Why every article about cleaning is annoying

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This is how every single article about cleaning and decluttering looks to me:

Step one: Just clean everything. Step two: You’re done!

When trying to find support for cleaning your space when you’re really bad at it, all the advice seems to be “just clean up already!”. I’ve seen How-To articles which say things like Make sure you clean up everything after you cook a meal. There’s nothing like having a tidy kitchen!

To which I respond, “Yeah, no. That’s sort of my problem? That I can’t do that?”

I clearly wouldn’t be looking for so much information about cleaning and decluttering if I were simply too ignorant to understand that when you clean, things get cleaner. It’s not that I’m incapable of physically cleaning. I can buy cleaning products and sponges and I know how to use them. It’s just that the way in which I’m cleaning is seriously annoying me.

First, it’s knowing where to start. When you’ve got to the point where you can barely see the carpet and your sink doesn’t look like a sink anymore from all the gummed-up plates that are covering it, it’s really, really difficult to think “OK, I can tackle this calmly and logically without screaming and setting fire to everything.”

Second, it’s knowing where you’re actually putting everything when you live in a place with little to no storage or surface space. If you have no shelves or cupboards, this gets difficult. You put one thing down and topple three others. You end up using the floor as a last resort and things stay there for weeks until you actually need to find them (and of course you can’t). Living in a small place which contains two people means your mess ends up like one of those contamination games like Go – you move something to what looks like an empty space and all of a sudden everything around it turns into even more mess.

Third, it’s being able to break through this block for only a few hours a week rather than being able to clean up as you go. It means I might spend all of Saturday doing nothing but cleaning and then be too tired to actually enjoy living in a place that looks nice.

It’s not that I’m a hoarder or that I’m surrounded by stuff I don’t actually need. I quite enjoy taking sackfuls of stuff to charity when I know I don’t need it anymore. It’s just that the stuff I do need (insurance details, shoes, mugs, pens, wrapping paper) tends to end up in a big soup of General Life Stuff which just will not stay in it’s correct place. That and cleaning up after cooking often becomes a physical impossibility to the point where, for a long time, my sink was always full of dirty dishes and hygiene became an issue.

Some people are totally fine with living in mess. For me, it’s deeply embarrassing. I hate inviting people round to my flat because I’m so ashamed of what a state it is. I hate stepping on things and breaking them because I haven’t put them away. I hate not being able to find anything because everything is piled on top of everything else.

I’m aware that having depression is going to make cleaning up after myself harder than it needs to be. It’s certainly an energy-suck to live with something you have to fight first before you do anything else. But while I can generally get in the shower, put clothes on and head out to work everyday, the mess issue is one I haven’t managed to conquer yet. And I don’t think I’m going to conquer it by reading lots of things which tell me to “just do it”.

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