How to Get Motivated to Clean When You’re Overwhelmed by the Mess

How to get motivated to clean when overwhelmed by mess

Maintaining a clean and organized living space is essential for our physical and mental well-being. However, with busy schedules and daily demands, it’s easy for clutter and mess to accumulate and feel overwhelming. 

If you find yourself struggling to get motivated, you’re not alone. I have been there myself more than once! Over time I have developed strategies for overcoming the overwhelm and finding the motivation to tackle the mess. 

Whether you’re dealing with a cluttered closet, a messy kitchen, a pile of mystery documents, or an entire house, these tips will help you get motivated to clean even when you’re overwhelmed by the mess.

Prioritize, Plan, and Schedule

How to make a plan to clean when overwhelmed by mess

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I know that a clear plan of action will instantly make things feel a little more manageable. Fail to plan, and plan to fail is a famous saying for a reason! Here are the steps I take when creating a home cleaning plan. 

Prioritize Key Areas

When I truly feel overwhelmed by my home, I don’t always know where to start. It helps tremendously to pause and consider what my priorities are.

Priorities are personal. Some things will matter more to you than they will to others (like me). For me, floors and counters MUST be clean for me to function at my best in my home. Windows can have fingerprints, laundry can pile up, and papers can stack, but the counters and floors have to be clean. Your priorities might be different!

Also don’t overthink this. If you feel lost, then start by making an exhaustive list of what needs to be handled. Paper processing, toilet scrubbing, decluttering drawers, etc. Get detailed! Then once you have that list, you can arrange it in order of what feels most important to you and your family.

Make a Plan

Now that you have your priorities in order, you’re going to map out a plan for how to tackle each one.  

Maybe just this month your focus is getting a handle on the kitchen. Next month your focus is the bathroom. Then the following month you experiment with a new laundry routine. Pull out your calendar and make a plan!

Once you’ve mapped out your plan, then take priority number one and break down the steps to completion. For the kitchen perhaps you need to start with decluttering and cleaning inside one cabinet a day. Then you’re going to clean each appliance, and so on. 

Integrate the Plan into Your Daily Schedule

Cleaning doesn’t just magically happen. You will not magically have the time to handle it unless you MAKE the time. Schedule it in. If you’re in a state of overwhelm, then your mental health depends on it!

I like to wake up an hour earlier than my family to clean for 20-40 minutes every single morning. It’s too easy for me to justify excuses to skip it later in the day so I am more consistent when I get it done first thing. 

Determine a daily pocket of time you can dedicate to working through your plan. Because you have a clear plan already mapped out, you don’t have to put in any additional thought – just do the work! Over time, your cleaning routine will become as second nature as getting dressed in the morning.

Track Your Progress

How to track progress for new cleaning habits

Once your plan is in place, another way to stay motivated is to set milestones for yourself that you can visually track. Here are a few suggestions.

Print a Checklist

Consider printing out a checklist. Checklists minimize the amount of thinking or decision making required. This saves a TON of energy – energy you can put into getting the cleaning and organizing done. It also helps you stay accountable to getting the job completely done (no skipping steps!). 

Need some checklist motivation? Here is a free cleaning checklist you can print off to get yourself started. 

Use a Habit Tracker

To hold yourself accountable to maintain a new daily cleaning habit, print out a habit tracker. Display this somewhere prominently in your home (on the fridge, in your entryway, on your bathroom mirror, on your closet door, inside of your pantry door, etc.). 

Add “Cleaning” to your list of habits and experience the satisfaction that comes with checking a box every day that you complete a 20-30 minute session. 

If you want a free, printable habit tracker I have you covered. Here is the habit tracker I use to establish new habits for myself.

Focus on One Task at a Time

Looking at a giant mess makes the job feel daunting. Instead, focus on ONE portion of mess at a time. One drawer, one cabinet, one pile of papers, one small appliance, etc. and clean that one thing to completion. 

If you try to do too much at one time, you won’t feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a task! A clear plan of action will help you stay focused, productive, and motivated.

Make it Fun and Productive

How to make cleaning fun when you're feeling overwhelmed

Incentivise yourself to keep going by making cleaning fun and rewarding! Here’s how.

Set a Timer

When motivating yourself to start a dreaded cleaning task, it can be comforting to clearly establish an end point. A timer or alarm not only helps motivate me to get started on a task, it also motivates me to work much faster! 

Bluetooth Earbuds or Headphones

The secret weapon that always motivates me to get started is a pair of earbuds. I like to reserve my favorite podcasts or audiobooks for the times of day when I’m cleaning. It makes cleaning time feel more like a treat than a chore.

As soon as my earbuds are in, my mind and body know that it’s go-time. I immediately transition into cleaning mode and I’m able to passively multitask by listening to something entertaining or educational at the same time.

RELATED: How to Clean Earbuds and Headphones

Multitask to Make it Fun

Cleaning is a fantastic time to passively multitask. When I’m on my A-game, I’ll put on a facial mask treatment, turn on an audiobook and pop in my earbuds, set a timer, and get to work.

In fact, I use this same strategy to motivate myself to do any task that I’m dreading. Cleaning, cardio exercise (reserve favorite Netflix shows for when I’m on the bike), folding clothes, etc. Try it!

Reward Yourself

See if you can set aside some of your budget for small rewards. Because you have developed a clear plan, scheduled it in, and started tracking your progress it will be easy to visually see when you hit milestones.

At the end of a successful week/two weeks/month treat yourself! I like to keep a list of things I am coveting in a note on my phone. Books I’m interested in, self care treatments, home decor pieces, or even upgraded cleaning tools and supplies!

If you don’t have the budget for a financial reward you can choose from activities that FEEL like a reward – sit in your clean living room to watch a show you like. Sip a cup of tea in your clean kitchen. Drink coffee in your clean bedroom. Read a book or write in your journal at your clean dining room table. 

These types of “rewards” cost nothing but are FAR more enjoyable when completed in a beautiful, clean setting.

Upgrade Your Supplies

Beauty is another powerful motivator for many of us. Cleaning is FAR more enjoyable for me when I get to use beautiful tools and products. A high quality wooden dish brush, beautiful dish soap, and nice dish towels make washing dishes just a little more enjoyable at the end of the day.

Decanting laundry products in beautiful containers organized nicely in my laundry room motivates me to stay on top of the never ending laundry pile. 

Think about small ways you can upgrade your supplies to more beautiful, sustainable, and enjoyable alternatives. Use them as rewards to give yourself at the end of a successful week of cleaning!


Ask for Help

How to outsource cleaning when you're overwhelmed

Don’t be a martyr! If you need help, ask for it. Here are a few ways to get the help you need to tackle the mess.

Recruit Household Members to Participate

You don’t have to go it alone! If you live with roommates, housemates, or family members then recruit them to help. 

Schedule a family cleaning day. Everyone gets assigned ONE thing to clean. Each person pulls out ONE drawer in the kitchen to organize, wipe down, and put away. Everyone is assigned ONE bathroom. 

Keep your household motivated by agreeing on a household reward of some kind. If you are all consistent with daily cleaning then you can invest in something fun for your house. Or you can do a BIG cleaning Saturday followed by a fun family outing Sunday. Get creative, and include everyone in the reward. 

Invest in Robot Tools

One way I save HOURS of time every week is by using a robot vacuum and mop. It’s an investment for sure, so make sure your house is a good candidate before purchasing a robot vacuum. Here is a post explaining and here are some of the best robot vacuums for under $200.

Hire a Professional

If you need a giant re-set then consider hiring a professional to help. There are countless companies offering professional house cleaning and organizing services. If you’re not sure where to start, here is a podcast episode where I share my best tips for hiring a cleaning service.

This can be a costly option but worth its weight in gold if it means you will be left with peace of mind and organized systems you simply have to maintain vs. create yourself.

In Conclusion

Now you know how to get motivated to clean when you’re overwhelmed by the mess. You can do this! Don’t spend another day feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or ashamed of your mess. Try the suggestions in this guide and take the time necessary to slowly but consistently work your way through it. 

Similar Posts

One Comment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing these cleaning tips! I am looking to do a deep clean this week so I am totally taking notes haha. I am hoping to have our carpets cleaned too haha! Thanks again for sharing!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *