Cleaning for Self-Care

I did chores this weekend and it was fabulous self-care.


This is not a coded message begging for help, I promise! Granted, we often regard chores as the opposite of self-care. However! Our spaces affect us, and if we are uncomfortable in that space, then it’s hard to maintain the benefit we get from more “Pinterest-y” self-care. For me, I know that if the space I’m in is too cluttered, my anxiety starts higher than it would if I’m in a cleared space. So, for all the coloring books, therapy putty, beautiful candles, and photography-- I need clear, clean spaces at home to completely feel better.


This picture is the “after” of part of my bathroom counter.


















Especially with us all spending SO MUCH extra time at home right now, and not having people over, housekeeping may have fallen by the wayside. [If it didn’t for you, way to go! This post isn’t for you.] I know I’ve let clutter stack up and different projects laid out in the same place longer than I’m proud of. So some anxiety inducing spaces exist around my house, and limited extra energy to do anything about it.


Hope is not lost for a guest ready house though! By knowing what has to happen, and how my energy tends to ebb and flow, I can get many tasks done without overwhelming myself. A simple way of explaining how I do this, is by using a traffic light.


The lights are each explained as a level of energy and what kinds of tasks are reasonable to expect at that level. This is a concept which varies for each person, but see if you can start making your own stoplight color based list of tasks and re-establish realistic expectations of what you can get done day to day. Reminder: just because you have some energy, doesn’t mean you have to do all the pieces on the list, but have some ideas if you want to do something to work on your space.


Red light: minimal extra energy, getting up and my face washed is medal worthy. Someone who has severe depression or chronic illness or pain may often be at this level. Give yourself the most grace here. See if you can just put dirty clothes in one pile, and dishes by the sink. As little as these things sound, they can pay off in a big way later on. How much energy do you spend retrieving things when you’re ready to do those tasks? The focus is on the smallest things you can do and use your energy for more emotion focused self-care.

Other examples for this level:

  • Put a book back on the right shelf

  • Put pens/pencils in the correct spot

  • Change your pillow case

  • Fold a blanket

  • Change out one hand towel for a clean one

Yellow light: There’s still a considerable range of energy levels here in the yellow light zone. If you’re feeling more tired than usual, but can really push yourself through the day, you’re probably in this place. This may be an area where you break down the tasks into a gradation once you know what you can do at this level (or don’t and let yourself decide what’s do-able in the moment!). This is something more akin to washing and drying a single load of laundry, but not stressing if you get all of it hung up and put away.

Other ideas:

  • Change your sheets

  • Organize paper bills/statements

  • Take the trash out

  • Fill, run, then empty your dishwasher

  • Clean your coffeemaker with a pre-made cleanser packet

  • Make your grocery list for the week, go grocery shopping

  • Clean one part of your bathroom, decide how much of a task other parts will be as compared with how much into yellow you are. Maybe you take on more of the bathroom, maybe it’s just one task a day.

Green light: Woohoo! Top of the energy hill. This is where you feel energized when you wake up and feel like you can take on anything. While it’s great, don’t expect yourself to be here all the time, it’s just not realistic. So that’s why this space is a good one to take on bigger projects that feel impossible any other time.

Examples to give you ideas:

  • Rearrange a room

  • Reorganize a storage space

  • Deep clean a room

  • Clean out your closet and organize Keep/ Donate/ Toss piles

  • Clean out other storage areas that seem to otherwise have a black hole in them (this was what my bathroom counter had become in some ways, and I’m still marveling at how much clear space I have now!)

I hope this idea gave you a fresh perspective on how to tackle household chores when your energy isn’t consistently where you’d like it to be. Above all, self-care means listening to your body and not overthinking what you can do. On the flip side, acknowledging every bit of task completion is better than berating yourself for not doing it perfectly.


|What “your best” means today, is not the same as what it will be tomorrow, or in 3 weeks, months, or years.|


If you’re finding yourself in a low yellow to red zone more than once or twice every few weeks, please reach out for support so you can get to the bottom of the energy-suck and start putting yourself on the path you’re wanting to follow. Click here for scheduling and let’s work on changing your path together.


Joyfully yours,

Elizabeth Bolton, LPC, NCC



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