How to get motivated to clean when overwhelmed by mess

So you put off your spring cleaning session, then you put off your summer cleaning session – now it’s winter and you’re knee-deep in so much clutter that you can’t even imagine where to start! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the mess (even if you are partially responsible for it!).

But you have to do something, because spending the rest of your life tripping over stray sandals and wondering where your waffle maker went is not how you want to live. Or, you do nothing and things only get worse until you do. Quite the conundrum!

Minimalist Lifestyle: Getting Motivated to Tackle Big Messes

You’re fortunate if you’ve never had to stare down a trashed house alone. The majority of us, however, have experienced facing off with some crazy clutter! The feeling of being surrounded by trash, by a chore essentially, is annoyance, overwhelm, and exasperation.

Don’t be so quick to get down, though. Tackling big messes can actually be fun, and there are a lot of good reasons to do it. There are even reasons to look forward to doing it! The trick is that you need to build momentum and take things one task at a time.

Completing the first task is key, and you need to take steps to make it desirable to do. Before you start cleaning, get the atmosphere right. Calm some of that anxiety and set yourself up for a smooth, fun ride by trying some of these mood-enhancing tips. 

How to Set the Mood for a Cleaning Session

You know what you need to achieve! Take steps to create a calm, soothing atmosphere to relieve tension, or a festive mood to summon up some extra energy. Implement these things to get you in the mood to get moving:

  • Music. Toss in some headphones or connect to your speaker and put on something that gets you moving.
  • Audiobook/Podcast. Zone out to a true crime novel or some comedy podcasts while you get things done.
  • Phone a friend. This is easier done with headphones than holding your phone in your hand. Call your mom, your best friend, or you partner, and strike up an exciting conversation to distract you while you straighten up. It’s a good “zone-out” technique because it’s easy to get lost in a conversation. 
  • Lighting. Pair your music with some fun lighting. This is easy if you have an LED light strip and remote (which have exploded in popularity as of the last five years). But if you don’t, just grab your computer, dim the room lights, and pull up a soundless strobe light video on YouTube.
  • Use crystals. Place some crystals around the room that promote energy and focus. Malachite, selenite, amazonite, and tiger’s eye are good for charging the atmosphere for a much-needed energy boost.
  • Comfy clothes. Restrictive clothes make it harder to stretch, reach, lunge—the standard exercise regimen that is “cleaning”. Throw on some sweatpants, a t-shirt, and a hair tie for maximum comfortability. 
  • Candles/essential oils. When is aromatherapy ever a bad thing? If the smell of citrus lifts your spirits then burn a citrus candle or start up your oil diffuser.
  • A treat. Have something waiting for you once you’re all done. That slice of chocolate cake will motivate you to work quicker, but it’s also a token of appreciation to yourself. Plus, it’ll taste so much better in a clean house.

Cleaning Motivation: What Makes Cleaning Awesome

Having too many clothes and getting rid of some is one thing, but cleaning your home is another. However, there are upsides to a clean up session that you might’ve never even thought about. It doesn’t have to be something that we’re reluctant to do.

That’s just our perception of it. Cleaning is actually a wonderful thing—you love the results of it, right? You always get something good out of cleaning, and there are great reasons to hop up and get started!

1. You won’t have to do it again for a while

Once it’s clean, it’ll be a considerable amount of time before you have to clean it again. You’re also saving your future self the stress of dealing with the bigger mess that would’ve otherwise been had you not just cleaned up. Thank you!

2. You get to blow off steam

Cleaning can be pretty intensive and is actually a good activity for releasing pent up frustration and negative feelings. Scrub those counters spotless, beat that rug, rearrange that furniture. Do something laborious that’ll cool you down.

Imagery is powerful too. As you’re cleaning, imagine crumbs, stains, dust, and dirt as little problems, worries, fears, and doubts. Feel yourself being relieved of them as your cloth wipes them away forever.

3. You can get some alone time

A cleaning session is actually a nice gateway into some quiet time. People naturally won’t want to be around you as much if you’re cleaning—partly because they don’t want to be in your way, and partly because they don’t want to be expected to help. This can actually be great for you!

When you need a second, politely ask everyone to move to another room for a while so you can clean. (Note: This works great with kids, they never want to help clean up!) Or let everyone in the house know that it’s cleaning day, and ask them kindly to try to interrupt you as little as possible so you can get finished quickly.

If someone disrupts your cleaning session, you can let them know you’re busy and that they’ll have to wait. (If they’re not going to do the cleaning ,then you at least deserve to do it in peace and quiet.)

4. You feel gratitude and appreciation 

Cleaning up is a great chance to practice gratitude. Cleaning is a form of appreciation. The fact that you have these things to clean is its own reward and you show your enthusiasm by taking care of them.

As you’re wiping up and picking up, say some silent “thank you”s. Your heart will respond with warmth and happiness. 

5. You could recover something special

If you can’t find a treasure anywhere, but your space is a mess, then you probably know why you can’t find it. A thorough clean up is a good opportunity to uncover something lost or forgotten.

6. Your environment affects your thoughts and feelings

What’s going on on the outside has a direct correlation to what’s going on on the inside (in your head). Hence, the light, refreshed feeling you have looking at a clean house, even after hours of cleaning, is the clutter receding from your mind.

You just feel so much lighter in a freshly cleaned room. Get your space tidy and keep it that way, and thoughts, ideas, and creativity will flow freely!

7. After you clean, it’s easier to keep it clean

You’ve already gotten the hard part out of the way! A good cleaning now makes your sanitary efforts in the future much easier. Now all you have to do is keep the area neat.

That just involves keeping everything in its place, removing dirt when it appears, and removing things that don’t belong in that room/area. That’s only about a third of what you just had to do! 

How to Take on Big Messes

Though cleaning is wonderful and should be celebrated, it’s not something that we want to spend all day doing. We want to get it done as soon as possible so we can get on to other things. Luckily, there are simple ways to expedite the process.

  • Carry a trash bag around with you. This way you can easily discard trash as you go instead of having to walk back and forth to the trash can. 
  • Throw away trash first. Toss all the garbage in the house in one swoop so it’s not in the way while you’re moving, wiping, and reorganizing.
  • Utilize a tote too. Carry a large tote with you as well on your primary sweep of the area. While you’re going around, if you see anything that isn’t in the room/area that it’s supposed to be in, put it in the tote. Then as you go room by room to clean and organize, take those things out your tote and put them away where they belong. 
  • Clean the floor last. As you’re wiping, dusting, and shaking, residual dirt is continuously falling on the floor. You don’t want to clean the floor first just to get more dirt on the floor and have to clean it again.
  • Do the spray down. Some surfaces and stains have to allow cleaning products to sit before wiping or scrubbing in order to work optimally. Spray down your bathroom toilet, sink, bathtub/shower, your stove top, and your microwave before you start another task (like the dishes). By the time you’re finished with the dishes, the cleaning solution will have sat for long enough to wipe. (Note: If your products emit strong fumes, make sure there’s good ventilation or prop some windows open.)
  • Take care of the biggest elements first. While you’re just starting and you’re at maximum energy, clean large surfaces and rooms. and move large things first. Then work your way down to the easier tasks.
  • Use a cleaning caddy. Carry your cleaning supplies from room to room with you in a caddy. When it’s all in one place you don’t have to look for anything or stop what you’re doing to go get something. It’s an overlooked tip that makes cleaning dramatically quicker.

And if you want to clean your whole home, you’ll want to check out our decluttering checklist of all the things you need to consider.

Wrap Up

When it comes to any seemingly daunting activity, the thought of doing it is almost always worse than actually doing it. It’s all in perspective; some people view cleaning as a cathartic activity.

Messes are not scary, they’re not too big, they’re not the end of the world. Cleaning up a mess is protecting something you care about. It’s working to keep something in good condition because you’re proud of it and you’re proud of yourself. It should be empowering!

Don’t wait until you’re submerged two feet in mess and clutter to do something about it. Get to messes while they are manageable—in other words, as soon as possible.

Most importantly, don’t shy away from messes. Instead, transform an unsavory situation into a positive one. Get your favorite music, smells, and atmosphere going, then get in there and champion the clutter!

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