I do try to keep that in mind, and mental illness and mental health (especially depression and anxiety) are something we talk about an awful lot around here. This is from the “About” page and the “UfYH Fundamentals” page (I just went and added it to the welcome packet, just to cover as many bases as possible):
If you are someone dealing with physical limitations, chronic illness, chronic pain, mental illness, or any other situation that makes getting your living environment under control difficult, please know that you are not lazy, and that we know that “getting off your ass” may not be easy or even possible sometimes.
We encourage anyone who has limitations to modify challenges, suggest alternatives, and, above all, put their health first. If you can only do five or three minutes of unfucking, that’s worth celebrating. If you accomplish something that’s been modified so you can do it seated or in shorter stages, we want to hear about it.
Most importantly: do what you can. Some days, this might not be as much as you’d hoped. That’s OK. Even tiny progress is still progress, and small but consistent change is more important than overnight miracles. You can do this. And if you get overwhelmed or discouraged, we’ll do our best to help.
I really do try to do my best to avoid being ableist, and I recognize that there’s always room to do better. “Excuses are boring” has been UfYH’s motto since the beginning, and I hope that people take it as the motivation it’s meant to be, and not as an insult or an erasure of those who are dealing with other issues. I have recently changed the site’s tagline (formerly: “Terrifying motivation for lazy people with messy homes”) since the blog has changed directions somewhat from where it started.
Again, I try to recognize that there’s always room to be better, and I do appreciate when people point out problematic elements or language.
Many members of Team UfYH are living with chronic conditions, mental illness, sensory issues, physical limitations, and any number of factors that may make traditional “cleaning” difficult. There are many shared methods and tips for working within those limitations and still making progress on messy homes.
The key points, for the most part, are:
•Do what you can. If you can only manage five minutes or two minutes, that’s great! Progress is progress.
•Listen to your body. If it’s telling you it’s time to stop, then stop. Your health is your first priority.
•Adapt. There are many tasks that can be done in a non-traditional way, such as sitting down, to make it easier on your body.
•Focus on what’s done, not what’s not done. Progress doesn’t mean immediate results. It means slowly changing habits in a way that’s sustainable for you and your situation.
•Work in shorter increments. If you can do five minutes, great. Five minutes is awesome. If you can do one minute, that’s awesome too.
•On days when things are especially bad, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get “enough” accomplished. Just do any little thing that makes you feel better.
When I first started Unfuck Your Habitat, it was a housekeeping blog very squarely aimed at lazy people. Mostly because I am one. As the blog gained momentum, though, I started hearing from people who were using the fundamentals to help them battle through something more serious than laziness: mental illness. More specifically, depression.
Now, I’m no stranger to depression. I don’t make it a secret that I have issues with depression and anxiety, just like I don’t make it a secret that I have poor eyesight and a bum knee. Depression, however, has its own set of related life issues that my poor arthritic knee has never caused. And one of those is the self-perpetuating cycle of depression and a messy home.
When you’re in the midst of a depressive episode, cleaning your house comes in on the List of Things You Want to Do somewhere after taunting a hive of bees and tap dancing on live television. Things are awful. It’s a struggle to walk to the bathroom. Making dinner seems more impossible than advanced calculus. Anything that’s not your couch or your bed might as well be hot lava. And so the mess builds around you. I purposely use the passive voice there because when you’re depressed, it seems nearly impossible that you’re contributing to the chaos of your house, because that would require energy, and you sure as hell don’t have any of that to spare.
Then you look around your messy house. And you feel worse. You feel more depressed, because now you’re exhausted and hopeless and can’t pull yourself out of bed, and on top of that, your house is a shithole. Which makes you feel useless on top of everything you were already feeling, and then probably overwhelmed on top of that, and quite frankly, having that many feelings at once during a depressive episode is like being crushed by a ton of bricks. So your depression gets worse, and your mess gets worse, and the two keep feeding on each other and it seems like there’s no end in sight.
(Ask anonymized at asker’s request)
I desperately need to unfuck my room, it hasn’t been really cleaned in about five years and thanks to a combination of OCD and severe ADHD it has gotten to insane levels of completely fucked. I know I need to do something about it but every time I even think about trying to, I get depressed because in this entire past few years I’ve had zero motivation to do it. How does one even consider unfucking when they have mental illness and disability to work against?
Long story short: if you can only do five minutes, do five minutes. If you can only do one minute, do one minute. Anything you accomplish is a success, and you don’t have to do everything at once. In fact, you shouldn’t. you can do this. It’s going to take time and will be frustrating, but it’s not impossible.
I’m 40, dealing with chronic pain and depression, and I am determined to unfuck my apartment. I don’t have any pictures of today’s unfucking because I don’t have a camera that doesn’t require more effort than I have to give, but I? Am fabulous, because I unfucked at least a third of my kitchen. Every. single. dish. I. fucking. own. is. clean. All at once. My sink is clean. My stove-top is clean.
Are you ready for this? Are you fucking ready for this? I EVEN —
I totally cleaned out the crockpot that has been sitting en-beaned and rotting quietly in the corner of my kitchen for a YEAR. A full pot of bean soup, just sitting there fermenting or whatever the fuck beans do when you leave them to their own devices for much too long, and I cleaned that motherfucker out.
(Of course the floor is still fucked and the inside of the fridge is like a Hostel movie and the end of the counter contains bills and shit that make me hyperventilate just looking at them so I can’t clean down there till someone MAKES THAT GO AWAY but I’m making progress, right?)
I feel like I just punched my depression right in the side — not very hard, and not a disabling blow, but that fucker knows I’m pissed at him and I’m winding up for another one right in the face.
And I’m doing this on NO medication — I’m still working on affording the trip to the doctor to get back on the “makes my brain stop being such a dick” pills and pain meds I used to take, since paying for insurance is sucking us dry — and while in pain. I’m DOING IT.
Tomorrow I sweep and mop the floor so I can put down the pretty rugs I made that have languished on my office floor because I had no energy to sew the backing on and then of course the kitchen floor is FUCKING FILTHY so why bother anyway…but tomorrow they will be back in the kitchen where they belong, on a clean floor.
After that I will contemplate doing something about the fridge and the explosion of panic triggers (bills and mail) on the counter. I also have two friends coming over soon to help. I’m going to get this shit done.
The past month has been a rollercoaster. I lost my job and my home and found myself broke, depressed, and horribly ill for several weeks. I’m mooching off people I barely knew before all this started and I feel horribly guilty about taking advantage of their hospitality, no matter how welcome they make me feel. I was damn near suicidal for a bit there, but I’ve been working my way through things bit by bit.
I’ve been following UFYH on Tumblr and using it as motivation to keep up with the little things and to celebrate the minor successes, and it’s really been building me up. I’m trying to post every day just to document the fact that I AM doing things to improve my situation, no matter how small it may seem. I could journal about it, but the Tumblr feels more like I’m proclaiming how awesome it is that I did a thing and putting it out there for others to see. Even if it’s just a stranger or two clicking “like” on a post that they may or may not have read, it’s nice to have that little pat on the back to say “you did good.”
I’ve been brushing my teeth morning and night for 23 days straight now. I’ve been making my bed and putting the day’s clothes either away or in the hamper to avoid the creation of a floordrobe for 11 days in a row, as well as posting about my successes on Tumblr. I’ve been eating real meals a couple times a day most days this week. I’ve been showering regularly and washing my clothes so everything I wear is clean. I paid the fines on a late parking ticket today and activated the debit card that’s been waiting for my attention for almost a month. I drove to Costco and picked up some fruits and real food and some small treats to reward myself for a job well done. I stopped by the bank and deposited money from unemployment. I spent time with friendly people instead of hibernating in my room (and you have no idea how major an accomplishment that is!) I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. I prepped fruits and froze them for a healthy frozen snack. I unpacked some stuff from boxes and found places for it and put other stuff that I don’t need for the moment back into the boxes and put that in storage. I also sorted out some stuff that can go to charity.
All of these things might seem like minor accomplishments to some people. Some people wouldn’t consider most of these things noteworthy in the least, and certainly not deserving of special recognition. In my case, however, these are incredibly momentous steps, especially for me to take almost independently and without need for outside intervention.
I won’t say that life is perfect right now; I still don’t have a job, I’m still mooching off of the kindness of others because I can’t afford a home, my main support network is still nine hours away, and I’m still depressed. The important thing is that I’m doing stuff and I’m working through my issues. Even if no one else ever says a word about these amazing things I’m doing, the fact that I’ve got a colorful flower garden blooming on Chains.cc and that every single day I have something to post here (even if sometimes there’s not much more to report than that I made my bed) means that I’m getting out of bed each and every day and doing at least one little thing to make my world a better place. I think that, in and of itself, is something very much worth celebrating.
I don’t think I’ve ever posted on my Tumblr so even though I’ve been here awhile, I’m still a newbie. I’ve lived in my house for four and a half years now and for the first year or so, things were fine. But my chronic multiple health issues slowly eroded my ability and will to take care of much of anything but myself. Things had finally started to get better two years ago but then my mom died suddenly and not only did I have the emotional issues to deal with, but I’m my mom’s only child, so all of the responsibilities of clearing out her apartment fell to me. My living room was full of stuff from her house for a whole year. Just this August, I got my basement all cleared out so I could bring the rest of her stuff here from my in-laws’ house. I plan to have one last, huge yard sale, then donate the rest next spring.
Anyway, I’ve slowly been picking up speed cleaning my house up. I have SAD, not to mention Crohn’s, chronic sinus headaches, etc. I got a therapy lamp two years ago and it helps so much with my energy levels from fall to spring. In addition to that, I found that just one cup of green tea per day gives me enough of a caffeine boost to get me through a whole day of cleaning. Now that I’ve taken the pressure off myself to get my house clean like right now, I’m making slow but steady progress. I’m currently trying to get pregnant, so I want to get the house in as easy to manage condition as possible before I’m exhausted from pregnancy and later, an infant.
One thing I have to mention is that I actually use an excuse to make my bed, not to avoid it. One of my cats is elderly and sick and she barfs a lot. She used to get off the bed, but now she just stays there and barfs on the bed. One week, I think I changed the sheets every day. So I make the bed with a big, thick blanket so if she barfs, it will be on the blanket and even if it soaks through to the sheets, it probably won’t make it to the mattress pad, which is a pain to wash and takes forever to dry. This same cat also has had a spraying problem ever since we moved into the house and nothing has made it stop. Any advice anyone can offer to help me get the smell out of the walls would be appreciated. We use Nature’s Miracle or other types of enzymatic cat pee cleaners but none of them completely eliminate the smell. There’s one section of the wall in the stairway that’s even getting kind of soft from her repeatedly peeing on it and I think the only solution is to replace a small section of drywall there. We have taken most of the carpeting out of the house and we want to get bamboo floating floors but I’m afraid they will just get ruined.
I love UfYH and have found it so inspirational and helpful.
Welcome aboard! Team Cat Pee, your assistance is required. I know your first step should be to make sure the cat doesn’t have any medical issues that are making her spray.
I started this blog because it’s finally gotten too embarrassing for my regular blog, and being able to post about it is a decent chunk of my motivation. I’ve been dealing with some issues over there anyway, and didn’t want to dump this on it, too.
There will probably be some profanity. There will be pictures, eventually, and maybe some videos. There’s going to be a lot of talks about depression - I haven’t seen a doctor about it, because antidepressants terrify me, but I think I have bipolar disorder or PMDD or both. Just an FYI, if anyone feels like following the progress. I’m going to try to post a little something every night in the 10 part of the 20/10. I probably won’t always tag it with #ufyh because I don’t want to inundate the bosslady with a thousand short progress posts.
This one, though, there’s no progress. This is the starting line. I’m a big-picture, always-looking-forward kind of person. I usually look at a mess and think “this will be so nice when it’s clean” rather than “this is a mess and I need to clean it.” I’m good at ignoring the present, or the amount of work it will take to achieve a long-term goal (getting in shape, writing any of the barely-started books, etc).
I can’t do that anymore here. It is seriously fucking with my head. This is Day 0, evaluating the mess and how it’s affecting both myself and my boyfriend.
It’s finally reached the breaking point. The place is such a mess I’m in a near-permanent depression.
There’s barely enough floorspace in the bedroom to walk to our respective sides of the bed. It hasn’t been vacuumed since we moved here in April. The “dresser top” stuff - makeup, jewelry box, etc - are still in a box sitting on the dresser. The box of pictures and misc stuff to hang on the walls has sat in the corner since the move. Under the bed, there’s a tangle of space bags and garbage bags, and I have no idea what’s in any of them. The closet is the only thing that’s any semblance of clean, as it was the last thing I worked on before this major slump hit. And even then, it’s not done, because the shoe organizer is at my parents’ house getting resized in my dad’s workshop. The bookshelf is pretty neat too, but a lot of random objects have piled up on the shelves.
The kitchen… a lot of it is haphazard and however it fell during unpacking. We’re not really using our cabinet space well, and we let dishes go for days on end. For about a week, I had the “don’t let dirty dishes touch the bottom of the sink” thing going, but that’s long stopped being the status quo. Because of the stupid sorting procedures for recycling, we take stuff down to the plant ourselves, but this usually only occurs when we completely fill the bins and it starts to take over the counters with the dirty dishes. A big goal here is to rearrange the pantry and cabinets so that we’re maximizing storage space, as there isn’t a lot. (the ‘pantry’ is a tall, narrow Ikea cabinet I’ve had forever. It used to house my art supplies, now it holds everything too tall to fit in the built-in cabinets)
The bathroom is ok, for the most part. The linen closet could be reevaluated and maximized for storage, but it’s otherwise in decent shape.
The living room. Hoo boy. Ok, so, there is a leak in our ceiling that supposedly, the landlord is having repaired. People came to evaluate it about a month ago, but I haven’t heard from them since. And since the rainstorm two nights ago brought TWO QUARTS of water into the place (aren’t buckets with volume markers fun?), it’s safe to say they haven’t been working on it while we’re out of the house. That leak is responsible for at least some of the fuckery. Everything from that corner has been moved away, and since it’s near a closet (that also just started leaking, oh joy), we emptied the shelf. I’m tempted to move more of the stuff out of there, except there’s nowhere for it to go. There are 6-8 boxes we still haven’t unpacked from the initial move, and 6-8 more, plus two ginormous duffle bags, full of my boyfriend’s stuff that we moved out of his house a couple weeks ago. Between all of that, and the fact that I have a few boxes of stuff for my Etsy shop sitting around waiting to get cleaned and photographed…there’s about 6 square feet of floorspace in an 12x18 room.
It’s fucking depressing. I come home every night and slowly sink, and I wake up in the morning not wanting to get out of bed or do anything, because it’s just overwhelming.
My job can be stressful, and I don’t like it in general, but when my mood is better THERE than at home, where I can wear comfy clothes and do what I want… something’s wrong.
Boyfriend’s been snappy and grouchy lately, having a lot of issues with his acid reflux. At first, we thought it was from stresses at his job plus the start of another semester, but now I’m starting to suspect it’s the state of this place as well. He crashes early, asleep and dead to the world before midnight when we usually go to bed between 12-1.
This whole thing is just a mess and finally reaching the point where I can’t find the motivation to do even a 20/10, and frankly, that’s really scary.
I want this place to be better so bad, so that we’re only inconvenienced by the leak, not everything else on top of it. It’s embarrassing, and it’s probably the worst it’s ever been. I want it to stop.
Right now, I’ve got to get in a shower and head off to work, but tonight when I’m home, I’ll try to make myself do a 20/10 somewhere. At the very least, I’ll take some pictures.
It’s almost funny - I used to skim over the posts of pep talks for Way Fucked ducklings, and now I need one myself.
OK, people. We have a newbie in need of cheerleading. I know they can do it, you know they can do it, but let’s get them started right. I can’t wait to hear what the first 20/10 was.
Somewhere around realising how miserable my job makes me, and my car breaking down, making it impossible to get to said job and make the small amount of money I do.
Once again, there are mouldy dishes in the sink, trash where it shouldn’t be, and to top it all off, I’m pretty sure mice have invaded the kitchen. Not to mention, the forms that will allow me to keep my free health insurance are due in two days, and I doubt I’ll be able to track down all the needed information in time.
And once again, I have a very serious deadline. My grandmother is coming home from vacation on the 20th, and she would absolutely kill me if she saw the house in this state.
Yet despite the fact that the kitchen is beginning to smell, I can’t seem to find the motivation to make a dent in it. I especially need to take care of the mouse problem before she gets here, because her massive fear of mice will be sent into overdrive if she knows they’re getting into the food, and I’m sure she’ll put out poison, even though I have no-kill traps.
Start with the insurance forms. Start now. Work on them for 30 minutes. Break for 15, and continue until they’re done, but I really want you to have them done today.
After that’s done, let’s try intermittent 10-minute intervals. First one on the trash, then break. Next one on the dishes, then break. I’d like to see at least four 10-minute sessions a day. Split them up however you need to.
Check in here with your progress. You can do this. You can.
Every time I post a challenge (or even a mini-challenge, or “Make your bed!”), a startling number of people are quick to reply or reblog with their “reasons” why they can’t do that particular thing. You’re not trying to convince me, or your fellow unfuckers. You’re rationalizing to yourself why you won’t take a step in a different direction. And honestly, for things like making your bed, in the time it takes you to type out your excuses, you could have already made your bed.
I’m sure some of you are just trying to be funny, and some of the more creative ones do make me giggle, but think of how much support Team UfYH gives to one another, and how maybe negative voices aren’t that helpful for someone who might be struggling to get started.
I’ve said a million times (well, a lot of times) that if a particular challenge doesn’t apply to you, or you’re at work or in a different time zone, either save the challenge for later or do something else. Your pantry is already unfucked? Do a couple of 20/10s on your bedroom. The challenges are suggestions, and (I hope) helpful for people who need a push in order to get started. But a chorus of negativity is counterproductive.
So many people in different situations are using UfYH as a tool to help create order out of chaos. And if you’re having trouble getting started, you don’t really need much encouragement to do nothing. You need encouragement to do something. Anything. So maybe we try being supportive of our fellow unfuckers, and if a challenge doesn’t apply to you, maybe reply with what you did instead of the challenge?
Words have power, people, and excuses are lazy words.
Managed to be relatively productive a couple of days ago and got a bunch of laundry done that I then left to dry on the racks over night.
And it sat on those racks, taking up room in the kitchen-dining-living-room room that comprises pretty much my entire tiny flat for the last two days. If and when I decided to get dressed I’d just pinch clean underwear straight off the rack.
But today I decided that instead of leaving them there for a week - moving all the clothes from the rack to the bedroom floor-pile via wearing and discarding them, until only random odd socks and holey old “nothing else is clean” pants were left - I would put them away now.
And I mean properly away. Usually any drive to de-clothes the racks in order to make space in the kitchen-dining-living-room room would end at the point the clothes were piled up on the dining table. At a push the piles would maaaaybe make it onto the end of the bed, only to be cast down into the floordrobe that night when I wanted to sleep.
But no, this time I actually put everything away. Properly away away. And not just the easy stuff that goes in drawers, all the awkward wardrobe stuff that means I have to find a coat-hanger to put it on first too.
EVERYTHING IS AWAY. The bedsheets are away. The clothes are away. The racks are away. And more than that, I even went so far as to put another load of laundry on.
And this is all because of Unfuck Your Habitat.
And thank you.
If I could unfuck this kitchen, you can unfuck anything! Slow and steady wins the race — incremental rounds of cleaning, with a rest in between sessions, is the way to go. UFYH is bang up spot on, IMO. That said, voilà:
KITCHEN #1 - BEFORE:
KITCHEN #2 - BEFORE:
KITCHEN #3 - BEFORE:
Yeah, I know. I know. It’s bad. So let’s see what I did (so I can redeem myself!)
KITCHEN #4 - AFTER:
KITCHEN #5 - AFTER:
KITCHEN #6 - AFTER:
KITCHEN #7 - AFTER:
KITCHEN #8 - AFTER:
KITCHEN #9 - AFTER:
I also cleaned out the landing to my basement’s staircase.
BASEMENT #1 - BEFORE:
BASEMENT #2 - AFTER:
Creepy stairwell? Totally. I avoid our basement; it’s super eerie! And, no, no, that box of wooden stakes in the before picture is certainly not for vampires … OR IS IT?!?! (I did say my basement is trippin’)
You know, I’m blessed. I have a bunch of awesome things. I have a gorgeous husband who lets me rub his bald head; two kids who inexplicably wear ski caps in the blistering throes of summer; an old house in a funky neighborhood; two matching pug dogs; a college education; a solid résumé in a specialized and competitive field; and a quirky twelve-year-old car with only 66,000 miles on it, that has a large box of shoes in the back seat (for charity), and a feather duvet in the trunk that I’ve been meaning to take to the cleaners for over two years.
The reason my house falls apart at times is because, as well as all the nifty things I listed above, I happen to have a mood disorder, which, of course, isn’t fabulous. This means sometimes my brain can’t regulate my moods correctly — occasionally my mood is too elevated; occasionally it’s rock-bottom low. Want to know more? Then, to the Googlemobile, thee! I only broach this subject because I think it’s essential to advocate for the acceptance and understanding of mental illness and of persons living with a mental illness, even when I feel completely exposed and self-conscious by talking about it, or when I don’t feel like acknowledging it myself (and right now I admit I don’t at all feel like sharing about it, but I’m doing it anyway). Also, I had to explain the huge disparity between my before and after pictures. But enough about my occasional limitations! What you just saw? Is what I can do most of the time :)