Depression Rooms and Doom Piles: Why Cleaning Up Clutter Can Seem Impossible (2023)


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The link between disorder and mental health is real. These practical tips for keeping a clean enough house will help you.


Depression Rooms and Doom Piles: Why Cleaning Up Clutter Can Seem Impossible (1)

Bydana g smith

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A camera pans around Abegael Milot's room. The floor is almost invisible, hidden by piles of clothes. Four large plastic bins are stacked on top of each other, some full of dirty clothes, some filled with electronics. There are eight abandoned coffee cups on the table and nightstand. On the floor are two half-empty water bottles, a tequila bottle with a glass cactus inside, and a pet food dispenser.

“Today we are going to clean my depression room,” the 24-year-old YouTube star, who posts videos like Abbe Lucia,says the camera. "I'm afraid the only way to force myself to clean this room is to film it."

The term "depression room" is a relatively new one, popularized by videos on TikTok and YouTube that have amassed hundreds of millions of views. But experts have long recognized the link between the disorder and mental health. The clutter that can accumulate when people experience a mental health crisis is not a form of accumulation or the result of laziness. The culprit is extreme fatigue, said N. Brad Schmidt, distinguished research professor of psychology at Florida State University.

People "often are so mentally and physically exhausted that they don't feel like they have the energy to take care of themselves or their environment," said Dr. Schmidt. “They just don't have the ability to commit to the cleaning and house keeping that they probably once had.”

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A messy home can also contribute to feeling overwhelmed,stressand shame, making youfeel worsethan you already do. And while tidying up won't cure your depression, it can improve your mood. If you're struggling and it seems impossible to keep your space organized, here are some tips on how to clean strategically to optimize your energy and space.

Focus on function, not aesthetics

For KC Davis, licensed professional counselor and author of "How to Keep the House While Drowning," her clutter problem skyrocketed when her second child was born in early 2020. "I've always been a messy person," she said, "but it's always been functional." Suddenly faced with a new baby, postpartum depression and a pandemic, Mrs. Davis realized that with no system in place, she was overwhelmed.

While working to tidy up her house, Mrs. Davis startedpost videosof his progress on TikTok, where he now has 1.5 million followers. Put off by much of the self-help and cleanup content that has what she called "camp messages," she opted for a softer, more pragmatic approach. Her systems are realistic in their capabilities and focus on having a livable, not pristine, space.

One of his most popular strategies is “five things asking”, the idea that there are only five things in any room: garbage, dishes, dirty laundry, things with a place and things without a place. Focusing on one category at a time keeps you from becoming overwhelmed when it feels like there are hundreds of different items that need saving.

Mrs. Davis is also a big proponent of what she calls "end-tasks", inspired by her time working as a waitress. She often doesn't have the energy to clean the entire kitchen every night, so she started doing just a few small chores, "as a kindness to my future, to set me up for success in the morning."

“I moved away from this idea that it had to be all or nothing and started thinking about function” when it comes to cleaning, he said. "When I think 'What do I need in the morning?' suddenly I can be specific." She makes sure she has clean dishes and enough counter space so she can make breakfast, empty the trash, and sweep up the crumbs. “What seems like a never-ending task is really just 20 minutes of my day,” he said.

For people who are really struggling, Ms. Davis emphasized that things can be ugly, but they shouldn't be unsanitary, because we all "deserve to be clean and comfortable." If you don't have the energy to wash all the dishes, just clean one or two for the next meal, or use paper plates. If the laundry involves a lot of steps, don't worry about folding; Wrinkles never hurt anyone.

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Make your home work better for you

People who are neurodivergent, have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, or other executive functioning problems also often struggle with excessive disorder. Much like "depression rooms", the term "heaps of destruction" has become popular on social media to describe the random things that are piling up that you don't know what to do with. Almost everyone has a drawer or two of junk at home, but these piles of clutter tend to be more ubiquitous for people who struggle with executive functioning.

Lenore Brooks is an interior designer who specializes in working with neurodivergent people. When her sister, who has ADHD, briefly lived with her, Mrs. Brooks found that there were many resources to help children with ADHD. or autism remain organized, but virtually none are adult-oriented.

Much of Mrs. Brooks revolves around helping her clients deal with the seemingly endless clutter; they feel like they are constantly cleaning but the mess is always there. People with ADHD She struggles with this especially because, she says, “It's almost like decision fatigue all the time. "I can't decide what to do with it, so I'm just not going to do anything with it."

The first step, Brooks said, is to pay close attention to the items you clean frequently. Then find better places for them to live. “What I talk about a lot with my clients is systems,” he said. “Finding out why things are where they are, why clutter is piling up where it is, and then changing the layout or organization of how people actually use their home.”

These changes can be simple. For example, if you're constantly removing pens from your living room sofa cushions and coffee table, consider designating a place to keep them in the room where you're actually using them. For a client whose home office was always littered with dirty dishes, Ms. Brooks gave her a tray on which she could place her tea and snack paraphernalia and return to the kitchen at the end of each day.

Stop the problem before it starts

Once your space is clean and relatively tidy, try to dedicate a few minutes each day to keeping it that way. Mrs. Davis recommended setting a timer of five to 10 minutes and being as careful as possible during that time. “I tell myself, I don't need to finish this assignment, but I'm going to get up for eight minutes and do it,” she said. “I am usually amazed at how much I can do.”

And remember, it's normal to have some clutter in your home. The TV remote, your glasses, the mail you need to sort, an art project you're working on: "These are signs of life in your home," Brooks said.


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Why does it feel impossible to clean my room? ›

Having a messy room might be the result of a lot of factors. It might mean you are busy and have little time to clean and organize. It might be a sign that you have too much stuff. Or it might be the result of having young kids in the house who are usually not motivated to clean up after themselves.

Is clutter a symptom of depression? ›

Sometimes, living with anxiety, depression, or stress brings on clutter. If you're overwhelmed by sadness or other negative emotions, you might not have the energy to clean and organize. Or, you might use shopping or accumulating things to manage your feelings.

Why do I find it so hard to get rid of stuff? ›

Sometimes you struggle to declutter because having a lot of stuff makes you feel safe and secure. Decluttering and getting rid of stuff makes you worry you won't have enough when you need it. This scarcity mindset keeps you hanging on to things, even if you don't use or love them.

Can depression make you not want to clean? ›

People with depression can often find themselves living in messy spaces. This is because feelings of hopelessness, low energy, and lack of motivation can make it hard to keep on top of everyday tasks, such as tidying.

What does a messy room mean psychologically? ›

Psychologically, a messy room can mean several things.

A messy room can be a sign of depression or another mental health issue. Clutter affects your mood and can cause more anxiety or stress. Your child can get caught in a cycle of messiness that worsens their mental health and vice versa.

Why does clutter make me depressed? ›

Research from health care heavy hitters — think Mayo Clinic, Princeton University, and UCLA — have found that clutter can increase the stress hormone cortisol and cause lower productivity, insomnia, weight gain, procrastination, and depression.

What does clutter say about a person? ›

Clutter in the living room might suggest blockages in your social life, as well as your relationship with yourself, while a cluttered bedroom might relate to issues surrounding your sexual self, fears of intimacy or gender roles.

Why do some people live in filth? ›

Diogenes syndrome (DS) is a behavioural disorder characterized by domestic filth, or squalor, extreme self-neglect, hoarding, and lack of shame regarding one's living condition [1]. The approximate annual incidence of Diogenes is 0.05% in people over the age of 60 [2].


1. cleaning my room with you in real time (for people with depression/ADHD)
(Peach PRC)
2. The Power of Your Subconcious Mind - FULL Audiobook by Joseph Murphy
3. A Stage Set | Critical Role | Campaign 3, Episode 32
(Critical Role)
4. ☘️ Overcoming Mental & Emotional Clutter (& What I'm Ready To Do Again After 13 Years)
(How to Get Your Shit Together)
5. The Power of Your Subconscious Mind (1963) by Joseph Murphy
(Master Key Society)
6. Clean/Declutter With Me Real Time (kinda) - 1 hour body doubling
(hobby moth)


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