Depression wrecks a lot of things in your life: Your mood, your ambition, your willingness to leave the house. It starts off as a bad mood then suddenly you’ve got a huge mess and a bad attitude. Cleaning during depression is a serious challenge! How do we get our clean house back?
Quick reminder: If you’re experiencing continuing depression symptoms, it is really important to connect with mental health services. Clinical depression is a condition that goes far beyond a messy house. The dust will keep in place, this is about seeking medical advice, taking care of yourself, and getting treatment. Those things will surpass any tips you gain from this post.
Depression steals your motivation!
Trust me, having to wade your way through clutter in order to get out the door is not helping your motivation in any way. Depression makes you mentally fatigued and achy, so you’re probably not really sold on the idea of having to clean something up.
Believe me, I totally understand. Unfortunately, somebody is going to have to get this home tidied, and that somebody is going to be you (probably). Let’s center, get started cleaning, and see if these resources will help you get the house a bit closer to clean. Don’t you wish there was a knob you could program that would make this all happen on its own?
Prevention: your protector against depression mess (es)
One of the easiest ways to clean during depression-wise is to see it as mess prevention more than waiting until there is a huge pile of things to take care of. For instance, if I don’t throw out this water bottle, soon there will be a mountain of water bottles waiting on me. So when there are 3 bottles or more, that’s my cue to toss out what is accumulating. Is this a perfect method? Of course not, but being aware can be helpful to us and prevent some of the major messes.
Make a pathway out of depression mess (no, really, a pathway)
In order to know what you need to do, you have to know where to begin, right? Look over your mess and come up with some spots you can begin at easily. You may want to tackle the big messes first. If the thought of that is too exhausting, find ONE THING that is bothering you the most, whether it is the humongous pile of laundry, or that crumpled to-do list that you missed the garbage can with. It isn’t important where you start as much as it is important that you just GET STARTED on your depression cleaning.
So a depression cleanup activity for me can look something like “hey, I’m going to go ahead and clear the walkway to my room so I don’t trip over things leaving my bed to use the bathroom” or ” let me collect these plates and get them rinsed off in the sink so they don’t smell or attract vermin until I’m up to washing them.”
Doing activities in a quick format like this can give you a chance to do something without feeling like you’re overwhelming yourself. This brings us to our next point: do something.
Small changes can make cleaning while depressed easier
Stop waiting for inspiration to strike! Depression is bad for motivation. Instead, make a deal with yourself. Try something like this: Every time you get up from your Netflix binge to go to the bathroom, pick up three things. Maybe you could apply that to loading up the laundry as well.
If there are dishes stacked all over the counter, rinse them on one trip past, load them in the dishwasher on another, and on the final trip, pull them out and put them away. When we are used to being well, we tend to expect ourselves to function the same way when we are sick. You cannot have that expectation. It is perfectly acceptable to break things up into chunks, so don’t feel ashamed.
How does this work with ADHD?
People with ADHD can lean towards black-and-white thinking, so it is easy to fall into a cycle of not doing anything because you don’t feel well enough to do it all. That’s a normal sensation too. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We want to get back to our minimum clean so we can stay safe, sanitary, and find our stuff. We can’t maintain our minimum clean as well during a bout of depression and acknowledging that can help us concentrate on the areas we CAN take care of while we get well.
Clearing up how YOU clean can eliminate a ton of shame and frustration. This workbook has helped so many people discover the way to work through their common household challenges.
Grab your copy of Everything You Need To Completely Clean With ADHD!
Stop guilting yourself for being messy and depressed
It isn’t fair that you have to deal with your depression; you didn’t ask for it, it is something that happened to you. It is time to stop guilt-tripping yourself for something that you cannot control. During this time, you are going to need extra rest, more breaks, and all-around more gentleness. Be willing to overlook some of the mess; unless messiness makes your symptoms worse, now is not the time to strive for perfection. All you need right now is acceptable.
Cleanliness is important to maintain our health, and messy surroundings are often seen as a reflection of inner turmoil. Even though we know as neurodivergent people that some mess is par for the course, we still manage to get our guilt trip in – that’s part and parcel of cleaning during depression. Pack it up! You don’t deserve it.
As you are tidying up, remember not to bash yourself. This is not a moral problem, you are actually suffering through something. You are allowed to not be at your best. Take it one step at a time, and everything will be back in order before you know it.
7 Options to clean while depressed
The last thing you want when you’re already feeling terrible is to have to think up ways to fix it. Depression sucks the motivation from our brains. So let’s create a list of things you CAN do. That list will ensure your place stays in the order you need until you’re better.
- Clear the floor of hazards – the only thing worse than depression cleaning is your mess attacking you. Clear the walkways. Yes, pushing it to the side to create a clear path counts. Remember, we are focusing on safety, not aesthetics.
- Keep your mail in a basket – If you’re not opening your mail, it is easy to grab it from the mailbox and stuff it wherever until you have time/motivation to read. Also: people with ADHD LOVE piles. Baskets are a way to keep the piles pretty.
- Wash your set of dishes or buy disposable – When the dishes pile up for me, I get very anxious. Dishes are not a chore I like doing when I’m well, when I’m not it feels impossible. I use disposables to keep me straight. If you’re not down with disposables, a quick sponge bath to one set of dishes ( ex 1 cup, 1 plate, 1 bowl – you get the idea)
- Wipes are your friend – If you’ve read my general housekeeping stuff, you’ll know I keep wipes in every room. That’s so when I see a mess, I don’t have to go through the executive function challenge of finding wipes too. I keep a trash can in every room for the express purpose of disposing of wipes for the random messes I find.
- Cowork – I began my weekly Monday night meeting for the members of the Unicorn Squad because I wanted to have company while I folded my clothes and did my meal prep for the week. Having a community to commiserate with can be super helpful for you.
- Hire help – Yes I know this isn’t a viable option for everyone, but for those who it is, take advantage of it. You need the help, somebody else needs the money. Drop the guilt and make the exchange. Remember, you don’t have to tell anyone who is doing the work if you don’t want to.
- Tidy your area – Many of us who struggle with depression have a place we like to sit, or a place where we lie down that kind of becomes our depression den. When this happens, the mess can pile up in that place. Do a daily sweep of the den if you’re able.
Don’t stress; just do your best
This isn’t a competition or a contest. If you find ANYTHING useful in this particular article, feel free to use it for you. Use this information to empower you, not as another set of rules you use to condemn yourself. Growing up, my mother used to repeatedly remind my brother and I that no matter what we did, if we’d done our best that’s all she could ask of us. I’d strongly recommend that you do your best to take a similar approach. Give yourself the grace you need!
Are you looking for more info on the minimum clean? This is even more basic than that. Use this checklist to take one task per day (or per week) to keep your house down to the minimum you need for it to be passably clean. Plus you’ll get all the info you need on the BGLK cleaning course, and tips to stay tidy until it begins!
A Black Girl, Lost Keys Course?!
It has been a long time coming, but it is finally time to do the thing: my first ever cleaning course. In it, all your ADHD questions will be answered, and we’ll co-work our way into a cleaner house one week at a time.
Sign up for updates on the cleaning course, and many tips about how to keep things clean!
You’re doing just fine. I promise. It’ll all come together soon.
Until next time,
Resources to help with your depression cleaning:
Unfuck Your Habitat – a great online resource for cleaning!
BGLK articles to dive deeper: