How to Keep House While Drowning: a gentle approach to cleaning and organizing by K. C. Davis. New York, NY: Simon Element, 2022.

Content Warning: Ableism, Mental Illness.

Prior to the Covid-19 shutdown, I blamed my untidy home on time management. My spouse and I both worked forty hours a week, and most weeks it was as much as we could accomplish just to keep up with the dishes and laundry.

When we were sent home, my first thought was all the time I would save not having to get ready to go to work, drive to and from, and prepare food to take or eat out away from home. Surely this was what I needed in order to have a clean, organized home!

At first, my plan went well. But as the pandemic wore on, I found myself glued to the television, worried and anxious. I was also dealing with health issues, loss of half of our family income, and my spouse’s growing depression. No doubt, I was drowning.

K. C. Davis was expecting her second child in February of 2020, and she had prepared a robust support group of family, friends, and a preschool for her older child so she could have the time she needed to recover. When the pandemic stopped her from utilizing this support, she quickly slipped into postpartum depression, weighed down by lack of sleep and being the sole caretaker for an infant and a toddler. Her awakening came when she posted a lighthearted video on TikTok making fun of her own unkempt home and the challenges of keeping up with two young children. Amongst the comments, there was this one word: “Lazy.”

That word triggered the author’s shame and guilt stretching back to childhood. Even though as a counselor she knew that overwhelm was unavoidable in her situation she immediately embraced the belief that she was a failure, both as a mother and as a human. Only later, as she listed all she had been through and accomplished, did she realize that, although she was tired, depressed, and overwhelmed, she was definitely NOT lazy. She needed help, not shaming. This story resonated deeply.

Davis invites us to reframe household chores as “care tasks” that are a gift to “future you.” For example, if morning is the most difficult time of day for you, making lunches and laying out clothes the night before is a form of self-care. In this way, the author introduces the idea of treating ourselves with compassion, a powerful antidote to overwhelm.

K. C. Davis wrote this book to be accessible to the people who need it most – those who feel they are drowning. In addition to short chapters, she offers a “map” through the chapters so even readers with a minimal amount of time or attention can benefit from the material. I started by taking this “abridged” trip through the book, hoping to get it back in circulation at the library quickly. However, the short chapters were so well written that I found myself grabbing it for a quick read every time I sat down. In this way, I was able to finish the book without having to schedule the time to read it. I appreciate that Davis intentionally kept the reader in mind in this way.

This book may be small, but it is a much-needed life preserver for those of us that feel we are drowning.

Deana Cunningham is the Associate Director of Operations for Alamance County Public Libraries. She can be reached at