Why People On TikTok Are Calling Out 'Doom Boxes' As A Sign Of ADHD

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woman holding doom boxes

I wasn't diagnosed with ADHD until I was in my 30s, but as far back as I can remember I've always had more stuff around than I knew what to do with.

I don't meet valuable stuff. I mean things I feel I just can't part with "in case I need" them at some point. Think papers, partially broken or worn down items, movie theatre stubs, receipts, etc.

As a kid, shoving these items under the bed worked fine. But as I got older, it seemed much more "organized" to grab a leftover box or bag (why waste them?!) and shove store the potentially critically necessary items in there.

I even graduated to fancy-ish versions of storage boxes. If you put your random (and probably unnecessary-to-keep) items in a box, you are an organizational maven, after all ... right?

Except I was today years old when I learned via TikTok that these boxes have a name — "doom boxes" — and that the reason for keeping them could be linked to ADHD.

What are doom boxes?

Back in the 2000s, Urban Dictionary defined a doom box as "a portable sound system powered by a car battery using 2 large speakers. thus because it's so heavy and makes music doom box" — basically a boom box on steroids.

But starting in 2021, the term doom box emerged as a way to describe boxes people use to stash papers, receipts and other items they don't have a specific place for at the moment. The plan is typically to find a place for the items later, but many doom boxes end up becoming their forever homes.

The DOOM in doom box is said to be an acronym for "“Didn’t Organize, Only Moved.”

And while Urban Dictionary doesn't say so, many TikTokers believe doom boxes are a sign of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).



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What are doom bags?

After learning about doom boxes, more people chimed in to say they instead (or also) have doom bag.

For some a doom bag may be shopping bags or tote bags they use in the same way others use doom boxes. For others, they may have multiple purses or handbags they toss items into until they are so full that they switch to using a different bag for their daily outings while leaving the now filled doom bag(s) at home.



And still others on the subreddit r/ADHD have said they have doom piles, so there's that, too.

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Are doom boxes really a sign or symptom of ADHD?

Many TikTokers seem convinced that keeping doom boxes or doom bags is clearly a sign of either undiagnosed or diagnosed ADHD or ADD.

However, others think keeping some stuff in boxes is something pretty much everyone does. Who doesn't have a junk drawer at home, right?

There seems to be no scientific research to date that is specific to data on people who keep doom boxes, doom bags or doom piles.

But while yes, most people probably have a junk drawer or occasionally set aside one or two boxes of items to be decluttered later, people who have ADHD have been found to be at increased risk for hoarding-type behaviors due to difficulties with certain types of executive function, including inattention, impulsivity, and an inability to make decisions.

Research has also found that people with OCD and others with PTSD show some of the same tendencies, but not to the same extent as those with ADHD.

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Are doom boxes a form of hoarding — or a helpful technique for managing ADHD?

Or maybe both?

As YouTuber Jessica McCabe explains on her channel How to ADHD, "ADHD brains tend to be messy... So, clutter happens when life gets busy and we get overwhelmed."

"Unfortunately," she continues, "all this clutter can make things feel even more chaotic and stressful than they actually are. It isn't just our overwhelm that adds to clutter, the clutter adds to our overwhelm. Which makes us avoid the clutter, which creates more clutter, which adds to the overwhelm, which makes us avoid the clutter, which creates more clutter. Which adds to the overwhelm, which makes us avoid the clutter, which creates more clutter, which adds the overwhelm. It's a vicious cycle."

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Keeping boxes or bins on hand to easily manage all that clutter has long been go-to advice offered by ADHD experts.

For example, an article on ADDitude — the magazine that describes itself as "the world’s most trusted resource for families and adults living with ADHD and related conditions, and for the professionals who work with them" — suggests, "To keep stuff out of sight but not out of mind, use labeled, see-through containers, bins, and baskets. Once you fill a container, that’s your cue to go through it and toss what’s not needed."

They may not use the term "doom box," but that is exactly what they are describing.

All of that said, having a doom box or doom bag (or several of both) around does not qualify as a diagnosis.

There are many more symptoms and criteria that must be met in order for a diagnosis of ADHD to be made.

The only way to know for sure if you are neurodivergent or have any kind of mental health issue is by seeing a qualified mental health professional, such an MD, PhD or PsyD.

And in the meantime, at least you have a fun new term to use when explaining those doom bags and boxes to your family and friends.

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Deputy Editor Arianna Jeret, MA/MSW, has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Style, MSN, Fox News, Bustle, Parents and more. Find her on Twitter for more.