I often find keeping up with day-to-day living extremely hard. I especially have a hard time keeping up with household chores like tidying and cleaning, laundry and dishes and the like. If you’ve struggled with depression or some other mental illnesses, I’m sure it founds very familiar indeed.
Otherwise, it might sound awfully petty or lazy. After all, these are all things nobody likes to do but still needs to get done. It’s a part of life and you just have to suck it up and get it done. But feeling bad and horrid over never getting it done doesn’t help. It doesn’t give me the energy or presence of mind to do them. It just makes me feel awful and like a complete failure.
I struggle even on my good days, but when I’m in a really bad period, the simple chores become impossible. The filth just piles up. Trash, laundry, dishes, everything blends into a giant, depressing mess without head nor tail. I can’t cook proper food because of the dishes, I’ve no energy to tackle the dishes and don’t really have the energy to cook besides. I run out of clean clothes because I can’t manage to do my laundry and I don’t shower because I’ve no clean clothes to change into, so I can’t go out either. I won’t have anyone over, because everything’s a mess and I can’t summon up the energy to do anything about it. And just staring at the whole mess every day just makes my mood even worse.
Luckily, it’s been a very long time since things were quite so bad. Although I still can’t quite get rid of the mess entirely just yet. I’m slowly working on incorporating better habits and found a couple strategies that seem to help make my life easier quite a bit.
Some time ago, I attended a cognitive training group. We’d train memory, attention and the like by playing games on the computer. They stressed the importance of keeping up with these games at home, to get the best results. We didn’t have to spend a long time on it, just a few minutes if that’s all we had. If we couldn’t spend an hour, then a half or even just 10 or 5 minutes, then that was fine. Just so long as we got something done.
Working with that same principle, I found I could chop up my chores in various ways to make them more manageable. When faced with a messy room, I could chop the tidying up into categories, saying I’ll pick up the trash first and then that’s one task done. I can take a break, stop for the day or, if I feel up to it, I’ll maybe gather up the laundry or start clearing my desk. Then, little by little, I’ll manage to get my room in order. It might take days or even weeks, but it’ll slowly get done. I’d chop up the tasks into as little pieces as necessary. If it’s even just picking up one sock off the floor and putting it in the laundry bin, that’s still one sock less littering the floor.
For the dishes, since I didn’t have a dishwasher and very little kitchen-space, they tended to be a big problem. So, I’d start by just sorting and tidying up the dishes, pile the plates and bowls together, group cups and glasses, gather the cutlery together. Suddenly, it looks a lot more manageable. Then, when I feel up to it, I’ll wash the cutlery first. Then the plates, then cups and glasses etc.
Often times, I’d do the dishes, then order takeout. Dishes and cooking right after each other is a lot and so, just thinking about it would make me too tired and depressed to even get started. So instead, I’d negotiate with myself, find a comfortable place between nothing and everything and at least just get something done.
It might sound lazy or petty to feel satisfied with only doing a tiny bit at a time, but I’ve tried beating myself up over it and that got me nowhere good. When everything is darkness and you’re just barely holding on to your will to live, there’s no just “pulling yourself together”. You’ll have to make do with what you can do, and forgive the rest. That way, you might soon find that the amount that you can do will slowly increase.
Another thing I discovered just recently is just how helpful step-by-step guides can be.
Where I live now, I have to share the bathroom with 5 others and so we each have to take a turn every week to clean it. To help with that, there’s a piece of paper hung in the bathroom with a detailed step-by-step guide on how to go about it. The first step is listed as: “Fill a bucket with warm water and a bit of cleaning agent.” Then it details what to clean first with what and how. It makes the whole process so much simpler and easier. You just follow the list one step at a time and then you’re done.
Even though I know roughly how to clean a bathroom, I found it extremely helpful to have a written guide. That way, I didn’t have to keep everything in my head and risk forgetting anything. The cleaning got chopped up into easy, little steps that made it much more manageable. Sure, I had to do the whole thing in one sitting since others need to use the bathroom, but it didn’t feel like such a big task when I had a place to start and a list to follow.
I’d bet I could use a guide like that to do more things than just cleaning the bathroom. Such as tidying up my room, doing the laundry, the dishes, even keeping track of bills and finances.
I struggle with chores, sure. But I’m not lazy. I just need a good strategy. You don’t have to leap into the deep water, if there’s a ladder or you can slowly wade in from the shore. It’s okay to do things slowly, one step at a time and at your own pace. What matters is that it gets done.