Ask A House Cleaner, Depression - Helping or Enabling, Savvy Cleaner

Depression – Are You Helping or Enabling?

Depression. You know somebody whose house is a mess. They’re filled with anxiety, gloom, sadness, misery, worry, and sorrow. The trouble with depression is you want to help, but you can’t change someone else.

Today on Ask a House Cleaner we dig into compassion and helping vs. enabling. Angela Brown, The House Cleaning Guru covers mild depression to severe depression. “Get clear about your reasons for helping.” Yes, you can volunteer, but you’re still dealing with mental health and neglect. It’s a classic case of desperation meets good Samaritan.

They have to want to change and they may not want your help or maybe they just don’t care.

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Hey there, I’m Angela Brown, and this is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house cleaning question, and I get to help you find an answer.

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Question: Depression – Are You Helping or Enabling?

Now, today’s question comes from a house cleaner who owns a house cleaning business. And she wants to volunteer some time to help clean the house of someone who is undergoing depression. And she wants to know, “Is it insensitive for me to offer to clean this lady’s house for free?”

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Answer: Depression – Are You Helping or Enabling?

All right, before I answer that question I need to make a disclaimer. I’m not a mental health professional. I’m a house cleaner.  And I have spent 25 years working with lots and lots of people who are experiencing depression. And so from one house cleaner to another here’s my two cents.

Depression Observations From A House Cleaner

Yes, you can volunteer that would be a lovely gesture. And would be kind of you to offer to help her clean her house.

But in understanding depression there a couple of things that you have to be aware of. You don’t want to take away the independence of the person that has depression.
Self-esteem issues contribute to depression. And so does a dirty house.

If their house is a mess, and it most likely is. They are feeling inadequate already because they don’t feel like cleaning their house.
There are varying levels of depression. So, there is mild depression, and then there’s a severe depression. And a whole bunch of levels between.

Severe Depression Shows Signs of Neglect and Lethargy

At the severe depression level, there are people sitting there watching TV while rats and mice are running in front of them.

There will be food and food crumbs, and food remnants everywhere. There will be bottles of soda and big gulps. Drinks and food left uncovered.

And there will be ants and all kinds of other things that have crept into the homes of some of these people. And they’re sitting there watching TV and they don’t care. They don’t have the energy to get up and clean their own house.

You Want A Lifestyle For Them They Don’t Care About Depression depressed dude watching TV

I get it. You want to reach out. And you want for them the lifestyle that they deserve. But they need to also want that for themselves. Because if they say “Yes, come clean my house.”

And then they sit there and watch TV the whole time that you’re there cleaning, you’re going to feel abused.

Especially because you do this every day for a living. You get paid good money to clean people’s houses.

And this is charity. You’re doing this free of charge.

So just be a hundred percent clear inside your head why you’re doing this.

Depression whyIs This For You? Or For Them?

Are you doing this for the person? Or are you doing it for yourself?

If you’re doing it for yourself so that you feel better about yourself, make sure that’s why you’re doing it.

Not because you want to change someone else’s life. Because if they don’t want to change, it doesn’t make any difference. You’ll come back two weeks later and the house will be the same. Now if you’re doing it because it’s a social services case, and the kids that live in the house will be removed if the house doesn’t get cleaned up a little bit. That’s a different situation.

So be crystal clear about why you’re doing it. Are you doing it for the person that’s depressed? Are you doing it for the kids? Or are you doing it for yourself?

Depression Requires Boundaries

Now that you’ve articulated your reasons why – you need to set boundaries. Depression shopping trip

Most depressed people (in my experience,) don’t have any boundaries. And so, the boundaries don’t stop when you clean the house.

“By the way, I’m hungry. I haven’t fixed anything in a week in my house. Can you go to the grocery store for me?”

And because out of the goodness of your heart, if you’re doing it for you, you’ll say yes.

“Sure, I’ll be happy to run to the grocery store for you.” And then they say “Oh, by the way, I don’t have any money. Can you pay for the groceries as well?”
“Hey, I don’t have a ride somewhere. Can you give me a ride?”

Depression Inspires Guilt Trips

And so, without boundaries, your offer to help clean their house has transitioned now into a series of other freebies.Depression nice people

You are giving, and giving, and giving. And they are taking, and taking, and taking. And there’s nothing in return.

So out of the goodness of your heart, you’re now the martyr and taken advantage of. And the resentment and regrets set in.

And so, if I could tell you about this in advance, at least you can see it coming when it happens.

So, you need to be crystal clear about what your boundaries are. How much are you going to help? Are you going to be able to help two days a week, at two hours a pop?

And if that’s it, make sure that’s it. You run a business. You have employees to deal with. And you have a family to take care of. You have your own lifestyle and your own problems that need your attention.

Stick to Your Boundaries – To Keep Your Sanity

If you only have two days, two hours per time, to help this particular family, that’s all you have to give. Don’t feel bad you don’t have more time.

And so, when you arrive to help them clean their house, say “Listen, I have two hours. What are your top priorities in the next two hours? That’s all I have to give.”
And then if the end of the two hours, cut yourself off and go home. It doesn’t matter how bad the situation is. And it doesn’t matter what the cares and concerns are.

Because What Happens is This: 

Depression helping hand

Again, out of the goodness of your heart, you want to help these people. That’s an intrinsic desire that we have. We want to all help each other, right?

But what happens then is your kindness drifts a little bit. Your intention to help clean up ends up with more involvement than you planned. And at the risk of neglect to your own family.

And so, you’re staying longer. You’re fixing meals. You’re taking meals in. And you’re buying food. You’re running errands. You’re cleaning house. But what about your own house?

Your Helping Others Turns Your Family Against You Depression regrets

Your own kids have new resentment. And they say “Well, our mom doesn’t love us. Because now she’s helping this other family when she could be here helping us.”

Now you have guilt trips coming at you from all directions.  So there’s a domino effect of your kindness being miss directed at somebody who may not even want your help.

And I say they may not want your help because a lot of times people with depression will take whatever you give them. And then ask for more. Never offering anything in return.

Depression depressed person 2Nothing is Free Including Help

But there needs to be something coming back.

“If I come to your house and I come to help you clean. you need to help me clean while I’m there.”

“You don’t get to sit there eating potato chips, and watching television, while I’m there cleaning up mice poop.”

‘That’s not how that works. If you want my help, I will come. I have two hours to give you on Wednesday afternoon at one o’clock.”

If They Are A No Show – Free Help Is Over

And this happens a lot. You get there Wednesday at one o’clock and they’re not home. And then they call you at four o’clock and say “Hey, I had to go run some errands can you come over now?”

“I’m sorry I don’t have it to give. I had a two-hour window. You blew it. You weren’t home. I couldn’t get in.”

And so, you have to be clear about the boundaries you set. Because what you’re dealing with is a scenario that has perpetuated itself through depression. And it just keeps getting worse because there are no boundaries.

You May Need An InterventionDepression boundaries

Now the person that you’re dealing with needs mental care. They need some help from somewhere and it may require an intervention.

Maybe there are people who can help from the church. And you might find family members willing to help. There may be neighbors.

There are a variety of places that you can delegate that help if you to help this family.

But you have to realize right up front, what are your reasons why? Because it’s not your responsibility to go rescue another family.
It’s not your responsibility. Even if that person is a family member.

It’s Not Your Job to Rescue Anyone But Yourself

Depression another helping handThat person might be a family member or a relative. But it is not your responsibility to rescue anyone but yourself.

I love the fact that you want to help.
That just says that you’re a good person to the core. You see a need and you want to jump in and give. And I love that about you.
So congratulations on that.

  • But think about it from all angles before you open up a can of worms that you can’t contain once it gets out of control.
  • Set your boundaries. And be clear about what you’re doing and why.
  • Decide how much time and money you have to give. Stick to your budget.

Alright, so that’s my two cents. And until we meet again, leave the world a cleaner place than when you found it.

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About the Show

Learn how the show came to be, interesting facts about the show host, and other frequently asked questions about the show.

Resources For This Episode

Intervention: How to Help Someone Who Doesn’t Want Help –

The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs –

The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness –

The Mindful Way through Anxiety: Break Free from Chronic Worry and Reclaim Your Life –

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy –

31 Verses and Prayers for the Anxious Mind and Heart: A Hope-filled and Healing Devotional for Those Who Struggle with Anxiety and/or Depression –

Total Recovery: Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Pain and Depression –

Quiet Your Mind and Get to Sleep: Solutions to Insomnia for Those with Depression, Anxiety or Chronic Pain –

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