How to Declutter With Depression

How to Declutter With Depression

Depression and a cluttered home tend to enhance the others’ negative qualities. When your home is a cluttered mess it can deepen your depression. The more depressed you get the harder it is to tidy your home.

You know if you could just muster up the energy to declutter, you could help eliminate just one more thing that triggers your depression.

If you can’t manifest that energy, you get even more depressed.

I have suffered from depression for a long time. I have about three good days before I have a bad day. This has gone on and on every week of my life (it is exhausting).

So in a given week, I feel on top of everything, euphoric even, then depression slaps me hard in the face, and I can barely get out of the bed, let alone deep clean and declutter my home.

If you suffer from depression, anxiety tends to struggle along with it, and nothing can make me more anxious than a messy home.

Everyone is facing battles that no one else can see and sometimes no one can understand.

When you’re feeling this alone in the world, and no one understands why your messy home is making you cry in the bathroom… I just want you to know… I UNDERSTAND.

Your pain is real, you are not just complaining, you are not overreacting, and you are not being dramatic.

You have depression. It makes things harder than it does for other people.

So many people can declutter with no problems. They can deep clean their homes, maintain a schedule, and seem to conquer everything as easy as pie.

Yet for someone with depression, these things can be mountains that you just cannot climb…right now. And that is OK! Because there are ways for you to manage to declutter your home even though you are suffering a never-ending battle in your mind.

Your depression does not define who you are, just as much as someone in a wheelchair is not defined by their limitations.

Anyone can do anything they set their minds too, but maybe your journey with managing how to declutter with depression just needs to take a different path to get there.

So let’s talk about why you should declutter your home when you suffer from depression with an example.

Take this familiar example for instance…

You didn’t clean up the kitchen in the morning because you thought you would get to it after work in the afternoon.

The afternoon comes and depression reared its ugly head. You walk in the door, see the pile of dishes in the sink, the food bits on the counters, and the crumbs on the floor and you just want to…cry.

Realistically you could clean up this mess in about 15-20 minutes but with depression your reality shifts to a false idea of this situation.

In your mind, this will take you hours and you do not have the energy and you leave it for tomorrow.

Now if your home were decluttered, cleaning up would not take as long and you would start to loosen up on your false ideas of HOW long it will really take you to clean.

The reason why this starts to change is because you have less items to clean. There are only 4 cups in this sink to clean, not 12.

Wiping down the kitchen counters isn’t as difficult because you have less stuff on them to have to clean around. Sweeping up the crumbs isn’t as hard because you have nothing but a rug on the kitchen floor.

So you can see that decluttering your home will help you manage your depression better.

If you are ready to start taking some strides towards a decluttered home then I encourage you to read the following tips to battle depression and your clutter at the same time.

(This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service with the links that I provide I may receive a small commission. There is no additional charge to you! Some of the amazing following photos are not my own, click on them to head straight to the source!)

GIVE YOURSELF A MUCH NEEDED PEP TALK

This is your tough-love moment from me (another person suffering from depression alongside you).

Stop overwhelming yourself with the entire home. You got a lifetime worth of items stuffed in your home, you WILL NOT and CANNOT take care of this type of project in one day, one weekend, or even one week.

Respect what you have brought into your home by taking your time to go through it properly.

Declutter when you FEEL like it.

STOP putting pressure on yourself to try and declutter when you just cannot mentally get there. Wait until you got the right head space to work on an area.

If you truly have problems parting with your items due to sentimental triggers then I would encourage you to reach this article as well before you start decluttering.

WORK ONE AREA

Tackling an entire room seems great, but if you don’t think you can get through it all in one day, then opt for a smaller area instead.

One day clean, declutter, and organize your dresser. Then call it a day.

Another day clean, declutter, and organize a kitchen drawer. Then call it a day.

These “micro-decluttering” sessions work wonders for people that suffer from depression because you do not over exert yourself, yet you still accomplished something.

If you have a calendar, then write down a small project to do on certain days of the month. Then you don’t even have to think of what to do to that day, you can just check your calendar and see that you challenged yourself to clean out one bathroom drawer.

The time is going to pass anyway, so why not declutter a small area here and there and by the end of a month, you probably have decluttered a couple of rooms.

CHANGE ONE SMALL HABIT

We all develop habits that make us go backward in our decluttering efforts which send us back into a depression.

Find one habit that you could change and work on it until you have broken it.

Maybe you toss your purse and work lunch bag onto the kitchen table, making it feel cluttered. Everyday vow that if you cannot do anything else that day, you will at least put your purse and lunch bag where they belong.

Find a small and simple change you can do that will make an impact on decluttering your environment.

BE RUTHLESS WHEN YOU HAVE THE ENERGY

I know you know about the energy I am talking about. Your depression takes you down a lot but then every once in a while you get this magical burst of energy.

When that happens, get ruthless with decluttering. Go through the hard stuff. The clothes, the pantry, under the kitchen sink.

Don’t waste this energy on a simple and easy decluttering project, use it on something bigger and more impactful.

Believe me, the effects of accomplishing a larger decluttering project will have some wonderful lingering positive effects in your life that can help you offset some of your depression

Related Read

Do You Feel Sad After Decluttering?

FIND A MUSE

We all need inspiration at times and sometimes that is all we need to find our motivation!

Read a good blog post, article, or magazine that inspires you to get started.

Join support Facebook groups for people who are suffering from the same struggles you are.

Go out and purchase something new for your home that gets you excited to declutter and organize.

I know every time I buy a new jar or container I get a little boost of excitement and motivation to make an organizational change in my home.

Sometimes you just need to find a muse and there are many avenues to find one.

KICK PEOPLE OUT OF YOUR HOME

I’m sure your thinking, “Whoa there!” But sometimes our spouses, friends, and family can make it harder to clean and declutter our homes.

Sure maybe that can be helpful (if your lucky), but more often than not they are distracting and can dampen your ability to finish what you want to accomplish.

Maybe the kids can have an overnight slumber party with friends, maybe hubby can visit his parents. Or maybe they just go to the movies and give you some alone time so you can do what you need to do.

So kick em out, put on music, light some candles, and declutter your mind so you can declutter your home.

GET PREPARED

OK so maybe you still aren’t ready to leave the bed and get started, and that is OK.

Maybe you can grab a pen and paper and come up with a game plan instead. (you don’t even need to leave the bed for this one!)

When you declutter you are going to need a few things.

A couple trash bags for trash.

A box or two for items you want to donate.

A box or two for items you wish to sell (if you want to).

If you are going to sell, figure out the game plan for that. Are you wanting to post things online to sell or are you going to host a yard sale? Figure out the plan for these items ahead of time.

If you are going to donate, figure out where, Goodwill, Salvation Army?

Are you going to need anyone’s help? Maybe you’re looking to donate furniture, that could take an extra pair of hands.

Make a list of all the areas in your home you know you want to declutter. Then pick a date you want to start and complete each area.

MOST IMPORTANTLY… STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP

So what if your home looks like an episode of hoarders? So what if you can’t open a door without things falling out? So what if you’ve been too embarrassed to have people over?

You’re here in this moment, living with depression, living with a cluttered home, and it is OK.

Beating up ourselves will not change a darn thing. So why waste the energy?

I like to compare this often to people who beat themselves up over gaining weight (which I do on the regular).

You’re mad at yourself for eating that Cake Milkshake from Dairy Queen (you heard me right…cake…milkshake…it was glorious).

But you ate that milkshake! It happened, it’s done. Time to move on. If eating that milkshake upset you that much, then eat a salad for dinner.

The same is to be said about decluttering with depression. You are beating yourself up because you let it get this way. It happened, it’s done. Time to move on.

If your cluttered home upset you that much, then declutter a drawer.

Do not waste another moment beating yourself up for your cluttered home or your depression.

Overall you have to embrace your depression. If you stop looking at it as a weakness you will be able to start to declutter your home at a pace that works for you.

So take your time, stop beating yourself up, and do what you can when you can.

The only thing you cannot do is decide to give up… every step you take closer to decluttering your home is one step further than where you were yesterday.

That my friends… is progress.

Happy Decluttering!

43 thoughts on “How to Declutter With Depression

  1. Thank you. Really needed to hear that. Always been mildly to moderately depressed, but been laid off for five months so its now major. I have been unknowingly following your one drawer thing for a couple weeks now and your right,it does help a little. Gonna save this and refer back often. you do get it.

  2. Being laid off on top of moderate depression must be incredibly hard! I would be in my mind constantly. Decluttering even one small project at a time will help you gain some control, just keep pushing forward every step is an accomplishment from yesterday.

  3. Thank you. Yes, you do get it! Your article made me realise a lot of my clutter is caused by not having assigned “a place” for it to start with. I don’t have a place for mail so it builds up on the counter until it gets to a drawer or thrown out. I also realised that if I don’t have “a place” for something and I’m not using it or displaying it I can probably sell it, give it away or throw it out. I will assign things to places and plod away slowly making use of my bursts energy. Thanks again.

  4. Hi Debbie, Yes there are still a few places left in my home where I do not have a place for certain items I use every day and it constantly looks cluttered. I know once I finally have the energy to find a real home for these things everything will go a lot smoother around here. One project at a time, a little progress is still progress! Thank you for reading 🙂

  5. I have also had major depression for years and I despair with the amount of stuff I have in my house that I don’t need but am too worn out to deal with. Your post really hit home with me. Thanks!

  6. I was extremely depressed after my parents died. When I made a game plan to accomplish something, I would see that long list of things to be done and I’d feel overwhelmed. Instead of making a long list, I got a small flip top notepad and put one thing or step to do on each sheet. I would write down the task when I thought of it. Each day I would make a goal to do just one task. When the task was done, I’d rip out the sheet for that task and throw it in the recycle bin. When I had focus and energy, I might get 20 or 30 tasks done. Other days, I might struggle to do one. I could choose any one task, and I could choose any task in the notebook. I only had to look at one task at a time, so it wasn’t overwhelming, and each day the notebook got thinner and thinner. I loved when I ran out of tasks in a notebook. When the notebook was empty, I rewarded myself with a small inexpensive treat, like going out for coffee or a walk with a friend, or buying a ball of fine yarn to knit a one ball project,
    or a scented bar of soap to enjoy in my bath.

  7. Hi Vickie, I think that is a really inspiring game place for people that are suffering and overwhelmed, especially after tragedies such as losing our loved ones. One step at a time or in your case one piece of paper at a time to help find a sense of control during an overwhelming situation. It is crazy how we feel we must accomplish it all in one shot or we do absolutely nothing. There is an in-between and not only did you find it but it was also successful. Thank you for sharing and I will remember to pass on this wisdom and more than likely use this advice for myself in my darker days. 🙂

  8. Vickie, I likes your idea of putting one thing down on a piece of paper in a notebook. It seems like that will be so much less overwhelming. I’m going to try it. Thanks!

  9. Look at you girl! You just seem wonderful; and most importantly nice. Thank you for the article, I struggle with anxiety but not depression, but the fallout is basically the same. The clutter makes me SO nervous! I will use your ideas, thanks again <3

  10. Thank you so much for your kind words! Yeah, anxiety can be just as debilitating as depression all we can do is keep trying to find different tactics to manage it better, and removing clutter is just one of those things 🙂

  11. Thank you for your article. I know a few people who have said this already, but I need to say it as well. You do get it! I look at post stated here and it’s like wow. I’m not in the boat alone, there are others as well going through what I am going through. I just wish more people got it , they don’t, but I think that’s a reality we all have to face. I have both depression and anxiety, and some days it’s hard to get anything done. And I have moved just recently, and I had the chance to start over. But, I brought my clutter with me!! And also I have lost loved ones and brought their clutter with me too!! Oh my!!

  12. Hi Holly! Sounds like you got your hands full, moving plus a few households worth of clutter crammed into one space! All I could say is do a small task every day and when you get that surge of energy (you know the one I’m talking about), drop everything you had planned for that day and use it towards decluttering and organizing. I know that for me there are days I am superwoman and days where I am lucky if Ill even charge my phone for the day… We got to figure out our personal strengths within our anxiety and depression and utilize them when we can 🙂

  13. Thank you so much for your articles and advice! What really made the difference for me is the gentle way that you motivate others. I always feel alone in my struggle with clutter and depression. It is so wonderful that you get it! I will start using your tips and be kinder to myself about the length of time my decluttering journey will take me.

  14. Hi Donna! We are taught to be nice to others but never to ourselves. That just may be the key to happiness, especially in the midst of battling depression and or anxiety. Take your time and you will see better results!

  15. I loved this! She gave great decluttering tips while giving us a pep-talk! She lets you know mental illness is normal and okay; you just have to learn to manage it one day at a time.

  16. Great blog post. I suffer from Clinical Depression. I had recently been dumped by the love of my life. I had moved to my home years ago and STILL have crud laying around under the house. I make small efforts. Nothing like that Japanese Lady who makes us all chuck left, right and centre. I say, ” Ok, today I have energy, but I will not over do it. ” I have other medical issues, which can knock me out for days too.
    So, like even a few minutes ago, I looked at a stack of magazines, and said, Go through 10 of them, then when you feel another good day, go through some more. I have been doing that for over a year, and guess what? The pile shrunk! Made me feel happier when I saw the pile was hardly anything at all to go through another time.
    I had bad months recently, and yet I still managed to say, Ok, 5 things out of the house. Amazingly, only 5 a day or week depending, makes a big difference. The biggest fact I ALWAYS had in the past was thinking ahead too far. To me back when, doing itty bits seemed overwhelming slow. But now I know it is kind to myself.
    Keep up the good work on your blog!

  17. Thank you Maria 🙂 The tiniest bits over a course of a long period of time can turn into quite a big result. 5 things a week is amazing! There are times I get rid of 100 things on one day and then have no energy to do anything at all for months on end. Life is hard, breakups are terrible, and trying to battle clutter and depression at the same time is one hard obstacle to face. The fact that we all are still trying to face it, is what matters.

  18. Thank you so much Abbey for the kind words! Mental health awareness is becoming a new passion of mine. Too many people are struggling without an outltet… so why not make decluttering that outlet!

  19. I have struggled with feeling bad about myself for years,
    for not getting MORE done on any given day. Depression is REAL and I have been deeply depressed since I was a Senior in High School. Thank you for sharing with your readers.
    It does make me feel less alone and MORE
    UNDERSTOOD. I have been
    working on decluttering my
    home now for several years .
    I feel so much better when I see progress.
    It is slow going but I can definitely see what a difference having my space uncluttered has made.

  20. Hi Kim!
    Thank you for sharing. Depression is so unbelievably real and in my opinion calling it depression was a mistake. We name something severe and debilitating an everyday term for feeling sad, so people that do not fully understand what Depression is and doesn’t believe in it. But… it’s not about what other people think it’s how WE think and feel about our Depression. Taking small steps in any direction, especially decluttering your environment, is one small step that can finally make the difference. Keep on going!

  21. This has been a real eye opener for me. I tend to think …. “it’s only me that feels this way and deals with this stuff “ I did not realize how comforting and validated it is to know that I do not suffer alone. Thank you … as everyone else stated …. you (and they) “ get it”. That is so reassuring and helps me to put it into perspective a little better.

  22. Hi Jane!
    I am so glad that we all found each other, there is a lot of comfort knowing that so many go through such similar and complicated emotions. Whenever you feel alone in this matter, just remember you are never alone 🙂

  23. Thank you for this heart-lightening post. And thanks to all those who shared. I live with anxiety everyday and battle depression like an unwelcome but weekly visitor. Your words of acceptance, the kind of actual acceptance that says “dance with that partner, here are the steps,” loosened my jaw and shoulders physically. I take away a commitment to change my spaces so I can keep my spaces clean. One day, one notebook sheet, one small area at a time. Thank you so so much.

  24. Thank you so much for sharing Mary:) Progress no matter how small is still progress. Acceptance of this fact and kindness towards ourselves will be the only we can balance it all.

  25. Hi there fellow depressionists ~
    I have downloaded several Pinterest Pins on hoarding, but this is the first one which ever actually truly gave me hope and much needed direction. (The others seem to just give me their ‘decluttering lists’ with no sensible plan to get me started.) I love the idea of the ‘flip paper pads’ to write one thing at a time and the weekly/month ‘chore’ calendars. Until now I would write a bunch things on a list I need to start decluttering, and then would get too overwhelmed by the long list of all the things I needed to do. ‘One page at a time’ works so perfectly for me, because if I have a extra shot of energy I can do more than one page and throw them both away when finished. Love it!
    I have an idea which I wanted to share. I am great at having to be held accountable for my actions (or in this case my tasks.) So I thought I would run a newspaper/online add to have a weekly/monthly sharing for a small gathering of fellow struggling Depressionists/Hoarders to share in our trials and tribulations with each other of our progress in decluttering our homes. One rule, we absolutely MUST be the one to declutter our own living spaces and work through our depression! There is strength in numbers, right? What do you think about this idea? Please let me know. Thank you and God bless all. ~
    Rebecca H

  26. Hi Rebecca!
    Thank you so much for your response and kind words. I love the pad of paper technique as well, it really can work wonders in helping people stay calm in an overwhelming situation. I love your idea and let me know when you get something going for that, I would LOVE to be a part of it. Support systems work! So let’s be each others support 🙂

  27. Thank you Susan for reading 🙂 It means so much to me how many of us that feel so alone, can come together.

  28. Thanks to the Global Pandemic Covid19 those of us that are suffering from depression are now suffering from sever depression. I am personally medicated but the only thing that it helps me with is I am not screaming and clawing the walls. We, the depressed, have no control over our lives because we are literally in a prison from the outside. Overwhelmed is the perfect word for it. We need some tiny bit of control over our lives. I have read your post and it has made me believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe not for the Covid19 but, maybe just making our home more of a sanctuary than a prison could make us all feel a little more control and at ease. I want to thank you so much for your post!!! I have already started tackling things a little at a time, but feeling like I am accomplishing something. Thank you!!

  29. Hi Lisa!
    Thank you so much for reading my post. I agree, now more than ever we can no longer ignore what’s going on in our homes. When you’re there 24 hours a day like the most of us right now, it’s a bit overwhelming on top of dealing with an overwhelming world. When things feel so out of control the best way to deal with it is to gain a little fragment of control, even it’s just control over the junk drawer in the kitchen! We must give ourselves small goals and accomplish them to remind ourselves that we can change the way we feel with the smallest effort. Good luck to you and know that even the smallest of steps lead your way up the mountain.

  30. Hi Jes
    This post is incredible!
    It’s so good to be understood.
    I have been feeling this way for years and it’s been so much worse the past few weeks.
    Just having a daily routine can be overwhelming and a challenge. Some days are great and others not as great. I feel that everyday I focus on being more organized but the physical clutter makes me feel dizzy, overwhelmed and hopeless.
    It makes so much sense now that others have this down to a T and yet these simple tasks seem like a mountain as u said and takes a lot more energy and mental focus to get through. Thank you for reaching out and being so honest.

  31. Thank you Lereen for your kind words. It is a mountain of a battle every day, but there are always small victories to be won. In fact, I was so busy in October my house just turned upside down which further spiraled me down. It wasn’t until this past week that I finally was able to get to simple tasks like dusting and actually taking some stuff to Goodwill. Although small, they were HUGE to me. Use your energy wisely, and relish in your victories!

  32. Hello!
    Thank you for the tips for clearing out and questioning why we continue to keep things that clutter our spaces but most especially our minds and how to keep persevering thru depression . Ask any specialist or therapist and they will tell you clutter and excessive amounts of belongings are common triggers that contribute to anxiety and depression.
    I became very sick in November 2018, with a massive surgery in February 2019, another one in June 2020, 8 hospitalizations plus the diagnosis of a very rare liver disease within a 2 year span. Those first traumatic events triggered the need to get rid of anything that didn’t serve a purpose or make us happy. Anything of good value was sold on FB Marketplace, thoughtfully donated, or offered to young family members who could use the hand me downs. I am edging closer to reaching my goals of simplicity and peacefulness in our home while at the same time adapting to being on disability because of my physical health and severe depression. I work every day at battling the negative and embracing even the little accomplishments. My husband was resistant at first with the decluttering but when he saw what a difference it was making to me and in our home, he started going thru his stuff too. If a partner is really supportive of you, your well-being, and the home you share, they will be there to help you cope, heal, and relinquish the burdens you don’t need to be carrying.

  33. Thank you so much for sharing Laurie. Sounds like you got dealt a hand that would be hard for anyone to carry, and here you are doing it so well. What a tremendous weight (physically & mentally) we can lift off ourselves when we search for simplicity. Plus the fact that your husband now understands it makes it so much easier to keep pushing through. <3

  34. Wow! I totally relate to your post! I not only suffer from depression, but OCD. I had someone come in once a week to dust, mop, sweep and clean the bathrooms, but Covid screwed that up. When I had to work from home, cleaning could be done “later,” which never seemed to come. Now I’m overwhelmed. I actually did get a good bit done last night and today, tho. I try to keep my head clear by saying the old adage: “How do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time!” Thank you for the encouragement!

  35. Thank you Harriett and I love your elephant metaphor! I might just use that one someday. It’s all we can do, one day at time. The only way we’ll fail is if we don’t try, even the smallest of progress is always progress 🙂

  36. Hey Jes! I was thinking about how you describe your depression and it sounds like you have adrenal fatigue (not a doctor, but it’s what I had/have too). Whereby during your productive days you run off of more adrenaline (that energetic, happy, wired feeling) than your body can replenish…which leads to depressed days while your body rebuilds it’s adrenaline stores. Left unchecked it can lead to adrenal burnout and constant depression (mine lasted 2 years). Then it was 2 years recovering where ANY little emotion would trigger an adrenaline rush and burn me out again. I know how to deal with it now and can recognize the warning signs to slow down before it gets that bad again.

    Self-care is key!
    I wish you the best!

  37. This is the first article I’ve read about decluterring that has spoken to me. I have been battling depression for several decades. It gets better then worse. I have so much stuff that it overwhelms me. Thank you for the ideas and affirmation that it is ok to only do one thing. I so needed this. It has helped my heart!

  38. Hi Caroline,
    I am so happy that this article helped you heal even if just for a moment. Depression can make everything feel overwhelming all the time. That’s why we must celebrate every small step as the win it really is.

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