12 Tricks People With Depression Use to Get This 'Crushing' Chore Done
Quick — what’s your favorite chore? You know, the one you can usually get done even if you’re depressed? Your answer probably wasn’t laundry, because even on a good day, doing laundry can feel, well, “crushing.” Not to mention, does it really matter if you wear the same pants a few extra days?
Depression makes it extra hard to get anything done because it saps all your energy and motivation to do anything. This creates a feedback loop — depression makes it hard to get anything done and then it’s easy to judge yourself and feel “lazy” or “worthless.” Whether you’re up for doing your laundry or not, it’s important to give yourself a break.
“Depression is this nasty voice in your head that just says, ‘You’re worthless, you’re wrong, you can’t do anything,’” Los Angeles-based psychologist Sarah Schewitz, Psy.D., told The Mighty. “That shame and that feeling of worthlessness only makes it harder to do things and it only makes you feel more depressed. If you can give yourself a break on a certain task that feels too gargantuan, then please do, and do it without guilt or shame.”
If you’re struggling to haul your laundry to the basement or around the block to the laundromat, we asked The Mighty community what hacks they recommend to get laundry done when depressed, and added a few suggestions of our own.
Join the conversation and answer this Question on The Mighty: Here’s what the community recommended:
1. Maximize Laundry Use
Schewitz highlighted that usually super clean laundry isn’t a “survival need” like eating, for example. Therefore, don’t be afraid to maximize your clothing use. Wear pants or shirts multiple times and go through everything in your wardrobe before washing. You can use this same technique with the bigger things too, like sheets and blankets.
“With the exception of socks and underwear, I wear my clothes for three days in a row (I don’t go to work so this works for me),” Mighty member Elle S. said. “I no longer fold clothes, they stay in the laundry basket when they come out of the dryer unless they need hanging.”
“I wear my clothes until I really have none left that are clean,” added Simone C. “Then I will do them out of desperation.”
2. Focus on Freshness
You may have already Googled ways to make clothes clean without doing laundry. If not, the good news is a few some simple stop-gap measures can make your clothing fresher in between washes.
Try a spray fabric freshener like Febreze or mix water and vinegar in a spray bottle and spray your clothing. Let the fabric dry for a better smell, though if you use vinegar, test a small area of fabric before spraying. A mix of vodka and water can also work. Another hack? Wipe your clothing down inside and out with a scented dryer sheet for a fresher feel.
3. Add Music
Perhaps dressing up laundry as an opportunity to turn up your favorite tunes and dance it out just might make it look more appealing, even on your hardest days.
“I just have to force myself to get up put some great tunes on loud act like a child and dance about the house to get myself to do anything,” said Mighty member Emi.
“Put music on! I usually make a playlist of songs and that usually helps me get to it, it helps with like folding them and putting them away after as well,” added Forrest W. “It’s like the people I’m listening to are cheering me on.”
Need a song list to add to your laundry routine? Check out these 16 surprising songs that helped people with depression or 16 songs to help you face depression this week.
4. Use Your Favorite Scent
There’s a lot of power to smell, so keep your favorite scented detergent, fabric softener or dryer sheets on hand. Then remind yourself that doing your laundry means you can wrap yourself up in aromatic bliss for a motivational push.
“Smells get it for me so I’ll go and spend a little money on the newest or most fragrant bio powder or similar,” Mighty member Claire A. said. “If it’s a windy day, I love nothing more than hanging the clothes out and watching them blow in the wind. [I] get a sense of achievement out of it. Small victories.”
5. Set a Timer
A huge task might feel less overwhelming if it’s limited. Plus, a lot of times the biggest struggle is actually starting a task. Once you get going though, it might be easier to do a little more. Give this trick a try with your laundry.
“I try to set a timer for 10 minutes to get me started,” said Mighty member Jen K. “Once the timer goes off, I can usually do a bit more. But I have to make a conscious effort to reward myself for what I got done and not beat myself up for not completing the task if I don’t get it all done.”
6. Prevent Pile-Up
The bigger the pile of laundry the more overwhelming getting it clean will feel. When you can, do the wash often enough so it doesn’t transform into an even larger laundry monster.
“Over the years I have found that doing laundry when one basket is full of dirty clothes is essential,” advised Mighty member Bret. “I don’t let it pile up and wear absolutely everything I own. I find that it’s cyclical in the way that it provides me with a sense of accomplishment, but I didn’t have to work for several hours to reach my goal.”
7. Stock Up on Essentials
One item of clothing that’s hard to wear repeatedly without washing is underwear. To keep your underpants hygiene on the up and up when laundry is too much, stock up on extras. (Same works for socks and other laundry essentials.) This is one of Mighty contributor Heidi Fischer’s recommendations in her article, “8 Tips for Getting Your Laundry Done When You’re Depressed.” She wrote:
You can get away with most things, but underwear is something hard to get by without. This goes for socks too.
Bonus: For women, you can also try out disposable panty liners. This way you can change your liner every day and extend the amount of time between washes on your underwear.
8. Hand-Wash as Needed
When you’re running low on an essential or don’t have a clean-enough pair of pants or shirt, hand-washing a small load or even one item may be enough. By nature you’ll be managing a much smaller goal and may still feel a sense of accomplishment.
Add water and a small amount of detergent to your bathtub, sink or a large bowl or bucket. Drop in what you’re washing and use your hands to agitate the clothing in the water. Dump out the sudsy water, refill with clean water and swish your clothes around to rinse. Once you’re done, ring out the clothing by hand and hang it up to dry.
9. Set Smaller Goals
It’s good advice for nearly any goal: Break laundry “down into small measurable goals,” advised Schewitz. “Maybe you do one load. If you have five to do, maybe you just do one of the necessities and wait for the rest until you have more energy.” Set markers that work for you.
“I put a load on in the morning, dry in the afternoon and fold in the evening,” said Mighty member Sophie C. “If I can, I’ll pop it away before bed.”
“I like to wash all pants first!” said Lynnen. “Pants, jeans, PJ pants (mostly PJ pants), because they’re so easy to fold. Then my pile looks so much smaller. That helps a lot. And it motivates me to finish.”
Want support as you set smaller goals? Join The Mighty’s #52SmallThings self-care challenge!
10. Create a System
Similar to creating goals, try to incorporate laundry into your pre-existing routine, which could be throwing in a load of laundry in the washer as you walk past to take out the trash or hand-washing the essentials before or after a shower.
“The most efficient way for me to get laundry completed is to do it at home between other chores,” said Mighty member Rachel B. “This lets me not tire myself out with dragging laundry around town and also have more of a choice when it comes to low and good days.”
11. Push Through
It’s not always possible with depression to push through, and if that’s the case, that is 100 percent OK. On better days, however, you might be able to “make” yourself get it done with a little self-tough-love.
“I tell myself that I have to do it,” Mighty member Tabi said. “I will sit on the floor and sort it. If I can’t do it, I force myself to. It’s hard, but I know that if I don’t, the whole place will stink. That’s my main thing. Knowing how bad it’ll smell if I don’t do it.”
Sometimes the best self-care is knowing your limits and then asking for help. If you can, delegate your laundry to a loved one, whether they live with you or are willing to stop by and give you a hand.
Many laundromats or fluff-and-folds will also offer laundry services where all you have to do it drop off your clothing. Some apps in major cities, like Rinse or Cleanly, provide a pick-up and drop-off laundry service.
“Most laundromats will wash you clothes and hang or fold them for a certain price per pound,” said Mighty member Pippa. “I found a lady near me that does it for $1.00 a pound. Insanely cheap, convenient and it helps with my anxiety about it if I get behind.”
Regardless of how you get your laundry done — even in small steps — having support in the process is helpful, whether that’s someone who stops over to help with the job or a community that celebrates every small win.
“Something like doing laundry, even when you’re not depressed, feels like a big job,” said Schewitz. “If you can just ask for assistance without feeling bad or wrong for having done that, that’s going to help.”
Header image via Motortion/Getty Images.