Edmonton volunteer tidies up for people with mental health issues, other challenges

Kelly Bartley likes to clean.

It has not always been the case; In the past, she says, her mental health was so poor that she couldn’t do basic household chores.

“I remember when my anxiety was so high that I physically couldn’t force myself to do my laundry or get the dishes out of my bedroom,” Bartley said in an interview this week.

“I would cry because my room is disgusting…I just felt like trash.”

Bartley is no longer in that headspace, she said. But while she was home for a few weeks before starting a new job, the Edmonton woman decided that instead of killing time, she wanted to help other people who felt like they were before.

She’s taken to Reddit, Instagram and her personal social pages to offer her services as a free, non-judgmental cleaner to those in need. She offered to clean entire houses or a single room, or tackle other tasks.

“I love cleaning and I know how helpful a clean, healthy environment can be,” Bartley wrote on Reddit.

“I also know from first-hand experience how easy it is to fall behind or not be able to keep your space clean when dealing with mental health issues and how overwhelming it can be.”

When Kelly Bartley found herself with spare time, she decided to put those hands to work – providing free cleaning services to those in need. 1:58

She said she couldn’t promise ‘a spotlessly clean and sparkling home’, but she could do ‘all the washing up, dusting, floors, baseboards, tidying up and leave your living space just as lovely. as possible”.

Since posting on March 10, Bartley has received requests to clean about 45 homes from people struggling with their mental health or facing physical challenges.

“I thought I was helping two or three people,” she said with a laugh as she showed CBC message after message she received.

She cleaned her first house on March 11. She said she was told the owner was suffering from depression and hadn’t cleaned in three months.

Bartley found dirty dishes in the sink and other messes in the kitchen of a home she visited. (Submitted by Kelly Bartley)

The same kitchen after Bartley washed the dishes and tidied up. (Submitted by Kelly Bartley)

“Most people I spoke to said that one of their biggest worries right now was that their house was gross,” Bartley said.

“They judge themselves for it and are embarrassed, and they just don’t feel safe and comfortable in a space that they’re supposed to feel safe and comfortable in.”

A hand

One of those people is Stacie Brayton. The 44-year-old was diagnosed in 2018 with Goodpasture syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks the kidneys and lungs.

She has been on dialysis for four years, which can be both physically and mentally exhausting.

Brayton said she usually only has about an hour and a half of energy a day, which isn’t nearly enough to clean her five-level townhouse.

“Before I got sick, I could do the house in two or three hours on my own,” she said.

It’s like I have a huge weight on my shoulders.– Stacie Brayton

“Now I can only do one flight of stairs a day. It’s so disheartening…you wake up every day and you’re so overwhelmed.”

Brayton reached out and on Monday Bartley cleaned his house.

“It’s like I have a huge weight on my shoulders,” Brayton said looking back at what Bartley has accomplished.

“It’s four years of stress.”

Not very routine cleaning, says psychiatrist

Dr Pierre Chue, a psychiatrist in Edmonton, said it’s ‘very common’ for people struggling with their mental health to fall behind on small tasks like cleaning until they become overwhelming messes.

He said it could be a sign to seek help, which could include therapy, medication or other treatment.

“With mental health, things change subtly, often pervasively over a period of time,” Chue said.

“It can be difficult to recognize that things have gone wrong, and then it becomes almost impossible to reverse it by your own attempts.”

Bartley is returning to work soon, but with so many houses to contend with, she said she plans to continue volunteering to clean houses a few times a week.

“I just want to help them get to a base point in their life where it’s not causing them stress anymore,” she said.

Friends and a cleaning company also offered to volunteer. One person even donated for gasoline and cleaning supplies.

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