We all have bad days…and sometimes when those days get really bad, crap seems to just pile up around us. Or at least it feels that way. I have been having a bad couple of weeks and this is what’s going on in my life. In reality, my brain has turned on its auto-pilot while I try to keep myself together and somewhat functional. So my basic needs are getting taken care of–meaning I’m eating, showering, etc.–even if I don’t notice it.
What that means is that my dishes are piling up, my towels need washed, and I’m not doing any of it because I can’t even pull myself off the couch. It’s easy to tell people they need to force themselves to do something. Especially if you don’t understand this feeling. The fact of the matter is cleaning when you’re upset or “off” is not easy. It’s one of the hardest things in the world.
This isn’t a new thing. For years, I’ve gone through phases like this and I’ve learned how to take care of myself while also taking care of my environment. Part of that has been with the help of a wonderful website I’ve found called Unfuck Your Habitat. In the short time I’ve followed, it has taught me a lot about remaining self-aware on bad days and taking care of the things that help keep me sane.
So here are the best tips I can offer you, if you’re feeling off and need some motivation.
1. You don’t have to do it all.
Don’t do everything at once. Just do one thing and then see how you feel after that. Start with the room you spend the most time in (for me, it’s the living room). Is it cluttered? Find five things that are out of place and put them away. Now stop.
That’s it. That’s all you have to do.
Maybe later you’ll vacuum or empty the dishwasher, maybe you won’t. For now, you’ve accomplished something. Sometimes that’s enough to get it going, but be careful because….
2. You don’t want to binge-clean.
Binge-cleaning is not the way to get things done. What happens when you binge-clean is that you clean everything at once and then you tell yourself, “Now all I have to do is keep it this way.” That’s not possible.
How many times have you done this? Probably more than once. (I do it, too.) Yet you still convince yourself it’s the right way to do things. I don’t know a single person this works for…including myself. Because binge-cleaning makes it easy to turn a blind eye for a little while…and then when a new mess appears it’s infuriating. Mostly because it seems to happen by magic. “This room was spotless yesterday, what happened!?”
If you want your space to stay clean, you can’t just binge-clean once a week. Not if you plan to actually live in that space (so guest rooms can be binge-cleaned…your room cannot).
Train yourself to put things away when you get them out and clean off small spaces at a time. Create a schedule, if you need to.
As you force this to become a habit, you’ll find your space just kind of keeps up with itself. (Or that’s how it feels.) Eventually, you’ll notice that you no longer have to speed clean your whole house when you have visitors over. Any more, all I have to do is put a few things away and maybe clean out the litter box.
It takes a lot of effort to keep up with, but I can’t tell you how much this has helped me. Some days, I clean off a kitchen counter…and that’s it. But it makes a huge difference. At this point, I might spend 15 minutes a day cleaning something. And my apartment is not a disaster. It looks like it’s being lived in because, well, it is. (Anyone who comes into my apartment expecting otherwise knows where the door is.) But it’s only ever reasonably messy. Papers are on my desk, clothes are in the hamper, but everything looks fine.
The important thing is that it’s easier to manage on my off days.
3. Make your bed every single day.
I’m serious–every single day. That includes weekends, holidays, and yes, even your birthday. Make it a habit. Do it every morning. Don’t say, “Well, my partner sleeps in longer than I do” or “The cat/dog is in it” or “I don’t feel like it.” As UFYH says, excuses are boring. For the record, I’ve made the bed with Zach still sleeping in it. He doesn’t notice.
For years and years, I was the person saying, “Screw it, it’s just going to get slept in again.” Now I make my bed every day. It’s slowly becoming a thing that just happens. With very little effort, I might add. This morning, I didn’t even know I did it. I walked into my room to make my bed, stopped, and said, “When did I do this?” when I saw that it was already made. Clearly I did it before finishing my coffee–it’s becoming that ingrained. And that’s great.
Having a bed that is always has multiple benefits:
It makes your room feel cleaner, even if there are clothes piled on the floor. (I know from experience.)
- That feeling is a great motivator to get other things organized, even if it’s only in that one room. (But, again, try not to binge-clean.)
- It will help you sleep better.
Some days it’s the only thing I get done, which is OK. No one is asking you to tackle the whole room. The only thing you have to do today is make the bed and then you’re done. You don’t even have to make it look great. Just straighten out the blanket and pick your pillows up off the floor. You’ll feel better, I promise.
4. Download Pomodoro
If I’m working, I have Pomodoro going.
Pomodoro is just a little timer. That’s basically it. You set it to whatever you want it to be–I do 25 minutes of work, one five minute break, and then one 25 minute break in the middle of the day. During those five minutes, I have only one rule: Whatever you do, you have to do it standing.
The result is that most of my breaks are spent cleaning something. I’ll straighten up the sitting area–fluff pillows, fold throw blankets, put books away, gather the TV remotes and put them in their caddy. And then the five minutes are done and I’m back to work.
“But what if I’m in the middle of something and can’t stop?” Add a few more minutes to your work timer. Or double your next break. As long as you don’t make a habit of it.
It’s amazing how clean my apartment usually is because of this.
5. Straighten up before you go to bed.
Holy crap on a stick. This has made SUCH a difference in my life.
There are whole lists of things you can do to “unfuck your morning.” My big one: Dishes. Dishes are always the big one for me. If I walk into the kitchen first thing in the morning and see a pile of dishes, I’m already irritated before I’ve even woken up. So now the dishes get done every night. My mornings are much better than they used to be. I can sit with my coffee and ease myself into a new day.
Especially on Friday mornings. I like to get my groceries before the store gets crowded, and I hate wasting time washing dishes first. (I just can’t bring myself to get groceries if my kitchen is dirty.)
They’re small and simple tips, but they really do work!
What do you do to stay on top of things? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!