This past July, I read KatSings review of How to Keep House While Drowning and immediately put it on hold at my library. Eight years ago I was drowning. I was a SAHM who was deeply depressed and feeling very worn down with a sickly four year old and a neurodivergent eight year old. When every day is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting it’s hard to keep house to the level of “clean” that we often feel morally compelled to do. And because we can’t do it, we feel shame which can feed in to guilt. This can be paralyzing. Davis spends time talking about removing moral judgement and rethinking of chores as morally neutral. Whether or not your sink is clean or dirty does not make you a “good” or a “bad” person. Chores are neutral.
At that time in my life I carried around guilt for a lot of reasons. Not keeping my house to what I’ve been taught is an acceptable standard was one of those sources. I definitely would have benefited from having Davis help lift that burden from me. In the past few years, with depression managed, my younger kid healthy, and better support and structure for the older neurodivergent child, I am in a much better place and gentler on myself. Even so I appreciated Davis’s kind words and it has shifted my thinking.
To help from getting overwhelmed by a very messy space she proposes the “Five things tidying method”.
Although it looks like a lot, there are actually one five things in any room; 1) trash, 2) dishes, 3) laundry, 4) things that have a place and are not in their place, and 5) things that do not have a place.
And then take care of those things in that order. I have a habit of getting distracted and shaving the yak when cleaning. Taking me away from the central purpose of cleaning a room. I have found this to be a useful way of focusing my cleaning. Davis also spends time on how to make spaces functional for you. She offers several strategies for how to do so depending on the level of energy you can put forth. I need to implement her basket method. Always have laundry collecting in the living room? Put a basket there for people to put clothes in and then collect on laundry days. I want to try and implement this in the TV room specifically for all the socks that get taken off in there.
I love how Davis went to great lengths to make this book as accessible as possible to those who are neurodivergent. From choice of the font and angle of letters to make reading easier, to keeping things short and bolding important items to “account for both attention and comprehension”. She also gives a literal interpretation for each metaphor used. And if a whole book is too daunting, Davis created a short cut through the book that can be read in 30 minutes to an hour depending on reading speed.
Davis wrote How to Keep House While Drowning after going through her own period of depression and child rearing so I found her highly relatable. However, I don’t think that connection is necessary for reading and getting useful information out of the book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who struggles with cleaning. I also recommend this to anyone interested in cleaning and organization tactics.