When An Unkempt House Causes Depression

Posted on Posted in Homemaking

If you’ve never had an unkempt house before, you may not identify with this article.  I would, however, encourage you to read it anyway in case you have a friend who is overwhelmed.

If you are the woman whose house is always clean, perhaps you will pick up some tips on how to help a friend.  Or if you are the woman who is overwhelmed, then I urge you to find some tips on how to get yourself out of this place and hopefully a little bit of peace.

When we strive to be that Proverbs 31 woman we strive to serve others.  We feel compelled to serve our husband, our family, and our home as a part of this.  We strive to be the best homemaker that we can.  Our servant’s heart given to us from the Lord Himself pulls us toward serving in different ways.

Some of us want to make home-cooked meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Some of us want sparkling clean bathrooms.  Some of us want to make sure all the laundry is done all the time–or every bed is always made.  You get the idea.

What happens when all these things don’t get done?  Do we get upset?  Maybe a little.

But what happens when none of these things get done–for awhile?  Maybe it’s been a couple weeks, a month, more than a month…  I think most of us who strive to be the Proverbs 31 woman get really flustered.

As time goes on we get depressed.  It’s true.  And I didn’t understand it as a single woman who kept everything clean all the time.  I lived by myself.  When I made a mess, I just cleaned up after myself–every time.

I was the fifth child.  We all had chores.  So for as long as I can remember, things were always clean growing up–even with little kids around.  I didn’t understand why others would be so upset at an unkempt house.  If you’re really upset about it, then just clean it.  It sounded so simple.

It has only been during my pregnancies when I wound up repeatedly on bedrest for months at a time, that I began to empathize with other women who begin to feel frustrated and even like failures.


Can an unkempt house cause depression?

Yes, it absolutely can.  I know women who are nearly paralyzed with depression because their houses have gotten away from them.  Sometimes I can tell when I go into their homes.  And sometimes I don’t even notice what they consider the mess to be.

Are you one of these women?  There is hope.  You can get your house to a manageable place.  Here are some steps to get you started.

1.  Lower your expectations

None of us have picture perfect homes.  We have to make messes to cook dinner.  Not every piece of laundry gets washed, dried, and put away as soon as someone changes out of it.  If we homeschool, there is a mess somewhere.

If you just had a baby, you need rest more than you need a clean house.  Husbands know how to cook and most of them understand your situation and don’t mind cooking.  If you are a single mom, then just cooking, changing diapers, and getting naps is a successful day.

2.  If you have children, they need to be helping you from an early age.

I’m going to say 100% of the women I see this affect have children who can help clean–but either don’t do as much as they could, or anything at all.  I’m sure there are women in this situation whose children help–but I haven’t met them.

I am not advocating for forced child labor by any means.  What I am telling you is that children are able to clean in some way by the time they are steady walkers.

If this is a hard thing for you to understand, then I’d encourage first off for you to review #1 above and realize that God does not expect you to be a super woman.  I’d then second like you to consider what it will teach your child by not giving them chores, and realize that God expects you to train them.  If they are physically able to carry their own diaper to the garbage, or put their own (plastic) plates in the sink or on the counter, it is not asking them to do too much.

3.  Sleep

All of us are more productive when we’ve slept.  A good night’s rest followed by getting up early is generally more productive (and keeps us in a better mood) than sleep depriving ourselves to stay up late getting things done.  And we tend to say nicer things to others as well 🙂 .


4.  Focus

Are you spending hours on the phone?  Do you read tons of books (your Bible not included)?  Watch television?  Movies on the internet?  Hours on Facebook or other social media?  Play video games?

Identify what other activities are taking your time.  It’s not that these things listed are bad ways to spend your time.  But if you are in a desperate place over your housekeeping or homemaking situation, you need to prioritize.

5.  Make a plan

If you have precious little time that you can actually work on something, you need a game plan before you start.  Once you realize you have an hour to work is not the time to be overwhelmed with wondering where to start.  By the time you pick your battle, you could have cut your production time in half.

It’s not a bad idea to write down your plan either.

(You can read here about how I keep my house tidy–but not perfect–in one hour a day.)

6.  Loose the crutch

Is it possible that you have a crutch and don’t even realize it?  I know a woman who lost her job as a teleprompter.  She had no idea as a young woman that she was color-blind.  As a single mom, she was initially depressed over not having an income for her children.  She eventually started believing that she was “disabled.”  Because of the state of her house during her initial shock and unfortunate job loss, as she started to believe she was disabled–she just stopped taking care of things.  She knew her house had gotten away from her.

 As the disability checks started to come in, she didn’t even give an effort–but it caused her to become even more down.  I had to give her hard love one day and encourage her how tidy her house was before she even knew she couldn’t see red.  I reminded her that nothing else has changed and there was no way this was affecting her ability to keep her house.  (Yes, she did get over it–after two years of depression.)

In some other families, I have seen husbands that come home and do some hobby as the wife struggles to clean with her children.  He tells her, “Honey, I just don’t know how you’re going to get it done unless someone else comes and cleans the house for you or takes the kids.”  It doesn’t dawn on either of them that the husband is perfectly cable of doing either.  Having kids is their crutch.

It’s hard to realize that you have given this power over to something else–a crutch.  But believe me, once you realize that’s all it is, you can take back your power.

7.  Get help

If you have someone somewhere who loves you, they would much rather help you than watch you suffer.

What if you’re that woman watching a friend suffer?  How do you help her?
  • Offer to watch her kids after she has a game plan.  Doing so before hand could leave her frustrated.
  • Offer to help her clean.  She will probably cope better mentally if she can clean herself.  And some of us are uncomfortable watching someone else’s children–don’t volunteer for childcare if you’re uncomfortable.
  • If you are blessed financially, you could offer to have a professional cleaner come in and help.  Or you could hire a teenager for cheap that she would be comfortable with.  This is a beautiful gift to a new mother, or a single mother–but if the problem is that she really doesn’t know how to keep her home, then it’s only a temporary solution to a problem that will cycle back.
  • Don’t encourage her to do the things in #4 above that keep her from cleaning.
  • Teach her to clean.  It took me awhile to understand that not all women know how to clean.  Some understand cleaning but don’t know how to start or make a plan.  You could help her make a plan if you don’t have the time to go help.


Remember, women out there do get depressed and overwhelmed when their homes get away from them.  If you are this woman, know that you are not alone.  And if this woman is your friend, show her love by helping her and encouraging her–you may not understand what she is going through, but I assure you she’s hurting.

When an unkempt house causes depression--I mean really affects every emotion you have--how do you deal with this? What if your friend suffers from this debility? What is the best thing you can do to help her heal?


27 thoughts on “When An Unkempt House Causes Depression

  1. Thanks for a great post! I am pregnant and also have a toddler and I must say depression has been getting the best of me over the last 2 weeks. Thanks for reminding me that my kid can start helping now, but cleaning up his own room.

    1. You are welcome Delora. I had a new baby every 18-20 months so I know just where you are at. Give yourself plenty of grace once your critter hatches–you deserve it and know that all of us go through this especially hard in the postmortem stage. Prayers for the new addition to your home.

  2. Another fabulous post, my friend! I’ve been there and there are times I’ve been so overwhelmed by the mess, it’s almost paralyzing! I agree that prioritizing and having a plan makes a huge difference. And I can’t forget about the loads of grace that it takes to look past the mess and forgive myself when it gets out of control again!

  3. What a great post! We all go through times where we get overloaded and life is too heavy…. it is easy to claim exemptions… and sometimes they are there, but they can become too comfortable. God gives us the grace and strength to do all that we NEED to do…. sometimes it is hard to figure out exactly what that list should hold and regular evaluations can be helpful. 🙂

    1. You are correct Joy. It’s important for us all to realize that we all get overloaded at times, so that we don’t start to think our situation is just so different that no one else could possible understand. And it helps to know that if other women get through it, we can too.
      His yoke is indeed light 🙂 .

  4. Yup! This is so true, even with little bits of mess. The timing is just right: today I was feeling out of sorts and realized that a few things had gotten away from me, and after a bit of tidying I can breathe again.
    Great post!

  5. I love this. A messy house definitely contributes to my anxiety. When my house is out of order I feel like everything is out of order. Thank you!

  6. Thanks for the post. Life was shaken up this year, with my energy and attention being directed in several different directions. That has become my crutch, “I have more important things that need done NOW.” The house work slowly was/is getting away from me, … yet I still find time to watch t.v. , read a book, go online, etc. Slowly I’ve started hearing myself tell myself, “You are such a bad housekeeper, you can’t keep up. Why can’t you do it all?” Hmm. I can’t do it all, but I can reorganize my priorities to finish the things I want to actually accomplish.

    1. I can completely see where you are coming from Rosie. Life does keep battling for our attention, and we don’t always understand the tools we have to resist all the temptations. I often look back and think “Ug, If Only I had…”
      Taking the time to stop and re-prioritize and refocus is time well spent.
      Thank you for sharing and your insight.

  7. When I had young children I definitely let things slide and it wasn’t until they were older that I did gave assigned chores and keeping things in order become easier and the house energy would feel better. Lovely post.

    1. It’s hard for many mommies to assign chores. Many feel you are “taking away their childhood,” or “they aren’t big enough,” and some mommies just don’t have the patience to let small, slow hands get the job done. They can be surprised when kids do their chores and–egad!–actually have fun with some of them.
      When we do move into letting them help, I absolutely agree with you that things go smoother.

  8. This is so me right now! It’s kind of a chicken and egg scenario though, I was depressed so my housework got away from me, then the amount of work ahead of me made me more depressed. I’ve found that setting small goals (for example: this week I will thoroughly clean and declutter the kitchen) has made a HUGE difference. I think that your tips above will really help get things moving! Thank you for sharing!

  9. Wonderful post and such encouraging words.

    Sleep, for me, is critical to having a positive perspective. There’s a reason why God calls us to rest. My best “rests” are the ones that involve scripture and prayer before bed. The scripture infiltrates my thoughts and I will wake up refreshed and thinking about that scripture.

    You’re right about children helping with duties too. It’s so important to encourage that.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Wishing you a lovely day.

  10. I just found you about a half hour ago and am so excited to see that someone out there gets the importance of being a homemaker! I have been gone for most of 4 days this week and was getting really grouchy. After a much needed nap, washing the dishes (we live in a tiny cabin and don’t have a dishwasher except for the 10-fingered kind), filling the wood box, putting away 5 bags and baskets of stuff, putting away the clothes, and going through all the mail~WOW do I feel better! Then I could get online and relax. Whew, that was a lot of stuff to do but that’s what it takes to keep a home happy.

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