How to cope with living in an awful place
May 27, 2016 2:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm 21 and still live in my parents' apartment. It's awfully messy with trash and clothes and clutter all over the place. My room (the only bedroom) is fairly cramped. To make matters worse my mom insists on putting laundry bags full of clothes in my room. And my 13 year old brother is going to move in my room soon.

I don't pay rent because I don't have a job. I'm looking. I'm trying to move out but it won't be until I have a steady job and savings.

How do I cope? I feel like I'm losing it. Being in the same place for another year or so seems unbearable. I have bipolar that's treated with therapy and meds just fyi. My mom has lots of mh and other problems too so helping her clean isn't going to do anything. My grandma has tried many times.
posted by starlybri to Human Relations (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My room is fairly clean besides my mom's clutter by the way.
posted by starlybri at 2:54 PM on May 27, 2016

Can you arrange the furniture differently to section off a little area for yourself, visually? Like, maybe her laundry bags can go in one corner and you can move your desk in front of your bed to sort of block it off a little? Or use a curtain or bookshelf to make a little division? See if you can find a way to visually divide off your area and then treat that area like the tiniest apartment in the world and set it up as a little sanctuary for yourself. Good luck!
posted by JoannaC at 3:09 PM on May 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

You need to get out of there and you'll cope better when you know you're following a plan that leads you to an actual solution. The job is objective #1. Do you have any friends or relatives you can talk to ahead of time about renting a room from once you're able to pay rent?
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:11 PM on May 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

Got to free places -- esp. quiet places like museums, libraries, swimming pools, parks, etc. wherever you can, & just stay out of there as much as you can to get some peace of mind. Only go home when absolutely necessary so that you are a bit settled down & re-charged when you're there, instead of feeling stuck there all the time.

Accelerate the job search, & maybe look for a roommate situation as soon as you can get a couple paychecks under your belt. That shouldn't take a year.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:15 PM on May 27, 2016 [20 favorites]

Have you looked into moving out with a roommate, or moving into a share situation, or with friends? It can take a really long time to save for your own place, but if you can share the burden of deposits and such things become a lot easier. For my first away-from-home apartment I think I saved up for 3-4 months, little by little, in order to pay the first month and deposit on a shared apartment. Having a more firm exit strategy might make things a little more bearable. Especially as you watch your savings grow.
posted by Sara C. at 3:27 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Unfuck Your Habitat may have some helpful advice in this post: How Do I Keep the Place Clean When No One will Help Me?
posted by peagood at 3:47 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, Starlybri, I'm sorry things haven't gotten better. (I remembered your previous Asks.)

Your age, gender and nursing training may set you up well for a nanny or elderly caretaker job where you live on-site. (I mention your gender not because these are jobs that should be gendered, but because they're jobs where employers tend to be more likely to hire women.) I'd say call up a few agencies and offer your services.

Are you still in college? I wonder if there may be some kind of student housing assistance you could get there. This is something I don't know anything about, but it may be worth asking. Your living situation does sound dreadful, and you've gotta get out of there. Good luck!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:20 PM on May 27, 2016 [11 favorites]

I don't have a great answer, but what I've done is, effectively, take ownership of a few specific spaces (my room and the kitchen) and keep them as close as possible to the way I would ideally like them to be. If you've never lived on your own, it can be difficult to know how you want things to be - imagining this, in vivid detail, is a very good exercise for you to do, and a possible coping mechanism.

For your room, that means having boundaries, and asserting that the space is yours. Your brother moving in (sounds like a nightmare but) doesn't change that principle - it's normal for roommates to create "my space" and "your space" and negotiate these boundaries within the room. The age difference means that you'll probably have to explain this to him. (also can you push back on this? What's changed to make him move into your room?) Point is, don't let your mother put her stuff in your room. When she does so, remove it; when she complains, be ruthless. (Imagine if a coworker was leaving her own work for you to deal with - be as ruthless as you would be in that situation.)

For the kitchen, that means I take on the entire burden of cleaning, and I do that for myself, because I personally need the kitchen to be clean. For you that might be the bathroom. I don't know. (I don't do all the dishes, because four people's dishes is too much to put on one person with no dishwasher; that means I bug people about doing them, in rotation.)

It is unfair. It's unpleasant. It's not your fault. Do whatever you need to do; be ruthless in defending your mental health. Make a very specific plan of escape.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 4:47 PM on May 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

.(also can you push back on this? What's changed to make him move into your room?)

Probably it's that he's 13 and sick of living in the living room with his parents, which seems reasonable.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:44 PM on May 27, 2016

Additionally: I don't think it's reasonable to "ruthlessly defend" your bedroom from other people's things when there are four people sharing a one bedroom apartment.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:45 PM on May 27, 2016 [12 favorites]

Don't know if anyone has suggested Children of Hoarders but it's an online support group for the children of people who hoard stuff (it may include folks who are considered messies, but I don't know). Based on what you're saying about your mom, it's possible that she or your parents have hoarding tendencies. And that's really hard on the people around them. It's a mental health issue. Please ignore this advice if it's not helpful. Sounds like you could use all the support you can get. Also, have you heard about the Job Corps? It's a government program that provides free job training (and sometimes includes housing) for low-income folks between 16 and 24. It accepts students, too. So that might be a possibility. The unknown is hard. It's scary. You have a lot of challenges. And a really strong desire to have a better life. The good news is that you can have a better life. But it will take time. Hang in there. Make a plan for getting away from home. Talk to your therapist, talk to other wise folks, and make a plan that is realistic if not ideal. Because most of us don't get ideal. Then take the best care of yourself you can, try to follow your plan, and take it a day, an hour, or a minute at a time. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 5:58 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

This may seem silly, but might be appreciated by you or your brother (maybe even help keep him in the living room?). The Privacy Pop Bed Tent. If it's too expensive, rigging a fort like structure to keep you out of each other's spaces might help.
posted by cecic at 6:32 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you move in with your grandmother? If you are in the only bedroom of a one bedroom apartment, where are your parents and brother currently sleeping? It doesn't seem like they have the resources to care for you or your brother right now. Have your parents applied for section 8 housing? Even in the tidiest of spaces, we still need space. Help your mother fill out the paperwork if you need to but you all need to move. If they won't budge, then you really need to, even before you have steady work and savings. Get a job at a local fast food place if you have to but get out of there. The longer you stay, the longer your life will be on hold.
posted by myselfasme at 7:36 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

In this situation I did two things

1. Get a job at an awful fast food place. This resulted in lots of anguish at the time, but funny stories later, and eventually led to an ok chain coffee shop job. I had literally given up and was going in to a terrible cheap ass not-chain place to eat and saw the help wanted sign. They hired me really quickly, with no experience just to ring people up and make bad milkshakes.(note: this was in the throes of the recession, not 1982 or something)

2. Spend as much time as possible out of the house. I was either at work, at a friends place, riding my bike around, at a cafe drinking the cheapest possible drink with my crappy computer. Hell, I'd hang out in the common areas of the apartment building and steal wifi.

I crashed on my friends couch a lot. I never had enough money to move out on my own, but I did with a roommate and holy shit was it 1000x better.

I seriously had to be pushed to my limit to actually do either of these things. I have autism and depression, and my mom treats her house similarly. It can get better.
posted by emptythought at 9:41 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Having three to four people living in a 1 BR is almost inevitably going to be hard to keep clean (I say from experience), even under the best of circumstances -- which, given your mom's mental health issues, maybe aren't the circumstances you're in. It takes near-constant cleaning with that many people in that small of a space because it only feels at all clean if everything is put away, and if everyone has really simplified their belongings. It's a lot of cleaning. I'm sure your help would help.

Beyond that, your mom has given you the only bedroom? Does she have another place for these laundry bags of her clothes? If not, might it make sense to make space for them in the bedroom? Basically, I'd work with her to figure out where the bags can go that works best for all of you.

I think in terms of coping, cultivating gratitude might also help. Sure, it's messy, but hey, free rent. Sure, your mom has mh issues, but she's given you the only bedroom so she obviously loves you enough to put your needs before her own. I don't mean to sound unsympathetic by advising you to appreciate this situation that obviously is pretty uncomfortable, but it has worked for me (i.e., I've gained patience for situations by focusing on the positives or ways in which things could be worse).

Then channel all your angst, frustration, and anger into a job search and plan for leaving.
posted by salvia at 10:52 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

2nd Devil's Rancher, stay out of the house as much as possible. I'm thinking it might help if you make a schedule so you don't find yourself ambling around from place to place, also might help make your days feel more purposeful. (E.g. job search at the library, 10-12; lunch, 12-12:30 (some libraries let people eat e.g. packed lunches quietly, or now that it's summer, you could go to the park*); maybe, volunteering somewhere, 1-4; exercise at the YMCA**, 4-5. Home for dinner. Visit a friend (or neighbour, or your grandmother), or read or watch vids with headphones on.

* If there is a park that's easily accessible to you, sorry, I know that's not available to everyone in every place.

** Some light exercise may help with balancing your mood and give you energy to use in other activities. The Y and most community centres usually have sponsored, reduced-price memberships for people who qualify; ask the staff for information about which forms and other information you'd need. You might need to ask your parents for some financial info for that. But if that's not feasible, there may be other opportunities for fitness in your community.

posted by cotton dress sock at 8:48 AM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is there any way to set up an artificial barrier of some kind? A curtain from the ceiling, a tall piece of furniture, a room divider, etc.? It's only a temporary fix, but even being able to carve out a little piece of real estate and focus your attention on keeping that area as clean and serene as you like and are able to might help as far as securing a little space that's "yours" until you can find a better living situation.

I'm so sorry--I know how stressful it can be when your very environment is keeping you from being able to relax. I hope you're able to find a job soon so you can find a more quiet place to live.
posted by helloimjennsco at 5:50 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

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