Depressed woman struggling to clean

Cleaning Motivation: How To Beat The Overwhelm And Just Start Cleaning

We can all use some cleaning motivation tips when the mess in our home is overwhelming.

If you have days where you survey the house and feel less like cleaning it, and more like digging a hole underneath it and burying yourself there for a few days, I feel you. I am you. Let’s brew a coffee and FaceTime together from beneath our little burrows.

Sometimes I try my best, but the chaos in my home is always five paces ahead. Sometimes I don’t even have the capacity to try my best, and my home basically swallows me. And I can read every how-to guide teaching me to “Keep your whole house clean in just twenty minutes per day!” But that’s not the kind of cleaning motivation that will help me claw my way out of the current situation.

Some days, the motivation to clean just isn’t there.

(And it usually happens when my home is buried under six layers of scattered toys, plastic plates, dog hair, toast crusts, shoes, and more scattered toys.)

The house just gets to a point where it feels uncleanable. And then this cycle begins, where the more mess that accumulates, the more pointless it feels to do anything about it. It’s beyond dis-heartening, and every time I trip on a toy, or get grimy feet from cooking dinner while barefoot in the kitchen, I want to scream.

I want my disgusting mess of a house to be clean. But I don’t want to clean it.

An overwhelmingly messy house is terrible for our mental health. I once read a Reddit post in which a man confessed that he was considering leaving his family because he and his wife couldn’t cope with the mess in their home. And while I would never personally leave my family, I understood his despair. I’ll never forget the day I tearfully told Chris that the mess in our home was “crushing my soul”.

And science backs me up here! A 2010 study on mood patterns in relation to women’s homes found that women with cluttered homes experienced higher stress levels, and their mood decreased throughout the course of the day.

Sound familiar?

How about any of these statements?

  • I avoid having people in my home because I am too ashamed of the state of my home, but can’t face cleaning it
  • I always have big plans to finally clean “tomorrow”, but never have the motivation or energy to follow through
  • I cannot feel peaceful when I’m at home
  • My home depresses me
  • I worry that my home is unhygienic for my family to live in
  • I don’t believe my home will ever be clean
  • I have absolutely zero mental cleaning motivation

The mess in your home might overwhelm you now, but I’m telling you – it ain’t insurmountable.

Of course, the motivation to clean is often pretty low when your house is a disgusting mess.

So what you (we!) need is a little arsenal of tips that will gently ease you (us!) into cleaning your (our!) home.

I’m not talking about making it perfect.

I’m talking about getting started. When it comes to cleaning your home, getting started is often the biggest hurdle we face.

So I’ve put together a little list of __ tricks I personally fall back on when my house is awful, and I don’t know where to start.

Mama, these tricks work. They won’t necessarily deliver an immaculate, sparkly home, but honestly? In this season of small kids, that’s not my goal. My goal is a peaceful, hygienic, livable space that makes me feel good when I’m at home. If that’s your goal too, read on.

Tired woman slumped on ironing board, doesn't want to clean

Cleaning Motivation Tips When Your Home Is A Disgusting Mess

1. Watch cleaning videos

See how gently I’m easing you into this? I’m not even asking you to get up and clean… yet! Often one of the first things I do to get some cleaning motivation is to watch some other woman on YouTube cleaning up her messy space. I don’t just want the before and after pictures. I want to see the process. I want to see her fold and put away the stack of clothes on the couch. I want to see her on the floor picking up four hundred bits of lego. I want to see her running a broom around the room and making a neat little pile of dirt. It psyches me up and it makes my own cleaning feel more achievable.

2. Set a 5 minute timer

Sometimes the biggest hurdle for me to clean is the time commitment. I don’t want to start cleaning because I feel like it will take ages. However, if I commit to just five minutes every now and then, I’m always amazed by what I can achieve. In five minutes I can clear the coffee table. In five minutes I can load the dishwasher. In five minutes I can sweep the living room. In five minutes I can pick up a BUNCH of toys. Truly, a five minute burst of cleaning can often juuuust bring my home out of complete disaster – enough for me to think straight, take a breath, and walk through the house without tripping over anything.

3. Put away 20 things

An alternative to timing yourself is to simply commit to picking up and putting away a set number of items. How much clearer would your space be if there were 20 fewer pieces of clutter scattered around it? It might help to put all 20 items in a basket which you then carry around the house as you put things away.

4. Work in categories

When I need to really attack a whole space, and my five minute/20 things principle isn’t going to be enough, I approach it in categories. It breaks up the cleaning process into manageable chunks, and as I reach the end of each category, I feel a sense of achievement.

Usually when I’m attacking a larger space, such as my living room, I’ll do it in the following order:

  • Pick up and throw away all rubbish
  • Fold and put away throw blankets
  • Gather wayward shoes; put them in the shoe basket
  • Gather wayward clothes (is this a thing in your house too!? Random size 4 pants and baby socks all over the place!?) and put them in the laundry
  • Gather all toys and put them away
  • Gather personal clutter (pens, papers, books, cables, etc)
  • Straighten furniture and cushions
  • Sweep floor
  • Wipe down coffee table

Working in these categories feels SO much more manageable than taking in the mess in its entirety. Yes, it’s still a lot of work, but it’s very structured.

5. Sweep it all in a big pile

Have you ever tried this!? I have memories of my mum coming into our rooms with her big broom, sweeping out everything from under our beds and around the room and creating a GIANT pile of stuff in the middle of our bedrooms, and saying, “Time to put it all away!” Sure, you’re suddenly looking at a huge pile of stuff – but it’s actually a lot more mentally achievable than making yourself walk all around the room a million times, finding things, bending and picking up items from every nook and cranny.

So when we have a lot of floor mess, this is how I tackle it – it actually brings a lot of order to the rest of the room immediately, giving me one (big) patch of floor to work through. I don’t hate it. Plus the cleaning motivation is real – because once it’s all in a big pile, I don’t want to stop tidying until the pile is completely gone.

6. The five finger pick-up method

I once read a tip on another blog called the five finger pick-up method – the idea of, before leaving a room, thinking to yourself “I’ve got five fingers – what can I pick up on my way out of here?” When you’re washing your hands in the bathroom, maybe you could pick up the bath toys and take the wet towels out to the laundry. When you’re grabbing a snack from the kitchen, maybe you could grab an item or two of bench clutter and put it away. When you’re walking down the hallway, maybe you could pick up a couple of the toys scattered on the floor. Little incidental pick-ups like this can be the difference between feeling on top of things or feeling out of control, and it’s almost no work.

7. Commit to keeping on top of one room

Just one. Choose one room in your home that should always be clean. And make it your daily mission to keep on top of it. The cool thing about keeping on top of a room is that it never gets a chance to get truly, horrifically dirty.

A few years ago, when everything was getting on top of me at home, I chose my kitchen. I decided that no matter what, I would have a clean kitchen. A peaceful space to prepare food for my family, dishes that were always clean and ready to use, a stovetop that was free of food splashes, and tidy, well-organised cupboards. It has gone through plenty of imperfect times, and it of course still gets on top of me once in a while, but for the most part I have been great at keeping on top of my kitchen. Even when I do slack off for a day or two, it’s actually quite quick to fix and return to its clean state because of the regular work I put into it.

8. Outsource

If you can wiggle it into your budget, there is no shame in employing a cleaner to come and keep your house in a more manageable state. I have many friends who use cleaners, and it’s been life-changing for them.

If a regular clean isn’t in your budget (Chris seems to think it’s not in ours! Wahhhhh!) perhaps try saving up and having someone come do a deep clean for you once. Get that house reset, feel on top of it all again, and then maintain what you can.

I get it, I do – cleaning sucks. And sometimes the motivation to do it is non-existent.

However, I do know that the above tips have honestly made a massive difference in my home, which has helped my mental state SO MUCH. I hope that some of those tips work for you too! And let me know in the comments how you go.

PS Looking for more ways to boost your cleaning motivation? Check out my nighttime cleaning routine – it just might inspire you to create an evening routine of your own.

Plus, be sure to follow me on Facebook for all kinds of daily tips for moms (and the occasional hilarious-to-me meme). Hope to see you there!

Mom overwhelmed by the mess in her home and lacking cleaning motivation
Overwhelmed woman in kitchen searching for cleaning motivation

Cleaning Motivation: How To Beat The Overwhelm And Just Start Cleaning

18 thoughts on “Cleaning Motivation: How To Beat The Overwhelm And Just Start Cleaning”

  1. I’m pretty sure we are Soul Sisters. I could have written every word of this. I have always swept everything in a pile. Everyone looks at me like I am crazy. 🤪 cleaning sucks terribly. Thanks for the tips!

  2. This is just what I needed! I feel grateful that I’m not alone! Thank you soooo much, my mental status has been lifted thanks to you 🙂

  3. I love your ideas! These are especially helpful for those of us blessed with ADHD. I’d like to suggest one more: arrange a trade off with a friend/ sister. It’s so much easier to clean at my sisters’ house (probably because it’s not my burden, just a helping gift.) So one afternoon I will go help her, and another afternoon she will come help me. We get ten times more done than we would have alone.
    Also, when my kids got old enough, we would do a 5-minute clean up together. When we were going to do something fun, we first had to set a timer and clean as fast as we could for only 5 minutes. It was a fun game, until they were teenagers of course.

  4. 4 stars
    I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
    I do not know who you are but certainly you’re
    going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

  5. 5 stars
    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I
    thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but
    certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already ;
    ) Cheers!

  6. Seriously such a chore to get started, but so worth it once it is done! Keeping at it everyday helps me so I don’t have to worry about a big mess to clean over the weekend. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I needed this! I’ve got hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue and I’m a SAHM who homeschools two boys ages 6 and 8, and both my husband and I are *not* minimalists, and we downsized from a three bedroom into a 1-1/2 bedroom. It’s utter chaos, especially when you factor in (a few) seasonal decorations and moving seasonal clothes in and out (and saving one boy’s clothes for the next one), and they keep growing OUT of everything, and I pack it up but can’t remember to take it to goodwill… and we have art to hang on the walls that’s been leaning against the wall for 4 months now. My husband hates the clutter so much (does he think I like it?!) he wants us to escape to his minimalist sister’s house two days a week, but expects me to come, so I never get that time to spend on our house. Plus I’m spontaneous so when the weather is nice I want to be anywhere but inside except all my chores are inside. My mom only taught us girls how to spend one entire miserable day a week cleaning everything, and never maintaining the tidiness. Oh, I could go on and on. I’m on my period and it’s heavy and I want to cry but I’m going to write a list and go to bed and reread this post in the morning!! Thank you for this! 😙

  8. I love the idea of working in categories! We are going through my parent’s house right now, I love them dearly but talk about a mess! We have a dumpster rental coming on Saturday, I’m going to give each of my siblings categories to go through and hopefully we’ll finally make a dent. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

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