How to Get Motivated To Clean Your House When You’re Overwhelmed

Woman horrified by mess in her home. Overwhelmed by the thought of cleaning. With text: What to do when the thought of cleaning ovwerwhelms you

Recently, a reader wrote to me and shared that she’s paralyzed each time she tries to clean her house. She has anxiety when it comes to decluttering and organization. I know she’s not alone. I’ve felt that way before, especially when a little one comes behind me and in less than 5 minutes undoes what I just did. Dinnertime is another time I can get easily overwhelmed. My previously cleaned kitchen can quickly become a disaster from cooking. Then there are the dirty dishes from eating. This, of course, runs into the kid’s bath and bedtime. Ultimately, a huge mess is left staring us in the face after we put the kids to bed. Are you with me? Have you struggled with being motivated to clean your house? Read on to explore ideas about how to get motivated to clean your house that will help you get past the overwhelm along with a few tips to make tackling the mess easier.



How to deal with Overwhelm

So, let’s talk about both the mental and the practical because there are two sides to this coin. When we think about the mental element, consider your expectations as well as your motivation.

Burden or Blessing

One thing that is proven to help change attitudes is gratitude. Recognizing and increasing your thankfulness can actually change your perspective. One recent study shows that gratitude:

  • unshackles us from toxic emotions
  • has lasting effects on the brain

In general, an attitude of gratitude can help you not feel overwhelmed…be it due to the cleanliness of your house of the million and one things you have to do. You can also look at your situation through the eyes of thankfulness. A picture I’ve seen several times on Facebook comes to mind. It’s a journal entry and it says something like this.

  • I’m thankful for the dishes in the sink because it means we have food to eat.
  • I’m thankful for the piles of laundry because it means there are family members that are wearing them.
  • I’m thankful for electricity bill to pay because it means we are warm in the winter.

You get the picture. We can look at our situation as a burden or a blessing. If you’re more prone to see the burden, take out a journal and start to practice writing it out as a blessing.

Expectations

Another approach is to recalibrate our expectations. I am the first to admit that I don’t love cleaning, but I do want my house to look nice. When we have people over, I intentionally clean up and pull things together. The reality is though, as a mom with 3-4 people in our house 95% of the time, our house is not always in order.

The more I get to know someone, the more I let them in to see when the house isn’t up to the standard I’d like to maintain. In our Insta-story, Pinterest perfect, Magnolia home-inspired world, we often have high standards for ourselves. We don’t just compare ourselves to the proverbial Jones’, but we compare ourselves to the world. At times, we need to step back and recalibrate our expectations.  The moral of the story: don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. Look at your priorities and commitments and determine what is realistic for you right now and be ok with good in some areas of your home!

Motivation

The third thing you should consider on the mental side of this equation is motivation. If you can tap into what personally motivates you, you’ll be less overwhelmed and more likely to be able to tackle the task at hand. Stick with me for a minute. I know myself well enough to know that I am motivated by being around people. When I exercise, I do much better going to a class, working out at a gym, or going walking with a friend than I do trying to do my own thing at home. The people element actually gives me energy. It’s totally different for my husband. He could care less about exercising with someone. My point, if you can understand what energizes you, it will actually increase your motivation to get the job done.

When it comes to cleaning, what makes you happy? For me, I love a clean kitchen island. The rest of the kitchen can be disorganized, but if the counter is clear, I feel like a serious dent has been made in the workload. For my husband, it’s the floors. If the floors are clean, he almost feels like the house is in order. So, what is it for you?

Consider other ways you’re motivated in life. Does tracking your progress or achieving accomplishments energize you? Could you have a checklist where you can cross things off or a dry/erase board where you track your weekly list? Maybe like me, you need some social support. You could share your accomplishment with a friend or even on social media. Figure out what it is for you and then apply it to cleaning.

How to tackle the mess

Now that we’ve talked about the mental time, let’s talk tactics that will help with how to get motivated to clean your house. Here are some doable steps to help break up what feels like a huge task into something more manageable.

Woman wearing white apron and rubber protective yellow gloves, holding rag and spray bottle detergent.

Put on a timer

I am often amazed at how much I can get done in 10 minutes. Just today, I came out of my office to find that the kitchen was a disaster. The dishwasher was full, a cutting board with food scraps was out, the sink was full of dirty dishes and to my surprise, I was able to deal with about 80% of it in 10 minutes plus get my counter clean (which you already know motivates me ;-).

One x One

Focus on one room or one section of a room at a time. Instead of tackling a bedroom, just get the clothes hung or put in the drawers. Some people find it helpful to start with the easiest (least messy) room first and work their way to the most difficult (dirty) room. With this approach, you get a sense of accomplishment under your belt before moving to the dreaded tasks. Other people prefer to address the most difficult room first to get it behind them. Whatever your desired approach, the key is to take it step by step, one space at a time and not let your perspective spiral into a place of overwhelm.

It’s all Routine

If you’ve read this blog for long, you’ll know I’m a BIG FAN of routines for the family. Start to establish routines like having the kids put up their toys after they play with them or taking their dishes to the counter after meals. I’ve found for us, that it’s important to start the day with an empty dishwasher. As I mentioned, there are 3-4 people in our house almost all of the time. If we start the day with a full dishwasher, then we’ll definitely have dishes piled up in the sink and on the counter by the middle of the day. We have gotten into the routine of starting the dishwasher before we go to bed and then cleaning it out in the morning. It helps us start the day on the right foot. The more you can systematize, the fewer things will pile up.

Enlist the help of others

In the same vein as family routines, make sure you are enlisting the help of others. If you’re overwhelmed, talk with your partner and see if there’s anything (more) they could take on. Make sure you’re involving your kids. We can get so used to doing everything for our kids that we can forget as they grow to delegate more. Also, you may consider hiring some additional help so that you can get on top of things. You may not have in your budget the freedom to get weekly help, but there are options where you could even pay a teenager to help you for a few hours or get someone to watch the kids so that you can make more headway.

Let’s face it, our homes are lived in and will not always look perfect. If you have little kids in your home, it’s a reality that what you just cleaned will quickly be dismantled. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. Enjoy your home…enjoy your kids, focus on your blessings and don’t look at them as burdens. Identify what motivates you and leverage it in your cleaning strategy. Employ simple but effective tactics to help you clean up your home room by room. Establish routines and engage your family…don’t go it alone! At the end of the day, more than likely, you won’t remember if you always had a clean counter (sigh) or if your kid’s crafts were always covering it. You’ll remember the memories that were made there as a family. You got this mama, say no to overwhelm and let’s do this thing!


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