Monday, March 30, 2009

cleaning house: getting free from messiness

I appreciate the comments people left about my last post. I know that weight gain is an issue which other people who take antipsychotic medications struggle with as well. I am not sure that there is a good solution available for this problem, unfortunately. I have tried losing weight numerous times with diets and exercise, and it doesn't seem to work well for me now as it used to when I was younger and not on medications like these.

Although I do feel depressed about my weight issue, and the persistent symptoms that come up, I am doing better on some fronts. I went through another phase of keeping a messy apartment the past couple of months, and I finally pulled myself out of that so that I am keeping it more neat and clean now. I feel much less depressed when I am at home in a clean house than when I am going into and out of a messy disaster area. Also, my landlord agency sent people to do an inspection of all the apartments in our building. This motivated me to clean for five days until the place was in good shape again, in time for the inspectors to visit. It also allowed me to have the place clean enough for other visitors, so my mom came by one night and my friend came over another night. Often, in the past, my place was too messy for company. My goal with my apartment now is to manage it so that it does not become that disorganized and embarrassing again.

In conversations with other people who have mental illnesses, I have learned that I am not alone with the problem of being very disorganized, and with getting overwhelmed regarding cleaning house. My mother does not keep up with cleaning at all, and she and I are similar in this vein. She tends to let things go until they are in really bad shape, and I am afraid that I have the same tendency sometimes. I have one online friend with a similar problem, and have met other people in support groups who had trouble with hoarding garbage and junk, not being able to straighten out their homes alone. I wonder sometimes what particular brain glitch this is - the glitch that causes people to live in material chaos. I wish there was a simple pill for it, or an easy solution, but the only answer I've ever found is to force myself to clean even when doing so goes against my constitution.

I would be interested in hearing your comments on this issue. It is something I have discussed here before, and I would be interested in hearing more responses about it. If you or someone you know has a mental illness and some trouble with neatness and cleanliness, please chime in. I think it is an interesting subject to discuss and one that does not often come out into the daylight, because so many people are ashamed of the way that they live behind closed doors.

If you are living in a disaster area, please know that you are not alone in your messy state, and - hard though it may be to believe this - there is a way out. I find that cleaning a tiny bit at a time, and taking frequent breaks helps me get through big messes. I am talking about really bad messes. You may not be able to clean your home in a day - no matter how small your home is. You may need a week. You may need a few weeks or a month. But you can do it. Little by little, like the Little Engine That Could. Just say to yourself, "I think I can; I think I can."

Playing music loudly while you clean can also help you keep moving. I play music every time, and I even have certain playlists set aside for cleaning. It's just like exercising - music helps!

Make sure you have the proper tools first. You may need gloves (I do when my messes are bad), cleaning supplies, sponges, etc....And you also may need help, as in the form of another person. I know how it is to have a place that looks too bad for another person to be allowed to enter - so that is an issue some of you may have come across. But do what you can on your own, and then, see if you have a close friend or family member who would be willing to lend a hand. I know a support group leader in NAMI who does this for people in the group when they ask her, and she says she actually enjoys cleaning, believe it or not!

Also, there are websites to help us messy people of the world. This is one my mom has told me about in the past: Messies Anonymous is a site especially for those of us who are challenged in the area of organization and cleanliness. Her methods are unique, and may be useful to you. This other site has cleaning tips for efficient neatness. Life Organizers has some organization tips as well.


  1. Hi Jennifer,

    Boy do I understand "the messies" and the problem of the disaster zone. At my old apartment my landlord threatened to call the Public Health department if I didn't get help cleaning up. There was, I am ashamed to say, garbage all over the place, as well as dry trash and broken glass as well. I need not mention the dirty clothes and all the clutter that I could not part with. The only thing that saved me from knee high junk was my extreme poverty!

    Now, though, now I have regular help, hired by my sister. Every other week, a friend who gets paid for the work, comes in to help me clean up the place, so it doesn't get completely "away from me." THat means that it doesn't get filthy, because the corners are clean and the dusting is done, as well as the laundry. But alas, my stuff is on the floor and strewn from door to door somehow by day two post cleaning. I don't know why or how. I always vow to keep it up, not to mess it completely. But always, always, it becomes that disaster-zone in no time.

    I cannot help you explain this, except to say that before I was ill with schizophrenia I was Miss Neatnik. I always put things away and was a fanatic about cleanliness and order. I don't know what happened but something changed around age 30 and I lost that drive to order things. I simply fell into sloth and slovenliness. It embarrasses me sometime, but I can't seem to change it.

    I hope this perhaps makes you feel less alone, if not better. I think it is not uncommon in schizophrenia, at least I do not know many people with the condition who are very neat.

    PS I also find it difficult to take a shower...I only take one every three weeks or even every two months if I can get away with it. It doesn't bother me at all. And no one else complains so I figure no one knows...I do wash my hair in the sink but that is about it.

  2. Hi Pam!
    I used to read your blog when it was at, by the way. What happened to that site, I do not know. It seems to not be updated anymore. I noticed you started a different blog, right?

    Well, I can totally understand about living in a disaster area. About five or six months ago, I took 25 bags of trash out of my one bedroom apartment in one week, because that is how much crap I had piled up in here.

    This past week, I took five days to clean the place and that included an entire weekend. The dishes are so hard for me to keep up with that I sometimes use plastic cups and paper plates, even though it's bad for the environment (my apartment is often bad as an environment though) and a waste of money. I always get it clean eventually and vow to never regress to my old ways, but who can say for sure if I'll manage that feat this time. The past ten years I've been like this, and it's not like I have a good track record now.

    I think i managed to keep myself neat and organized when I lived in a group home a few years ago, because they inspected the room all the time, and I had a roommate, so I had no choice. When my boyfriend lived in this apartment with me, I managed to keep it relatively clean and to cook every day, but I never seem to be able to keep that stuff up when it's just myself here.

    I TOTALLY understand why you need your sister's help to clean. It would be useful for me to hire someone I think. I just cannot afford it right now. My case manager sometimes has to do home visits, and when it's bad, she helps me pick up trash around the apartment and get rid of it, which always lifts my spirits but seems to be a somehow overwhelming task when I try to do it alone. It is nice to know that there are people like you who understand this stuff. I appreciate you taking the time to share your story. Thanks!

  3. Since I am a designer, I have the opposite problem. I see EVERYTHING as a design and something that should be improved. I swear I have undiagosed OCD when it comes to design. I am known to change rooms around like 10 times in 3 months. It's bad. I sometimes feel like I am a slave to my surroundings. I obsess over color, shape, arrangement of things. I am a perfectionist in everything I do. I don't watch much TV because I always have to be creating things. If there is a mess, I get stressed and don't feel satisfied until it is picked up. So you could say that my surroundings dictate my moods. Good design excites then calms me while bad design makes me obsess until it is good. I am glad you posted about this because I am interested in how our minds work and function.

    While I don't have a diagnosed mental disorder, my brother does and possible sister and father. I do have the same quirks as my father and do think OCD is linked to me in some way. Maybe it makes me a good designer/artist I guess but if someone else was in my mind while I was obsessing, they would want to leave, right away.

  4. I forgot to mention something about your last post, about weight gain. In addition to exercise, you could try getting most of your carbs in the morning since you have the rest of the day to burn them off. At dinner try to eat less carbs but do eat lean protein and veggies. Plus, smaller meals more frequently helps (as opposed to three big meals. Raw foods are much better than heated foods. I could send you more info if you want:)

  5. A man's view. I've been married almost 9 years. The house we live in, has been Margaret's home for over 30 years. It's always been "cluttered." At first I did the cooking and dishes, mopped the floors once a week. My MD suggested I get more "physical" to help alleviate my anxiety. I took his advice to heart and set upon doing the housework. I do it at least one hour a day..actually it's a few hours. The house looks so much better. The yard is looking good too. Since I cook. I claimed the kitchen as mine. I do maintenance everyday. Doing the housework gives me joy. Margaret is happy and my anxiety is lowered. Music does help me get motivated.

  6. Hi Jen,

    Ah, this is what I like to see, lots of comments for you!

    I have a real problem, as you know, about cleaning up. I just don't do it mostly. Before I got ill, I enjoyed cleaning up, but now, I walk right by the mess day after day. I think most people with mental illnesses need extra help, but the nature of schizophrenia for me is that I am a recluse. Having a messy, smelly house just makes it a lot worse. I believe if I could do what you have done (several times now) I would feel a lot better. I still have hope that I will improve.

    I'm very glad to hear that you have been able to clean and I wish you continued success!


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