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Readers Respond: Cleaning Tips for the Depressed

Responses: 63


Updated January 27, 2012

When we feel depressed it becomes very hard to keep up with our daily chores like laundry and washing dishes. We're just too tired and unmotivated to really care. Unfortunately, having a dirty living environment does nothing to make us feel better about our situation. But, how do you overcome those bad feelings and get some work done?

In my own case, some of the best cleaning tips I've found are to keep up with things as I go rather than allowing them to pile up. I also like to break things down into manageable chunks instead of tackling the whole job at once.

Do you have any tips for getting a handle on household tasks when even getting yourself out of bed feels like a chore?

little by little

MY favorite way to creep out of depression is by making a to-do list. I just sit there and think about anything that needs to be done. when I'm finnished I just sit there hoping to find some more things to do. sometimes I find but most important is to sit ther and think. when that gets too boring I choose one little thing to do as tiny as it may be. and the next tinnyest thing to do. whether I end up doing a lot or a little does not matter. most important is that I get myself out of that negativity faster than if I would stay doing nothing at all.

Love This Site

I was looking for motivation for cleaning my house when I came upon this site. Thank you all for sharing. I have never been diagnosed with depression, however, I have friends that tell me that I am depressed. I remember that I had spent 3 months in bed and it was terrible. I only got up to fix dinner and do a little laundry and pick the kids up from school. It is nice to know I'm not the only one who has trouble with housework. I do suffer from mild form of depression. I love the tips and tricks you all have shared. I to like list but I have to remember not to make my list so long and complicated that I get overwhelmed then I'm back to where I started. Keeping it short and sweet and taking it moment by moment.

well at least I'm not alone!

Thinking of all the things to do in my house... Just coming home gives me a migraine. It is filthy. Today all Im attacking in laundry. My 4 year old pulls all the clothes out of her drawers and closet and her sisters too. My husband leaves his clothes all over the house. My 8 year old has IBS and diarrhea often, plus still wets the bed more often than not. I have 3 dogs, my biggest dog is my biggest pain, she tears up trash and panties and hides them from me all over the house. My husband refuses to take anything to the trash making it easier for her to string it everywhere. So back to my today job, I'm in the floor all the clean laundry in totes by person, and doing more loads every hour. I have 6 trash bags beside me 1 for each child's winter clothes, 1 for donation, 1 for clothes between my girls sizes, 1 for clothes too big for my oldest, 1 for clothes too small for my youngest to be passed down. Not my idea of a fun Sunday but if I can just make order out of this....
—Guest Jennifer

My cleaning tips for depression

I know all too well about the enormous effort in just getting out of bed in the morning. I am not only depressed but have MS and so know too well the issues of fatigue as well as the debilitating depression that often goes with it. However, I am also a retired mental health therapist and have had clients who were depressed and yet were an invaluable source of strength and ingenuity when it came to home skills. What I find helpful for me, thanks to a few of my clients when I had a practice, is to keep a list of things I absolutely need to accomplish. Then, I deal with one thing at a time. When you're depressed, everything can seem just so overwhelming. Even the tiniest task can seem like a massive undertaking that you don't even know where to start let alone how to start. So, start with writing a simple list of three items. You can always add to them later but if you can write out just three things to get done and KEEP THEM SIMPLE. 1. wash dishes and put in drying rack then go to next
—Guest Ruth M-H

Breakfast and Music.

I have toast and a cup of coffee I put on the radio and I find music often up lifts me,don't try to do too much,Rome was not built in a day,tackle one chore at a time,music is the only way,to motivate me.
—Guest Lucy

Write out a list/plan thats nice!

First, I write out a list of things I need to do for the day. (I always break down things I need to do into tasks that dont take more than 10 mins or so). Then I write out a plan of my day but put every single thing I will do down and make sure there is something nice to do after every few tasks. So for example I will write on my list... get out of bed, have a shower, get dressed, have a cup of tea & toast & watch tv (the thing I like to do), collect all laundry in the house, sort through it all, put the washing on, go outside in the sun & play with my dog while I wait for the washing to be done, etc etc. The nice things always last for 30 mins or so also :) Then I force myself to follow the list really strictly. I dont think about what I'm doing I just keep making myself check off each thing. Or I think its only 10 mins of this more, do it quick & then you get to do your nice thing thats next.
—Guest Tammy

Music to Clenn By

I like to turn on the radio or listen to my ipod. Music helps me get started and keep going.
—Guest Sarah Knippel

Praise Over Depression

While you're cleaning, make a point to thank GOD you have a home, this room or item that now needs cleaning, that you can clean and care for it, etc. Also thank and pray for any person who gave it to you, or comes to mind while you're cleaning. Add soft color, light, music, scent if you like
—Guest Prince's Mommy

Even for especially profound depression

there are ways to get out of bed and stay out. Building momentum is key. Sometimes I am so fixated on the pain of depression that I lose concentration. So I have step by step lists for various tasks such as daily hygiene, weekly laundry, I've built a small collection of these. When I have difficulty focusing on a task, I don't have to get discouraged and have an attitude and go back to bed. I can still rely on routine by falling back on a step by step list of steps and benefit from the distraction and momentum from doing things. Keeping going is key, you do have to choose to resist lying around ruminating and just get up out of bed and stay out without thinking a lot about that decision. It's made. You are getting up...
—Guest ESP


I spend three hours one week helping a friend clean, cook, whatever she needs. She does all the planning, gets supplies, etc. I just provide two helping hands. The following week we do the same at my house and I pick the project, plan, provide what is needed. I'm exausted afterwards, but it's amazing that two working together produces much more than two individuals could produce, plus it's fun to work with someone. I have never been depressed before and identify with the symptoms all of you shared. The suggestions are great, thank you all for being so open and honest about your feelings. One thing about depression it really slows you down so you can take an honest look at the issues in your life and prayer for healing, strength and comfort.
—Guest Hope

Growing old with RA

Preparing the mind for physical activity really helps. Athletes do it before a challenge , going through the motions for example seeing themselves doing that pole jump up and over with ease. Just imagine walking to your kitchen, filling the kettle, setting out cup and saucer , then the steaming drink and now settling down to enjoy some music, TV or a favorite magazine, Well done, you have earned it
—Guest dottipitt

My Latest Trick

My latest trick I learned was to write 2 lists, 1 for what you want to do and 1 for what you have to do and alternate between the two so you are not always working and not always doing pleasurable things but finding a balance between both...I have found that helps. I'm doing some D.I.Y in the bathroom at the moment and yes I have procrastinated but I got my old loo seat taken off and I fitted my new one on. I felt a great level of satisfaction! then relaxed :)

I keep sharing tips to avoid chores! LOL

One final idea - I (briefly) think of people who may need some of the stuff I have. Briefly, because don't want to feed the Depr Beast! Grab a trash bag & start putting stuff in there. Having newspaper handy is helpful in case you need to wrap fragile stuff. Have gotten some MAJOR de-cluttering done this way, when I keep thinking - "Could this be helpful to someone? and Someone may need this." There's a Gdwill drop-off near, so it fels GREAT to take the bag(s) to them when I'm done! (Timer DOES help!) Again - thanks to everyone who's posted!
—Guest marion

"If it's worth doing ...

... it's worth doing well." Sound familiar? Um, not so much, esp since for me "well" = perfect! Just realizing that adage is adding to my 'chores' helps me. "I've done it. Good for me!" (Because so far, no applause from cats/dog!!)
—Guest marion

"You did a good job!"

For a long time, I did the "YES ... BUT ..." to myself after any cleaning I did. ("Yes, you washed the dishes, but look at the floor! Yes, you mopped the floor, but look at those dusty shelves!") Needless to say, not helpful! Now, I'm in the process of sayng to myself, "YOU DID A GOOD/GREAT JOB!" - sometimes out loud. As we know, dealing with depr is enough of a 'chore' - so any addtl household chore we get done IS good/great!
—Guest mmarion
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