I love cleaning and organising home spaces. I love it. Tidying my own space makes me feel grounded, and lets my mind do some system updating. When I'm particularly stressed, it is a coping mechanism. It's a procrastination tool. It's something I actually look forward to doing. When I'm away from my own space (eg. working overseas), cleaning whatever space I'm in can help - but it's never as good as working on your own living space.
I understand the feedback loop that can kick off when you're not feeling mentally well. Cleaning your room or home becomes less of a priority, but then the mess that emerges contributes to your feelings of anxiety or depression, leaving you overwhelmed and unsettled.
I'm interested in helping people with cleaning their spaces.
Not deep cleaning, not end-of-lease cleaning, not dealing with squalor - I'm not a professional cleaner and if there are hazards involved like pests or black mould, I'd recommend getting in touch with a pro.
But if it's piles of laundry, stacks of notes and bills, dirty dishes that feel like they're watching your every move - I want to help.
I'm about to start training to become a qualified counsellor and psychotherapist. I am NOT currently trained or accredited, and as such cannot ethically offer this as a proper counselling session. Think of it like nature therapy - where the act of going for a hike is the therapeutic mechanism, and you might feel comfortable talking about whatever's on your mind with your hiking buddy, but the point of going for the hike is not "so I can unload this complicated trauma onto my hiking buddy" - it's more like "I really feel like my body and mind could use some physical activity in nature right now, but I would like a supportive person to walk with me because it feels a bit overwhelming to imagine going for a walk on my own".
I anticipate that I will have some time to begin experimenting with this in Winter/Spring 2018. If you're up for helping me out by being a test subject, I'd love that. Here are some points that I think might help us both:
- In this first stage of experimenting, I will only work with people who I have met before in person
- I'll be testing out time frames and so might discuss with you beforehand the amount of time that you imagine you'd feel comfortable working with - and you have the ability to stop the cleaning session at any point
- I can bring basic cleaning products and if needed, my vacuum and iron.
- This first session is free, with no strings attached other than filling in a feedback survey afterwards. I imagine that once I am qualified as a counsellor, I might be able to figure out a way to charge for this service that is both accessible for potential clients and compensates me properly.
"I think I'd really like your help, but I'm anxious about having someone in my personal space"
That's completely understandable. If you want to give it a try, there are things we might be able to do to help make you more comfortable - send me an email and we can brainstorm. If you're worried that your space will be so messy that I'll form a negative opinion of you, I promise you that will not happen. I've seen some very messy spaces. I have some dear friends who have very different thresholds for 'comfortable mess' and it's not an issue. I have myself seen how messy my own room can get when I'm feeling overwhelmed - my first session living on campus at University, my space because pretty gross after a few weeks of illness and I just felt disgusted with it. I was sick and knew I wanted a nice space to rest and sleep and maybe even feel better - but I just had no idea where to start and no one I felt I could ask to step in and help out.
There's a concept used in client-centred therapy called 'unconditional positive regard' and that is what I bring to tidying other people's spaces.
I am not there to judge, to shame, to demand answers - I am there to help you feel better. I consider it an absolute privilege to be allowed by you into your space.
What will the experience be like?
Well, that's part of this experiment for me - getting an understanding of what a positive cleaning experience might be like for both you and me. As such, I'll be collecting feedback after each session and would appreciate your honest thoughts.
To get an idea of what might happen, let's look at this person's room.
In the above 'before' photo, the person's room is quite messy and has been for several months as they've been dealing with severe depression. When I see this room I don't think 'what a pig'. I think about how I would like it to be for the person who lives there. I can get an idea from the basic room set-up of what it looks like when it's clean - I'm not going to redecorate, move furniture around, give style tips or a home makeover.
How would I approach cleaning this room if the person was there with me?
First step: set yourself up. Find tubs, boxes or garbage bags that can act as places to put rubbish, recycling, dirty clothes, clean clothes, and 'items'.
Second step: fill those tubs. Just chuck things in them. If there's stuff that belongs in another room, like dirty dishes, take them to that room.
Third step: laundry. Since laundry takes time to wash and dry, I'd get it started as early as possible. Especially if you're running out of clean, comfy clothes.
At this point, the bed is probably clear - we've either stripped the linen to wash it and put fresh sheets on, or the mattress is bare while it waits for the sheets to be dry. Perhaps we've decided that changing the sheets isn't a priority for today. So I'd set the person up on the bed with the tubs for 'clean clothes' and 'items', and get them to start slowly sorting through them. Clean clothes can be ironed or placed in an ironing pile, folded or hung and put away, or put into a 'donate' pile. We can put on music, or an episode of Parks & Recreation, or a podcast, or we can just talk.
Fourth step: floor. Since the floor is clear now, I'd give it a quick vacuum or sweep.
Fifth step: surfaces. Before we find a place for anything from the 'items' tub, I'd wipe down surfaces and windowsills. While all this is happening, you can be up and helping or you can help by sitting on the bed and sorting through items. You could be taking a shower and changing into some clean clothes. You could be in the kitchen washing up dishes. You could be just sitting on the bed telling me about your week. I don't mind if I'm the only one cleaning and putting stuff away, as long as you're engaged somehow.
Sixth step: Find a home for everything. The laundry might be finished washing at this point, and we can hang it up somewhere.
Seventh step: Take the rubbish, recycling, and donations out.
That's probably enough for a first session, to get an idea of what the experience might be like. Depending on how you're doing health-wise, that might be completely exhausting for you. Before I leave you, I'd set up some things to help over the next few days - eg. if we've put wet washing on the line, we'd figure out somewhere for it to go once it's dry and is waiting to be ironed.
So that's not a whole house - that's one person's bedroom in about 2 hours. See below for an 'after' photo of the bedroom after the depressed person themselves took a few days and decided to tackle it. Doesn't that look like...taking a deep breath in and exhaling freely? Like you could lie in that bed and close your eyes? Like you could leave the door open while you went to take a shower and not feel like anyone's judging you? (Not that anyone should be judging anyone else here).
If you have any questions, send me an email using the form below. Once my timetable is sorted in June, I'll be in touch to see when we can do a cleaning session together.
The photos below are some more examples of things that we can do together in a few hours. The first is a home office, where we would be able to clean up the room so that it's a functioning workspace for you and all important documents are easy to find. The second is a kitchen that is not too messy to begin with, and the transformation between 'before' and 'after' could honestly happen in just 15 minutes.
If you're really not sure about whether I can help you, or you're anxious that your space is just too messy for anyone to help with, get in touch using the contact form below.