I apologize in advance for this being super long. [This was going to be a post that’s why it looks like it does]
I just can’t keep this shit up right now. I just can’t. I want to clean so bad. I want everything to smell nice and be pretty, but I can’t! At this moment I live with my mom, sister, and niece until I save enough to buy my own place. I work at night and I barely wake up in the morning.
I can clean and scrub and unfuck the shit out of my place. Only to come home to a massive pile up. I set goals. Yesterday I cleaned my kitchen before work. I mean sparkling goodness. I wake up to see spills, food out, cabinets left open, dishes piled to the fucking ceiling. I JUST cleaned up the day before… WHAT THE FUCK!?!
I have tasks set for the dining room, laundry, and living room. ALL COMMON AREAS. But I don’t want to clean it if its just going to get messed up in a couple of hours.
I talked to my sister, who does not work or go to school, about cleaning up while no one is home or picking up after herself and her baby. “I’m watching my baby. I can’t leave her or she’ll cry. She always has to be near me or she’ll cry. She takes up so much of my time.” Every time I see my sister with her kid she is not even paying her attention. On her phone talking or texting or emailing or on the computer on Facebook. Not next to the baby and she is not crying.
I talk to my mom about cleaning up after herself. It’s always, “Oh I’m sorry. I’ll do it.” or “Oh I’m just about to do the dishes.” That doesn’t get done. I can understand my mom works 12 hour days (she’s a nurse), but if you decide to make yourself some damn tea and eggs before bed… CLEAN UP THE SPILLS AND THE POT YOU USED! At least put the damn pot in the sink man!
I tried to do those one to two minute conversations and in the end I’m the only one cleaning. They know I have depression (but I’ve been getting better). THEY KNOW HOW ANAL I AM. But they just don’t fucking care. I can’t even have my own room clean because I come home at 2am and I see hair all in my bathroom sink and floor (not mine), baby clothes, my bed is unmade, there baby items in my bed, things are misplaced, my hair items are thrown everywhere, my clothes are all gone.
I can’t even have my own personal space. I got up to clean just now. I started the laundry, sprayed down the kitchen counter while waiting for the water to load, came back to start putting clothes in and I just fucking cracked.
I mean I went full on sobbing tears. I’m still crying. I’m just so fucking upset. I can’t take it. I feel like a failure because I can’t maintain my apartment and its not even my fault. Then I feel like I’m making excuses. I don’t know what the fuck to do. I just want to be removed from all this shit.
Any advice from you or any of your followers?
(Copy/pasted because fanmail is impossible to answer easily.)
First, declare your room off-limits. Close the door. Get a lock if you have to. You should have one spot that’s your refuge in all this.
Second, give this a quick read: “How do I keep the place clean when no one will help me?”
Third, when you see your sister not busy, and there’s a mess she helped create that needs dealing with, ask her. Say, “Can you please come wash these dishes from your lunch? I’ll keep an eye on the baby while you do.”
Finally, accept that in a situation in which you live with other people, you lose a fair amount of control. Keep on top of what you have control over, and try to let go a little about the things you don’t.
I think lots of people do! We tend to get comfortable in our unhappiness, whether it’s with our jobs, our surroundings, or our lives in general. An improvement in any way shakes that up a little bit and forces us to confront the fact that we aren’t happy with things and that there is room for improvement. You just have to try to process that feeling, file it under, “Huh. That’s interesting,” and go on doing things that make you feel better.
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.
I had a teacher once who said that when she first started teaching, she never imagined that she would encounter students who “simply didn’t do their homework”. She had always been a straight-A, diligent worker bee, and there is nothing wrong with that.
What IS wrong, however, is when self-motivated people try to “help” those who are lacking in it by shaming them or offering to clean stuff for them.
Which is why Unfuck Your Habitat is so amazing to me.
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.
I’m sitting on the floor, sorting and unfucking my necklaces, when I have a terrible revelation:
Living with depression sucks.
That’s not exactly breaking news, of course. But it’s still a revelation for me, if only because it is the first time in a long while that I have such an opinion about my own living conditions.
so after discovering ufyh earlier today on reddit, i’ve been reading through the archives aaaalllll day, and i’ve just only now hit the entries for july. clearly, this will take a while, but one thing that is jumping out at me is the number of people who describe, in alarming detail, the exact same problems with cleaning i have. the childhood history of marathon cleanings accompanied by fighting, screaming and crying. the desperate panic when i realize company is coming in TWO HOURS and the apartment is a disaster. that sinking feeling when you resign yourself to the mess. i understand it ALL. and someone else understands it with me! lots of people! and ufyh is changing their lives.
i haven’t put ANY of it in to action yet, but i already feel BETTER. i feel less stressed and anxious and sick tummy depressed about my abilities as a wife and adult.
the concept of short bursts of cleaning focusing on just one spot at a time was introduced to me in therapy. but there’s something about the methods shared on ufyh that make it seem more do-able than my therapist ever did. and without the subtle judgment [probably imagined] coming from him.
sorry to keep posting about this today, but this is kind of major for me.
Not to get all kumbaya-ya on you, dude*, but you’re not alone here. It’s just that no one was talking about it with each other before. We can unfuck this.
*”Dude,” like everything UfYH-related, is gender-neutral.
so. i have been making my bed every damn day for about two weeks. every. day. this is nothing short of miraculous, and my dad doesn’t believe it. When I was a teenager, our primary fight was about me making the bed; it turned into a power struggle between us. to this day, even though we are on much better terms now that i’m a grown up,if he asks me if I made my bed, my knee-jerk response is SHUT UP IT’S MY BED I DON’T HAVE TO MAKE IT YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME. not terribly mature, but you know. (more after the cut)
(And I’m glad you’re making your bed, not because I want to be the boss of you, but because it’s now something that you’re doing on your terms instead of keeping it associated with all that stuff it used to be associated with.)
I’ve been cleaning for hours and all I can see is how cluttered, dirty, and disgusting the not-cleaned parts of my house are. We have so much shit crammed into our apartment (most of it not mine) and there is so much to clean. Plus it’s going to be fucked up as soon as my partners/roommate/kid get back.
I want to keep going and get more cleaning done but it’s fueling a painful anxiety spiral. Plus it’s hot as hell in here. Stopping just gives me more time to see the mess in the rest of the house. Not really sure what to do at this point.
Right now, you’re looking at the big picture. For a little while, you need to try to narrow your focus a little bit. Focus on just one surface, or one small area. Take before and after pictures, even if you don’t share them. Sometimes we can’t see the progress we’ve made when we’re in the middle of it.
If your anxiety is being triggered, stop. Come back to it when it’s passed. Give yourself a set limit on what you’re doing (“I’m doing three 20/10s and then I’m done for today”), and hold yourself to do it. You will not be able to clean everything all at once. You shouldn’t. And not doing so is not a failure, it’s progress. You can do this.
Oh how I wish internet hugs were tangible. I’m sending you hundreds — nay, thousands — and I wish you could feel them. I mean really feel them.
I know how you feel. I’m not just saying that, I mean it. You said that you hadn’t cleaned your room in 4 years. I hadn’t cleaned my entire house for 3. Maybe not quite as long, but certainly just as bad. I even posted pictures of my fuckery in my first ever post on tumblr.
Now while I’m certain that I do know how you feel — even if only a little bit — since I don’t live in your head, I don’t want to assume that I know everything. But I’ll tell you how I felt before I found UfYH.
Overwhelmed. I looked around at our fuckery and the scale of it quite literally would send me into panic attacks. So many times I would decide that this was the day I was going to start. This was the day I was going to clean something — anything — and start to make our lives a little better. But then I’d actually look at what I had to do and get so overwhelmed that I’d dissolve into a puddle of tears.
And you know, even when I found UfYH, it took me a good 2-3 weeks of reading and looking at other people’s before and after pictures before I felt ready to take that first step to unfucking my habitat.
I started with my bedroom, because one of the biggest problems in this house was (/is) the laundry that’s quite literally everywhere. There was some in the bedroom, some on the landing, some in the laundry room itself… there is/was laundry in every room in this house, literally. But before I could even think about washing some of that laundry, I needed to be able to put it away, and my bedroom was so bad that I couldn’t even get to my dresser and wardrobe in order to do that. It took me about a week just to get my side of the bedroom unfucked. Just mine; I didn’t even touch my husband’s.
But it was the start I needed.
But even more than actually getting started, I discovered something amazing: Team UfYH. Seriously, the people that consider themselves to be part of that team are some of the most encouraging, non-judgemental, wonderful cheerleaders on the intarwebz. Being able to post what I did and, instead of getting “ZOMG YOU SLOB Y U SO GROSS”, getting “You can do this. One step at a time, one day at a time, you can do this. And we’re right here with you.” Was. Amazing.
No, really. There were tears. The good kind.
These people didn’t even know me. They knew nothing about me apart from what I chose to share in my posts. But I really, truly felt like they were behind me all the way. They wanted me to succeed as much as I did. Even if it takes me a year to fully unfuck this house, I knew that these people would be behind me every step of the way. Viscerally, I knew. They are truly amazorz.
My habitat is still very much a work in progress. I’m not 100% a success story… yet. I will be. It may very well take me a long time to get there, but I have no doubt in my head that I will get there, and Team UfYH is truly part of the reason why.
You can too. Maybe you can’t start today. That’s okay. Those of us who have suffered severe depression and anxiety totally understand that. But when you’re ready, you can do it; even if you do it five minutes at a time.
Remember these words:
- Something is better than nothing.
- Today is better than never.
You can do it. Team UfYH has your back.
OK. You need to start slowly. Major changes too quickly are not going to be helpful or healthy for you here. I’m going to give you some steps, but do not try to do them all at once. It may be a day or a week or two weeks in between each one. That’s fine. It’s been four years. You can take a little time here.
The first thing I want you to do is make your bed. I know. But here’s why: it’ll give you a home base to go back to if you get overwhelmed. Start by stripping the bed and washing your sheets. Re-make the bed once it’s done.
Your next step, whenever you’re ready to take it, is to clear out any dishes that are in your room. Take them to the kitchen and put them in to soak in the sink.
Next, again, when you’re ready, grab a trash bag and throw away obvious, actual garbage. Food wrappers, price tags, dryer sheets, empty shopping bags, whatever is clearly and undeniably trash. You may need two or three or five bags. That’s fine. When you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten the obvious trash, take the bags out to wherever your trash goes.
Next, pick one surface. Your nightstand or dresser or desk. Just deal with that one surface. Find a place for every item on it (even if that place is the trash), clear it off, give it a good wipedown, and organize it.
To continue, you’re going to work your way methodically around the room, dealing with just a square foot or so at a time. Give yourself time to get used to the changes. See if you can pinpoint how you feel when you look at a cleaned area. Is it anxious? Relieved? Proud? If it’s anxious, give yourself more time. If it’s relieved or proud, you’re probably OK to keep going. Work around the room systematically, making sure to work slowly and take your breaks.
You’ll get there. I know you will because you want to. Check in here, get support, get ideas, whatever. But you can do this. You wrote to me because you want to do this, and so you can do this.
While this is certainly one solution, especially if you’re dealing with a large-scale project, I also think that there are solutions to be found to enable you to take charge of your habitat whole working within your limitations. I’ve tagged this post with “chronic fatigue,” “chronic pain,” and “chronic illness.” If you go to the home page and click a tag, you’ll see a number of posts dealing with this very issue.
Many members of Team UfYH are living with chronic conditions, mental illness, learning disabilities, physical limitations, and any number of factors that may make traditional “cleaning” difficult. They’ve shared their methods of working within those limitations and still making progress on their homes.
The key points, for the most part, are:
[UfYH note: some discussion of abuse]
Now, I admit that I cry about success stories on a near-daily basis (shut up, I’m emotional), but this came through on Facebook, and it was practically the first thing I saw when I got up this morning, and I’m still processing it, and still tearing up (mostly with happiness!) every time I re-read it. Anonymized at the writer’s request. It’s long, but so, so worth it.
Dear UFYH Lady,
Please feel free to share this on your site if you like, but please omit my real name. I would post the pictures I have, but we live in on the property my husband manages, and the employees would instantly recognize the apartment if they stumbled upon this site and I would die of heartache if I accidentally shamed him with my bullshit.
This is the tale of how I learned to stop avoiding shit and love vinegar. For reference, I have an anxiety disorder, PTSD and depression that I manage with therapy; as well as a chronic illness that causes constant pain and unpredictable times of very extreme pain that I manage with diet and stress management. Weirdly, the physical and psychological things aren’t what kept me from cleaning, at least not as majorly as the issue that I’m about to talk about. I see those limitations more as scenery in the background than major points of interest in my life.
I was alerted to the existence of your blog via friends about four months ago and started reading it out of curiosity. I never planned on taking any of it to heart because I had long ago resigned myself to being one of the Messy People. I mostly just enjoyed the stories people told, but something I always rolled my eyes at was “MAKE YOUR BED!” It just seemed so arbitrary. Even made me a little angry.
Angry? Why is making your bed making me angry? I didn’t know it at the time but here’s the deal—I, like many of your readers, grew up in a filthy house. I don’t mention this because I feel it makes me a special snowflake, but because it informs about my initial frame of mind and because I know many of your readers came from similar (or much worse) situations. Anyway, filthy house, yes. Fruit flies were just something that came with a home as far as I knew, right? What’s a hamper? What are bedsheets? I could go on but you can imagine.
Cleaning was done in marathons, of course, and only done right before the Grandparents would come to visit. This would usually be a three day screaming fest with lots of hitting by adults and crying by kids. So cleaning would mayyyybe happen twice a year and it was always nerve-wracking and terrifying.
So, this brings me back to ‘angry about makin’ beds.’ I was perplexed by these little pangs of anger. It took me a stupid long time to see that I was associating cleaning with those old, bad feelings. To me, if something was being cleaned it meant something was wrong and something bad was about to happen. Of course I was avoiding cleaning, it made me panicky and feel like shit!
Once all the dots were connected, I simply got up and made my bed.
I see so many people talking about how hard it is to clean when you’ve got chronic pain or chronic illness. It is!
However, so is living in filth!
I know, because I’ve done both. So I thought I’d share some tips on how I manage unfucking my abode when I’m having a rough pain day, like today (ow). This is just me speaking about me — it may or may not work for you, but if something sounds like it’s right, maybe give it a try. Or not. Whatever works.
TIP ONE: I get enough sleep the night before, if at all possible! I know that’s hard for some of us, me included, but me on sleep = me more able to deal with just about anything than me on no sleep.
TIP TWO: I have a morning list of things I would like to get done every morning. I’m gonna show it to you, but I know yours will be different. It’s the principle that counts, not the contents of the list.
My morning routine:
- Get up and make bed
- Get dressed to street-legal clothes (plus hair, face, teeth, morning meds)
- Read FlyLady emails and check Unfuck Your Habitat
- Put out Hot Spots for 2 minutes (using timer)
- 5-minute room rescue (again, timer)
- 15 minutes of decluttering (annnnnd, timer again)
- Laundry (make sure clean laundry is put away and dirty laundry is in hampers)
- Amsler grid (a diagnostic test I have to do for my eyes every day)
TIP THREE: I am gentle with myself. If I can’t work for 15 minutes (see #6 on the above list), then I do it ten or five or two minutes at a time. As long as it gets done, who cares how many tries it takes? It’ll still be better when I’m done than when I started.
TIP FOUR: I SIT. If I can do it sitting, I do, because sitting is the least painful position for me. (I do walk for exercise, a couple miles a day, but standing still is painful for me, and housework doesn’t present enough movement to count as not-standing.)
A few examples of things I can do while sitting:
- Chop veggies
- Wash dishes
- Sort things into give-away/put-away/throw-away bags
- Go through paper clutter
- Clean off almost any flat surface
- Fold laundry
There’s more, but these are the main ways I manage to get work done when my body hates me. Got any to add?
Excellent list! (And fascinating melding of FlyLady and UfYH systems!)