My best friend Erin is a 20-something with a teenage dream of a room—her love of pop music, Archie comics and traveling is plastered all over her walls in the best way. Her room is lived-in and cozy—full of patterns and textures and personality—so much so that when you walk in you can tell immediately, without a doubt, who it belongs to. Making her bedroom her own has never been a challenge for Erin, but the one thing she has struggled with is getting it clean and organized.
Erin's depression and anxiety—along with an otherwise busy schedule—made it hard for her to get her room into a clean state. Anyone who has struggled with their mental heath and wound up in the same position knows how hard it is to get yourself out of it—the messier your home becomes, the more difficult it is to clean. It's even more of a challenge when you've never really had an organizational system to begin with, because without one, you don't really have anything to maintain.
Anyone who has struggled with their mental heath and wound up in the same position knows how hard it is to get yourself out of it—the messier your home becomes, the more difficult it is to clean.
So, for Erin's birthday, her friends Kate and Christie (and I!) took the train down to Philadelphia together to visit her. While we were there, we totally overhauled her room. She had been asking us, as three people who love organizing, to help her get her room back on track, and we were happy to do it (honestly, we were almost too excited to clean). We started with the floor, going through absolutely everything we could and creating piles for Erin's things—clothes to be put in the laundry, clothes to be donated, shoes to be donated and shoes to be kept, plus recycling, trash, and anything else* that needed to be sorted. While we cleaned and organized, Erin worked on putting the laundry in the wash and helping us figure out where she wanted things to go.
(*By anything else, I mean all of the Venus razor heads we found. Erin had to ask her mom to stop sending them because she includes so many in her care packages. Not an exaggeration: once we rounded them all up, we counted 76 of them—then we did the math, and based on how frequently she uses them we realized that Erin had enough razor heads to last her 6.3 years, which is coincidentally also when she will have paid off her student loans. That's great, since, as you know, razor refills cost about as much as a student loan payment does. Anyway, Erin now has a separate storage cube just for her razors, and it almost wasn't big enough. She's living the dream.)
Once the floor was mostly sorted, we started developing an easy-to-maintain system of where things should go in her closet and her dresser, along with what to store under her bed (that included me taking down her broken closet doors—which was supremely satisfying, might I add—and stashing them so we could hang curtains instead). When her room was finally clean, we took all the clothes and shoes and accessories that were to be donated and brought them to a donation box, and then we went to Target to buy supplies and decor items that Erin needed. We returned to hang some more of Erin's art and add the finishing touches, and it was finally done. Ultimately, we finished the job in less than 24 hours and had a lot of fun in the process (not as much fun as we had thoroughly celebrating afterwards, though).
We cleaned Erin's room in mid-March, and it's been going pretty well ever since. We have a group chat where Erin occasionally updates us on how clean her room still is, but more than that, what really matters is how much happier she is—but I shouldn't be the one to tell you that, so I'll let Erin take it from here...
My anxiety and depression makes keeping my room organized really hard. And for the last few years it's been daunting and impossible.— Channing Tweetum (@ebrownie) March 31, 2017
And it's only been a few weeks but it has been the most impactful, meaningful, gift that keeps on giving I've ever gotten— Channing Tweetum (@ebrownie) March 31, 2017
Note: In that second tweet, Erin's referencing Unfuck Your Habitat, an awesome resource for people trying to deal with a bigger mess at home than they know what to do with—if you're in a similar position, definitely check it out.
All that said, there's a much bigger takeaway here that has to do with so much more than cleaning and maintaining your space. It's about allowing yourself to ask for help. Whether you're struggling with your mental health or you're going through a major life change (downsizing or welcoming a new baby, for example) that has left you dealing with a mess that seems insurmountable, know that it's okay to ask for help. If you have friends or family you trust to be sensitive and non-judgmental to help you get through it, you can ask them to help you clean or even just sit there with you while you clean to talk you through it and keep you company (if you don't feel like that's something you can do, consider hiring a cleaning or organizing service—it's their job, so you know they'll do their best and keep it professional).
Whether you're struggling with your mental health or you're going through a major life change (downsizing or welcoming a new baby, for example) that has left you dealing with a mess that seems insurmountable, know that it's okay to ask for help.
Of course it's hard and scary to ask for help and to not see yourself as a burden, but the truth is, you're not—the people who genuinely care about you will never hold those things against you. You're human and life happens, and sometimes that means you need help. There's nothing wrong with that.
One major ground rule to remember: It's definitely not okay to just invade someone's space and clean their home without permission (Kate, Christie and I only cleaned Erin's room because it was something she had asked us for help with, and she always had final say on what stuff was kept, what was tossed, and where things went). This is not the kind of thing you surprise someone with. It's a loving gesture born from teamwork, communication and an immense desire to help out a friend in need.