This is how to clean and organize when you're depressed

We've got this

Woman cleaning surface with cloth
(Image credit: Getty)

Depression is known to create a sense of hopelessness, overwhelm, and isolation. Lakiesha Oliver, LCPC-I, lead clinician at Solutions of Change, says that it can also rob you of your ability to emotionally manage the energy it takes to function in many areas. If you’re going through a season of depression, tasks like cleaning and decluttering can feel intimidating.

First of all, if you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s always best to work with a therapist or talk to your doctor about how you can support yourself. Try to give yourself grace as you navigate this challenging time in your life, and know that being behind on cleaning and organizing does not mean you’re failing. Sometimes life has to wait until you’re feeling more like yourself. 

“The physical nature of cleaning and organizing combined with the thought process that it takes to prioritize, and work through each of them can cause a person suffering with depression to retreat with the perception of defeat,” Oliver explains. 

Rather than walking away from your space feeling conquered, use these simple tips to make tidying up feel more approachable — even if you’re struggling.

Approach cleaning with an understanding outlook 

As with most things in life, all you can do is your best. Oliver says that it’s smart to focus on doing just what you can. “Progress can be accumulated. People must understand that just because a task doesn’t seem complete yet, does not mean that their effort is a failure,” she explains. 

Shift your focus on what you can get done rather than everything that needs to be done. Even one small win can feel like a big accomplishment if you have the right mindset.

Make a list and take your time 

When tackling a mess, one of the hardest things to figure out can be where to start. Oliver says that for some people, making a weekly checklist can create a sense of overwhelm, but for others, it can be largely helpful. If you fall into the latter category, making your own checklist can help you prioritize the chores that need your attention the most. A list can give you direction, but Oliver says to be careful about how many items on your list you’re trying to complete. Again, start small. 

If you recognize that the dishes haven’t made it back to the kitchen, spend some time going from one room to another picking up any dishes you see, and take them back to the kitchen. This starts the process of getting the dishes done, but it doesn’t mean that you must load the dishwasher right away, or wash, dry, and put them away. 

“Don’t forget to take breaks. Depression steals our energy and it's absolutely alright to do what you can, when you can,” Oliver says. 

Consider what you need to be successful 

If you’re having a hard time mustering up the energy or motivation it takes to clean, know that you’re not alone. Remember that the most crucial piece of the puzzle here is that you take care of yourself first. 

“When you’re searching for your energy, start by determining what you need,” Oliver says. “Do you need emotional support? Have you eaten? Are you hydrated? Are you doing something physical to help the condition of your body?”  

Oliver adds that in general, we have not been pushed to create self-care practices in modern society. “There are these ideal overtures that say ‘your wellness is important’ but responsibilities and expectations that are levied on us tend to dismiss our needs to take care of self as a foundational function,” she explains.

If you’re in a stage of life where you physically cannot keep up with household responsibilities, do your best to honor that and reach out to someone who can help. It’s always going to be more important that you care for yourself first. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s never too soon to ask for help. You can find support in many different ways, whether it’s through friends, family, or a professional. 

“Asking for help early when you notice concerning changes in thoughts and behaviors reduces the amount of time we take to push forward into our better selves,” Oliver says. “The possibility is that anyone who struggles keeping up with housework has the potential to have too much on their plate.”

Oliver also notes that depression can sometimes be tricky to identify. “You may not recognize that you are dealing with depression until something sparks your attention,” she says. “For those who are normally able to complete household chores, they may recognize sooner that they’ve fallen behind or that something is different about the way they are behaving or feeling.” 

Seeking the help of a therapist can greatly increase the potential for a positive outcome. Each of us is important enough to ask for help for our individual needs. It’s never too soon or too late for that.

Kara Thompson

About me: 

Kara Thompson is a Denver-based journalist with over five years of experience writing lifestyle content. She has written for a variety of publications, including,,, and Parents, where she covered all things home, food, fashion, travel, and holidays. During her time on staff at Parents, Kara launched her own home decor and organization column named Save My Space. In 2022, she left her full-time job as an editor and started her own writing, editing, and social media firm, Kara Thompson and Co.

Tennis, New York City, bourbon cocktails, and her sister's German Shepherd are a few of her favorite things.