In the last month, I've watched 13,200 minutes of television, give or take. I know, because I devoured all eleven seasons of Grey's Anatomy. At 24 episodes a season, that's 220 hours of binge watching. At first, it was like crack. I would turn on the computer, go to Netflix and just gorge myself on episode after episode. I stopped making menus. I did the mere minimum of laundry. (Usually just my own). Sometimes, I would cook, sometimes not. Dishes piled up. Surfaces became overrun. The floors began to look like they were sprouting things. (Especially in the kitchen.)
I did nothing. My husband did nothing. The kids did nothing. I didn't even nag anyone to do anything. I didn't even care. And that's when I realised I wasn't just caught in some binge-watching vortex (though I was), I wasn't just lazy--I was depressed.
The great things about being depressed is that you don't care. The bad thing about being depressed, of course, is that when it begins to lift--and your eyes come back into focus, and you start to care (and you know you care 'cause the mess is bugging you all the time) --there's too much. There are too many popcorn kernels on the rug, too many pop cans all over the house, too many kleenex's everywhere, too much dust---just too much of too much. Like the pain of nerves coming to life after a burn--the chaos can be overwhelming.
Sunday, that's where I was.
But, having been through this a few times, I've found a few things that work for me.
1. Begin with making a list.
It will probably make you feel even more overwhelmed at first. It just might be impossibly long. In fact, it should be if you do it right. I put small one-step actions on the list so I can tick each one off once it's done. There's a little extra feeling of accomplishment from that--and that's vital to your momentum.
Likely, you are not going to be able to catch up on a month of housework in one day. I certainly can't do that anymore. So, decide how much time you can give to it--and decide what will have the biggest payoff for you.
- Something easy to get the ball rolling? Say, get the laundry sorted and a load started.
- Something that gives you immediate positive feedback? For me, that's clearing off the kitchen table.
- Something you need to do right away? Like, putting away the dishes in the dishrack so I can start doing more dishes--(that would be unloading the dishwasher for the rest of you!) Maybe it is starting that laundry so you have clothes to wear.
- Something meaningful? --something that says "This stops now!--I am beginning again." For me, that was a blog post--and cleaning my toilet.
2. Set a timer.
Chances are, that pile of laundry is a mountain. Set the timer. Fifteen minutes is enough to earn yourself a check mark! An added bonus--switching tasks every fifteen minutes or so keeps things interesting--and moving along.
3. Take breaks.
I don't handle pain well--and one of the reasons I get depressed is because my back hurts, or my neck hurts, or something hurts. So, I worked on three 15 minute tasks--and then I sat down for 15 minutes. Knowing I have a break coming up makes it easier to push through. (Though, seriously, I'm no hero. I'll quickly schedule a "sit down" task if I have to.) It took me three different sessions to get my stairs vacuumed on Sunday.
4. Make peace with the fact it's not all going to get done in one day.
I'm still working on this one. In fact, I almost didn't post today, because, really, nothing is actually "done." Not one room is completely spic and span. There's still the slipcover to put on the couch, the table to (re)clear in the kitchen, the floor to vacuum in the bedroom and so on. I want the instant gratification of a gorgeous, clean and neat house--but it's just not going to happen with the resources I have.
5. Figure out how to keep the momentum going--and do that.
This is the hard part, for me. I prefer to treat housecleaning like a project--done and done. But it's not that sort of beast. You can't just slay it once. You have to confront it over and over gain. This meager list is my bare minimum. It's for the days I work.
- Make a menu plan. I did this on Sunday and sent my husband grocery shopping on Tuesday. We cook all of our suppers--and I needed to plan for the horribly hot weather we're getting later this week. As well, planning suppers also means I can easily delegate when I'm too tired to cook myself.
- Make the bed. (Or, alternatively, make the bed and natly fold down the covers to air it out--whatever best suits your needs.)
- Keep up with the dishes as best I can.
- Keep up with the laundry as best I can.
- Do a ten minute tidy, every day.
Obviously, your "bare minimum" might be different.
Have you ever come back from a long period of neglect? Has it ever overwhelmed you?
What have you found useful?