[someone] asked you:
i cant do anything… i literally feel immobilized by depression. all i do is pile up more messes i just want everything to go away
(Anonymized at my own discretion.)
See if any of this sounds familiar. And what you’re feeling is very common during depressive episodes. So many people have been there. If you can just get yourself up for one or two minutes and accomplish one thing, no matter how tiny, things will start to feel less hopeless. You can do this. I know it seems impossible right now, but you can.
I’d say more people feel overwhelmed and anxious than don’t. It’s one of the things that makes it so difficult to get started. Try checking out the tags below and see if something there resonates with you.
http://www.unfuckyourhabitat.com/2013/04/13/cleaning-triggers-my-anxiety/ (This is from unfuckyourhabitat.com, but relevant)
Also check the sidebar of the homepage for other useful links that might help you get started and help deal with your anxiety.
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.
It really means a lot to me to hear this. I know that there are always ways I could be doing things better, and that aspects of the UfYH system don’t always work for everyone for a variety of reasons, but I do try to do as much as I can to make things accessible for as wide of a variety of people as possible.
There are so many people who are left behind by other systems because of physical or mental illnesses or limitations, and I think, as a result, a huge number of us have been conditioned to think that we can’t have nice, clean homes, and that’s just not the case. It’s just that we have to make our thinking a little more flexible to allow for the very real circumstances of people’s lives, and how that affects our ability to interact with our environments.
As always, if there are ways I can be better at this, please drop me a line. I do my best to avoid common triggers and to keep in mind a wide variety of circumstances that may affect people, but there’s always room to be better.
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.
Breaks and limits. Manic episodes often manifest as cleaning marathons for many people (including me), and while it might seem great to get everything clean and done in one shot, there are a few problems with this. First, it’s unsustainable. If you’re only cleaning when you’re feeling manic, then nothing gets done in the time in between, and the mess just grows. Second, your mind begins to associate cleaning with being sick. It’s something you do when you’re in that part of the cycle. So you need to break that association.
I find that limiting how long I clean and strictly enforcing my breaks is helpful during a manic episode. Three 20/10s (20 minutes of cleaning, then a ten-minute break), with the ten-minute breaks being non-negotiable, seem to keep marathons from happening. Not to mention, if you’re doing one or two 20/10s on non-manic days, the mess won’t have the chance to get to the point where you have to marathon clean, AND your mind begins the process of not associating cleaning with being manic.
The best place to start is with a 20/10 or two on days when you’re not feeling manic. This will help keep the piles of mess under control and shift your subconscious into realizing that you can clean when you’re healthy, too.
(Note: I’m not a doctor or an expert on anything, least of all mental health issues. Your health is the most important thing, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself using whatever resources you have, especially your doctor.)
20 minutes cleaning the bathroom. Start by filling the tub and sink with hot water and cleaner. Pour some cleaner in the toilet. Wipe down all surfaces, get the gunk off of the bottles in the shower, empty the trash, sweep or Swiffer the floor, wipe down the walls, then drain and wipe the sink and tub, and scrub the toilet.
Any time left over? Go through your medicine cabinet or drawers and do some unfucking.
10 minute break when you’re done.
20 minutes? Ahahahahahah. This is more than my shrink thinks I should do in a week. It’s more than I’m CAPABLE of doing in a week.
Man I fucking hate this illness.
If you can only do five minutes, do five. If you can only do two, do two. If all you can do is make one halfhearted swipe of the counter, that’s fine. This isn’t about pushing past your limits. It’s doing what you can, when you can. And if you can’t, it’s about realizing that’s OK, too. Everyone has different levels of what they’re able to do, for different reasons.
The challenges aren’t mandatory. They’re not meant to make anyone feel bad, or incapable. They’re suggestions. If you can only manage to do one small thing, that’s awesome, and it’s worth celebrating. But your health comes first. Ideally, in time, it would be great to find a routine that integrates with your illness, that works within your limitations, and that doesn’t leave you feeling worse. Until that point, do what you can. And if you can’t, realize that taking care of yourself is the number one priority.
If you want, check out the mental blocks, chronic illness, and chronic pain tags. There are a lot of people figuring out systems that work for them, and maybe something will resonate with you. I hope you find something that helps, even if it’s just a little support from a new source.
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 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.