Hi! I was reading through your suggestions about dealing with the problem of dirty dishes and I was wondering if you had ever done a similar post about dealing with the problem of a messy or dirty living space when that seems overwhelming. If that’s something you think you have things to say about, I’m sure I’d find that incredibly helpful. Thank you so much for running this blog, it’s made such a difference for me!

realsocialskills replied:

I wish I could, but I’m terrible at this and I haven’t managed to figure out how to keep my living space anywhere close to clean.

Some people have told me that they find Unfuck Your Habitat helpful. I personally haven’t really been able to use it because of the tone — it’s kind of yelly and says things like “go fucking deal with it”, and that doesn’t work for me.

But it also has very specific practical suggestions, so some people can use it.

Anyone else have suggestions?

librarychair said:

I was about to recommend Flylady, but I went back to the site and realized that while it was really helpful to have someone talking to me in an understanding and encouraging manner (which they do, a lot) while I was in an abusive situation, a lot of other things about the site bother me, especially how jargony it gets right off the bat. There is a LOT of content there, and a good chunk of it is a hard sell for being in the community, and a good chunk of it is repetitive testimonial style encouragement. Reading it again, it actually reminds me very much of preaching, using similar tactics to get the reader to identify with the speaker. It also kind of encouraged me to ignore the real problem, which was that none of my efforts met with my partner’s approval. I don’t recommend it, personally.

What I have found helpful, in the present, is trying to stop myself from making big lists and plans. I have that tendency. If I think too long about what I am going to do to clean the house, I will start making a list of things I need to do. I then inevitably fail to complete one or more of the items on the list, leaving me with a compromised sense of accomplishment and a bunch of worthless pieces of paper lying around. So if I feel like cleaning, I get up and start without making a plan beyond aiming myself at a particular mess.

When I’m dealing with piles of random stuff around, I clean with the assumption that I’m only going to clean for a little while and then I’m going to quit. I do not take a whole big mess apart and sort it into piles and then run out of energy and end up with a lot of little piles. I do put messes into boxes bit by bit, removing trash, and putting things away as I go. I can drop everything at any point and still have it be better than when I started. If part or all of your mess makes it into a box, you can pick the whole thing up and move it to get at whatever is behind the mess.

I’m still not really good at managing dirty dishes. I just buy paper plates and bowls and cups and disposable plastic utensils when it gets really bad, to give myself a chance to catch up. I also make a point of cleaning the sink itself whenever I get to the bottom of it to keep mold from growing in there.

I also have the problem where if I put something down and leave it there for long enough, it disappears. That is, it’s not clutter, it’s not mess, it’s just background noise. So while my partner and I are fairly comfortable in our house day to day, it would probably look pretty chaotic to a visitor who doesn’t know us very well. I do have standards and they are these:

- has to have a clear path to walk through to get to key areas with nothing to step on or over.

- no bad smells.

- no bugs.

- usable work space for necessary activities - bed and seating are clear, places to put down plates and stuff for minor food prep, etc. This can bother me if it gets encroached upon too much, and is occasionally the catalyst for some cleaning.

Sorry for rambly post. I kind of skipped lunch time to get this out. Oops.