"Rooms of Depression" and "Piles of Doom": Why Clearing Clutter Can Seem Impossible (2023)

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

"Rooms of Depression" and "Piles of Doom": Why Clearing Clutter Can Seem Impossible (1)

By Dana G. Smith, January 10, 2023, The New York Times

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 depressed room," the 24-year-old YouTube star, who posts videos as Abbe Lucia, told the camera. "I'm afraid the only way I can get this room cleaned up is by filming."

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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 shame that makes you feel worse than 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.

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As she worked to tidy up her house, Mrs. Davis started posting videos of 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 clean," which is the idea that there are only five things in every room: trash, dishes, dirty laundry, things that have a place, and things that don't. 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.

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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."

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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.

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Source: Dana G. Smith, January 10, 2023, The New York Times


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