How to Love Cleanliness. Eight Steps to Personal Care

Why don't people practice proper hygiene?

In order to know how to approach a slovenly person (or yourself, if you want to become better), it is first helpful to understand the reason for the behavior. The retraining strategy will depend on this to some extent.

  1. Lack of habit

Perhaps the person just wasn’t taught as a child. He/she was not told how to clean up after him/herself and parents did not instill the necessity to brush teeth and so on. There may be no special psychological motives or hidden reasons, it is simply the lack of everyday skill. Probably, the parents of such a child were not particularly clean themselves. Now that this child has grown up, the behavior pattern is continuing. For him/her, dirty hair or a plate of mold under the bed is the norm. Even if the person realizes that something is going wrong — he/she does not have a formed habit, so any “hygienic” action has to be done consciously, making willful efforts.

  1. The assimilated pathological pattern of behavior

This reason also comes from childhood. Perhaps the child was often told that he/she was clumsy, sleazy or disgusting and he/she has come to believe it. As a result, now the adult does nothing because he/she does not see the need or knows in advance that coping with this would be difficult. “Well, I’m a slob, and slobs do not clean up after themselves, why should I try?”

Another reason is the formed negative attitude towards work and personal hygiene. If parents tried to accustom the child to order and purity by rigid and authoritarian methods, then the child may simply rebel in adulthood. To some extent, the approach of “just to spite Grandma, I’ll freeze my ears off ” is explained by emotional immaturity and some infantilism of the individual’s thought processes.

  1. Depression, anxiety disorders, and other diseases

Depression, anemia, hypothyroidism and some other diseases are often accompanied by a decline in strength, weakness of will, dizziness, and rapid fatigue. As a result, a person is simply physically unable or does not see the point of personal care and keeping order in the house.

It is also possible to distinguish pathological collecting syndrome. This is an obsessive disorder in which a person begins to collect unnecessary things, turning the house into a kind of warehouse. As a result, there is simply nowhere to wash dishes or take a shower. It is easy to observe  this condition. If your loved one just doesn’t clean up, and at the same time doesn’t fill up the apartment with things from floor to ceiling, then this syndrome is inapplicable.

  1. Lack of own territory or things

Sometimes slovenliness is caused by the fact that a person does not feel a sense of permanence in one’s own home or territory. Perhaps this rented apartment, the apartment of the husband/wife or parents, is temporary. Since it is someone else’s, then there is no urgent sense or desire to invest in or adapt, as these are the rules of others.

  1. It just seems to you

What other people think of as slovenliness may be a variant from the norm. For example, someone washes their hair every day, and someone else every 2-3 days. One may think that a manicure is necessary, and another is satisfied with just clean nails.

“I constantly swear at my mother-in-law or, more precisely, she swears at me, and I say almost nothing. She thinks we are terrible and dirty. I change my linen only once a week, I don’t starch the collars on my husband’s shirts, and I don’t change my kid’s clothes right away if he gets dirty on the walk. I am talking seriously now. In my mother-in-law’s opinion, if my child fell and got dirty, then we need to urgently run home and change his clothes. Only then we can go for a walk again. We are somehow already accustomed to her foibles. We have different ideas about cleanliness. I don’t plan to change my habits and become a hygiene maniac.”

— Anna, 24

These 5 reasons are common to all people, but some features are unique to certain groups.

Slovenliness in women

Inflated requirements may create the feeling that a girl or woman does not follow the rules of personal hygiene. Women are often required to do more than men. It is necessary for them to not only have clean and combed hair, but also to maintain a complex hairstyle. Not only do they need to regularly wash and brush their teeth but also to use makeup. Some women do not feel the need for such careful procedures and deliberately refuse them. That doesn’t mean the girl is sloppy or dirty. The main thing is cleanliness and the absence of an unpleasant smell. The rest is a matter of taste.

Slovenliness in men

The beliefs that “a man should be just a little prettier than a monkey” or “smelly, mighty, moustached, and hairy” lie at the heart of untidiness in a man. Some men believe that it is okay for them to be untidy and smell bad – they are men and should be brutal. They think that it’s a woman’s responsibility to wash their things. If a woman has not washed them, a man may walk around dirty and make excuses like “Well, it’s not my fault that my wife is tardy and hasn’t washed my shirt. Because of her, I had to put on a dirty one.”

What happens after quitting smoking? All the changes are presented in the table. [2]

Slovenliness in teenagers

Teenagers often have problems with personal hygiene. One of the reasons for sloppiness is adolescence is connected to a teenager’s protestations, rebellion, and unwillingness to follow the norms. Another specific reason is the change in hormonal levels. Yesterday’s child, a sweet-smelling toddler, turns into a lanky teenager who spreads a pungent and unpleasant odor. Often this is not caused by rarely washing in the shower, but by the hard work of the sweat apocrine glands, which are most active in puberty.

Slovenliness in children

Children’s hygiene skills are not yet honed to automatism, so even schoolchildren can forget about personal hygiene, to say nothing of very young children. Children need the support and help of parents to form their healthy habits. We have already written about how to help a boy or girl to form personal hygiene skills.

Why do you need to practice proper hygiene?

This is necessary in order for people to reach out to you – it is difficult to reach out to a person who smells unpleasant and looks repulsive. Lack of personal hygiene also harms health and can cause the development of certain diseases – for example, intestinal infections and SARS (rare handwashing), tooth decay and periodontitis (rare teeth-brushing), cystitis, urethritis, and balanitis (insufficient intimate hygiene).

At the same time, the personal hygiene of a male or female includes not only keeping the body clean (teeth, nails, hair, skin), but also clothing, shoes, and the home. Good hygiene also prevents the development of various diseases. A large amount of dust can, for example, trigger the development of allergies or asthma. The adherence to the rules of personal hygiene is a natural and important part of a healthy lifestyle. [2]

How to get rid of sloppiness and untidiness

“I am ashamed to admit it, but I’m sloppy and lazy. Although I can be tidy and keep order when other people are around, as soon as I’m alone, everything changes. If I’m on sick leave for a week, I never brush my teeth, except just before the doctor arrives.  When my husband is on a business trip, I pollute our flat and I do not take a shower for 2-3 days. How do I get rid of sloppiness and learn to take care of myself for my own sake?”

– Tamara, 27

Step 1. If your loved one is a slob

If you want to become tidier yourself, you can move on to the second stage. If your husband or wife is dirty and slobby, then first it is important to convey  the need for your partner to make such changes. This is not always possible for some particularly stubborn individuals may consider hygiene to be an unworthy and meaningless pursuit. In other cases, you can try. Make the conversation look like an attempt to negotiate rather than attack, and try following these rules:

  • Choose a good time to talk. Don’t start when you’re both tired, annoyed or need to eat or sleep.
  • Make your point in the form of a request, not a reproach.
  • Avoid generalizations like “never” and “always.” It is unlikely that the phrase “you never brush your teeth in the morning” will be correct.
  • Use “I-messages” (I’d like to, I think, I feel like).
  • Start with the main issue, speak directly and not with hints. Clearly articulate the result you want to achieve.
  • Remember that you are allies, not opponents. You are a family and should act together, not against each other.

For example, a request might look like this: “You know I’m very sensitive to smells. Sometimes when you don’t have time to go to the shower, you don’t smell so good. I love you anyway, but I’d like you to have a nice smell. If that was the case, I would want to hug you more often.”

You may need patience and more than one conversation, but if your partner is ready to negotiate, sooner or later you will succeed.

Step 2. Exclude diseases

As we have said, some diseases can cause a decline in strength and a reluctance to look after oneself. People who suffer from such diseases often will not admit this, even to themselves. But until a person deals with, for example, depression, all attempts to learn new habits and become more hygienic will fail.

Step 3. Tune in to action, not regret.

Focus on actions, not on emotions or reasons for your inability. Guilt and shame are bad helpers. They will interfere rather than help you. Therefore, first of all, learn to be calm about the fact that you do not know how to be tidy yet. “Yet” is the keyword. You can’t do it yet, but you can learn. It is better to focus on actions — such tactics are more effective than constant regrets about unfinished business. [3]

Step 4. Identify the skills you need

What exactly do you lack in order to consider yourself clean? For example, do you want to brush your teeth twice a day, change your socks every day, and wash dishes immediately after eating? Keep in mind that personal hygiene standards can be very different for different people, so think carefully about your particular requirements. Are they a necessity? Or do you aspire to them under the pressure of society and stereotypes? Cleanliness and no unpleasant smell can be taken as a given. For instance:

  • hair should be clean and combed, but the length is an individual choice;
  • nails should be carefully manicured and without dirt, everything else is an individual choice;
  • the body should be clean, but the physique has nothing to do with tidiness;
  • the mouth should smell nice, the teeth should be clean, but you don’t have to flash a Hollywood smile.

“From childhood, I was forced to reach some unattainable heights. My mother proudly told me how my grandfather had made his children sweep their ground path. It was necessary to sweep so that the bare foot did not feel any grains of sand. We lived in an apartment and did not have a ground path, but the bar still was pitched to an unattainable height. I have never been neat and tidy enough. Until I was 30, I tried to follow my mother’s high standards. Then I realized that it wasn’t necessary for me. I feel good even if a jacket is hanging on the back of the chair. I’m fine if my hairstyle is not perfect. If my children fiddle with paint directly with their hands — I feel good about that too. For some years I have learned not to blame myself for imperfect order and now I feel that I can breathe freely. At the same time, I have not become overgrown with mud, as my mother predicted!”

– Svetlana, 37

Step 5. Organize space

Ensure you have all the conditions in place to follow your new habits. Do you have pastes, brushes, shampoos, washcloths, and shower gels? Are they suitable for you? Do you have a basket for dirty laundry? Do you have convenient brushes, cloths, and products for cleaning the house? Is it easy to put clean clothes in your closet? Even little things like a vile taste of toothpaste or a dirty bathroom can hinder your progress.

Step 6. Get ready for recessions

It is worth considering that kickbacks and failures can occur in the process of achieving better personal hygiene. Don’t blame or scold yourself, for temporary kickbacks are natural. Do not assume that if it did not work out the first time, you should no longer try. When you learned to walk, you tried many times, fell, but continued your attempts. The development of any skill or ability must be treated in the same way. It is better not to immediately take more than two or three simple skills or more than one if the skill is complex.

Step 7. Add some games

If following your plan is not easy, try to include an element of fun. We respond very well to the numerical display of progress — use it. For example, mark the days for new socks on the calendar, throw a coin in a jar for each brushing of teeth and so on. Choose what will stimulate you. Promise yourself a reward for fulfilling a goal, for example, buy yourself a new dress or a new monitor if you succeed in your goals for 25 consecutive days.

Step 8. Get support and help

In adulthood, it is not easy to change habits. After all, we need to not only learn new things but also to wean ourselves from established habits. Therefore, it’s okay to ask for help.

You can ask for the help of your loved ones. In such cases, formulate exactly what you want to achieve. For instance:

  • I want to teach myself to shower every day. If you notice that I forget about it, please remind me;
  • I want to learn how to put my things in the right places. It’s not easy, so I ask you to be comfortable with the fact that sometimes I’ll be untidy out of an old habit.

You can also use the help of a psychologist. This can be both face-to-face meetings and an online behavior modification program.

For example, the 7Spsy behavior modification technique might help you. This is a patented behavior psychology technique based on the theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A. Ukhtomsky, and others.

After completing the program you will be able to master the habits that you lack in everyday life. Training sessions are held in a remote format, that is, you can do them at home at any time. The psychologist will be in touch to support you and answer all your questions by phone, e-mail, or in online chat.

Within 2-6 weeks you will learn to easily monitor your personal hygiene, without wasting time on self-persuasion. Moreover, once you have established your new habits, you will learn how easy it is to change your life for the better and utilize your new skills to the full.

Most importantly, be assured that you can change your habits and become better. You surely have the strength to become the person you want to be.

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Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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