How to Clean When You’re Depressed
Too Depressed to Clean?
I have received this question more than any other recently – how do I clean my house when I’m too depressed to do anything? If you’re too depressed to clean, you need to come at things another way. It IS possible to clean when you’re depressed, you just have to follow a few simple rules.
I’ve been there too. When you feel like you can never possibly catch up so why even bother trying.
Or when you are expecting someone to come over, even just the cable guy or repairman, and you feel that sense of panic because you’re so embarrassed at the state of your house.
It was my mission to put everything I’ve learned into an easy to digest book that I so desperately needed when I was in the thick of it.
Here are some key steps to follow when you feel like you can’t even get started:
First, realize you’re not capable of marathon cleaning sessions right now.
If you’ve ever experienced depression for any length of time, you know that it impacts absolutely everything you do.
Cleaning, cooking, parenting, your social life, work…everything.
When you’re depressed, especially if other people still rely on you, it’s important to make the most of what little energy and motivation you do have.
The key to cleaning when you’re too depressed is to set a timer.
Just 15 minutes of cleaning WILL make a huge dent.
I’m not currently struggling with depression, but this little tip I put into practice when I was in the throes of postpartum depression helps me to this day.
I’ll set a timer for a maximum of 15 minutes – sometimes even just as little as 5 minutes – and I’ll speed clean whatever room I want to focus on.
In 5 minutes, you can completely load or unload a dishwasher, get a load of laundry in the washing machine, or tidy a moderately cluttered room.
Don’t believe me?
Set a timer and give it a shot.
I promise you that you’ll blow your own mind with how much you can accomplish in just 5 minutes.
Don’t just wander around slowly picking things up.
Treat that 5 minutes as a sprint and work as fast as you possibly can.
See if you can break a sweat. Let this double as a mini workout.
Seriously. See how much you can accomplish in those 5 minutes because tidying an area can take an hour, or you can make a really freaking big dent in just 5 minutes of busting your booty.
Step 2: Focus on big impact tasks first
Who wants to waste any time cleaning when it looks like you could waste an entire weekend on something and not even make a dent?
Instead, we’re going to go crazy on the biggest impact items in your home so you get an immediate payoff.
Walk into a room and see what catches your eye first.
Is it paper clutter in the kitchen?
A sink full of dishes?
Laundry all over the floor?
Whatever immediately catches your eye in a negative way is the right place to start.
But my house is too messy, I have no idea where to start.
One of my biggest tips in my book How to Get Your Disgusting House Under Control is to pack away all of the clutter.
I suggest my most overwhelmed readers pack all of the clutter in boxes first, then clean up and get their houses livable again, THEN tackle the boxes one at a time over time, whenever they feel able.
Go pick up some egg boxes at your local grocery store and literally pack away the clutter.
The benefits to this one tip are immense.
- Your home immediately feels cleaner, so you’re inspired to keep going.
- Your home becomes a more relaxing place to be, which is immeasurable to someone struggling with anxiety or depression.
- You finally feel like you can make a huge dent in your messy house, so you feel empowered.
- The people you live with or those who visit will notice such a huge improvement.
- It’s easy. It takes very little time. It requires next to NO decision making.
Clean in the Dark
Or just turn down the lights a little bit.
This one I stumbled upon (literally) during one of the darkest nights of my depression.
For me, postpartum depression meant almost no sleep.
I would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning and then be up for the day at 5. Then I would feel like I wanted to nap all day.
It was miserable.
During one of those nights, I paced the kitchen to try to keep my mind busy, but I didn’t want to turn on any lights that would stream into our bedroom through the crack under the door and wake our babies.
Using just the light from outside our house, I tidied up as much of the kitchen as I could see before I went back to bed.
This was just gathering messy dishes, throwing away a random paper towel I found, grabbing all of the mail and putting it in one place.
In the morning, my husband asked me when I’d cleaned up and said that the kitchen looked amazing. He was shocked because I never had any motivation to clean anymore.
I was actually pretty shocked and impressed too!
This tip isn’t the safest one I offer, but this stupid little tip made a huge impact on the way I tried to clean back in the throes of depression.
Without being able to see all of the mess, I wasn’t so overwhelmed and was able to make a ton of progress.
Just a days ago, I was cleaning up our hotel room while the kids finished sleeping and was reminded of just how awesome this tip is.
Obviously don’t go trying to scrub your stove or wash your sharpest knives in the dark. That would be stupid.
Just tidy up the clutter that you see and organize the mail when you’re up in the middle of the night completely unable to sleep.
It was a game changer for my lonely nights and I hope it helps you too!
Manage the clutter before it becomes a bigger mess
When you’re too depressed and overwhelmed to clean, every little bit helps.
The biggest way you can make an impact going forward is to manage the mess before it starts to the best of your ability.
This might mean putting away all of the dishes and silverware and using paper and plastic for a while.
It might mean cutting everyone in your home down to a minimalist wardrobe for a while so the laundry doesn’t get out of control again.
Maybe it’s just refusing to allow anymore paper into your home until you’ve dealt with all that you already have.
It DEFINITELY means not bringing in more purchases (other than groceries) that will just add to the mess.
Shopping isn’t going to improve your mental state, so simply don’t do it when you’re depressed.
That’s a recipe for disaster for both your emotional well being, your budget, and the state of your home.
Instead, focus on the joy of getting rid of things when you’re tempted to buy things.
Really need to buy a few things to get your home looking its best?
Use the one in two out rule.
Promise yourself that for every ONE purchase you make, you’ll donate TWO things from your home to someone who needs it more than you do.
Do NOT declutter sentimental things while you’re depressed
I can’t stress this one enough.
Don’t make any decisions about getting rid of kid’s artwork, family heirlooms, etc. while you’re going through a bout of depression or anxiety.
You’re sure to make a decision that emotionally-healthy-you will be heartbroken about.
Finally, take care of yourself.
Yes, I know it’s the most cliché thing you will read in every single article that has anything to do with depression.
Listen, I’ve been there and I know what it’s like.
If you take nothing else away from all of my ramblings, let it be this.
When you’re depressed, food doesn’t taste the same anyway – so eat the things that will power your body toward a better future, even if you feel like your future is full of doom and gloom.
A whole food plant based diet worked wonders on my mental health – which I absolutely hated at the time because I ADORE cheese.
Take some medication to help you feel better.
I’m a very natural-minded person and love to find natural remedies for everything…but when I couldn’t take it anymore with my depression, I went on Zoloft and was so happy I did.
When I weaned off of it a few months later, I absolutely hated the withdrawal and side effects, so I promised myself I’d find another way.
I was skeptical because I thought my depression was way too strong to be impacted by anything other than a high dose of some pharmaceutical medication.
I’m so thankful I decided to give it a try.
I swear it’s helping me to rewire my brain somehow to get away from the anxiety and depression.
If we go away somewhere and forget to take them, I notice a huge difference in my mood.
They work and I love that it helps me stay off of the antidepressants I thought I’d need for the rest of my life.
Just do one thing at a time and always remember: Good enough is good enough.
Any difference you can make to the state of a room is good enough. Don’t wait until you can put a full day’s work into cleaning your home or it’ll never happen.
Instead, make the most of that 5 minutes before you have to run out the door and clean like your life depends on it. Your sanity very well does.
Have you ever battled depression and managed to keep your home in a livable state? What tips helped you the most? What can you share with others going through the same battle? Let me know in the comments!