan 1: Keep quick meals on hand
Canned soups, frozen pizzas, microwavable entrees, and frozen skillet meals are all perfectly good options. You can get these very cheaply or choose organic, low-sodium, healthier brands depending on your priorities. I don’t recommend making these quick meals the majority of your diet, but if you keep some of these on hand, when you realize dinner is an hour late, you can fix that issue in just a few minutes.
Plan 2: Cook once, eat (at least) twice
Cook a large batch meal on a day when you have time to think about it. A hearty stew, chili, and chicken and dumplings are great choices for this method. Leftovers can be frozen if you want time between repeated meals or you can just keep them in the fridge until they’re gone. A single person can cook once on the weekend and then eat most of the week without having to cook again. For a family, this can cover two or three dinners or maybe one dinner and a couple of lunches.
Plan 3: Make friends with a slow cooker
I know getting a meal into a slow cooker before you leave for work in the morning can be almost impossible. If you can manage it, awesome! But I can’t, so instead, I set up my slow cooker meals on weekend mornings. Then I go about running errands, grocery shopping, watching tv, or whatever my plans were for that day and it’s ready by dinnertime. Just because you’re going to be home all day doesn’t mean that you can’t use a slow cooker.
Paying bills requires keeping track of how much money you have, how much your bills are, and when each one of your 10-15 bills are due. That’s a ton of information to hold in your head! It’s no wonder we forget a bill or two from time to time. But if you regularly forget your bills, your utilities will get turned off or you might lose your car or home. A little planning can take all that weight off your shoulders.
Plan 1: Use autopay
Most utilities and subscriptions can be set up on an autopay system that runs your payment on a set day each month without any effort on your part. This can be a great solution because you’ll never forget to pay them, but you still need to keep track of when each bill runs and make sure you have enough money in your account to cover all of them.
Plan 2: Pay bills when you get paid
This is the method I’ve used for years. My last job paid us on the first and fifteenth of each month, so I divided my bills into two categories – first half and second half of the month – and when I got paid, it meant it was time to pay the bills. If you get paid every two weeks, the same principle works, but you need to be careful about rent payments and other bills that might fall due over a week before your next check. For those who get paid weekly, you can decide whether it’s better to split your bills into four categories instead of two.
Real talk: cleaning house sucks. Sometimes it can be very gratifying, and it can get me into a nice flow state, but in general, it sucks. My least favorite housecleaning chores are cleaning toilets, washing dishes, and vacuuming. But I even have some hacks for those to keep my house from getting outright nasty.
Plan 1: Toilets
If your toilet hasn’t been cleaned in a while, you have to actually scrub it out first. A little powder cleanser (Comet or Bar Keeper’s Friend) in the bowl, leave for about half an hour, then go at it with a toilet brush and get all the nasty stains out. Be brave and lift the seat so you can get the gross underside with some disinfecting wipes. Then, get some stamp gel or an in-bowl clip to go on the side of the bowl. I think these are the best options because not only do they keep cleaning over time, but you can also *see* when they start to wear away or need to be replaced. I still forget to replace them sometimes, but they’re the best options for me.
Plan 2: Dishes
My first recommendation for washing dishes is to have a dishwasher. Doing dishes by hand is like a punishment to me, but if you don’t have a dishwasher, you do what you have to do. My biggest problem is that I forget to run the dishwasher for ages or I let dishes pile up in the sink until I have no clean plates/bowls to eat from. If you have that problem, I suggest you just keep a pack of paper plates/bowls on hand so that you don’t end up in a fit at mealtimes. When you find you have no clean plates, don’t freak out, just grab a paper plate. Then start the dishwasher immediately (or wash dishes after you eat). Just because you lost track of things doesn’t mean you have to have a meltdown.
Plan 3: Vacuuming
When it comes to vacuuming, I have three words for you: *just the middles*. You don’t have to move furniture and get every square centimeter of carpet. Vacuum where you walk and under where you eat, and you should be ok. If you have any long-haired pets or people in your house, take a break after each room, turn the vacuum cleaner over and cut the hair off the brush cylinders with a seam ripper or small scissors. I have killed many vacuum cleaners by letting my long hair wind around the brushes and burn the motors out.
If you tend to forget to buy shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, or other hygiene items, go check out the travel-sized section at your supermarket. Most of these things are about $1 apiece, so it’s easy to keep one or two mini versions on hand to cover you if you run out. When you have to break one out, go put it on your grocery list so you’ll remember on your next shopping trip.
Adult life takes a ton of brain space, and if you just don’t have the bandwidth for all of it, that’s ok. You’re not a failure if you need a few backup plans. Preparing for your weaknesses is the smartest thing you can do to keep on top of your responsibilities.
What parts of adult life do you struggle with most? How do you work around your particular issues with ADHD or other executive function issues? Got any helpful hacks to share?