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6 Tips for Cleaning When You're Depressed

Motivation is scarce when you have a mental illness. Getting simple tasks done is next to impossible. This, of course, only feeds the downward spiral. Getting the house picked up, even just a little will boost your mood and give you a sense of accomplishment. Here are a few things you can do to help you get started.

1) Take breaks

This is the hardest step in the process, because you will inevitably find yourself berating yourself for being lazy or weak. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Even if you want/need a break after working for only five or ten minutes, that’s five or ten minutes you spent working. That’s better than zero and certainly something to be proud of. Remember, you are battling demons who don’t want you to succeed at anything, so even the smallest accomplishments are major victories. And that obstacle makes doing small things feel like climbing mountains. That doesn’t make you lazy or weak; quite the opposite! It makes you strong for even trying. And burning yourself out is the surest way to make sure nothing gets done. So take as many breaks as you need, for as long as it takes you to build your energy and motivation back up.

2) Break things down

Turning your mountains into molehills helps to make you feel more in control of the situation. Don’t look at all the things that need done – you will feel exhausted and defeated before you even begin. Sit down and make a list of everything that needs done so it’s all in one place. Now you have it on a small piece of paper in your hand; you’ve shrunk them and they now fit in the palm of your hand. Then, pick all the things that absolutely need to be done today. Highlight or circle or star things like the trash that needs taken out today so it doesn’t wait until next week, or bills that need paid in the next couple of days, or a load of laundry filled with everything you’re out of. Make your peace with the fact that you won’t finish all of it. That’s okay. Just finish the necessities if you can. Break it down further if you need to – write down steps to get each thing done, even if it’s as small as “get up, walk to kitchen, fill sink with water.” It helps make the problem more manageable.

3) Do what you hate the least first

This will help you avoid getting discouraged or sick of it too early. For instance, I will throw laundry in the washer before anything else so it can run while I grapple with other things. It quick easy and does the work by itself for awhile. I might dust next because it’s easy and I can see the results immediately. If you really hate doing dishes, get them all together in the sink or dishwasher and save them for last.

4) Divide and conquer

Separate the mess – I usually do this right off the bat, but if that’s not your thing, that’s okay. I find that it helps, though, to put each task in its own location to be dealt with later. I will walk around the house with a trash bag and put every fast food bag, errant tissue, and product wrapper inside. This clears up space and makes the mess look smaller. I’ll do the same with laundry, grabbing all the clothes and throwing them in laundry baskets to get them off the floor. Sometimes that’s as far as I get, but the house looks better and I feel better because of it. I round up all the dirty dishes and get them to the sink. I’ll carry thermometers or a box of bandaids to the bathroom, and hair ties and jewelry to my bedroom. It might be too much for me to put them away in drawers and cabinets and such, but they are no longer scattered across the house and when I get motivated again later on, it will be a really simple fix to move them from a countertop to a cupboard. If it’s really congested, like let’s say I can’t see the floor of my bedroom floor anymore, I’ll sit in the center and toss whatever I find into a different corner of the room. You can do this with boxes or trash bags or just piles on the floor. That goes downstairs or across the house? In the corner by the door. That trash? Toss it near the trash can and leave for later, even if I miss the can itself. Clothes that I can’t tell if they’re clean or dirty? Toss them in a basket to washed anyway to get them out of the way. When your done you’ll have smaller, more organized messes to clean up.

5) Try and make it fun or more relaxing

Put on your favorite playlist, light candles or incense, open some windows, play your favorite show in the background, call your best friend and put them on speaker, put on a bright shade of lipstick so you smile at yourself every time you see yourself in the mirror.

6) Reward yourself

Plan something to look forward to when your done, even if you didn’t finish everything on the list. Read a book, watch a movie, or the latest episode of your latest addictive show. I like projects, so I’ll tell myself that once the house is clean, or at least a particular room, then I can hang that new painting I bought or make the bed with the new sheets I bought. I might be too worn out at the end of the day to paint or write or whatever, but if I can do something small that will make me smile every time I see it for a few days, it does me a world of good.

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