M. Orlov's card index system: why won't he just follow the rules?

My ADHD husband and I recently agreed to use Melissa Orlov's card index system she presents in her book for dealing with chores. We have weekly meetings to discuss what needs to be done, then write out his chores on cards and place them by order of priority in the front of the box. All he has to do is open the box and take out the front card. 

Instead, he will either take out all the cards and stuff them in his briefcase, where they remain for the rest of the week and never get dealt with. Or he copies the chores onto a list, which of course never gets done either. He claims he is not trying to sabotage the system. 

But I, non ADHD spouse, feel like he won't even give it a try. Is there an ADD explanation for why he won't follow one basic, simple rule, i.e. only remove the front card and deal with it? I am starting to feel it has nothing to do with ADD and more to do with his feeling controlled and resenting the system or resenting me.

Meanwhile, the chores still pile up and end up either neglected or on my plate, and I am starting to despair that there will every be any change. 

this made me smile

Sorry, I don't mean to make light of your feelings, but his approach to what seems a simple system (to nons)  is classic ADD.  Maybe start over.  Say his method of taking the cards or making a list might work later on when you've mastered the original plan, but to start, say that each of you should only take a card when you are doing the card right then.  He's trying to take the card system and incorporate it into some other "system" that lives in his brain.  Which he probably thinks is better, or better for him, or working just fine.  Etc.  No need to argue those points, just try asking him again to follow one rule.  Take one card, do one card.  Now.  Promise him that when it has been mastered, he can tweak it a little.  Just don't promise when that will be !  ;)  

Strange thing that has been working for me lately.  I'm a list maker, and on the weekend I usually have a list going in the kitchen.  I've started adding one of the things I've been waiting for him to do.  The first week I did it, and he noticed and was not happy.  I just said, oh, well, I realized that it was me that wanted it done, so I did it. The end. The second week, I didn't finish the list (of course, we nons aren't perfect either) and "his" item was still there, and 3 days later he did it.  I just said, hey, thanks.  The end.   The third week, he did it before the weekend was over, and I said hey, thanks, but stop stealing stuff off my list!  He loved the acknowledgement and the stupid joke.  The 4th week, there was no item of "his" on my list and OMG he asked me if there was anything.  Yes, please, move the patio table.  Week 5, item of "his" back on the list, and no action.  Week 6, I did the item, and he asked for a different one.  Strange little dance, huh?  Am I manipulating him?  If I am, I'm not doing it very well.  Am I getting some things done?  Yup.  Am I short-circuiting anger and resentment?  Yup.  Am I trying to work out ways that work?  Yup.  That's really all you can do.  Do something different and you'll get something different.  

To-Do List

My list is BIG, many items involve cash, so prioritizing is complicated. Usually on a Saturday morning I ask my DW "What are the Top 3 Items you would like to see completed this weekend?" Of course this is a basic idea because some items are Big Projects, but it work well on the list of a million little things. My DW finally realized that many times she was interrupting her own priorities by telling me every little thing she saw as I was doing things. I explained "THAT is ADD"... If I stopped what I was doing for everything thing else noticed along the way I'd never complete Anything ;)

I have to agree with

I have to agree with Gardener; I giggled a little a little when I read this. He is not trying to thwart your efforts...the ADHD gets in the way. Maybe the card system won't work for him. I adapted a child's chore chart I purchased at Target. The reason it is effective is because it is magnetic and hangs on the fridge (no longer looks juvenile). In other words, it is NOT meant t be moved and will never be shoved in a bag and lost. I move the magnets into position when a chore is completed.
sonford24's picture

  Hi guys, I'm going to jump


Hi guys, I'm going to jump right in here and say I love your conversation and now I'm laughing 'cos you are so off on a tangent and exploring and derailing my post, but it's ok. Who cares right?

Only, in my marriage sometimes I do care 'cos it's important and my ADHD husband won't stay focused for long enough for the conversation to progress. Right now, well he's throwing a dinner party in 7 hours for 10 people and he only just left to do the shopping. He spent 2 weeks planning the menu, even made a Powepoint of it!!!

I asked him for the shopping list by Friday morning so I could get the stuff. No list. Now he's running around like crazy and expects me to jump in and put the fire out with him. Except I'm not playing this game with him. I choose not to. 

I want to help. I want to work with him on ADHD, but I won't help put out his fires. I am codependent. Right now I need to take care of my needs. 

This is SO hard. I'm wondering right now if it is all worth it. 





I'm glad you are not upset by the banter.

What you describe about your DH's dinner party sounds pretty typical. I think you are doing the right thing here. You offered helping by doing the shopping, but e missed the window of opportunity. Most of my big changes before diagnosis came from falling on my face and getting mad at myself. I would Not want a repeat of the cycle and after enough falls I implemented changes, usually in the form extreme rigid repetition. I used to never worry about a thing until it was blowing up in my face. Things can improve, but the ADDer has to be ready to deal with the solutions. Good luck and sorry for the Derailment of your post :)

I have to agree with

I have to agree with Gardener; I giggled a little a little when I read this. He is not trying to thwart your efforts...the ADHD gets in the way. Maybe the card system won't work for him. I adapted a child's chore chart I purchased at Target. The reason it is effective is because it is magnetic and hangs on the fridge (no longer looks juvenile). In other words, it is NOT meant t be moved and will never be shoved in a bag and lost. I move the magnets into position when a chore is completed.

3X Agreement :)

I just had to comment about the triple post ;)

Up to 3.5X Now ;)

Yep... I am giving you a hard time about the Technical Glitch you seem to have with your phone :D

I'm stuck trying to think of my next "Sass"...

The iPhone and iPad are pretty "Quirky" with this website, especially on the little iPhone screen. What's the weather like at the bus stop? We are having an unusually cool day in Dallas.

It's O.K. I'm sure you'll think of something...

Overcast...Thunderstorms supposedly later today... no yucky New England humidity yet...  I don't mind dry heat...went to Vegas once and it was 100 degrees, but I loved it.  I'd take that any day over the humidity on an 85 degree day... 

The past few years have been weird around here for weather.  We've only had two snowstorms; one was the day before Halloween.  It was so bad Halloween was CANCELED and rescheduled for November (a first).  Then we had a 75 degree day in March and shortly after 1 more snowstorm...  Really, no snow to speak of in between...

My family and I went to an IMAX movie on Tornadoes recently, and now my daughter is afraid of them.  I had to show her the national weather database and how we only get 1-2 tornadoes a year around here.  Last night she made me remind her how far away we are from Tornado Alley.  She's only 5 and thinks they can keep going indefinitely.  Is Dallas inside of Tornado Alley?

I would so love an IPAD.  My computer at school is soooooo slow.  I definitely do NOT work in IT.  It takes me 10 minutes to log in and do attendance.  Don't tell me to take attendance via computer every class if you won't give me the technology to support it.  Plus, it times out on us so kids can't access our computer grading system...  Rawwwrrrrr... Sorry, ranting.  

You have Triple Posted

and I have derailed this thread. Sorry Guys :)

We get heat and humidity in DFW, 100+ and 90%, YUCK! My DD#2 (10 year old) has always been terrified of storms because she worries about tornados. DFW in right in the Tornado Alley, south side...

The iPads are pretty cool. I can use my iPad to login to any of my IT systems, but I try to stick to Fun stuff away from work ;)

Two of my sisters are teachers, well one is a principal... And it is sad how poor the IT is for the schools. I'm sure it must be a beating to have to use electronic systems that are "Supposed" to make things easier and the budgets give you crappy software and matching hardware to do your work. 

Hang in there :)

feeling so connected right

feeling so connected right now....i am an ADHD mom of 2, well 3 if you count my husb. he is like a surly 18 year old, live in NE, been a very weird year, kids now will be in school until 6/20 due to the early snow and hurricane losing 10 days of school, but i am feeling connected also because i used to feel so alone in this ADHD hell, no one to talk to, family, friends just don't get it, don't get what life is like always putting out everyone's fires, trying to juggle 100 balls in the air while the ADHD Husb seems to do everything to make me drop them..i know not on purpose but it sure feels that way. Wish I could give you all a hug ! finally people who are living all the same things..


Ask your partner what's on his mind when he shoves all the cards into his briefcase, not for criticism sake but out of curiosity.  It may be that when you hear his explanation it will help the two of you think of a creative system that will work better.  And by the way, ultimately it's his responsibility to get to things, so while you can help him, if he's repeatedly not getting to them (even though he genuinely intends to do so) then there is a larger treatment issue going on.  If he's just "going along" and putting up with your request to use this system and really resents your request, back up a step and get to "real" agreement around the importance of his pitching in, not just "feigned" agreement.  This might take a learning conversation or two about the impact of his not helping out on your feelings for him (and his feelings about having to do chores, too)>  In any event, it sounds as if he may be an "optimist" when it comes to how much he will get done.  Here are some ideas:

  • use an electronic system rather than cards - such as Wunderlist - and set alarms as reminders if that is a system that he uses (if he doesn't have some sort of calendar or reminder system in place, it's not likely the chore system will work properly...)
  • if these are home items, post the number one item on the fridge in big letters...leave all cards in the box (this serves as a visual reminder of that one thing).  If these are work items, transcribe the item he's supposed to do today into his calendar with all needed info TWICE - once when he is supposed to do it...and once in a back-up time slot in case he didn't do it the first time.
  • diminish the number of projects - start with one a week...ask him how he will measure success...after he gets one a week under his belt, add a second one