Depression and anxiety manifest in many forms, and sometimes they become so draining that keeping your home clean is overwhelming and seemingly impossible. Or maybe you have physical limitations that make doing more than a few tasks a day too much. Or maybe life is just really busy right now. I’ve been battling all of these obstacles for quite some time, and as much as I wish I could be a tidy and organized person, I am just not. However, I have not given up on my mission to devise a system that works for me, so this week I have composed a list of tips to help other people who just can’t seem to get organized either.
- Change Your Mindset Towards Cleaning: I saw a quote a long time ago floating around on Pinterest that changed my outlook on cleaning. The essence was this- You deserve to live in a space that is clean and comfortable. You have worth and are full of love and creativity and passion and are worthy of a place that reflects your finest features. When you haven’t been able to muster up the strength to start cleaning for a while, the mess can be overwhelming to say the least. You might be thinking, “what’s the point? I won’t finish, it’s been this way so long, it doesn’t matter anyway.” It does matter, and no matter how much of your space you can sort through, it will make a difference and you are worth it.
- Reward Yourself Before You Begin: You read that right. You made the decision to start this task and you deserve to be rewarded for that. Something small that will help you while cleaning is probably the best idea for a treat. Maybe grab your favorite drink to sip on while you work, pick out a movie to play in the background, a new candle to burn while your cleaning instead of waiting until your done. Some positive recognition for yourself that you have decided to finally do the thing will help you want to do it again in the future, and help make the actual work not so bad.
- Start With One Area: If the room your working on is in a real rough state, break it down by section or task. Maybe pick everything up off the floor. Or just begin with one table. Or do the entire closet. This way if you run out of steam or have to go because of other obligations, you have a better chance of completing that smaller scale project. That sense of completion will bring pride, and if you can’t get to the rest of the room it can help serve as a positive reminder that you are capable of finishing a project and you can and will do it again. Embrace your accomplishment and allow yourself to fully feel that pride from your achievement too- don’t dwell on the rest of the room that remains. You will get there.
- Dedicate One Spot In Each Room To Stay Clean: If you finish only one area, or when you finish getting a room nice and tidy, designate a clean spot for yourself. Maybe it will be the dresser, or a certain part of the kitchen counter, or the night stand, or the chair, pick one spot that you will commit to keeping clean. If you walk in the door, you will not just throw down your coat in the that spot, you won’t pile the laundry that needs folding there, nothing. If you keep up with this spot and make it a habit to break the urge to allow it to go back to being a mess, eventually you can work up to more spots, then a room, then more rooms, then your home. It will be a long process, and if you break the commitment, forgive yourself and think about why. Were you tired? Were you upset? Did you just not care? Remember, you are worthy of a space that is comfortable. A space you can move in, stretch out in, breathe in. Commit to one spot and commit to yourself.
- Work Whenever You Have A Sparkle Of Motivation: If you feel any urge at all to start tackling the mess that’s been calling you for months, jump of it. Even if it’s an inconvenient time, do what you can in the amount of time you have to work with. If you’re getting ready for work but your bathroom is too frustrating to get ready in, and for some reason right now is your breaking point, wipe out the sink while you swish your mouth wash. Clean off the mirror before you go. These small steps, while only a piece of needs to get done, will help you to feel better about your space, and help you feel better about taking care of your space.
- Remove Any Barriers To Tasks That Bother You: I am a texture person, and hate the feeling of grime and dust on my skin. I also can’t touch dirty dishes that are already in a sink. If they are on the counter next to the sink, that’s fine, but once they go in, I just can’t. The thought grosses me out, the texture of the slime that forms on them is repulsive in every way. To overcome this, I use cleaning gloves, so I don’t have to feel dust or grime on my skin when I wipe off particularly dirty surfaces. Or I place my dishes next to the sink, and try to skip the sink altogether by putting them straight in the dish washer after rinsing if it is empty. Similarly, if you don’t like the noise of a vacuum, get a pair of good noise canceling headphones or earplugs to help muffle the sound while you clean. If the smell of cleaning agents bothers you, look for ones with limited to no fragrance and wear a face mask. By identifying what it is about a task that hinders you from performing it, you can figure out a way to overcome that barrier. This can be such an empowering step. You are not lazy, you are trying, and now that you have eliminated the physical reasons a chore was difficult, it will be a little easier to start doing it more often.
- Stop When You’ve Had Enough: Once you feel the aches in your bones creeping in, or your brain starts shutting down because you’ve been at it for too long, stop. It’s okay if you don’t finish your whole list today. If you keep pushing yourself when you’ve hit your limit, that will only cause you to need time to recover from your efforts. Do not keep going. I have an autoimmune disorder that causes a lot of joint pain, and sometimes there are okay days and sometimes there are really bad days. I don’t want to turn an okay day into a bad one because the societal norm that you must always finish what you start or you are a failure. If you push your self past your limit just to say you got it done, you might end up doing more harm than good, and you won’t be able to keep up with the room you just cleaned. You can always come back once you have had some rest and finish organizing your space. When you wrap up your work, step back to admire what you did accomplish. This positive reinforcement will help you to continue to look at cleaning as something that you do to honor yourself instead of a chore that just needs to be done.
- Ask For Help: This is definitely the scariest and most uncomfortable piece of advice on this list. It can be hard to open up about what happens when life just seems to hit you all at once and then everything else gets away. Then to tell other people that you haven’t been able to keep up with what is typically seen as basic daily tasks can be embarrassing. But your friends and loved ones do not want to see you sad and stuck. If you confide in a few close people who you trust and ask if they have an hour or two to help you fold some laundry or clear out a space, they can help get you farther in your efforts to get organized faster. They might also have a few tips and tricks as to how they organize their own stuff that might help you stay on top of things.
- Don’t Allow Negative People To Bring You Down: If you live with other people who make negative comments about where you are at in your life right now, do your best to ignore them. Keep trying to get yourself back on track, and do not allow their influence to limit you from working on getting better. If they say things like, “Wow, look who’s finally cleaning,” or “That looks nice but it won’t stay that way long,” take a breath. Then take one more. Do not engage with people like this who cannot see the power of their own words. Instead, wield the strength of your own voice, and remind yourself that you are doing this for your own benefit and no one else’s. You will do the best you can to ensure your space is clean and comfortable. If you fall behind again, you will pick it right back up. You accomplished so much by deciding to make the conscious choice to make a change, and your work is for your self care.
Some people have found cleaning as a source of relaxation and a method of coping with troubling times. Other people have just always been tidy and organized. And other people are just messy. There are many complex reasons why some people have a hard time staying on top of caring for their spaces, but there are ways to overcome the barriers that impede our journey to healing our hearts and homes.
Caring for your personal space is an extension of caring for yourself. It’s not as glamorous or peaceful as a face mask or a massage, but it is important. You could even put on a face mask while you clean and do a “quick clean,” just picking up as much as you can while you wait for it to dry. You deserve a space that makes you comfortable. A space that makes you feel safe, and welcome, and like you are at home. Sometimes you might not feel worthy, but you are. You are capable of accomplishing amazing feats, and in your clear space you might just find some clean head space to figure out those goals. No matter where you are at you can and you will do beautiful things.