'Rooms of Depression' and 'Piles of Doom': Why Cleaning Up the Mess Can Seem Impossible - NAMI Columbia County, NY (2023)

The link between clutter and mental health is real. These low rise tips will help keep your house clean enough.

New York Times, porDana G. Smith

The camera pans around Abegael Milot's room. The floor is practically invisible, covered with piles of clothes. Four large plastic bins are stacked on top of each other, some filled with clothes, some with electronics. There are eight abandoned coffee cups on the desk and bedside table. There are two half-empty water bottles on the floor, a tequila bottle with a glass cactus in it, and a pet food dispenser.

"Today we're going to clean my room of depression," the 24-year-old YouTube star, who posts videos like Abbe Lucia,he talks to the camera. "I'm afraid the only way I can get this room cleaned up is by filming."

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

People are "often so mentally and physically exhausted that they don't have the energy to care for themselves or their environment," said Dr. Schmidt. "They just don't have the opportunity to be involved in cleaning and maintaining the house, which they probably used to."

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

Focus on functionality, not aesthetics

For KC Davis, a licensed guidance counselor and author of How to Keep Your Home While Drowning, her clutter problem escalated when her second child was born in early 2020. "I've always been a mess," she said, "but it's always been functional ." Suddenly faced with a new baby, postpartum depression and a pandemic, Mrs. Davis realized that she was out of her mind with no system in place.

While she was working to get her house in order, Mrs. Davis startedposting videosabout her progress on TikTok, where she now has 1.5 million followers. Rejected by most self-help and cleanup content that has what she called "recruitment messages", she opted for a softer, more pragmatic approach. Her systems are realistic about their capabilities and focus on having a livable space rather than an untouched one.

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

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

"I moved away from the idea that it had to be all or nothing and started thinking just about function" in terms of cleanliness, she said. "When I think about what I need in the morning?" I can suddenly specify." She makes sure she has clean dishes and enough counter space to make breakfast, empty the trash can, and sweep up the crumbs. "What seems like a huge, never-ending task is actually just 20 minutes of my day," she said.

Mrs. Davis emphasized that things can look ugly, but they shouldn't be unsanitary, as everyone "deserves to be clean and comfortable." If you don't have the energy to wash all the dishes, just wash one or two for the next meal, or use paper plates. If washing requires a lot of steps, don't worry about folding; Wrinkles never hurt anyone.

Make your home work better for you

People who are neurodiverse, with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, or other problems with executive functioning also often struggle with excessive disorder. Like "depressing rooms", the term "piles of destruction" has become popular on social media to describe random things that pile up and you don't know what to do with them. Almost everyone has a drawer or two of junk at home, but these piles of junk are more common for people who struggle with executive functioning.

Lenore Brooks is an interior designer who specializes in working with neurodiverse people. When her sister, who has ADHD, lived with her for a short time, Mrs. Brooks found that there were many resources that could help children with ADHD. or autism remain organized, but virtually none target adults.

Much of Mrs. Brooks involves helping her clients deal with the seemingly endless mess; they have the impression that they are constantly cleaning, but the mess is always there. People with ADHD especially because, as she said, "It's almost like being constantly tired of deciding. "I can't decide what to do with it, so I just won't do anything about it."

Brooks said the first step is to pay attention to the items you clean frequently. Then find better places for them to live. “I often talk to my clients about systems,” she said. "Find out why things are where they are, why clutter accumulates where they are, and then change the design or organization of how people actually use the house."

These changes can be simple. For example, if you're constantly removing pens from your living room couch cushions and coffee table, consider designating a place to store them in the room where you actually use them. For a client whose home office was always littered with dirty dishes, Ms. Brooks gave her a tray to put tea and snacks on and go back 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 a day to keeping it that way. Mrs. Davis recommended setting a timer for five or 10 minutes and getting 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'm usually amazed at how much I can do."

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

Understanding ADHD

The challenges faced by people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can be daunting. But people diagnosed with the disease can still develop it.

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Why clearing the clutter can seem impossible? ›

The culprit is extreme fatigue, said N. Brad Schmidt, a distinguished research professor of psychology at Florida State University. People are “oftentimes just so mentally and physically exhausted that they don't feel like they have the energy to take care of themselves or their surroundings,” Dr. Schmidt said.

Can depression make you not want to clean your room? ›

Often, when depressed, you might see everything as overwhelming. Cleaning your room can feel like a daunting and impossible task. Feeling overwhelmed is a symptom of depression, which can make any activity feel like it is “too much.”

Does having a messy room affect your mental health? ›

A messy room can create stress and other negative emotions, leading to symptoms of anxiety and depression. Research shows that living in a chaotic environment affects our emotions, behavior, relationships, and even our eating habits.

What is doom piling? ›

The doom in 'doom pile' is actually an acronym. It stands for “Didn't Organize, Only Moved” – an experience many people with ADHD can apparently relate to when they try to organize their spaces, whether physical or virtual.

How do you clean a depression room fast? ›

Cleaning Your Depression Room
  1. Ask a friend for help. A lot of the time when your room gets really messy, the task of cleaning it can feel so overwhelming that you just don't want to do it. ...
  2. Make it into a game. ...
  3. Focus on one thing at a time. ...
  4. Keep your space clean as you go along. ...
  5. Set manageable goals for yourself.
Feb 1, 2021

Why is it hard for me to clean my room? ›

In some instances, the state of your room might be linked to a psychiatric condition. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder, for example, may become so preoccupied with keeping things germ-free or symmetrical that they spend excessive amounts of time sterilizing or organizing their living space.

Can a cluttered house cause depression? ›

Clutter can make us feel stressed, anxious and depressed. Research from the United States in 2009, for instance, found the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher in mothers whose home environment was cluttered.

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.

Can living in a messy house cause anxiety? ›

Mental Health

Researchers have found that a cluttered home contributes to stress, anxiety, and poor concentration. When a person's home is dirty, they may begin to feel overwhelmed, out of control, and anxious. Having a clean, accessible home can also make daily routines much easier.

What does being messy say about a person? ›

Psychology says that messiness can indeed be a sign that a person is having trouble. Just like someone who is suffering from OCD and has to control everything, being a messy person might show that they are dealing with depression or some other mental illness.

What is messy house syndrome? ›

Abstract. The messy house syndrome (Diogenes syndrome) is present when, owing to a disordering of the personality structure, a person is unable to keep order, for example, in the household or his finances. Such persons are also referred to as "messies".

Why do people with mental illness have messy rooms? ›

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.

Why do people with ADHD make piles? ›

This is why many people with ADHD will compensate by using visual cues. They make lists or put the things they need somewhere where they can see them so they won't forget. Hence, tending to keep things in piles on tables and chairs rather than inside drawers and closets.

What are the 5 types of piling? ›

5 Types of Pile Foundation
  • Bored Piling. Bored piles are installed by auguring into the ground forming a hole into which concrete can be poured, thereby casting the pile in position. ...
  • Driven Piling. Driven piles are driven or hammered into the ground with the use of vibration. ...
  • Screw Piling. ...
  • Mini Piling. ...
  • Sheet Piling.

What is ADHD Doom boxes? ›

A Doom Box is a special container that helps people keep track of their things. It's beneficial for people with ADHD who have trouble staying organized. You put things you don't want to lose or forget about, like your keys or school supplies, in the Doom Box, so you know where they are when you need them.

How do I get motivated to clean a messy room? ›

Ten Tips to Motivate Yourself to Clean
  1. Start Small. The first step is usually the hardest. ...
  2. Visualize A Clean Home. ...
  3. Set A Timer. ...
  4. Invite Someone Over. ...
  5. Avoid Getting Sidetracked. ...
  6. Make Cleaning A Little More Fun. ...
  7. Get Everyone Involved. ...
  8. Use New Cleaning Products.
Dec 27, 2021

How do I get motivated to clean my depression room? ›

If you have depression, here are some simple ways to help you start tackling house cleaning duties if you're struggling to keep up with them.
  1. Start Small. ...
  2. Reframe Negative Self-Talk. ...
  3. Don't Wait Until You Feel Good to Get Started. ...
  4. Prioritize 'High-Impact' Cleaning Tasks. ...
  5. Ask for Help. ...
  6. Track Your Wins, No Matter How Small.
Apr 26, 2023

Why am I so messy and lazy? ›

You may find your messiness is a result of your depression, lack of self-love, low energy, feelings of stress, or anxiety. Messiness can also be a sign of an underlying problem such as ADHD or bipolar disorder.

What to do if you can't clean your room? ›

How To Clean a Messy Room
  1. Throw away any trash. ...
  2. Put away items that obviously do not belong in the room. ...
  3. Put away anything that can be take care of quickly. ...
  4. Moving around the room, clean small sections at a time. ...
  5. Clean up at the end of cleaning up.

How do I stop being overwhelmed when cleaning my room? ›

How to Start Cleaning if You're Overwhelmed
  1. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
  2. Spend those 20 minutes cleaning.
  3. Take a 10-minute break from cleaning.
  4. Repeat.

Why do I feel overwhelmed when my house is messy? ›

A cluttered, untidy environment actually generates more of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain. So, if your home and living spaces are clutter-free, tidy and clean then you can assume you'll generate less cortisol and reap the rewards mentally.

Why do I have piles of stuff everywhere? ›

Behavioral/psychological: Clutter caused by depression, attention deficit disorder, low self-esteem or lack of personal boundaries. Time/life management: Clutter caused by the need for better planning. Of these, the behavioral/psychological-driven clutter is the hardest to solve.

Why do I get severe anxiety when my house is messy? ›

Clutter can make us feel stressed, anxious and depressed. Research from the United States in 2009, for instance, found the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher in mothers whose home environment was cluttered.

What kind of trauma causes clutter? ›

People who have suffered an emotional trauma or a brain injury often find housecleaning an insurmountable task. Attention deficit disorder, depression, chronic pain and grief can prevent people from getting organized or lead to a buildup of clutter.

Is decluttering a mental illness? ›

Compulsive decluttering is a type of disorder that is classified within a broad name, obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. Compulsive decluttering is the act of throwing items, or clutter, away, or getting rid of them in an attempt to "clean up" what one with the disorder may think is cluttered.

How do you mentally let go of clutter? ›

  1. How to Get Rid of Clutter When You Have Trouble Letting Go of Things.
  2. 1- Practice helps let go of clutter.
  3. 2- Ask, "What do I want to keep?" rather than "What do I want to get rid of?"
  4. 3- Think of the people who could benefit from the items you're no longer using.
  5. 4- Picture your "after."
  6. 5- Do a test run.
May 8, 2023

Why can't I relax when my house is messy? ›

Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren't necessary or important. Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on. Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.

Is it normal to live in a messy house? ›

It's completely normal to have a messy house. If it isn't impacting your sleep, stress, or focus, and isn't unsanitary, then there is no need to panic. You don't need to pressure yourself into cleaning for hours on end, trying to make your home seem completely organized all the time.

Why do I have the urge to get rid of everything? ›

Always feeling the need to declutter can be linked to stress and anxiety, where having lots of things in your space increases your anxious feelings. To try and relieve your feelings of stress, you can develop the urge to constantly declutter your space. Decluttering can temporarily relieve anxiety.

What a cluttered home says about you? ›

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.

What is a depression nest? ›

This is a messy and disorganized room or home as a result of experiencing depression. It is an outward display of a depressed mental state.

What is Diogenes syndrome? ›

Diogenes syndrome (DS) is a behavioral disorder of the elderly. Symptoms include living in extreme squalor, a neglected physical state, and unhygienic conditions. This is accompanied by a self-imposed isolation, the refusal of external help, and a tendency to accumulate unusual objects.

What mental illness is a recluse? ›

People with schizoid personality disorder often are reclusive, organizing their lives to avoid contact with other people. Many never marry or may continue to live with their parents as adults.

What mental illness causes poor hygiene? ›

What Is Diogenes Syndrome? Diogenes syndrome is a behavioral-health condition characterized by poor personal hygiene, hoarding, and unkempt living conditions. It is most common in older men and women, which is why it is also called senile squalor syndrome.

Why are ADHD rooms so messy? ›

People with ADHD have a difficult time with many of the executive functioning skills most of us unconsciously use every day. These invisible skills are what enable us to plan, prioritize, manage our time, and get things done. A person without ADHD might look at a messy room and think, “Okay.

Do people with messy rooms have a higher IQ? ›

If you feel bad for not getting on the Marie Kondo bandwagon, don't. Having a messy home can actually be a sign of intelligence and creativity. According to research people who live in an untidy environment tend to be more open minded and clever.

What stuff makes ADHD worse? ›

For many individuals, ADHD impairments are made worse by their struggles with excessive anxiety, persistent depression, compulsive behaviors, difficulties with mood regulation, learning disorders, or other psychiatric disorders that may be transient, recurrent, or persistently disruptive of their ability to perform the ...

What does untreated ADHD do to someone? ›

Untreated ADHD in adults can lead to mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. This is because ADHD symptoms can lead to focus, concentration, and impulsivity problems. When these problems are not managed effectively, they can lead to feelings of frustration, irritability, and low self-esteem.

Do people with ADHD get overwhelmed by mess? ›

Some people with ADHD truly have difficulties in keeping a clutter-free space. However, it's not intentional. Symptoms of ADHD, like forgetfulness, getting easily distracted, and sometimes being disorganized can lead to struggle with clutter.

What are the three types of piles? ›

There are a four main types of pile foundation, each with its own method of construction:
  • Driven piles.
  • Bored piles.
  • Driven and cast-in-situ piles.
  • Aggregate piles.

How deep can a piling go? ›

A mini pile generally has a diameter of between 100 and 600mm but can extend to depths of over 50m. They can be used in most types of soil and are often used for underpinning or strengthening existing structures.

What is the difference between a pile and a piling? ›

Piling prepares the ground to carry heavy loads, such as a new home, office complex, road or another piece of infrastructure. Piles usually are long poles that are made of timber, steel or concrete.

Do people with ADHD like clutter? ›

Some ADHD experts believe that a cluttered desk, closet, or house reflects a disorganized mind; others take it as a sign of genius. A lot of adults with ADHD, including me, agree with the latter opinion. Either view can be true, depending on the individual and the degree of his disorganization.

Does ADHD mask as anxiety? ›

Anxiety can make it hard to identify that you also have ADHD since the symptoms may overlap. ADHD can also mask the symptoms of anxiety. It's important to identify both conditions to get the best treatment.

Can ADHD masking cause anxiety? ›

Effects of masking your ADHD

The stress of masking untreated or undiagnosed ADHD might contribute to anxiety and depression, similar to the way 2021 research demonstrates this connection in autistic people. People might not believe you need some help if you're too good at masking.

How do you clear clutter when overwhelmed? ›

Here is the best formula for decluttering large, overwhelming spaces:
  1. Remove the easiest things first. ...
  2. Discard larger items next. ...
  3. Donate items instead of selling them. ...
  4. Break your large space into smaller bite-size challenges. ...
  5. Work until your bite-size piece is completed.

What is the psychology behind clutter? ›

According to Psychology Today, clutter causes stress in part because of its excessive visual stimuli. It also signals to our brains that our work is never done and creates guilt, anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Why does clutter overwhelm me? ›

Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren't necessary or important. Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on. Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.

How do you get rid of extreme clutter? ›

Get Rid of Clutter in 10 Quick and Easy Steps
  1. Get Rid of Clutter in the Worst Spot First. ...
  2. Do a Garbage Bag Sweep to Get Rid of Clutter. ...
  3. Purge Clutter by Pretending You're Moving. ...
  4. Get Rid of Clutter and Organize Like Company Is Coming. ...
  5. Organize by Gathering Similar Items. ...
  6. Make One Bold Decision to Simplify Your Home.
Nov 7, 2019

How do I stop being so overwhelmed by a messy house? ›

With that being said, we have some tips to help you overcome the overwhelmed feeling that can come from not knowing where to start.
  1. Don't Sit Down. ...
  2. Have the Right Tools for the Task on Hand. ...
  3. Race the Clock Cleaning. ...
  4. Choose Somewhere to Start. ...
  5. Figure Out Your Priorities & Make a List. ...
  6. Create a Cleaning Playlist.
Oct 29, 2020

How do you declutter if you are a hoarder? ›

  1. Know your hoarding tendencies.
  2. Start small: 5 minutes at a time.
  3. Donate the clothes you don't wear anymore.
  4. Focus on one room at a time: the bathroom is a good place to start.
  5. Ask for help: declutter living rooms with your family or your friends.
Jan 25, 2022

Can messy house cause anxiety? ›

If you've ever looked around your cluttered home — or your messy desk — and felt anxious, you're not alone. Science supports a link between feeling overwhelmed and having an overwhelming number of things in your environment.

What are the 5 stages of hoarding? ›

The 5 Stages of Hoarding: What are They?
  • Clutter, but no concern. ...
  • Deteriorating hygiene, possible hoarder. ...
  • Extreme disorganization, likely disorder. ...
  • Excessive clutter & behavior, contact professionals. ...
  • Severe unsanitary conditions, hoarding diagnosis.
May 3, 2022

How do I stop being messy and lazy? ›

Here's how.
  1. Set your intention. Before you start cleaning, you should be able to visualize your end point. ...
  2. Give yourself a clean slate. ...
  3. Recruit a body double. ...
  4. Plan regular purges. ...
  5. Cultivate triggers. ...
  6. Reward yourself. ...
  7. Revel in your successes.
Jul 1, 2019

Is compulsive decluttering a mental illness? ›

Compulsive decluttering is a type of disorder that is classified within a broad name, obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. Compulsive decluttering is the act of throwing items, or clutter, away, or getting rid of them in an attempt to "clean up" what one with the disorder may think is cluttered.

What is the fastest way to clean and declutter? ›

How to Declutter Fast – Quick and Easy Steps
  1. Toss the Trash. In every area you organize, start by tossing the obvious trash. ...
  2. Move Non-Kitchen Items Out of the Kitchen. ...
  3. Tidy Reading Material in the Living Room. ...
  4. Organize the Bathroom One Drawer at a Time. ...
  5. Let Go of Unused Items in Your Home Office.

What causes a person to clutter? ›

Clutter can be a physical manifestation of mental health issues, Walsh tells WebMD. Those overwhelmed with "memory" clutter may have an undue preoccupation with things in the past and become depressed. Those who can't toss out items because they worry they will need them may be too anxious, he says.

What is the easiest way to declutter? ›

Simple Ways to Declutter Your Spaces
  1. Start by removing trash.
  2. Begin by choosing one small area to organize — like a drawer.
  3. Sort items into three piles: Keep, donate and toss.
  4. Find a specific home for everything you intend to keep — for example, a hook for your keys.
Jan 12, 2023


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