In this post: encouragement for when you don’t feel like cleaning your home or are struggling to find the motivation to do chores.
So, you’re unmotivated today.
Dishes? Ugh. Laundry? Yep, tons. All over the floor … couch … bed. Probably a toilet that should be scrubbed somewhere, last night’s bubblegum toothpaste plastered in bizarre places in the kids’ bathroom, ripped-up dog toys flung hither and yon, art supplies and papers strewn about like confetti from last week’s party?
Hasn’t been your day? Your week? Or even your year?
Yeah. Same here.
WHAT?! But you’re a decluttering and organizing blogger! You have a course on tidy habits, for goodness’ sake. You’re starting a professional organizing business.
I know. I KNOW.
I feel terribly guilty about it, too. That’s the thing about being a former/recovering messy. Some days, you still are. (But ouch, being transparent about abandoning my daily chores for a few days in a row is tough, because this is literally what I help other women through. Do I feel like a hypocrite about feeling unmotivated to clean? Absolutely! Should I? Not really. I’ll get to why not in a minute.)
So, what do you do when you don’t feel like cleaning?
Pick yourself back up, find the dopamine and serotonin in SOME part of tackling these disasters (pumped up music is my dopamine hit of choice … doubles as an energy/motivation boost.)
Heck, break out the hidden chocolate stash if you need to.
Let’s do this thing.
No, wait. Deep breaths, first. Then a little heart-to-heart.
In … out … in … out ….
Good; now lean in a little closer. Got your coffee? (Or wine? I won’t judge.) Let’s chat.
Let’s get this out of the way first: you are not broken, even if you don’t feel like cleaning today.
There is nothing “wrong” with you. Could you have extra challenges that aren’t always obvious to the people around you? Absolutely. Is it possible you’ll need to throw the “rules” out the window and just follow your gut? Yep. For sure.
How do I stop being messy and lazy?
As K. C. Davis (aka @domesticblisters), one of my favorite TikTokkers, says all the time, care tasks are morally neutral. So keep that in mind!
There are a million reasons why housekeeping is hard sometimes. (Or all the time.) And they can range from the totally innocuous (it’s boring) to the extremely traumatic (it’s triggering because of childhood abuse centered around cleaning or doing things “the right way”.)
Next, everyone … yes even neat freaks … has days when their motivation flies out the window and they don’t feel like cleaning. Maybe today is your day. Maybe it’s been a series of days and things have piled up until it feels overwhelming to try to even start on the mess.
And if you start feeling like you’re not keeping up with what society expects of you, I want you to remember that society is a jerk and we don’t have the villages as moms (or just women in general) that we used to.
Maybe you don’t have the right tools or resources to make this whole cleaning thing easier for you. Maybe you’re exhausted and the motivation to do anything is just hard to come by right now. Maybe you’re a mom and being interrupted a million times a day. Maybe you have ADHD and it’s hard for your brain to stay on task (this is called “executive dysfunction” and it makes focusing more difficult.)
But if you want to improve … that desire is the first step. Whoohoo! You got this down! Now to seek out tools to help you get there.
You are human.
Life happens. So what matters right now? It’s this: what are you going to do after you fail to meet your own expectations?
I am human, too.
I am a decluttering, organizing, and simplifying your home blogger who talks on social media and in my Facebook group and email list alllll the time about overcoming messy tendencies, and I had a hard time keeping up with the house.
I’m embarrassed to admit I failed. I’m embarrassed to admit that a much-needed vacation full of rest and relaxation overturned my habits and routines and I’ve struggled to get back on track. To be honest? I almost didn’t want to tell you about this. I wanted to ignore the mess and binge tv shows. Or clean the mess and pretend it never happened.
Instead, I decided to write this post.
Hi, I’m Andrea. I’m a messy. Are you a messy, too? Then there’s a pair of us! Don’t tell! They’d advertise—you know!
(Thank you, Emily DIckinson.)
But you know what is the actual most important thing?
What are we going to do now?
What do we do on the day after perfect? (I talk about that at length over on YouTube. Check it out, if you like.)
Are you going to give up? Throw your hands up and say it’s too far gone and a lost cause? Beat yourself up for failing a miserably high standard you’ve set for yourself? Think everyone is doing better at housekeeping than you? Worry that not wanting to clean makes you lazy?
Or are you going to give yourself grace, find that dopamine we talked about earlier, and just do the next right thing. (Thank you, Frozen 2.)
Let me normalize struggle for you, friend.
You’re okay. Let yourself believe that.
Why does cleaning stress me out?
Every woman who doesn’t have a full household staff (and sometimes even if they do) has off days in her home. Whether it’s a teething baby who won’t let you sleep, or a freaking international pandemic, or just a touch of PMS, it’s gonna happen.
Why’s cleaning stressful? Because you’re assigning values to “messy” and “clean” and then feeling guilty if you don’t measure up to your own standards.
Or because you feel overwhelmed by all the things and can’t decide what needs to be done first. (My Rule of 3 chores are a great place to start, by the way.) Or because you need to summon extra energy to get the ball rolling and energy is hard to come by because you’ve got a lot going on in your life that is draining you right now.
Maybe you get distracted easily and flit from task to task and are worried you’ll once again forget to complete the thing you set out to do. Or because you’re impulsive and cleaning just isn’t what you want to be doing right now and it’s really hard to pull yourself away from what is currently holding your interest.
Or maybe? It’s just because you have only an hour or two available to you and the idea of cleaning taking up all of your free time is soul-crushing.
Or maybe? You had a clean house a couple of days ago that was perfect. You felt SO GOOD about it. And then it got trashed all over again, and you gave up for a day or two or three and now you’re in the “day after perfect” and feeling icky about it because you know you can do better.
I’m in my “day after perfect” moment right now. So it’s time to dust myself off, pick myself up, and get back in the game.
How can I extend grace to myself?
I guess what I’m trying to say is letting yourself NOT be perfect is a form of practical self-care you can practice, just like I’m needing to today. It’s a way of giving yourself grace and accepting your limitations.
In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say you can express gratitude to that part of yourself who “let things slide” while you focused on caring for other aspects of your life.
Here’s the thing: we women? We’re really good at juggling all the things. But we’re gonna drop the ball sometimes. It’s inevitable.
The romance author Nora Roberts is famous for her prolific novel writing, and when she was asked about her work-life balance as a mother over the years, she said something that really stuck with me when I heard it: “… the key to juggling is to know that some of the balls you have in the air are made of plastic and some are made of glass.”
And while decluttering, and tidying, and organizing, and cleaning ALL make your life better in the long run, sometimes, in the short run, they’re the plastic balls.
Drop the plastic balls.
And sometimes your kid’s mental health, or your own, or your family’s tragedy, or your job, or an injury, or just a regular ol’ pressure headache from a storm coming in is the glass ball.
It’s okay. Drop the plastic balls and let them scatter all over the floor like those lightweight plastic balls that escaped from an inflatable ball pit at a local festival. You can pick them up later.
Protect the glass balls. They shatter.
What are some good coping skills?
I’m going to leave you with another thought from a Tik Tok account I saw in passing recently (@theirongiantess).
She shared in her video about her weight loss and relationship with food and how it impacted her.
The speaker, Laura Micetich, has lost over a hundred pounds and teaches women how to be stronger and healthier. And she said something that made me feel like I was about to cry with relief. It was something I’d NEVER heard before. And maybe you need to hear it now, about your home, instead of your weight.
“I know that your entire life you have been led to believe that your relationship with food destroyed you and took away all these opportunities in life … but I also want to remind you that it … saved you … That was your coping mechanism. The days where all you could do was manage going home and sitting down with a bunch of food and numbing out? That was your coping mechanism. That got you through. Take a second and recognize how many things that probably saved you from … and now recognize that you just don’t need it anymore; it’s time to move on and find other coping mechanisms that are healthier and better for you. Stop looking at this part of you like it somehow destroyed you. It saved you.”
If ignoring the mess has been a coping mechanism for you so you can function in other ways better, perhaps start by noticing the mess … but consciously thinking thoughts of gratitude for the home around you that protected you and provided a place to rest.
Then bridge from there to the idea that you are worthy of a tidy home and it will serve you well. And then from there take the first step towards a proactive approach to cleaning. Like wiping down a bathroom sink. Or taking a basket of toys with you when going from the living room to the kids’ rooms. Choose something small. Achievable. Defined.
Here are some other healthy coping skills:
- Make a gratitude list
- Go outside in nature
- Say “no” to things that will overburden your time
- Be proactive. Determine the root cause of your discomfort or avoidance of the task (i.e. are you not putting the trash in the trash can because it is not in your natural path while cleaning? Move it!)
- Fulfil your need for sensory input (cuddle up in a weighted blanket, burn a candle, listen to calming or inspiring music, swing on a porch swing).
- Find delight in a small thing, like a bud vase with a flower on your counter, or how a shadow is cast by the afternoon sun on your floor. Focus on that instead of the chaos around you.
- Declutter so you have less stuff to take care of.
- Organize, so it takes less time to find things you’re looking for (or to put them away.)
How do I stop being lazy and clean my house?
First of all, stop looking at the mess, the chaos, the clutter, the “laziness,” as if it somehow destroyed you. Like Laura Micetich said about her former relationship with food, it saved you so you could focus on other things. It helped you cope while you struggled.
It’s just the physical manifestation of that struggle in another part of your life … whether it be mental health, a family tragedy, a difficult life situation, a physical disability (or just recovery from a temporary illness or injury), or any number of other struggles. And yes, just crazy busy mom life or PMS totally counts.
Now, to repeat for just a moment … “[t]ake a second and recognize how many things that probably saved you from … and now recognize that you just don’t need it anymore; it’s time to move on and find other coping mechanisms that are healthier and better for you.”
Consult the list in the section above for ideas!
How do I motivate myself to clean?
Pick up all the plastic balls you dropped to save the glass ones.
Get back on the horse.
Seek a new, healthier, better coping mechanism than letting the laundry sit in a pile in the laundry room. (Not that I’m talking from experience or anything.)
And take your first step forward out of the “day after perfect” into a continuously more balanced approach toward daily tidying and cleaning. It’s a process, friend. I’m always growing. You’ll always be growing.
But I know you can do it.
P.S. I got back on the horse and did the darn thing a few days after originally writing this article. You’ve got this, too. (And if you need a motivational jumpstart, try one of these tips!)