Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cleaning House


Is a messy home a caused by depression, or is depression caused by a messy home? I've heard passing references to a link between disorganization on the outside and fogginess on the inside, but I wasn't able to find any research on the subject. I know that I'm no stranger to having a bit of untidiness in my life, and there are plenty of other people I know who fall into both the categories of "depression victim" and "house cleaning challenged."

However, as my mother would say, "Dull women have immaculate homes."

There might be some wisdom to the axiom linking an orderly environment with an orderly mind, but until someone does a study I'm not making any pronouncements. However, I think it's fair to say that a messy home feeds really well into the cycle of I'm-not-good-enough that depression creates and builds upon. If you don't have the energy or focus to clean, it's pretty certain you'll put it off. As the mess builds, so does the guilt. The problem gets bigger as the guilt feeds the depression, which diminishes the energy levels and reinforces how impossible the task is. You know the drill, you've probably done it to yourself. Charming little cycle of self-recrimination and self-fulfilling prophecies. You expect that you can't clean the place up, and your mind works overtime to make sure that it doesn't make a liar of you. Didn't think you had that much mental energy, did you?

As with everything depression-related, small victories add up. Commit to not adding to the mess today. You will not create another dirty dish without washing it. One dish isn't so tough. And those socks? Just force yourself to put them in the hamper; you'll be glad you did. Keep up on not adding to the mess, and you'll see you can control your world after all. Then you'll be ready to take a step or two towards the bigger mess.

I would keep making small victories. Don't try to clean every dish in the kitchen, but do try to wash all the ones in the sink. Maybe picking up all the dirty laundry is a bit much right now, but how about just the stuff that you piled on your bed? Each time you succeed you're teaching yourself that you are capable and you are in charge.

24 comments:

error404 said...

I think it's 'admirable' how you are taking it upon yourself to assist those who 'suffer' from depression, but out of interest, from where did you gain your qualifications to do so? A Christmas cracker?

Some of your advice is extremely flawed.

Take this for example:

"Commit to not adding to the mess today. You will not create another dirty dish without washing it. One dish isn't so tough".

From my own experience, depression results in a lack of appetite and I eat fuck all,therefore, messing up, (or washing), dishes isn't really an issue - having the motivation or appetite to shove food into the mouth however, IS.

When I've been at my 'worst', I don't even get out of bed to give a shit about what state the house is in - and I don't care about people enough to invite them over, so why should house cleaning even matter?

Maybe you should clarify the 'level of depression' this blog entry pertains to.

Your advice is good-hearted and well-intended, but misinformed advice, can also be extremely dangerous.

For example...

If I were to use solely my own experiences with depression to assist other depressed people, the best advice I could give would be that they do themselves and the world a favour and stick a gun in their mouths.

Therefore - I don't give advice.

That being said, even those who are 'supposedly' qualified enough to counsel those with depression, can be fucking useless at it...

Depression - it's a lose/lose scenario.

Good luck with your blog. :-)

Terence said...

It's damned near impossible for someone with depression to plan all that far ahead. This post is aimed at people that are already out of bed and have decided to beat themselves up for not keeping a clean enough house.
Getting out of bed, and suicide prevention, are two other topics entirely.
Thank you for reinforcing the sense of hopelessness that depression creates in its victims. It's important to remember that this is a disease that will focuses on getting the victim to believe that there is no chance of recovery.

error404 said...

This post is aimed at people that are already out of bed and have decided to beat themselves up for not keeping a clean enough house.
Getting out of bed, and suicide prevention, are two other topics entirely.


Thanks for clarifying that, I didn't realise aspects of depression could be grouped and classified in accordance with blog entry titles.

It's important to remember that this is a disease that will focuses on getting the victim to believe that there is no chance of recovery.

Hence the reason I don't hold much stock in anything you've written to date on this blog.

In saying that however, I admire you for embarking on the path that you have taken and wish you well with your 'crusade'.

vera said...

I am saddened by how sarcastic the responses have been to Terence's comments.

I found them helpful, and it's good to know that there's someone out there with the same problem, the same guilt and shame and self-disgust.

I am lucky enough to function pretty well most of the time, though I do get dreadful depressions, usually around Xmas, when I just can't get out of bed at all.

For the rest of the year, I just get so exhausted by trying to keep my house tidy. It's a squalid tip, it really is.

I never, ever invite people over, and I'm sick with shame when the meter reader comes to call.

I've got a dripping tap in the kitchen, but I can't face having a plumber round.

Like Terence, I sometimes feel, I'll never get the place in order. It makes me feel as if I'm not in control of my life.

I agree with Terence about not adding to the mess.

Thanks so much for posting, Terence. It truly helps to know I'm not the only person with this problem.

All the best

hopeful46 said...

All points are valuable,I am do grateful to find a place where other people suffer too, with the same guilt and self loathing that I do. I have been a messy person since I was a teenager- I was the Oscar Madison's (T.V. 's odd couple)I also am a recovering Alcoholic who is dual doagnosed with depression PTSD and OCD- Too many freaken labels huh? Well anyway I try to maintain the house for a couple of days then it's back to square one. I am a pack rat on top of the older clutter. I think some of this derives from the addiction to chaos- the messy house is how I feel on the inside- People that see me everyday do not know my most shameful secret. I over hear people say they loathe slobs and cannnot sleep in a messy house. Joking around I say my house is so messy that you have to wipe your feet on the way out! lol And you wash the floor and 6 months later you have to do it again! Bottom line; I think it is important to keep a somewhat organized area in your life. --I don't have many- "Wishful thinking " I can build the Taj Ma Hal- but cannot maintain a routine. Boring perhaps.But I don't see any gravestone with "this woman had the cleanest house in town"! So I say take it one day at a time - Be grateful when you wash your dishes. I do.
And if you feel overwhelmed-Put aside the shame and ask for help. I am praying for all of you.

Jane said...

Hi to all. I am not here to argue or takes sides, just would like to post a statement or two if I may. I have a messy house at this time, due to others messes not my own. I can barely function in this disorder and chaos. I do believe for me personally a messy house DOES cause depression. I am angry and am considering leaving my family to live alone in a clean, uncluttered place so I can think straight. This is a tough situation. Any advice, or anyone else in the same posistion as I am? Thanks for letting me vent.

Jane said...

This is a little late, but THANK YOU for this post. The mess in my house has been opressive for ages, and I have built cleaning it all up into this monumental, impossible all-or-nothing monster that continually feeds into my depression and feelings of worthlessness. However, not creating any more dishes today is something I feel I can actually, realistically do. Thank you!

Curiosity said...

Yikes! Methinks 404 is a little bitter there...

Just wanted to say that I think that commenter was way out of line. Clearly you're just trying to offer whatever help you can. I've done the same thing with my blog at times, and though I don't have a PhD, I DO have a lot of personal experience with battling depression, and I think we'd all be a lot better off if we all shared our experiences and what has been helpful for us.

I am quite significantly depressed. I also beat myself up like crazy for not keeping the house as orderly as I would like. I'm not sure that your tactic would work for me (I think I have a ways to go still before I wouldn't feel like a failure if I didn't manage to get that one dish clean), but I appreciate you sharing it. Sorry that you got such a crappy reaction from the first commenter.

vrose said...

Thank you for this post. Today I really think I hit rock bottom. My landlady came for an inspection of the place and said that if I don't clean my apartment in 4 days she is going to evict me. I have been living exactly the way vera has for years now, and I guess it's finally catching up to me. It's like I just dont care, and It's not worth the effort to clean. I have also neglected the mess to the point where it seems completely overwhelming. It really feels good to know I'm not the only one... and I'll try washing this macaroni and cheese bowl after I finish eating...

lawrence said...

Hmm...error404, your name sounds like you feel like your the equivalence of a graduate degree when it comes to genetic mistakes. If that be true it makes sense that you would be so cynical in your answer as to cause others harm so that they might feel the way you do. Maybe then you would feel understood. If thats the case then next time you post reread it to make sure it is what you THINK is true, not FEEL is true. Otherwise I think what you said may have a bit of truth in it, yet a messy house is a "depression symptom" and people really do struggle with organization. It really does have a strong hold on some peoples lives. So please at least attempt to be helpful in a more positive way, otherwise SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Ericwipe287 said...

Put some music on and then try to wash them at once.

home cleaning services

dp said...

Terrence, ignore the critics. I like your attitude, that doing something is more effective than doing nothing, and that even small victories should be celebrated. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

This is my first experience on a blog and have read the posts listed. I am able to identify with everyone, including eror404, as I have been in the same dark pits of depression where I could not get out of bed and didn't care about anyone (including myself). I winced at the sarcasm about "qualifications" to assist those in similar straits. Only someone who is or has been "there" - wherever "there" may be - can describe the landscape and speak the language that is understood immediately by others in the same position.

I have worked with therapists (with many qualifications, training, and degrees) whose best advice to me was "just do it." As anyone on the blog knows, if it were that simple, this blog simply would be necessary.

So, I very much appreciate, Terrence, what you are doing here and thank all those who post.

I am in the middle of (as usual) cleaning, organising, and maintaining my home. Some days are more productive than others but it seems that, in the last year or so, it has become worse and I cannot muster focus enough to work on a job to completion. I break down "projects" into pieces that I think I can manage, but sometimes changing from pyjamas is the "project of the day."

I deal with ADD, PTSD, and depression (and have for as long as I can remember) and have recently added driving-in-bad-weather anxiety to the mix. I take some low doses of medications, try to get enough sleep, and make short lists of the most important jobs I HAVE to do.

I'm running on...sorry...but it's a relief to unburden my heart to those who speak my language. May God bless and help us all.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to add that there are, indeed, levels of depression and we can "visit" all of them.

Just as someone with diabetes experiences the disease somewhat differently from his neighbour. One person may be able to modify his diet and exercise routine; another must check his blood levels every three hours and take oral and injectable medications.

They both have diabetes; it's the severity that determines their lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

People, including myself hate it when others say "Just do it".
Yet unfortunately it's the only solution.

error404 where did you gain your qualifications, huh?
You seem to be elitist over how bad your depression is.
The advice especially applies to people with severe depression, assuming they actually want to do something about it.


I used to spend almost all day in bed. I'd only get up to go to stuff my face full of fattening comfort food, or go to the toilet (unless I had an empty bottle nearby).

Doctors were useless, I went from medication to medication with no results.
The only thing that ever helped me was CBT.
Accepting that my thoughts are flawed, and not trusting my own mind or feelings made a huge difference.

So, from my experience (my experience with severe depression and severe anxiety),
it did and does apply to me. I just actually wanted to do anything to get over my depression.

I can't say that I'm even close to overcoming depression yet. I took a recent hit due to lack of sunlight,
and am now 4 weeks behind with my university work due to doing nothing for a month.

However I'm getting myself back on track, and one of the biggest helps has been tidying the apartment.

Waking up in a messy room was a depressing start to the day. I'd have no idea where anything was, would always lose my wallet and keys among all the crap.
I'd be walking over computer cables, dirty clothes, papers.

With a tidy room however, though it's not a nice start to the day (when is waking up ever nice) but it's neutral at least.
Same goes for going into the kitchen to get food.

It took me 2 weeks to clean it to a point where it doesn't bother me again.
And i'm currently trying to clean it past that point (which is much much easier and may only take a few days).

So again, this article is relevant to those who want to make a difference to their depression, not a specific severity.

Anonymous said...

Boughts of depression can be triggered by numerous things and for me, a messy house is one of the biggest triggers. From what I understood, this article was geared to those who are aware that their depression is also brought on by a messy house, not all depression sufferers. It pisses me off when people get all butt-hurt because they don't fall within a subset and the advice therefore does not apply to them.

Anyway, just knowing that there are others who feel the way I do was helpful in itself. I don't see how the advice given could be damaging, so I don't see what qualifications or credentials have to do with it. Plus, it's advice. You don't HAVE to take it. You can always discuss it with your therapist before you try it. I, myself will definitely give it a shot. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I feel bad when I look at my disorganized desk or the pile of laundry that needs to be done. People flood into coffee shops to get out of their messy houses and to feel better, and so they can meet people without inviting them over to their messy houses. I met a guy at a coffee shop that said depression comes from the fact that other people push us down. Depresson is repressed anger, and a messy house doesn't help the situation.

Anonymous said...

Hi All !

Thank you Terrance ! :D Yes ! you speak our language. I support all that you said ..... every bit of it ...... you can call me Pheonix for now as even my comment would be posted under 'Anonymous' I'm guessing ... I reiterate that most of what you have said Terrence ... holds true !!! It works ! 'coz that's how I dealt with it .

Regards.

Anonymous said...

Hi All !

Thank you Terrance ! :D Yes ! you speak our language. I support all that you said ..... every bit of it ...... you can call me Pheonix for now as even my comment would be posted under 'Anonymous' I'm guessing ... I reiterate that most of what you have said Terrence ... holds true !!! It works ! 'coz that's how I dealt with it .

Regards.

Anonymous said...

I am always tired even after sleep I am to tired to be bothered to do anything is this depression ? x

Anonymous said...

I'm at the end of my rope. I feel like a failure as a wife and mother. The mess is overwhelming and seems like even when I do go crazy and clean the place I'm back to square 1 a couple days later. It becomes either "I just can't do it" or "why bother doing it?" but the shame and guilt are eating me alive. I see I'm far from alone here. I want to change do bad but I don't even know where the fuck to start!

I am so envious of those people who have beautifully clean homes. I feel even more worthless when I visit someone with want to change do bad but I don't even know where the fuck to start!

I am so envious of those people who have beautifully clean homes. I feel even more worthless when I visit someone with a clean house..I think'"I want my house like this! I can do it!" then I go home to the shithole I call home and the depression and feelings of overwhelmed panic ensue. It is a self defeating cycle of self loathing. I want to break the cycle . I need to set a good example and most of all my family deserves better!!!!!

Anonymous said...

. Hello ... Thanks for sharing ... your post really made me feel a little better knowing that i am not the only one in a situation similar to yours ..I am currently staying with my boyfriend who's a really great guy outside the fact that he's extremely extremely messy ... 90% of the clutter or mess in the house is usually caused by him 5% by its kids who've pickled up his messy habits lately ... The other 5% is left to me ... I have always been a pretty organized person .. I don't mind cleaning at all but trying to keep up with him leaves me feeling like a maid .... I have tried yelling ... silent cleaning ... showing by example ... politely asking & any other technique I can imagine or Google .... I am at my wits end and don't know what to do anymore and I'm so sad now because of it ... Any ideas ?

Anonymous said...

Hello to that stupid fukin comment im depressed and dont eat anything how can I make a mess. How about thinking of single mothers who have to make food for their child. Ya fukhead huh

Anonymous said...

Actually just because someone is depressed doesn't mean they stop eating a lot of people increase their eating heavily. Where did you get your degree? Smh, this article helped me if it doesn't help you read another one. Wow.