I'm kind of a mess right now, and really need help cleaning and setting up my home.
July 1, 2011 3:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm kind of a mess right now, and really need help cleaning and setting up my home.

I'm a 29-year-old single guy who's had trouble with depression and holding his life together on and off for roughly the last 10 years, and right now I'm on the downswing again (the first time it happened was in college, which it took me seven years to get through). The bright spot is that I have a fantastic job as a software engineer- I'm basically the star and lead developer of a 50 person team, and am friends with my boss, so I get a lot of lenient treatment, including being able to choose my own hours nobody asking questions when I have important deadlines and want to work from home. So when I'm starting to get depressed and stop taking care of myself, as I have been lately, it's easy for me to avoid people for days at a time. Lately, I've been keeping late hours, eating more, having poor hygiene (especially laundry), working obsessively on a particular project, having more trouble getting along with friends and coworkers, avoiding phone calls and emails from family, and starting to daydream about suicide, all things I did during some of the previous worst periods of my life (at least this time I'm realizing it). So, I'm going to take advantage of my health insurance and get therapy- that I've already decided.

I've also let my home become a wreck. I bought a two-bedroom condo last year (a decision I was pressured into by family and now regret), and never put in the effort to get it setup. My parents came down one day soon after I bought it to help get it setup, and some friends came over one day around the same time to help me assemble Ikea furniture. And in the past year, those are essentially the only two days I put any effort into making the place livable. There are still several boxes of unopened furniture I never put together, there's a dresser I never finished assembling because I lost a couple of the screws (and the local Ikea didn't have spares), there are dirty, smelly clothes scattered everywhere, the carpets desperately vacuumed, there's months old ice creams stains on the kitchen linoleum, a pile mail is strewn on the floor near the entrance and the bathrooms desperately need cleaned. I don't have rats or insects or anything like that, but it's a depressing place to live, and it's become bad enough that it's probably been 8 months since I've allowed another person to see what it looks like inside. I really need help with it- not just cleaning, but getting the remaining furniture assembled, and filling it in with all the normal home furnishings (especially for the kitchen) that I should have bought a year ago (I eat out all the time, which is actually fortunate, since otherwise the place would probably be in much worse condition than it already is).

So basically, I'm wondering if there's any way to pay someone to help me out with this stuff. At this point, I'm too embarrassed to ask family, and certainly not friends (who know that I've been acting weird lately, but don't know how bad it's been getting). If I throw out a lot of the garbage and stick the piles of dirty clothes in garbage bags, I guess it will be presentable enough that I'd be willing to let maids in, but the amount of work it would take to deal with the furniture and other things that still need to be assembled and purchased is still practically enough to send me into tears. While I don't want to go nuts, money isn't really an object... I'd be willing to pay whatever it takes to get someone to help me get my home livable. But it's a weird request, and I don't really know where to start? Should I ask day laborers? Advertise on Craigslist? Is this even a good idea, or would it be better for me to just buckle down and try to take are of all this myself?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I'm going to recommend Flylady. The concept is good: they give you simple tasks that you can do every day to keep things from getting chaotic. The packaging is a little ... silly, and sometimes it gets a little more religion-focused than I like. That said, it basically uses modified CBT to get you to work on getting your life organized in "babysteps."

Just try it out for a couple of weeks and see where it gets you.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:14 PM on July 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Where do you live?
posted by scrump at 3:17 PM on July 1, 2011

I'd start with a cleaning service, just to get that off your plate. You can yelp one in your area. Schedule an initial cleaning and be willing to pay whatever -- you have a condo and a good job so a one time thorough clean will not set you back too much. Then ask them to come back for regular cleanings every two weeks. If the embarrassment is too much, call a second company to do the regular cleanings.

You may find once your place is clean that you'll have more breathing room and can take care of some of those other projects.
posted by rouftop at 3:18 PM on July 1, 2011

First, I'm sorry that you're going through this, again. I'm glad you're going into therapy; I hope you find peace and feel better. :)

One question: if you don't want the condo and got pressured into buying it, why not sell it and rent or do whatever you want to?

On the other issue, it sounds like you need a personal assistant. Is there a university in your area? Why not post an ad there for a short-term or part-time personal asst.?
posted by minx at 3:21 PM on July 1, 2011

I have found young people to help with this kind of thing by advertising on Craigslist. I live in a college town, so it's pretty easy to find college students who are happy to do a little extra work for a few days for $8 or $10/hour.
posted by not that girl at 3:23 PM on July 1, 2011

You absolutely can pay someone to do this, but I'd probably use a recommended (a friend if you can - there's nothing weird about "do you have a housekeeper, and do you like him/her?", people ask that all the time - or Yelp or Service Magic or Angie's List) source to find a good service provider.

There are actually people who specialize in exactly this, and a lot of regular cleaning services often do a first big clean and you can actually tell them hey, I've got a lot of mail and trash and clutter and stuff and I need some special help with that. They do that, it's not unusual. If there's used needles or broken glass or things that people need to be aware of in there, you need to let them know, but it doesn't sound like it's like that.

As for the laundry, just bag all that up and find a well-liked Wash-n-Fold service, drop it off, you pay by the pound. Don't worry about what they think of you (they don't care, and you didn't mention having a cat so I'll bet I've taken worse laundry to the Wash-n-Fold myself).

I firmly believe this is a very good example of throwing money at a problem for the most efficient painless outcome. Let trained professionals do the heavy lifting, and then you can check out Flylady or just have them come regularly (it gets in your head, then, and you end up staying more decluttered to accommodate them, but without having to worry about cleaning baseboards and all that stuff you never noticed was dirty until they cleaned it) but at least you won't have it hanging over your head.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:25 PM on July 1, 2011 [16 favorites]

You can hire professional 'furniture assemblers' from a setup like this one. If you can't google any up for your area, try calling a local moving company and asking them: they may have a recommendation, or even be willing to take it on as a job themselves. (I'd get a cleaning service first, as rouftop suggests).
posted by jacalata at 3:26 PM on July 1, 2011

Also, yes, don't be shy about hiring someone to do a one-time deep cleaning. I just had some people in to deep-clean my kitchen, including the ceiling and walls and moving all the appliances. It was pretty disgusting prior to that--I think it had been 8 years since anybody swept behind the stove. I found mine on Craigslist and they specified in their ad that they were willing to do one-time deep cleanings and weren't afraid of the really filthy stuff. But in the past I've had good luck with looking in the yellow pages (I suppose it would be Yelp or something now) for cleaning companies that specialize in doing between-tenant cleanings at rentals; those people have seen it all!
posted by not that girl at 3:27 PM on July 1, 2011

Mod note: From the OP:
I'm in suburban Maryland, just north of DC.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:28 PM on July 1, 2011

Absolutely hire someone to clean your place at least once. I used a service that was recommended here on AskMe and they were great.

As far as the missing parts go, did you actually ask Ikea customer service about it? They only have a few kinds of hardware out in the customer-accessible spares boxes out front. For some others, they have to get someone to find the hardware in the back somewhere.

I believe most Ikeas have local furniture assembly firms they recommend. I hired the one in Seattle to assemble some furniture and it was definitely worth it. It was relatively cheap ($10–$20 per item, $50 minimum per visit) and they did a much better job than my handiest friends and I could manage on our own. No weird loose spaces like I'm used to in Ikea furniture.
posted by grouse at 3:38 PM on July 1, 2011

If I throw out a lot of the garbage and stick the piles of dirty clothes in garbage bags, I guess it will be presentable enough that I'd be willing to let maids in

If it's of any reassurance, I can reassure you (from my brief stint as a maid), that maids, like doctors, have seen it all, and your home will not be anywhere near the worst they have seen.
posted by frobozz at 3:41 PM on July 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

As a bonus, if you hire an assembly service they might be able to deal with the missing part problem for you.
posted by mercredi at 3:54 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I do this kind of organization on the side when my business is slow. Basically getting people back to a good starting point after they have crossed the line of being too overwhelmed themselves.

I would look for a good home organizer (one that understands the psychology of it, not one who makes you buy all sorts of boxes and storage bins.). Explain the situation and listen to what they have to say. If they sound like they understand where you are at and what your needs are, hire them for one day or a weekend. Longer if you need. Then after that, hire a housekeeper to do a cleaning.

This will help you get to a point where you can maintain it yourself without too much stress, or you can then hire a housekeeper to come 1 to 2 times a month, and an organizer maybe one weekend every 3 months.

It's doable, and you will feel much more in control of other parts of your life as well.
posted by Vaike at 4:00 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, a good home organizer doesn't talk much. They will actually listen to you to figure out what your specific needs are, your specific way of doing things, and then work from there. They should not be telling you any one specific way, rather they should tailor it to how things organically work for you. Listen for phrases like "would you like to', 'what if we do', 'would you be comfortable'. Not 'you need to', 'we are going to', etc. A good organizer will subtly guide you, not embarrass you or make you feel bad about anything.
posted by Vaike at 4:06 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would draft a friend to at least help you with locating the cleaners and assemblers, and then to help you pick out a few nice things and decorate a little when you've got the place clean. It's good to let your friends in on what's happening, even if you don't have to let them see your current mess.

Also, a trip to target to buy some dishes and such might help inspire you to start eating better. And fresh flowers make everyone feel good, even boys!
posted by yarly at 4:08 PM on July 1, 2011

Professional organizers is where I'd go with it, too, only because they tend to have a lot of connections - they know therapists, cleaning services, reliable laundry services, assembly guys, etc. And they have so, so totally seen it all.

I was quoted about $300 for a thorough cleaning of a cluttered space about that size in Ohio; if cleaning service prices are like everything else, I'd guess Montgomery Co. prices would be more like $700 for the same thing. But you should call around - prices here were all over the place.
posted by SMPA at 4:09 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, you're in dc. Well, we could have a dc meetup to take you to Target!
posted by yarly at 4:11 PM on July 1, 2011

I, too, recommend a professional organizer. There are a number of them in the Maryland/DC area and just on a quick perusal of web sites it looks like some of them make a real point of saying that they're not going to be judgmental -- they're just going to help you get your place put together. The organizer can help you with sorting through your stuff, assembling your furniture (perhaps by finding someone you can pay to do it), and cleaning your place. They'll do it fast and they'll be confidential so you don't have to expose your disordered place to more than just a few people.

Once your place is cleaned up and put together, it's going to be easier to feel good about your home and that can help with feeling good about yourself.
posted by rhartong at 4:32 PM on July 1, 2011

Oh, you're in dc. Well, we could have a dc meetup to take you to Target!

That would be fun! Like an episode of "Clean Sweep" or "Mission Organization"!

(Those shows are not on the air anymore, but they're better than what's on of that genre at the moment.)

I'd hire an organizer and a cleaner. Then go buy a copy of Clean Like a Man. It's a great book, really, and a fun read.

In the meantime, just START. Throw away obvious trash, start some laundry, start the dishwasher, and wipe down the bathroom (small, and easy to see fast progress).
posted by jgirl at 4:37 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, a previous previously from me.
posted by jgirl at 4:39 PM on July 1, 2011

You can and should pay someone to help you with this. I was in a similar situation several years ago. I finally admitted I'd never do it myself, paid someone to do it, and it was one of the BEST decisions I ever made. It was such a weight off my mind, and it really helped my mental health to live in a tidy, organized, clean space.

A lot of cleaning companies in NYC specifically advertise that they do de-cluttering, move in/ move out, and deep cleaning. I'm sure you can find similar services in your area. As for the embarrassment, I assure you, they'll have seen worse.
posted by Mavri at 5:14 PM on July 1, 2011

My advice would be:

1. Hire the house cleaners for a one-time immediate step forward.

2. Read anything by Peter Walsh to help identify the psychological reasons behind your lack of organization (and I bet it will help you deal with your depression).

3. Start using the concepts at Flylady, but don't get put off by the over-zealousness. I use her daily lists, her control journal (just a personalized notebook adapting her concepts to your own schedule, basically) and the 15-minute timer concept. I followed her schedule for about three months and she totally taught me how to keep my space clean and organized.

You can do this!
posted by raisingsand at 5:41 PM on July 1, 2011

(Interested parties enquiring about similar solutions that don't require throwing money at the problem?)
posted by carsonb at 5:55 PM on July 1, 2011

to make you feel better : you have the means to give someone a job and help them to make a living . You happen to be good with computers , they are good at and like to make homes organized and clean . It is very satisfying to see one more place turning beautiful , and one more person (you)-- happy and grateful , to be able to lift the burden from your life . They will be happy to use their skills , talent and experience . It looks like housekeeping is not one of your favorite activity , so don't even bother with becoming a "virtuous person" , give all your housekeeping work to professionals and use your time for other activities that you are good at , and not draining you of energy.
posted by Oli D. at 6:23 PM on July 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

Here is a good resource to help you find a professional organizer:

You could have this person help you once intensively, and then check in with you once every month or few months to make sure you're still doing okay.

You might also consider a life coach? Sounds kind of cheesy, but many of the people who do this are sincerely committed to helping people live the kind of lives they want, and since you might need continuing help with keeping your life and home in order, a life coach might be right up your alley. I talked to someone who did this recently and she mentioned that there is a certification program, so you might start there to find one, or ask around in your area.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:10 PM on July 1, 2011

oh, you're near dc? believe me when i say that i love nothing more than freakishly organizing things and buying cute household acccessories at target. also, my mom has a hoarding problem, so i've probably seen grosser things. memail me if you want any help, seriously.
posted by kerning at 8:38 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Professional organizer is probably the best advice, but I also wanted to chime in with "handyman." I just keep a running list of small tasks that I don't get around to, like "door doesn't latch properly" and "table needs to be fixed" and "put hooks near back door for coats" and "fix leaky faucet" and so on, and call a handyman when I've got several of them built up. You can ask for handyman recommendations on your social networking site of choice, ask friends and neighbors in person, or just look on yelp or in the phone book or whatever.

A handyman can tackle a lot of the miscellaneous tasks of maintenance, repair, and building that either are too small to require a specialist (like a plumber) or too random to have a specialist attached to them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:23 PM on July 1, 2011

on a side note: do you think maybe your flexible work schedule is making you more depressed? Sometimes not being around people and not showing up for things because you don't have to makes you feel crappier (I speak from experience!!) If you are sitting around your house, and it's not comfortable there, it's probably not helping things. Any way you could do 9-5 for a couple of weeks? It sounds counterintuitive but you might feel a lot better.
posted by sully75 at 9:31 PM on July 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

Just chiming in to say that I have the same problem and the answers here have been really helpful. You're not alone.
posted by NoraReed at 12:06 AM on July 15, 2011

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