Feeling the Weight of a Messy Space? Here’s Some Motivation to Clean It Up

Last week, an Imgur user got the attention of a large chunk of the Internet by doing something that seems pretty straightforward: they cleaned their room.

In an album entitled Me 1 – Depression 0!, the user showed off this pair of photos — one of their room before they cleaned, and one of their room afterward.

Me 1 – Depression 0!

Alongside the photos runs this simple story:

I suffer from severe depression and have a really hard time with cleaning and doing other kinds of household work. My room have been this messy for several months beacause i cant push myself to take care of it. But this friday i decided to finally do it!

Three days later…

You can finally see that i have a floor! Say hi to my teddy Nalle on the bed!
I know its not a big victory, but for me it means the world to just be able to have my door open if people come over.
I feel so at peace right now, just wanted to share with all of you wonderful imgurians!

Me 1 – Depression 0!

The photo set gained a lot of popularity on Imgur, so much so that it found its way to BBC News. Along with the attention came a flood of comments, some negative (this is the Internet, after all), but many supportive. A lot of users talked about their own depression. They talked about how cleaning can be incredibly difficult when depressed, but also how good it can feel.

Unf*ck Your Habitat (UFYH) has a great explanation of why cleaning often takes a back seat when you’re depressed, if that’s an unfamiliar situation for you:

When you’re in the midst of a depressive episode, cleaning your house comes in on the List of Things You Want to Do somewhere after taunting a hive of bees and tap dancing on live television. Things are awful. It’s a struggle to walk to the bathroom. Making dinner seems more impossible than advanced calculus. Anything that’s not your couch or your bed might as well be hot lava. And so the mess builds around you. I purposely use the passive voice there because when you’re depressed, it seems nearly impossible that you’re contributing to the chaos of your house, because that would require energy, and you sure as hell don’t have any of that to spare.

Then you look around your messy house. And you feel worse. You feel more depressed, because now you’re exhausted and hopeless and can’t pull yourself out of bed, and on top of that, your house is a sh*thole. Which makes you feel useless on top of everything you were already feeling, and then probably overwhelmed on top of that, and quite frankly, having that many feelings at once during a depressive episode is like being crushed by a ton of bricks. So your depression gets worse, and your mess gets worse, and the two keep feeding on each other and it seems like there’s no end in sight.

Even if you’re not dealing with depression, clutter can do a number on your emotional well-being. It’s harder to focus when you’re surrounded by clutter. It leaves you feeling like there’s always more work to be done. It might make you feel guilty, or discourage you from spending time with people you care about (after all, where are they going to sit when every surface is covered in cups or clothes?).

Of course, knowing all that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to clean. It still takes energy and time you may not have. That Imgur user took three days to clean, and that was after months of not feeling able to do so. But it’s probably not impossible. UFYH proposes a good way to start:

Take five minutes. Just five. Set a timer. If you’re on the couch or in bed, look to see the closest surface to you. It’s probably the coffee table or your nightstand. For those five minutes, just focus on that one surface. Clear it off, throw stuff away, maybe even dust it. So when your five minutes is done and you’re back in bed, you have one clear surface to look at. You have an accomplishment to focus on. You did something. You don’t have to do everything.

So, five minutes. That seems easy enough, right? No? It seems completely impossible and unreasonable? I understand. No, seriously, I do. But just try giving me five minutes. And make sure you stop at the end of it. Who knows? You might feel so energized by having one clean surface that you want to keep going, and that’s great. But not right away. In an hour. Or tomorrow. Give yourself plenty of time to take a break. The only expectation you should have is getting through those five minutes, and having one surface cleaner at the end of it than it started out.

Those five minutes could give you a foothold towards a cleaner space and all the benefits that come with it. Even if that’s all you do, your space will be five minutes cleaner than when you started. That’s not nothing — it’s a win. Whether it’s a win against depression or just against clutter, that’s cause for pride.

It might not be cause for an article in BBC News, normally speaking, but pride? Definitely.

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