The term “depression nest” has become more popular since the pandemic began. This is a messy and disorganized room or home as a result of experiencing depression. It is an outward display of a depressed mental state. This is a type of situational disorganization, where a life situation, in this case depression, has caused someone to put off the regular maintenance of cleaning and organizing their environment.
If someone is depressed, cleaning and organizing won’t solve that depression. I recommend reaching out to friends, family or mental health professionals to help. However, cleaning, decluttering and organizing can help you take control of your environment and improve your surroundings, which may lower feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.
Sometimes, my work as a professional organizer has me cleaning up a “depression nest” with a motivated client who’s working to overcome paralyzing and overwhelming feelings to improve their space and quality of life. This person may feel guilty or embarrassed about letting the room or home get to this messy state, but there is no need to feel that way. Depression can bring on fatigue, lethargy, and difficulty focusing, and it is tough to stay organized in that situation. I’m there to help my clients in a nonjudgmental way to turn their space into something they can be proud of and enjoy.
Here are some of my top tips when tackling a “depression nest”:
Do not have a judgmental family member or friend help you. This person may be well-meaning, but if they can’t accept the current state of your space and assist you without judging, then it is best to tackle this on your own, or with help of a professional organizer.
Schedule a time when you have the most energy to take on this task. For example, if you’re an early bird, plan a time to focus on this in the mornings, when you have the most energy.
Eat beforehand, and stay well-hydrated. It is difficult to focus when you’re hungry or thirsty.
Play music in the background. Do this only if music helps to motivate you, and doesn’t distract you.
Let light into the room. Open the blinds and turn on overhead lights before starting.
Take a before photo or video. This is so you can see the transformation you’ve made once done, and feel good about what you’ve accomplished.
Gather the basic sorting and cleaning tools before you start. Have the following tools nearby: empty boxes for items to sell, donate or to move to other rooms, trash bags, recycling bins, laundry baskets, and cleaning supplies like a broom, vacuum, disinfectant wipes and gloves. If your space is too cramped at the start, set up a folding table in a hallway or other room for a sorting area.
Start with the space that is most important to you. The space that usually makes the most difference in the quality of your life is where you sleep. If your bedroom is the first thing you see when you wake up, and the last thing you see at the end of your day, focus on your bedroom first, before going to other rooms.
Begin with clearing the floor space. Creating a safe space to walk around the furniture should be your first goal.
Next, focus on picking up obvious trash. Clear out any definite trash with your first sweep of the room, gathering, empty bags, wrappers, bottles, etc.
Separate items by type. In bedrooms, you may have categories such as paper, books, electronics, clothing, shoes, jewelry, make-up, keepsakes, luggage, etc. Clothing is usually the largest category, so pile all clothes in one area, and go through those after the floor-space has cleared.
Plan to do laundry. Load up all dirty laundry in baskets, hampers or bags and move them out of the room. Be prepared to wash clothing after this clean-out, so schedule a time to go to a laundromat to do it all at once, or plan to do many loads of laundry in your home.
Focus on organizing after you’ve removed excess items. Once you’ve removed trash, recycling, dirty laundry, and items that need to go to other rooms (for example, dishes to go to the kitchen), or things you want to donate, you can then focus on how to organize what remains.
Sort through the visible surfaces. Focus on clearing the tops of dressers, tables and other furniture.
Sort through closed storage areas. Next, sort through each drawer, cabinet, box, etc.
Focus on closets last. Eventually, move into organizing the closet, once the main bedroom has some space.
Tackle this in small increments of time. I suggest anywhere from 1 to 3 hours at a time, and understand that it may take more than one day.
Rest in between, and take breaks as needed. You’re doing a lot of emotional and physical work, so remember to take breaks!
Take an after photo or video. If you feel like it, share your accomplishment with others as inspiration. Be proud of this transformation of your environment!
Make a plan for maintenance. Once you’ve decluttered and cleaned up your “depression nest,” make a list of the daily and weekly tasks you need to do to keep it that way. For example, putting dirty laundry in a hamper, washing clothes, putting away clean laundry, taking out trash, bringing dirty dishes to kitchen, filing, recycling, or shredding of mail and papers, sweeping or vacuuming, etc. Schedule a time to do these tasks regularly. Even 10 minutes a day can help maintain a clean room.
Once your bedroom “depression nest” is taken care of, you can focus on other parts of your home, one space at a time. Make a goal going forward to always keep your bedroom as your sanctuary, an environment that you want to wake up to every day.