How To Keep Your Apartment Clean Even When You’re Depressed

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Viv Yapp)

If you live with clinical depression, you know that sometimes even just getting out of bed can be a struggle, let alone tackling household chores. Every little thing feels like the world’s biggest hurdle, and sometimes you just feel nothing at all. And the whole “I’ll do it later” thing wouldn’t be such a problem if watching a mess pile up around your home didn’t make you feel even worse. The more tasks that make their way onto your to-do list, the harder it is to get anything done, and it becomes one big messy, vicious cycle.

There are little ways to tackle your messy apartment, even when you’re feeling down. Everyone handles their depression differently, so these tips aren’t about getting yourself out of a down-swing, but rather to help you prevent messes from building up so your home can be the safe space you need without making you feel even more overwhelmed than you already are.

Start Small

Break up big tasks into smaller, more doable actions to get things done—just think about the difference between cleaning your entire bedroom and doing just one load of laundry. Don’t set lofty cleaning goals for yourself—that will just stress you out more. Think of one thing you can do today, even if it doesn’t feel like it will make a difference, and try your best to get it done. You might feel motivated to get more done afterward, or you might not—either way, it’s okay. Try to do something small every day, and you’ll notice that eventually, your apartment will feel less and less messy.

Do Dishes After You Use Them

Personally, the thing that overwhelms me most when my anxiety is at its worst is the inevitable dish pile-up in the sink. Conquering a mountain of plates and pans and forks feels impossible, and even just a glance at my sink makes me more upset. Much like breaking up bigger tasks into smaller actions, try to keep your sink under control by doing dishes after you use them whenever you can and not leaving anything in the sink overnight. If you can prevent the pile-up in the first place, you don’t have to deal with conquering a dirty dish disaster later on.

Move Your Hamper

One thing that can make your room look way messier than it actually is—and can become overwhelming faster than you might realize—is having clothes on the floor. Rather than leaving laundry out after you wear something, put a laundry basket or hamper in an easily accessible spot so you can toss your things into it instead. If you hide your hamper away under your bed or in your closet, you’ll probably be more likely to leave things out, so choose a spot that doesn’t require effort to get to. The easier it is to incorporate into your routine, the better.

Enlist Friends

If you have a roommate you’re close with or a friend that lives nearby, ask for help if you feel comfortable. Admitting that you need help isn’t easy, but sometimes even just having company there can help you take on the tasks you feel like you can’t do. That mountain of dishes is a little bit easier to conquer when you have a friend by your side to dry them (I know it helps me when my roommate and I team up). Your friends don’t have to clean unless you’re comfortable with it and they want to, but having someone you love there to chat with you while you pick up a little might just make a big impact.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do everything all at once. When you’re dealing with depression, it’s hard to see anything but the scary big picture. Take things slowly, and do what feels right for you.


If you or someone you love is dealing with depression and needs help, here are some help lines you can call:

Re-edited from a post originally published 9.27.2016 – TW