Dear Home Ec 101,
I have a condition called schizoaffective disorder (schizophrenia and bipolar). My life and my house are a mess. I don’t even know where to start. Is there a step-by-step online course I can take or anything like that? Any information would greatly be appreciated.
Before I comment any further, I have to be clear that your physician’s advice trumps anything I have to say. Always listen to your doctor over me. I’m just a random person on the Internet who gives out common-sense advice. Your physician knows you and your needs much better than I can from a single email. If you are not under the care of a physician, please, find one.
You are not alone.
There are lots of people out there who feel just as overwhelmed as you. Many of those overwhelmed people are perfectly “normal,” they haven’t been dealt a crap hand by life, and still they are overwhelmed. It happens to people with stable jobs and good marriages. It also happens to people who aren’t living “the easy life.” Either way, you have lots of company.
There is a program like what you’re looking for, and it is free. It’s run by a lady named Marla Cilley, but it’s definitely geared toward women. She gives a step-by-step, email-by-email-by-email approach to getting your home in order. Give FLYlady.net a look if you need that kind of guidance.
I think Marla gives sound advice, but I can’t tolerate the number of emails, and I’m not particularly touchy-feely. If that’s not for you either, continue reading.
You are not going to get it perfect, ever. No one does. Aim for good enough a majority of the time.
Start with getting your kitchen cleaned up and some food -any food- in your refrigerator. If you can have something to eat without a big hassle or without having to squash down disgust at the state of your kitchen, that’s a little bit of improvement you’ll see at least twice a day. I’m assuming you have a job outside of the home. If you’re like me and work from home, that’s an improvement you’ll see three times a day.
Please take a look at the yellow post-it note on my site. (If you’re reading in email, click the title to get to the post on the site) It is clickable and will take you to a weekly chore chart. You don’t have to do it perfectly the first week. It’s also going to take longer than it should that first week because you’re working through all the time you haven’t been keeping up your home. Even if you don’t see a lot of progress the first week, you’re making a difference. It will become much more apparent over time.
Here are 3 points to focus on over the next few days:
- Clean your kitchen and get food in your fridge/cupboards
- Make sure you have your clothes/uniform ready for work. Know where your keys are.
- Make sure your bills/accounts are in order. Ignoring them is not an option.
Those three things will cut down massively on the stress you feel, and everyone benefits from less stress in their lives. Providing yourself a semblance of order is empowering; this sense of control can carry over into many other aspects of your life.
If you like audiobooks, Audible has a free trial.
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You just have to remember to cancel it (set a reminder). I recently listened to two that I found helpful. You are in my thoughts.
Keep in mind that I never buy into any self-help system fully. I listen and find relevant, helpful bits of advice and use those, leaving those that don’t fit behind.
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27 thoughts on “I Am Overwhelmed.”
I know that when my house is a mess, I don't function well. My ADD also bounces me from one place to the other, so I set a timer (kinda FLYLady like) and can't leave that area until it dings. It keeps me focused and I feel like I have accomplished something.
My recent post Peanut discusses the Opera with Jennifer Black
I agree with your timer! i absolutely hate to do the dishes (no dishwasher, and no sprayer on my sink either) I often have to set the timer for 20 minutes, do what i can, and know that when that timer goes off i have my own permission to stop and say "enough!". Usually though i become focused enough to want to finish what i started even after the ding 🙂
when I first saw this lil "snip-it" on FB the first thing that popped in my head was The FlyLady! She's been helping me for years!
Wonderful advice! Well done.
Overwhelmed is exactly the word I've used to describe myself for the past couple years. My circumstances have changed recently and while I'm not feeling overwhelmed now, I do need to work on these kind of steps to keep it from happening all over again. I've started by making a list of the things that I need to do to finish getting settled in my new place. Crossing those off when I'm done is encouraging. If I do something else that needed done but it wasn't on my list, I write it on the list JUST SO I CAN CROSS IT OFF AND FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT. Slightly goofy, yes, but I need every bit of YouGoGirl that I can get right now!
RE: Flylady — I'm glad it's helpful for so many people, and I know Marla's a good person and her heart is in the right place, but it just made me feel more overwhelmed and like more of a failure. I did get some good ideas from her, but had to stop the email notifications.
My recent post NotoriousTBG- Life is too short to drink bad coffee If thats all there is- may as well drink tea! coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee -o
You hit the nail on the head. I feel disrespectful when I offer an alternative to her methods, but we each have to find what works for us. We're all trying to achieve the same end, feeling as though we're capable, functional adults.
Some people need a loving constant nagging and some of just need a little direction and less hand-holding.
As Dexter Morgan says: Hand-holding. So simple. So intimate. So…Uncomfortable.
Kudos!! Your advice was spot-on! I have cyclothymia, a bipolar disorder, that often leaves me feeling overwhelmed! I firmly believe that even though it's a crappy hand, it's my hand and God has made me strong enough to handle it! Keep up with the great advice!
My ADD and OCD make it easy for me to get behind and then I get overwhelmed. What helps me are lists and momentum. Breaking out of a non-productivity rut is tough but once I'm moving I tend to stay moving.
I also try to really limit my focus. For example, I'm a green minded person but I've selected a few things to care about and can manage and the rest I let go. So I will throw away plastic bags without (much) guilt because it is just not on the list of things I can care about right now. And since I am also craft minded I know that I could very easily knit those plastic bags into some sort of chic basket and have a functional, recycled object in my house for no money (I'm cheap too). But I'll start saving bags for that project another day. Today I'm focusing on other things. It's often very hard, but it keeps me saner.
And I try to guage my level of "mental health" and plan my day accordingly. If I'm feeling good I try to have a good productive day. But if I've had a bad OCD night then I'll just shoot for maintaining where I'm at. As long as everyone is fed and in clean clothes I'm happy.
Definitely, you are not alone! It's so hard to not get down on yourself – do what you can and take steps to do more when you can.
I know how easy it is to get overwhelmed! I have many close family members (including a child) with bipolar. What is important, I think, is to find a system that works for you. Flylady can be a great place to start but there are lots of others that are basically the same thing.
Actually, the very first place to start is to make sure you are as stable as you can be. It's so easy when you're feeling great to start a huge project (organizing the whole house! In a weekend!) but then when the mood passes you're left with a worse mess – and nothing organized really at all. Take small steps and really find something that works for you. When you are depressed, the clutter can be overwhelmingly frustrating and demoralizing. Take care of yourself!
That said, getting at least some basics done are really important. I would really encourage you to have a few "minimum" things that you do EVERY day so they are a habit, because sometimes habits can carry you through when your feeling low. Figure out what is important to you and what messes make you feel terrible. Maybe you need to make sure your foyer is neat enough to answer the door, you have clothes to wear, and the dishes are done. Maybe *your* thing that helps you from slipping into worse depression is having a clean bathroom. Maybe you need a neat and tidy pantry, because seeing shelves stocked with food makes you feel secure. The "minimums" will be different for each person and that's OK.
Finally, please please see if you can involve real life people to support you. Maybe a friend or relative can come over just to chat over coffee while you clean out a junk drawer or fold laundry. (You don't have to put your friend to work- just ask them to come over and keep you company!) Or maybe you can cook together and clean up- once a month or once a week cooking with a friend. This will help you not feel isolated, but it also provides a safety for you. Sometimes with BP, a person can slip into OCD or other counterproductive behaviors and having someone who knows you might be able to gently remind you to point out what *you* can't see so you can talk to your dr. or therapist. Or they will be able to see if depression is affecting you and encourage you to get help- even when you can't see it yourself (or, just don't care, because you're depressed.)
Hang in there- there are so many others in the same boat!
(and, if your house is really, truly bad, there is a website for people who are overcoming hoarding due to depression or other mental illness: http://www.squalorsurvivors.com/
And a community forum/message board: http://takeonestepatatime.proboards.com/index.cgi?
Great post! I have been buried under an array of things since Thanksgiving, not the least of which was moving to a new home. I just have to focus on a few small things each day and getting it done really helps me feel better.
I just wanted to tell this reader that my son was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder when he was very young — about 12 and I know how hard it must be for them. Take care of yourself, and take it slow. I do think Fly Lady is likely to be overwhelming for you — maybe just tell yourself to do one thing a day that she says and delete the rest of her emails. And make sure your doctor is up on the very latest in treatment — there was a drug, new at the time, that was a miracle for my son. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s available to help.
There's the babysteps now, where she just introduces you to one idea a day. It's much easier to deal with. I wouldn't suggest signing up for the emails at all, when the brain is fuzzy, just run off the info on the website.
I have schizoaffective as well. My best advice is to write down EVERYTHING. My morning routine is a page long, even though she says not to have that much stuff, because I have to break everything down into its basest components. And that's okay. When it all gets too loud, and I can't bear to look in the mirror, and I feel too exhausted to move, I can do just one thing. Brush my teeth. Then another thing. Wash my face. Then another. And when I can't sit still, I can focus on one thing. You can do anything for two minutes. Even when two minutes seems so long you want to scream.
She had a nice testimonial from someone who was DID, which talked about how when the lady blacked out, she "woke up" to a still clean house, because everyone followed the list. I figure if "they" can do it, I can, no matter what the whispers try to tell me. One thing. Then another.
It's not your fault. You can do it.
Heather , very good advice!!!
Have a pretty day!
I'm glad Heather occasionally makes posts like this acknowledging that life is not always pristine and orderly. Most days, for me, the the chores outlined on the little yellow post-it notes at the top of the blog are little more than aspirations. I constantly struggle to just keep things livable, much less keep up with a set regimen of housekeeping.
For me, when I am completely overwhelmed with mess in every room I start with a trip to the laundromat. I do this because a) laundry is one of the biggest causes of mess in my house. It infects several rooms (my room, my son's room, the laundry room, sometimes the den) and b) taking the laundry to the laundromat prevents me from getting caught up with other distractions before I finish the task at hand.
I scoop all of the dirty laundry into garbage bags, which pretty much takes care of the majority of disorder in the bedrooms and laundry room, and take it where I can focus on doing nothing but laundry. I don't have to clear a table before I can fold it and I don't have the opportunity to get distracted while waiting for the next load to finish. I can have all of the laundry clean and folded in just a few hours since I can wash all of the loads at once. When I get home, its a little easier to stay focused on cleaning one room at a time with out having to worry about trying to do at least one load before bedtime so that we have clean socks and underwear the next day, much less trying to trudge through doing 5 (or 10) more loads, one load at a time, so that the laundry will actually be "done".
That is terrific advice re: laundry. Sometimes that's what it takes to get the ball rolling.
I'm more about getting the job done than focusing on the perfect way to do it. It's hard to tell, since a lot of reader questions revolve around the proper way to do things. I think it's best to have the knowledge and then, if you know the risks vs benefits, you slog it out however you have to.
We all have seasons in our life and some are less hectic and disordered than others. Frankly I'm glad none of y'all were coming over last spring when I had my tonsils out and was working on a big deadline for the book. Things were a bit rough at that point, to put it lightly.
That was when you needed us the most! I hope someone did come over for you. A nonjudgmental friend to hold you hand in the darkest times is invaluable. A load of dishes, a casserole, or a trip to the laundromat can be the most precious gifts.
Thanks for the FlyLady link. I think that might just be the ticket for dealing with my husband. He responds really well to emails, and also may like the tone of that site… *crossing fingers* – his messiness and inability to complete projects and clean up after them is making me avoid going home because the situation is so depressing and he gets argumentative whenever I try to talk about it – no matter how careful I am. As he's getting older, I think he's got some changes going on upstairs, and he's not organizing himself as well as he did when I met him. Maybe Flylady can help him get back on track.
Anonymous, my heart goes out to you. Heather's practical advice and chore schedule is great. In addition to that schedule, I would suggest establishing a daily routine of getting up and going to bed at the same time and creating a pattern of daily activity that is predictable. Then you can work into that routine multiple opportunities to clean, organize, and take care of essential business. For example, a single disinfectant wipe and a minute or two in the bathroom every morning, organized around your daily hygiene routine, makes a huge difference. The same can be done in the kitchen every morning as your coffee brews. Also don't be afraid to be a little innovative to find things that work better for you, and are easier to maintain. For example, now that I'm cooking for just one or two people, I find myself using the toaster oven, crock pot, and rice cooker as an efficient way to create meals that also is easier to clean up after.
I also wasn't able to stick with FlyLady; I went from feeling moderately disorganized before I signed up, to feeling completely overwhelmed when her emails full of chores, reminders, and testimonials started flooding my inbox. Dealing with those emails became yet another chore that I couldn't figure out how to fit in to my busy schedule. She does have some good tips, though, so it might be worth signing up for a while to see what value you can glean. Her advice to get fully dressed first thing in the morning, instead of slouching around in pajamas until noon, is one thing that helps me feel organized and ready for almost anything. She also focuses on keeping the kitchen sink clean and shiny, even if the rest of the house is a mess, because it's a central part of the home. Your home may have a different center that you want to make a priority.
I have to recommend the Unclutterer blog as a place to browse at your own pace, and their forums are full of people working to clear away the clutter in their homes, get organized, and "live a remarkable life." You can get support and encouragement in the forums, or start a discussion about how to get started organizing your pantry. There was a great post recently about the value of starting small, and tackling one project at a time so you don't feel overwhelmed: http://unclutterer.com/2011/01/20/uncluttering-me…
At my most overwhelmed Mom when my kids were younger, my Mom used to say " as long as everyone is fed, clothed, generally clean, and sleeps, you are miles ahead." It always helped me reset my companss and remember that most days my list outlasts my hours and if I start w/ the minimum I'll find I do more than I realize and am calmer in the end. Good luck to Overwhelmed and Heather, I love your advice. There really is more than one way to skin that cat!
Thank you so much for your mom’s wisdom. I try to remind myself of this too when I look at my home and feel so overwhelmed and way behind on keeping it clean and organized. I remind myself that my kids are healthy and happy and that’s what matters. But what brings back the guilt is when my mom points out to me that she always had a clean house when raising her kids. It’s her subtle way of pointing out my mess. I try not to get frustrated, but I feel like she doesn’t understand. She was a stay-at-home mom with 2 kids that were over 4 years apart. She had 2 sets of grandparents within 10 minutes away and 2 stay-at-home mom neighbors that used to help each other out. Not saying I have it harder than anyone, but my DH and I both work full-time (opposite hours as we don’t use day care). We have 3 kids, only 3 years apart between each kid (8, 5, and 20 months) and when I get home from work, I’m completely exhausted. My husband helps out during the day when he’s home, but he can’t do everything either. Plus we don’t have family nearby to help out and we’re new to our town, so we don’t have close friends nearby either. I just get so frustrated when my mom makes her subtle comments about my house that I do try to keep clean. Then she tells me I’m lucky that I work full-time, because at least I “get a break” every day and I get to come home from work refreshed and ready to go. Yes, that’s exactly how I feel at the end of my demanding work day (cue the sarcasm). *sigh*
Re: flylady emails.
I love the idea of flylady. I just need someone to tell me what to do. So I follow her schedule for the week/month and try to keep myself to some daily routines, but I never signed up for the emails. Instead I follow her on facebook. This way I can see what the message is about if I want to read it, without having to deal with the amount of inbox clutter.
You can also get her emails in digest form…so you don’t have an hourly onslaught of emails. That worked for me for a long time….I’d get the emails at the end of the day and use them for the next days tasks. I’ve been away from flylady for years and probably need to go back. Hone-Ec 101 has been very helpful to me during my periods of “overwhelm”. Thank you.
Well, so many people have commented already on this topic, but I'll just chime in and say those three things you listed are great ways to stay focused. I need to follow that advice myself. Thanks Heather, this is one of my favorite blogs.
My advice to those feeling overwhelmed for no reason or with reason is the same I do every time I have this feeling. I always start with the easiest thing, this way I convince my mind that I have done something positive and accomplished something.
Much has already been said – suffice to sum it all up then… I think we all have moments when we feel overwhelmed. It’s just a matter of being able to identify it, and learning the correct tools to then be able to control it. You’ve given great tools and suggestions for many to use as a start. Very nicely written post.
Look up Unf*** Your Habitat as well. Great hints, before and after pics from users, and a Smartphone/iPhone app that lets you set a timer and do a task with breaks. They also have a refreshingly irreverent attitude, and suggestions for daily tasks to keep me on a path to decent living.
Laundry, I do a load at a time [being single] and fold whilst streaming a program on Netflix.
Recycling, I alas have given up, having to keep items in my kitchen and truck ’em across town. It’s a time-user for sure. Apartment complexes in my city don’t have recycle containers [although they could if they wanted] and it’s too much of a hassle. I devotedly did it for 30 years, so I feel like I’ve paid my dues. I know I’m being ecologically irresponsible, but I can’t deal with the mess and the smell and the washing-out of cat food cans.
I’m bi-polar and seem to have a touch of ADD and OCD, and get too “perfection-oriented” and then distracted to proceed in an orderly way through housework, most of the time.
Right now I’m unpacking and sorting things to give away [recently moved], and it’s overwhelming. One little thing a day, if only 10-15 minutes, is a great help.
I love the suggestion of getting out of my PJs every day. It sure is helpful when I do.
I will definitely give that a look. I appreciate the tip 🙂