10 Remedies for your Unmotivated Messy Home Moments
Last week was a series of mad-dash deadlines and unrelenting chaos. Consequently, my apartment became a war-zone of unfolded laundry, dirty dishes, and overall disaster. This happens.
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When I finally had the time to fully soak in the self-induced mess monster that had consumed my apartment I thought, “I need to do something about this.” Then the little devil on my shoulder whispered, “Nah, worry about this mess tomorrow morning. Go to sleep early. It’ll feel sooooo good.”
I’ve succumbed to this little mess-promoting self-sabotage shoulder-devil before. But this time around, I beat that devil down with a much needed dose of motivation. After a mini debate in my head, I began to tackle the mess and clean up my apartment. In the morning, my place wasn’t perfect, but it was lightyears better. Over the next couple days, I returned my home to it’s normal state of harmony, and all was well again. To be honest, this ‘back to base’ resolve took a while to incorporate into my regular routine. I used to let it build until I had a near meltdown!
I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve seen it again and again with clients. Many of us play the avoidance game and leave it until “tomorrow,” only to repeat the same cycle the following day. But ultimately, this habit will come back to bite you. In my experience, the longer I allow the mess to linger, the more imbalanced, stressed, and frazzled I feel.
Sometimes the clutter piles up, and we feel overwhelmed, exhausted and tormented by the idea of tackling the mess. But the longer we put it off, the bigger the clutter monster grows.
Here are 10 tactics that will boost your motivation to clean/organize your messy home when you don’t feel like it.
If you’d like to learn more about habit formation, we recommend you grab this #SimplySpacedRead: Better than Before by Grechin Rubin. This actionable, inspiring book dives into many of the tactics below.
1. IDENTIFY YOUR REASON
Begin by connecting with why you’d like to maintain an organized, tidy home. As a professional organizer, I’ve seen people’s emotional states dramatically shift once their space is tidy. By simply clearing away the clutter and putting things away, it’s common to feel a boost in focus, productivity and peace of mind.
Beyond my own anecdotal evidence, neuroscience has confirmed this to be true! A study from Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that a cluttered and disorganized environment reduces people’s ability to focus and process information. The visual distractions and wasted energy of sifting through clutter wastes valuable cognitive energy, which leaves us feeling distracted, tired and ineffective.
But this is just one reason for wanting to have a clean, tidy home. Maybe YOUR reason it to set a good example for your children. Perhaps it’s to feel comfortable inviting someone into your home at a moments notice. Or maybe, it’s so that you can find what you need, when you need it.
Whatever it may be, write down your reason for keeping a clean and organized home on a piece of paper, and remind yourself when you’d rather walk on lava than fold your laundry.
2. HAVE A VISION FOR YOUR HOME
As creatures of habit, it’s common to become desensitized to our standard of living. After weeks of stepping over that pile of laundry on the floor, our brains suddenly stop seeing that pile. But the moment our standards are elevated, that pile becomes unsightly!
But how do we raise our standards for our home? Find visual inspiration. If you have a Pinterest account, chances are you’ve pinned some gorgeous images of your “dream” home. I know I have! I mean, that’s all our Pinterest is! Inspiration is everywhere, and when leveraged, this can be incredibly motivating.
By pulling images of beautiful spaces, it reminds us of what’s possible. If you remind yourself of what your home could look like if it were clean and organized, you’ll strive to reach that goal more intently. So identify your visual goal for your space, post a picture on your Pinterest page, and keep it in mind. That vision may just be that extra source of energy you need to get your bum moving.
3. AUTOMATE SIMPLY CLEANING TASKS
Automating a behavior means that you begin to do actions without thinking about it (aka, a habit). You can accomplish this by pairing actions together. For instance, next time you brew a pot of coffee, wipe down the kitchen counters. After pairing these items together in your brain and repeating this action again and again, you’ll stop thinking about it all together. Suddenly you’ll realize that your counters are always crystal clean the moment you pick of your cup of joe.
This can also work by doing the same action at the same time every day. For example, making your bed immediately in the morning is a simple routine to develop. This one action acts as a catalyst for taking little organizing steps throughout the day. Here are 3 other cleaning tasks to pair with a daily task:
- Take out the trash when you get your mail
- Fold your laundry when you watch TV
- Water your plants when you’re on the phone
4. USE A TIMER
This tactic is perfect for those of you that love a good game! Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and try to clean up as much as possible before the alarm rings. This gamification of a dreaded task allows me to muster up the will to tackle a pile of laundry or dishes when I just don’t feel like it. Also, I tend to move faster when I only have a finite amount of time.
Bonus points – sweeping, vacuuming and dusting can act as a little burst of extra cardio. Before you know it, your home and your waistline will be looking mighty fine.
5. START SMALL
When my entire home is a mess, it can feel daunting to get started. Instead of saying “I’m going to clean everything,” I break it down into 5-10 minute chunks. By thinking through one task at a time, such as putting away the clothes or emptying the sink, it’s easier to get started. In my experience, once I’ve gotten started, tackling one or two more tasks is a breeze. The momentum builds and I’m able to get more done than I anticipated.
This strategy works marvelously with #4. Pair these two together, and you’ll be a cleaning machine in no time.
6. PAIR IT
Try allocating a special audiobook, podcast, or TV show for your ‘cleaning time.’ If you allow yourself to indulge in this special entertainment ONLY when you tidy up the house, you’ll train your brain to look forward to the activity. By associating the pleasure of something you enjoy with a task that’s typically less enjoyable (hello, Mr. Vacuum), you will begin to think of cleaning as a fun activity instead of a dreaded one. This is a classic habit formation tactic that works marvelously.
7. TREAT YOURSELF
An effective way to develop a new cleaning habit is to create a special reward when it’s complete. This reward could be watching an episode of Game of Thrones or having a glass of wine on the porch with your husband. Whatever it is, make sure it’s a positive habit that doesn’t undermine another goal (like eating dessert when you’re trying to lose weight). Just like our “pair it” tactic, this special reward will begin to associate the act of cleaning and tidying the house with an enjoyable activity like taking a bubble bath.
8. TEAM UP
Finally, if you’re living with a spouse or roommate, schedule weekly team ‘cleaning sessions.’ The accountability of doing it together not only boosts your likelihood to keep with it, but it allow you to bust through the mess in half the time. If persuading your ‘team members’ to join in on this idea seems unlikely, start with short and sweet sessions and share the 9 other tactics with them to decide on which approaches are mutually motivating.
If the naysayers are your children, remember that you’re teaching them a lifelong habit that will benefit them in the long run. Stick to your guns! You’ve got this mama.
9. DELEGATE IT
Whether it’s creating a family chore list or hiring a housekeeper on a weekly/monthly basis, please do it. Remember that your time is valuable, and cleaning up after your family is not a better use of your time then spending quality time with them, resting, working, or enjoying yourself! A friend of mine says that hiring a maid to come in weekly was the best thing she’s ever done for her marriage! Consider how you can delegate certain dreaded tasks to decrease the overwhelm and to increase your sanity!
10. ENTERTAIN GUESTS
When I have guests over, I clean my home like never before. I know I’m not alone on this! Many of us feel a surge of motivation when we know that our friends/family will see our home. I entertain my family at least once a month, and every single time, I scrub, vacuum, and dust like a champ. Granted, I do have a lot of cleaning to do after they leave, but most of them will help me with the dishes before they leave me with the sweeping and scrubbing.
Next time the house is a mess and you’d rather climb into bed and pull the covers over your head, I hope you’ll consider one of these strategies. Building new habits takes time and requires consistency. For me, I’ve found that combining all 10 of these tactics is the only way to keep my home neat and tidy and my schedule running smoothly.
Have any other strategies for motivating yourself to keep a clean/tidy home? Share below!