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How to get motivated to clean when you’re overwhelmed by the mess

Is your house a disgusting mess? Have you been so busy juggling everything else – or just avoiding it – that you haven’t cleaned in ages? Are you having trouble figuring out how to get motivated to clean when you’re so overwhelmed by all the mess?

I’ve been there. And I know how hopeless, exhausting and discouraging it feels.

The good news is that it IS possible to get motivated, conquer that overwhelming mess and get your house clean again!

Here’s how I found cleaning motivation, moved past the immobilizing overwhelm, and started to clean my messy house.

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Quote from shira! @shirainspired "My room gets messy when I'm overwhelmed" and "my messy room makes me overwhelmed" is a vicious cycle.

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How to get motivated to clean when you’re overwhelmed by the mess

The first thing you need to do for cleaning inspiration is to accept the fact that you’re not likely to deep clean your whole house all at once. It took time for your house to become overwhelmingly messy and it will take some time to get it completely clean. 

Don’t dwell on or feel bad about the mess. Instead, take a deep breath, picture your clean house, and prepare to tackle it little by little.

Focus on the smaller things you can do quickly that will motivate you to continue. Small steps can raise your cleaning motivation level and help you build the momentum you need to achieve your ultimate goal of a clean house.

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Remove distractions

It’s hard to clean when your partner is sitting on the couch watching TV or if your kids are making messes faster than you can clean them. And it can be extremely demotivating.

Pick a time to clean your house when you have at least the room to yourself and no one will bother you. Better yet, try to get everyone out of the house for a few hours so you can focus on cleaning without anyone demanding your attention and distracting you.

Make cleaning fun

Put on some upbeat music (or a motivational podcast if that’s your thing) to get you moving and pumped up. Or open all the windows and listen to the birds chirping and all the other busy sounds of nature. You could call a friend, put them on speaker and catch up with them as you clean. Or have a cleaning challenge with that friend. Pick something that energizes you.

Set a timer and start

Start by thinking of one task you can complete that will take 10 minutes or less, set a timer, and just start. If you don’t have a dedicated timer, use your phone or microwave.

Don’t get distracted by decluttering or organizing. Just complete one task. The objective is to complete a quick job so you can move on to the next.

I like to start by going room to room and filling a basket with all the dirty dishes I find all over the house. Then I put them in the sink or the dishwasher. 

Or I fill a basket with all the dirty laundry from each room in the house and start a load in the washing machine. 

Whatever you choose, make sure you spend no longer than 10 minutes doing it. Stop when the timer goes off. 

Just this small act of starting something can be the cleaning motivation you need to give you momentum to keep going. You’ll probably feel a sense of accomplishment from the work you’ve already done. That cleaning inspiration can motivate you to keep going.

Now that you’ve achieved this one task, you’ve proven to yourself that it’s not so hard, you are competent and you can do this. Pick another task, set your timer for another 10 minutes and keep going!

You may want to take a break after several mini cleaning bursts.

Do something to reward yourself for 10 minutes. Use the timer. 

Have a coffee, a snack or even a glass of wine. Or just do nothing for 10 minutes.

Then start again.

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How do you clean when you are overwhelmed?

When you’re overwhelmed by a messy house, start with a short cleaning task to break that seemingly massive job into smaller, more digestible pieces that are easy to complete. This is the key to clean house motivation. You can do anything for 10 minutes. 

It doesn’t matter what you do first. Just pick something that’s really bugging you and get it out of the way. Do it for 10 minutes. Feel the satisfaction of a cleaning task completed and checked off your mental list.

Use the sense of accomplishment you have built to do another 10 minute task. Keep repeating this until you lose your momentum. Then take a timed 10 minute break.

Think about all the tasks you have completed. You are that much closer to having a clean house!

When you are ready, start another task.

When cleaning a house, where do you start?

What is the first thing you should do when cleaning a house? I find it helps to start with a few easily executed 10 minute tasks. This can bring immediate gratification by visibly reducing some of the clutter in your home. It also helps to motivate you to continue.

When I’m overwhelmed by the mess, I like to start by gathering things that are not where they belong and putting them where they do belong. I grab a trash bag and start picking up any garbage that’s lying around the house. This includes snack wrappers, drink containers, tags from new purchases, and random papers and flyers. And don’t forget the never ending Amazon boxes.

Once you’ve removed all the trash from the room, you may find it’s the cleaning inspiration you need to motivate you to keep cleaning. You can move on to picking up laundry and putting in the washing machine, putting away clean laundry or loading or unloading the dishwasher.

Just start somewhere.

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What are some 10 minute cleaning tasks

Here are 5 cleaning tasks that you can complete in 10 minutes or less (use baskets or boxes if required):

  • Walk around the house and gather all dirty dishes from all rooms and bring them to the kitchen. Unload clean dishes from the dishwasher if there are any, and reload it with the dirty dishes. Start the dishwasher (if it’s full). 
  • If you don’t have a dishwasher, clear and wipe the kitchen counters and wash the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. Leave them to air dry if you run out of time.
  • Pick up dirty clothes lying around the house and put a load in the washing machine. Don’t forget dirty towels, dish towels, etc.
  • Gather all trash or toys or sports equipment, etc. lying around that needs to be picked up before you can do anything else. When gathering items, keep like items together to minimize trips from room to room when putting them away.
  • Put those baskets and piles of clean clothes away where they belong.

There are so many cleaning jobs that can be done in 10 minute increments! From clearing and wiping down countertops and tabletops to wiping down light switches and doorknobs. 

Once you’ve done a few 10 minute cleaning sessions, you should find that you’re feeling a little less overwhelmed and more motivated. It’s much easier to keep going when you’re not so overwhelmed.

The key to not feeling constantly overwhelmed by the mess is incorporating some of these small jobs into your daily routine. Cleaning is much less overwhelming if you’re managing it effectively.

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What is the fastest way to clean a big mess?

The fastest way to clean a big mess is to just start picking stuff up and putting it away. If it’s garbage, throw it out. If it’s dirty, put it in the dishwasher or washing machine. If it’s not where it’s supposed to be, put it there.

Don’t focus on all the things that need to be done, just one 10 minute cleaning job at a time. Before you know it, everything will be presentable, even if not sparkling clean.

If you find yourself unable to clear the clutter in repeated 10 minute cleaning tasks, it may be time to declutter and organize your home.

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But I’m overwhelmed by clutter! Where do I start?

The best way to start when you’re overwhelmed by clutter – just like cleaning when you’re overwhelmed by the mess – is to just start. Start with small things that need to be decluttered or organized, like kitchen or bathroom drawers or cupboards. 

One at a time. 10 minutes at a time.

Have a trash bag and a donation bag ready at hand. Take everything out of the space. Go through each item in the small space and get rid of anything you don’t use. Organize what’s left in a way that makes sense and works for you.

Then pick another space to declutter. Finish it. Then start another. Take breaks when you need them.

You may find you need storage bins, shelving or other organizational items to help round up all that clutter. If that’s the case for you, make sure to choose options that work in your space.

Benefits of decluttering

An organized and decluttered house is the foundation of a clean home. You can’t keep your house clean if your items don’t have a home. The main reason cleaning can be so overwhelming is piles of things that don’t have a home.

Decluttering is therapeutic and can reduce stress, anxiety and overwhelm. It’s impossible to ignore all those cleaning tasks that need to be done. Your mind will dwell on it and will remind you of the mess constantly. So, you might as well just do it and leave space in your brain for things that make you happy.

It’s easier to clean a decluttered and organized home. Once you’ve decluttered and set up your organizational systems, you will find that you have so much more time to do the things that you love, instead of the things you have to do.

If you find that decluttering is just too much for your overwhelmed self, you might want to get some help with it. The Organized Home is a step by step guide to creating organizing systems that make life easier. With sections on kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, bedrooms, playrooms and more, The Organized Home offers decluttering tips, zoning tips, challenges and so much more. They even have a Facebook group where you can connect with other people like you who are wanting to get organized.

You’ve got this!

Remember, it took time for your house to become a disaster. It will take time to get it squeaky clean again. 

Take one step at a time and implement some daily 10 minute cleaning routines. Before you know it, you will find that you aren’t so overwhelmed because it’s no big deal to get your house presentable.

Beginning with small tasks, working through them and moving on to the next gives me a sense of satisfaction that motivates me to keep going. I hope these tips help you to feel the same way.

Or you could just watch Hoarders. That show motivates me to get off my butt too.

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