How do you do a clean?

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by a tiny mushroom, Feb 27, 2015.

  1. a tiny mushroom

    a tiny mushroom the tiniest

    My room is a mess.

    Like, I should probably me on one of those shows where they chuck all your shit onto the front lawn and make you choose between keeping, tossing, and donating it. I probably also need to take classes on how to stay organised because this is not a natural skill to me at all.

    But I have no idea how to keep my room clean? Mess legitimately does not bother me. I do not notice mess. Mess is a natural state for me. I don't notice mess until idk, there's no clean spoons left in the kitchen, or I have no more clean underwear, or I can't find any important documents on my desk. I know this is not healthy, but I legitimately don't care about how messy things are. Or if I do care, wrapping my head around getting back to a state of organisation and cleanliness is just too hard for me to even want to try.

    Or I just. Forget about cleaning. I forget that mess is there. If I can't see it, I forget it exists, and then I get yelled at for not cleaning. How do I clean things if I can't remember that they're messy?! How????!!!!!

    And even if I manage to get clean and organised, I am back to being messy within a week, so I don't see the point in trying.

    So how??? Do you do the clean thing??? My parents are always on my case about it but I a) don't care b) thinking about cleaning immediately makes me feel tired and want to curl up in a ball and sleep forever and c) the process of cleaning, staying clean, and organising and staying organised is a mystery to me. Also d) I am super forgetful, as mentioned above.

    I managed to successfully clean my desk awhile ago by writing myself steps, and that helped me get over the immediately feeling exhausted by the entire concept feeling because I actually worked out what I needed to do. But it was still an exhausting process.

    I feel like this is a mixture of executive dysfunction and me actually just being a lazy slob. I probably need to get my act together. I am doing a very bad job at adulting.

    Does anyone have any advice for how to keep my stuff clean enough that it will appease others? Thank you!
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2015
  2. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    Hi! You have ADHD. And no, I don't actually have any solutions.
    • Like x 2
  3. a tiny mushroom

    a tiny mushroom the tiniest

    The solution is clearly to say, "I have ADHD fuck off," to everyone who tries to get me to get my shit together.
  4. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    Well, that's... actually not a bad starting point.

    What I use for some of the things that Really Must Get Done is a PDA. Well, nowadays, an ipad. But basically, put things in a calendar that can beep at me until I do them. Some people swear by HabitRPG.
    • Like x 1
  5. a tiny mushroom

    a tiny mushroom the tiniest

    I have a small whiteboard on my bedroom wall that I write Important Things on. I also have a calendar, a wall planner, a diary, and an iPad. Together, these things are kinda effective! They still rely on me remembering to look at them, then actually looking at them, and then remembering that I looked at them, them remembering what I looked at, then getting myself to do the thing that I want to do, and then doing the thing without getting distracted or forgetting what I'm doing. Getting things done is Hard. It's hard and nobody understands.
    • Like x 2
  6. Codeless

    Codeless Cheshire Cat

    Wait, this is a ADHD thing? That explains a few things....
  7. rigorist

    rigorist On the beach

    There are just people who are neat and people who aren't.

    I KNOW I should put my clothes in the hamper before going to bed and it would literally take two seconds to do it. But I also know that tonight I will leave them on the floor next to the bed.
  8. Rongeur

    Rongeur ~Heartless Bitch Extraordinaire~

    As a fellow ADHD, I will say that it's good to at least sorta be able to do the clean thing once in a while, if only so you can have clean clothes/have clean dishes/keep the vermin from getting too complacent. While me giving advice about this is kinda the blind leading the blind, what helps for me is to break things down into the smallest steps possible. Like, I don't put "do laundry" on my to-do list; I put "gather clothes off floor", then "bring laundry basket downstairs", then"put clothes in washer", then "take clothes out of washer"....etc. It works because no one step is big enough to trigger my "nope" reaction.
    • Like x 5
  9. Mala

    Mala Well-Known Member

    I'm terrible at this too but here's what helps me keep my room from being a complete dump.
    Set aside 5 minutes every day. Look around and see what's not in its place. Then put things back in their place. 5 minutes is a lot easier than a whole big cleaning and will keep it clean longer. And if you really can't tell what's a mess, get your parents to look at it and give you 5 minutes of things to do.
    • Like x 1
  10. Acey

    Acey hand extended, waiting for a shake

    This tends to work for me as well (I'm ADHD too).

    I'm in the process of cleaning my terrifying monstrous disaster of a bedroom, and I find that it helps to portion the room itself into small chunks--my preference is generally for 5-and-a-half-foot squares, since I'm only a little shorter than that and can use myself as a measuring stick of sorts. (Basically, that segment of the floor is considered Officially Clean Save For Vacuuming And Such once I can lie down in it without lying on top of anything.) But you might find that smaller sections (or, hell, maybe larger sections--whatever floats your boat) work better for you.

    I personally don't have much trouble with stuff like laundry or dishes. I tend to procrastinate on them like crazy, but once I start 'em, I can generally get 'em done. I guess it's because for me, those are smaller tasks themselves and thus fall into the "Relatively Easy" compartment in my brain.

    Finally, I find it a lot easier to get tasks of any sort done if I give myself some motivation to do them, beyond the whole "having a clean room is nice" thing. Generally I set up a self-imposed reward system of sorts. For instance, I might decide that for every major task I complete (completely picking up my floor, donating old clothes, wiping down all surfaces, etc.), I'll treat myself to a little something, like a trip to the ice cream shop or a T-shirt I've been eyeing or something. And I'll hold myself to that, and promise myself that I won't treat myself until I finish that task, and that once I finish it, I absolutely will.

    (Also, @Mentarnes, that's actually a pretty good strategy for keeping your room clean once you get it that way. Doesn't really work if it's in a total state of disaster, but once I get it cleaned I think I'll start doing that.)
    • Like x 2
  11. Codeless

    Codeless Cheshire Cat

    Does anyone else have a hard time with mess advice sites like Unfuck Your Habitat because even the good faith advice brings up accusations of lazyness/not even trying?
    • Like x 4
  12. rorleuaisen

    rorleuaisen Frozen Dreamer

    So as far as reminders, I used to edit my background picture with big words such as "things I need to do" and a small list of things on top of my image. So every time I close/minimize my internet, I get the reminder. You could probably just do "have you looked at your whiteboard?" or something.
  13. Lissiel

    Lissiel Dreaming dead

    It looks a little weird, but Ive had some luck with just making "the place thigs go" be "the place i naturally want to put them anyway". Like, you could just stick your hamper next to your bed on top of where your pile would be. Then you dont have to fight your habits.
    • Like x 2
  14. Helen of Boy

    Helen of Boy Hugcrafter Pursuivant

    Something I've been doing that has been helping me focus on work recently (I work from home right now, easy to get distracted) is the Pomodoro Timer thing, though when I'm not on my meds it's not nearly as effective.

    The idea is you set a timer for 25 minutes, then take a 3-5 minute break, and then have it reset. After 4 work periods you take a longer break of 15-30 minutes and start again. One of the important things is that the timer ticks, which is annoying at first but also helps work as a reminder that I am doing a thing. (Though remembering to start it initially can still be a bit of a trick.)

    Setting one of these times each day to housecleaning? Useful as all get out.

    There's an online version of the timer that automatically updates itself after ringing, too, so you can't forget to reset it (because I would). It is here: and can be made fullscreen to avoid easy popping over to other websites.

    Other thing that has helped with ADHD in general but might be trickier is what I think of as the Ten Finger Memory trick, which a friend told me about. I'm just going to post his advice verbatim:
    Rough to get going and remember to do, but useful, and if you want to get your room clean and then just KEEP remembering (ie. if forgetfulness is as much the issue as focus is) then that might help a bit.

    Between these two things and meds, I'm doing substantially better, and I hope that one or the other or both can be of use to you, as well.

    Note: when he says "the things you procrastinate on" he really does mean ALL of them. I had 'reading' and 'gaming' on my life enjoyment list for a little while (middle and pinky fingers!) because I'd regularly forget that I had activities that I enjoy that don't take the effort/brainpower that writing does but make me happier than, say, tumblr browsing usually does.

    EDIT: I should also note I can tell when something is a mess and it drives me up the wall and makes me unhappy, but then focusing on doing it and remembering to do it is STILL really hard, sooo... yeah.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2015
  15. Aya

    Aya words words words

    This is definitely an ADHD problem. I don't have a great solution to this but I have some thoughts.

    There are two things going on here. First you have the conflict with your parents over the state of your personal space. Then you have your actual personal space. You do not have to "solve" your mess before you can deal with your parents' reactions to it. There are potential solutions to that conflict that do not involve you getting really good at cleaning. I don't know your parents so I am not sure what tactics to suggest, but there are options.

    As far as "clean" goes, I can't tell whether something is clean or not on a reliable basis, but more concrete objectives are much easier. My basic check: is there anything organic or potential food for bacteria/bugs/other non human critters I don't want in my space? Is there a clear path from the bed (if a bedroom) and any chairs to the door of the room that I can take without stepping over things if there is an emergency and I need to get out of the room really fast? If it's a shared space, is everything that belongs to me in my part of that space? Is there anything breakable in a precarious position? Once I've gone through that list, unless I am planning a serious deep clean, I go ahead and stop.

    In general, break the process into small steps. Don't think "clean the room" because something that big is too general and you'll have problems figuring out if you did it. What even is the exact standard for a clean room? Pick tasks where you (and you personally) can tell immediately if the task is done. Put the laundry in the hamper. Throw away the trash. Put your books on the shelf.
    • Like x 2
  16. Kittenly

    Kittenly Just Squish That Cat!

    God, I feel you so hard with the room cleaning. And the parental reaction. Basically my solution is not live at home and have a neat girlfriend who tells me to help her on occassion. Like she knows that I just don't have the process that goes sees mess => recognize that mess is mess => do something about mess. My brain usually loses track between the second and third, but at home the process between one and two are also a problem.

    I know this is definitely not a solution everyone can use, but perhaps communication with parents about how your brain just doesn't process mess? Like I am usually very willing to help do chores if people ask me, but it's not a step I can initiate on my own. Because Brain.

    As for other strategies, HabitRPG, check lists, planners, have never had a long term benefit for me. But they are definitely worth trying.
  17. Morven

    Morven In darkness be the sound and light

    Yes, absolutely. Treating these things as if they are questions of morality and personal worth fucks people up.
    • Like x 2
  18. Chiomi

    Chiomi Master of Disaster

    @littlemissCodeless Unfuck Your Habitat pisses me the fuck off.

    I don't have ADHD, and I have my own place, so I'm in a very different place than you and this stuff may or may not work for you. But I've found that I can load and start the dishwasher in the time it takes to toast a bagel, so I do that.

    And I don't have a ton of stuff (mostly as a result of moving countries every couple years and so ruthlessly purging everything - srsly, every time I move I donate about a third of my clothes), and that really helps keep everything neat. My rule for everything that is not books or important paperwork is that if I have not looked at or used it in 18 months, I don't need it and should get rid of it unless someone's feelings will be immediately hurt by it. And, like, right now I have some stuff that is breaking that rule in that it's been sitting in a box for 18 months and I'm pretty sure I hadn't touched in a year before we moved, but it's all contained so I'm ignoring it.

    But if you like your stuff or don't feel like you have too much of it, other stuff might help, like the systems mentioned in other posts. I really don't like cleaning and hate feeling like I'm actually devoting time to it, so I usually do it in smaller things, and by doing stuff like putting away a couple items of clean clothing or clearing all the dishes when I get up to go to the bathroom, or folding stuff while I wait for my tea to steep. I do kind of a lot of cleaning while I'm also cooking, which might not be something you can do routinely, but one option might be cookies. Like, one tray going in the oven at a time. First pan you clean up the dishes from making them, second pan, after you've transferred the cookies to a rack and put more on the pan, go pick up stuff in your room until the timer goes off. Then you're working in small bursts and have delicious warm cookies to reward yourself for cleaning.
    • Like x 1
  19. Kittenly

    Kittenly Just Squish That Cat!

    Sorta like Chiomi, I find I get the most cleaning done when I've tricked my brain into thinking that I'm totally not cleaning. If audiobooks are a thing you can do I like to put on a book and do chores. I get fidgety just listening to books on their own, so I'll do things like dishes so I have something to occupy my hands.

    I know audiobooks can be hard for ADHD peeps and Sperglords sometimes, though. I also sometimes put on my Strife! playlist and act out action scenes and sorta bounce between imaginary sword fighting and washing a few dishes.
    • Like x 3
  20. kmoss

    kmoss whoops

    Step-by-step-process is HUGE for me. My most recent room-cleaning expedition was actually pretty effective, and it ran like this:

    Can you see the floor?

    Okay, get everything off the floor. toss it on the bed, you're going to do laundry anyhow.

    while you were moving stuff off the floor, you found a cup of tea from the 1970s, probably.
    deposit all dishes in the kitchen. if you see anyone in the house, tell them not to touch the dishes because that is really gross.

    okay, wait. where were you. right, separate the clothes into clean and unclean. Put the unclean clothes into your laundry receptacle.
    Fold the clean clothes (I am really bad at folding. I have had to get someone to teach me how to fold clothes about 3 times in the last year. I just don't remember it.) and put them in your dress- Wait, your dresser is a mess. Take all those clothes out and fold them too and then put your clothes away.

    Okay! let's see, you were totally going to put on music while you did this and now the house is all dark and echoey. Ok, put on some music (I like the electroswing section on 8tracks).

    Right! Wow, you can see floor. But look at all those papers and books on the floor!
    Hey, you had to rewrite that assignment.

    Okay, take all the papers in your room somewhere else. Separate them out. Be ruthless with tossing out papers. Except for that game idea you had in sophomore year, that was pretty! damn it. Okay, well, at least you have less papers. Sweet. Put that shit in a box or a file folder, toss it on a shelf.

    Wow, that is a lot of useless tech from the 90s. Why do you even have this. You have two manuals for AOL messenger. You never even used AOL messenger. Why do you have 20 floppy disks. (actually, put those aside. just in case you had docs on there you wanted to keep). Okay. (Your back kind of hurts, so let's take a walk around the apt. Hey, you can organize the coffee table a little. You definitely don't need that many coupons from last month.)

    Put on a movie (Riddick) because the music is not cutting it. Reorganize the gadgets and knicknacks you have everywhere.

    Put the books on the bookshelf. Huh. They don't fit. Okay, take all the books off the bookshelf. Sort them however you like. (I like genre, author, series, but if I really like books, they get taken out of order entirely because they will anyway). Okay, put them back on the bookshelf. Be creative. Find an old box for the left over books and toss that in a corner.

    Okay, so your floor is clean, but now you can see under the bed. Are those dustbunnies or actual bunnies?

    Take a break and do dishes. Come back to the room because you heard the swelling music that means Riddick and Kiera are doing that crazy run on Crematoria. God, this is a great movie. Watch it till the end. Put in the latest Riddick. Okay, finish the dishes.

    You are pumped up! Your dishes are clean! you can see the floor! you really don't want to pull your shoes out from under the bed.

    Pull the shoes out from under the bed. Find two spiders. Shriek with horror. Move them somewhere else (unless they really don't want to move, that's ok. whatever. not gonna argue with an abomination of nature)

    Sweet! You're done! Take a nap to the sounds of Riddick murdering his way through a planet.

    #I don't even have to schedule any breaks because my brain will make them for me #This probably wasn't very informative. #But the step by step process works really well
    • Like x 6
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