Schizoaffective Disorder Makes it Hard to Clean My Home

May 30, 2019 Elizabeth Caudy

My schizoaffective disorder makes it hard for me to clean my home. I do little things here and there, though. I regularly take out the garbage and the recycling and I do a bit of dusting. But it’s not enough. My apartment is still very messy. It’s messy to the point where my husband Tom and I don’t have people over. It’s really embarrassing to say to friends, “We can’t have you over because our apartment is too messy.” We just don’t invite friends over.

Because of My Schizoaffective Disorder, I Don’t Trust Myself to Clean

I’m not sure why my schizoaffective disorder affects my ability to clean my apartment. It’s as if I don’t know how to clean. I think part of this is because in my 20s when I should have been learning to take care of a home, I was living with my parents and grappling with the very debilitating diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder.

Another problem is that I don’t trust myself. I’m afraid I’ll do the cleaning “wrong.” My therapist has pointed out to me that there is no wrong way to clean. Still, I’m afraid.

I feel that I’m the one who should do the cleaning, not because I’m the woman and Tom’s the man but because Tom works full-time and I don’t. Also, Tom does the cooking and I don’t know how to cook.

So, as I said before, I do my best to do what I can with the garbage and the recycling. Even just doing that causes my schizoaffective anxiety to flare up—but I do it anyway. Dusting and sweeping are two things I should be doing more, but, to be perfectly honest, doing them scares me. I don’t know why. I do try my best to tackle them when I can.

It doesn’t help that, lately, my schizoaffective depression is so bad I can barely get out of bed. My anxiety and depression feed off of each other. I did get up to write this article today, though, so that’s something.

I’m Embarrassed My Schizoaffective Disorder Keeps Me from Cleaning

It’s been embarrassing to write this article. I feel as though I sound like a lazy slob. At the same time, the fact that it’s embarrassing is exactly why I had to write it. I’m sure other people’s mental illnesses make it hard for them to clean—or to do other simple things, like showering and washing their hair. If you have trouble practicing basic self-care or doing simple tasks, I would love to read about your difficulties or suggestions in the comments below.

APA Reference
Caudy, E. (2019, May 30). Schizoaffective Disorder Makes it Hard to Clean My Home, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Elizabeth Caudy

Elizabeth Caudy was born in 1979 to a writer and a photographer. She has been writing since she was five years old. She has a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Tom. Find Elizabeth on Google+ and on her personal blog.

March, 9 2024 at 4:07 pm

I googled this topic as well because my daughter had schizoaffective. I could see that her house was not clean, and if we offered to help, she would get mad. She passed away recently at the age of 36 because she was not taking care of her diabetes. When we cleaned her apartment, I guess it was worse than I thought. She made a post on FB once that she would have drinks and listen to music and it would make cleaning more fun, but that cleaning was just sad. It seems hard to understand because she was a hard worker in many other aspects. Thanks for posting this, and I hope that there is a method to help people teach them selves to work at cleaning better.

March, 11 2024 at 10:11 am

Hi Judy-- Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed this article, and I hope it gave you insight into your daughter. I'm sorry to hear she passed away at such a young age. Thanks again, Elizabeth

February, 28 2024 at 4:17 pm

This post has encouraged me so much. I am in Australia. I typed in ‘Why don't people with schizophrenia like you to clean their home’ to see if I could get some understanding on where my brother is at. There are so many questions I have. I’ve come from interstate to walk through and support my brother through a difficult season. I know he wants me here to help support him but he doesn’t want me to stay at his home so I try to find friends here that I can stay with. (This is another thing I don’t fully understand)
I had noticed that his home doesn’t look like he’s cleaned for a long time but I think he also gets anxious if I try to clean so I’m trying to understand more as he sometimes finds it hard to communicate what’s happening in his mind.
I try to encourage him to think of one or two things he’s grateful for each day - sometimes it’s the same things. and I too share a couple of things I’m grateful for.
Reading everyone’s thoughts here helps me one step further in understanding as I support him in his journey step by step.
I wish I could get him to come interstate to be with myself or other family members where there would be a lot more support but he really wants to stay in this town.
Thank you Elizabeth for posting and everyone else for your comments.

February, 29 2024 at 12:00 pm

Hi Marsha-- Thank you for your comment. I'm glad this article and the other comments have helped you understand your brother. Best, Elizabeth

October, 10 2023 at 10:53 am

Elizabeth, thank you for writing about (and sharing) your struggle with tidiness of your home. Reading about your experience made me feel less alone in dealing with my son who has schizophrenia and lives with me. I googled "why do schizophrenics have difficulty keeping their environment clean" and your article came up. Now that I know its a struggle for most people with this disorder I will try to continue being helpful and patient with my son. I think a cleaning service for people with this disorder is an excellent idea! when my son was sharing an apartment with another young man with schizophrenia we hired a cleaning lady to come by twice a week to clean the apartment and cook one healthy meal for them. It was really the best thing to do. It would have been even better if the cleaning lady understood the condition they had so she would not get so frustrated with their in ability to maintain the level of cleanliness she would achieve. She truly did a great job deep cleaning the place. And having my son live with me now I understand her frustration. I would help pay again for this service if my son ever gets another apartment because I realize it is a necessary thing for someone with this condition and its not just him being uncaring about tidiness. And you are right people with non-mental conditions do get this sort of help from social service agencies provided by the state - and its not fair that you don't. I plan to read other articles you have written and to share your website with my son so maybe he can feel less alone in his struggles if he reads your blog. I'm in the USA, Thank You soo Much for sharing. Peace and Blessings.

October, 10 2023 at 1:02 pm

Dear Nicole, Thank you for your kind comment. My goal with this blog is to make people who struggle with their own or a loved one's schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder feel less alone. And your comment made me feel less alone! So, again, thank you. Best, Elizabeth

July, 23 2022 at 1:04 am

Hey there,
I have schizoaffective disorder as well and I can't clean anything. I grew up cleaning my whole house and cooking because my parents don't cook or clean and God do I wish I could just be a kid again. I haven't cleaned in months. Luckily my housemate cleans she has minor ocd, I think.

July, 25 2022 at 11:28 am

Carly, Thank you for your comment. Neither I nor my husband really clean, so our apartment is really messy! My husband does cook, though. I'm glad your housemate cleans. Elizabeth

June, 2 2022 at 6:33 am

To All,
Sorry you are having such difficulties with keeping your home to the standard you would like. In my experience, coping with a severe and often debilitating illness is a day to day struggle. It is hard to plan ahead. The focus often has to be on keeping yourself safe that day and dealing with what ever your senses are going to throw up.
This can be exhausting.
I am considering creating a service for people who have a diagnosis of Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder ( possibly other mental health conditions). This would be a free service, paid for by obtaining funding from funding bodies e g. comic relief perhaps.
There would be help with gardening but you would be in charge, deciding what changes you may want in your home and garden. Staff would regularly clean homes, and do laundry. There would be support in learning how to keep house and how to fix small things around the house. For those who feel there is anything they want to learn.
I worked as a mental health advocate for many years and visited many young people who had been diagnosed with illnesses such as schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder. Where they were alone and had no one to help them with day to day tasks. They told me they had not been able to make their home into a place for themselves, that reflected their character and their interests.
Whenever I enquired to see if there was a home cleaning service for people with mental ill health, run by Services/NHS. I was told no, almost laughed at.
This greatly surprised me as I am sure if a person was at home with a heart complaint, and was in the same predicament that they would receive a cleaner?
Things may have changes since then.
Could you do me the courtesy of replying to me, whether a free cleaning service home and garden, while you may need, would be of use to you?
Any kindly worded disagreements or other ideas are welcome.
Are there any other things that come to mind that your illness makes difficult, that could improve your quality of life? That is not already covered by your CMHT..... if you have one.
Please can you ask other people that you know that have schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder to also read this and to send me their feedback.
This idea is in the early stages. I need to see what everyone thinks before I take it any further.
I live in the Bolton area. But will be grateful of your ideas and feedback from anywhere in the country.

June, 2 2022 at 2:29 pm

Dear Zoey, Thank you for your comment. And thanks for getting it! You're right to point out the discrepancies between how people with mental illness are treated and people with other types of illness are treated.
I'm not sure I personally would need a cleaning service, but maybe other people would. I don't know. I don't know very many other people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. But good luck!
Best, Elizabeth

December, 13 2021 at 3:10 pm

I clean based on my energy levels for the day and I literally will break down every cleaning task to a ridiculous small steps. For example for doing the dishes in the dishwasher 1. Scrub dishes 2. Put scrubbed dishes in dishwasher (if you don't think you can do enough dishes to fully load the dishwasher just do as many as you can) 3. Add water to dishwasher (I only have a tabletop dishwasher and thus must add water before running it if I can't finish adding water get as much water in there as I can) 4. Add dishwasher detergent 5. Start dishwasher and switch sign from dirty dishes to not dirty dishes (these have to happen together, this is the only step that must be completed in one go) 6. Unload dishwasher 7. Bring dishes from other parts of the house to the sink. This means I have a running to do list showing how far along I got in the process that me and my significant other (SO) both have access to.

December, 14 2021 at 4:44 pm

Dear Allison, Thank you for your comment. I hope it's okay if I steal your idea of breaking down the task into very small steps! When I clean, I do as much as I think I can handle. Some days I do take out all the garbage in my and my husband's apartment, but usually, I take out only some of the garbage. So maybe that's a way I am already implementing your strategy. What I have the most trouble with is sweeping, dusting, and cleaning surfaces. Elizabeth.

December, 5 2020 at 6:24 pm

I have Schizoaffective disorder as well. I have no motivation to clean my house and it is awful and nasty. I don't feel so alone after reading this article. Sometimes I can barely cope with basic life skills. Other times I do ok. I wish you all the best as you navigate these choppy waters that are mental illness.

December, 7 2020 at 11:23 am

Dear Rebecca, Thank you for your comment. I am so glad reading my article made you feel less alone. I wish you all the best, too! --Elizabeth

Nicky H.
January, 10 2020 at 6:43 am

I’m really going through it too. I was never a good cleaner, but now it’s just non-existent. I hate that my husband has to do everything but my avolition is so severe that I can’t do anything at all. And my personal grooming is out the window. I used to be meticulous when it comes to my appearance. Now I’m lucky if I change my clothes in the week. Schizoaffective disorder has stolen my life.

June, 17 2019 at 12:20 pm

My house is filthy and I have no motivation whatsoever. Even though I know that the house being dirty makes my depression and anxiety worse, I still can't deal with it.

June, 4 2019 at 5:00 pm

You are not lazy. I have many of the same difficulties showering and drying my hair. I also struggle with cleaning my apartment. I thought I was lazy but I am not because I obsess on how I can do these things and stay safe. I want to thank you for sharing your experiences. You give me hope because you do write this column and by reading your experiences I have hope. Thank you.

June, 3 2019 at 12:00 pm

Hi Elizabeth
I have schizoaffective no-polar type.
I can relate to everything you and Deana wrote. Some of the stuff that has helped me are DBT/CBT skills over many many years. for inspiration and affirmations. I can't keep up with her cleaning plan but I can do some of the stuff she suggests. Decluttering is a big issue for me. She has a simple method of using a timer (15 or 2min) to do tasks. Pacing is important for me because of several medical issues. So this helps me. Not everyday but it helps. She's got such a good message. I have a motto for myself Having a clean house is not a moral issue! I am not a bad person! I don't have people over either. Not just because of the state of my house but because of safety issues. Right now I have to consider having help come in because my HB(hubby) can't keep up with all the care I need and take care of the house. I am terrified! But it needs serious consideration. As far as noise, I get what your saying Deana. I use ear plugs my daughter uses noise cancelling ear phones. I can do this because I have dogs that bark at everything! Lol Can you consider a alarm system?
I want to thank you both for sharing. I'm going to be 65 soon. I've had over 40yrs of therapy and psycho education classes. See if your community mental health agency offers anything like this. The classes helped me more than anything.
God bless you both!

June, 3 2019 at 2:08 pm

Dear Catherine,
Thank you so much for your comment. I like your motto! All the comments I've been getting on this post make me feel that I'm not alone, so thanks for being a part of that! DBT and CBT help me a lot, too. I recently finished a class on DBT, and I've also taken a class on mindfulness, so classes help me, too. Thanks again for your comment!

Deanna deprez
June, 2 2019 at 4:27 am

I rarely clean and when I do, it takes at least 3 hrs to clean my efficiency. Dirty dishes, dirty clothes all over the floor. Filthy bedding. I'm fortunate not to have roaches or bedbugs, because it looks like I should. It's like a huge effort just to get up and get started. But it's so disheartening to look at day in and day out. I'm bipolar 1. I take Klonopin for anxiety and I need it a lot in big part because of the cleaning. My self care just evaporated one day. One day I was showering at least every other day, and now it's up to 7 days. I've always been scrupulous about washing my face but now the lack of showering is causing me not to bother washing my face. I try hard to keep up with the teeth. I'll wear the same clothes for 4 days at a time. I've been having lots of intrusive thoughts that make me so miserable. I've finally decided to get therapy. I'm holding decades of guilt that is interfering with my whole day, every day. Pop up thoughts that I'm bad, have been so rotten in my life.
Well, i enjoyed your article, it helped me. Thank you for listening.

May, 30 2019 at 8:57 pm

Thank you for sharing. I love hearing about your journey and how you cope with everything. I have similar fears when it comes to cleaning. The noise of the Vacuum really bothers me. I don't know why it scares me so much but it is hard to make myself clean because of the sound. I like being able to hear everything and the sound of the vacuum makes it so I can't hear the sounds around me that give me comfort. I don't like not being able to hear if a door opens or if the floor squeaks. I really appreciate your posts. It helps me realize I am not alone in my fears. Thank you for inspiring me.

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