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Overcoming Cleaning Challenges: Managing Depression and Keeping Your Home Tidy

Overcoming Cleaning Challenges: Managing Depression and Keeping Your Home Tidy

Living with depression can make even the simplest tasks feel overwhelming. As someone who has grappled with depression since childhood, I understand the struggle of experiencing that heavy cloud rolling in and putting off basic responsibilities. In fact, during my initial visit to a therapist, I found myself concealing the truth about my difficulty completing certain tasks due to embarrassment. However, it's important to acknowledge that if you're having trouble staying on top of cleaning or other chores, it may be a result of depression. While it's perfectly acceptable to lower your expectations during such times, there are strategies that can help make your to-do list feel more manageable. In this article, we'll explore the relationship between depression and cleaning and offer ten tips to assist you in maintaining a clean home when you're dealing with depression.

Understanding Depression: To gain a better understanding of depression, I consulted with Anne Willis, a clinical psychologist. According to Willis, clinical depression involves a significant shift from your usual mood, characterized by low energy, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and changes in sleep and eating habits. It's worth noting that depression isn't solely defined by sadness but can also manifest as irritability. Willis explains that depression is linked to neurotransmitters responsible for regulating our moods, such as serotonin and dopamine. Insufficient production or improper functioning of these neurotransmitters can disrupt the necessary communication within the brain.

Why Depression Makes Cleaning Challenging: There's a strong correlation between depression and cleaning, and it's not purely subjective. Low motivation and anhedonia (lack of pleasure in activities) are prominent symptoms of depression, resulting in difficulty completing tasks. Additionally, the state of your environment may reflect your internal feelings of brokenness or self-worth. However, cleaning can be beneficial for depression as it provides an opportunity to clear both your physical space and your mind. Engaging in small chores, such as making your bed or tidying up, can offer a sense of reward and care for oneself.

10 Tips for Cleaning When Coping with Depression:

  1. Declutter: Simplify your cleaning routine by reducing the number of items in your home. Declutter during periods of wellness, making it easier to clean during depressive episodes.

  2. Create drop zones: Assign specific areas, like baskets or bins, to store frequently used items. These drop zones keep clutter contained and contribute to a tidier appearance.

  3. Put things away immediately: Develop the habit of returning items to their designated places without delay. Whether it's dishes in the dishwasher or personal belongings, this practice prevents piles from accumulating.

  4. Break tasks down: Instead of attempting to tackle large cleaning projects all at once, divide them into smaller, more manageable steps. For instance, clean the bathroom sink today and leave the bathtub for tomorrow.

  5. Simplify the process: Make cleaning easier by using convenient tools like disinfecting wipes placed strategically throughout your home. This enables quick surface cleaning when you lack the energy for a thorough deep clean.

  6. Establish a schedule: Combat decision fatigue by setting regular cleaning times. By incorporating a reward or enjoyable activity afterward, you eliminate the need to think about when to clean and provide yourself with motivation.

  7. Capitalize on high-energy periods: Energy levels fluctuate throughout the day, even during episodes of depression. Utilize moments of increased energy, such as early mornings or after social interactions, to tackle cleaning tasks.

  8. Set the mood: Transform cleaning into an enjoyable event by curating a positive atmosphere. Open windows for fresh air, play uplifting music or podcasts, light candles or incense, and diffuse essential oils to create a pleasant environment.

  9. Involve others: Combat feelings of loneliness by asking your partner, roommate, or children to clean alongside you. This practice, known as "body doubling," helps create a sense of accountability and makes cleaning more enjoyable.
  1. Acknowledge your accomplishments: Instead of dwelling on what you haven't accomplished, focus on what you have done. Practicing self-compassion is crucial in combating critical self-talk. For instance, if you planned to wash the floors and do the dishes but only managed to do the dishes, remind yourself that it's okay. Recognize that you're going through a difficult time, and it's perfectly fine to prioritize self-care. The remaining tasks can be addressed later.

Final Thoughts: It's important to remember that the shame and self-judgment surrounding the inability to complete tasks can often be more detrimental than the symptoms of depression themselves. Whether you manage to clean or not, releasing that shame can help alleviate some of the pain you're experiencing. During periods of depression or other mental health issues, it's alright if your home isn't as spotless as usual. Lowering your standards and prioritizing self-care is not something to be ashamed of. By practicing self-compassion, you can navigate through these challenging times with greater understanding and acceptance.

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