How to Find Motivation to Clean Your House

Clean

If you’ve lost your cleaning mojo, here’s how to find the motivation to clean house — no matter how out of control your home feels.

I get a lot of emails asking how to get motivated to clean. Even those of us who consider ourselves “clean freaks” sometimes need help to get out of a slump.

Read on for the simple steps that will lead you to rediscover your motivation to clean and keep you from losing it ever again.

How to Get Motivated to Clean

Woman on sofa surrounded by mess who needs to find cleaning motivation

Why We Lose Motivation to Clean House

Sometimes, we lose our motivation to clean the house for predictable reasons. Life gets busy with school or work, for instance, and we have a temporary shift in our priorities. Once it’s over, though, we sometimes need help shifting priorities back to our homes.

There are other times when the cause is out of our control. Depression or illness strikes, and it’s all we can do to survive the day. Finding cleaning motivation isn’t even conceivable. At those times, cleaning house doesn’t seem worth the effort. We are grappling with more important, life-altering things. Honestly, that is okay!

I’ve Lost My Cleaning Motivation, Too

Several years ago, my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. If you’ve never known someone with brain tumors, it’s a form of cancer that changes everything about a person. It’s a slow thing — so slow that sometimes you think you are the one losing their mind.

To make a long and very painful story short, between becoming my husband’s caregiver and later his widow, I lost my cleaning mojo for a while. 

Wouldn’t you know, that was right as this website was beginning to take off? The irony wasn’t lost on me.

All of which is to say that I get it. I understand. I’ve been there, too.

How to Motivate Yourself to Clean

So, here’s what I learned about finding cleaning motivation. These steps helped me get my house cleaning groove back. I hope they’ll help you as well.

Start Small. No, Smaller than That.

Start with one surface. Not one floor of the house, not one room of it, not even an entire closet or one cupboard. Start with one surface. Don’t think about the rest of the house yet, and don’t feel guilty that you’re not doing more. You are doing something and that’s the first step.

In my case, the surface I committed to cleaning and keeping clean was our kitchen island. Also, it’s visible from every entrance of our home, so there’s no ignoring its mess. Plus, it’s the only convenient spot for food preparation. So, I decided that was the surface I’d commit to as I tried to find the motivation to clean regularly again.

Commit to One Spot for Three Days.

Focus your efforts on that one surface. Clear it off. Polish it. Treat any nicks, scratches, or stains.  Make a point to clean it every morning and again before bed. (Of course, I’m not implying that little gremlins are going to mess it up while you’re sleeping, though if your kids or spouse stay up later than you, they might.)

The point is, you are starting a routine of giving your home attention twice a day — you’re just starting small.

By picking one surface, you’ll get past any clutter blindness. Before long, having reclaimed an area and cared for it, you can’t help but notice how the rest of the house looks. Soon, you’ll start feeling motivated to clean it, too.

Now, Reward Yourself.

You committed to cleaning an area, and you kept it clean on a schedule. You deserve recognition for your effort! Maybe don’t go out and buy a new car, or even a new outfit, but plan some kind of indulgence.

Rewarding yourself for positive efforts tells your brain those efforts are worth continuing. You’ve started a virtuous cycle, and now it’s time to lock it in with a treat.

For me, it was a fresh bouquet of gorgeous flowers — and not the kind that filled our home after my husband’s funeral. Seeing that cheery vase brimming with sunny blooms made me feel good. And feeling good made me want to keep going. (Related: How to Keep Your Home Clean Longer.)

Expand Your Focus.

Once you regain that sense of accomplishment, it’s time to start tending the rest of your house. It’s important to do this in small, manageable chunks.

Think you’re ready to tackle an entire room? Resist that temptation! It’s just too easy to get overwhelmed and give up — and that would start the whole cycle again. Instead, set a timer for 10 minutes and spend them cleaning in an all-out effort.

Don’t have any idea where to start? Grab one of my printable cleaning checklists for, say, the bathroom or the kitchen.

Feeling more confident now? Repeat that same all-out 10-minute effort in various rooms for a few days, then start working for 20-minutes at a time.  By the end the week, you’ll be getting your house back under control, and that sense of control is the source of more motivation.

Get Validated.

Let’s face it, we all feel ashamed when we lose our cleaning motivation. Shame makes us close up and keep to ourselves — we stop inviting friends to visit or discussing with anyone how the mess is overwhelming us.

The antidote to shame is validation.

Remember when you were a kid? Back then, validation came through gold stars, Brownie points, or praise from our parents. As adults, we have to seek it out ourselves. If your spouse isn’t the type to recognize your efforts, telling a friend about your accomplishment can work.

Or join our Do Home Better group on Facebook — we celebrate each others’ accomplishments and support each other through homemaking challenges!

Repeat.

Ready for more? Once you’re back into the swing of things, expand your cleaning efforts weekly until you’re covering the entire house. (Need checklists for the other rooms? You’ll find them here.)

Don’t panic if it takes a while the first time!

If you need to, work in 10 and 20-minute bursts broken up with rewards and validation. It’s okay to go at your own pace, just keep going.

Note the Time.

The more consistent you are about cleaning on a weekly basis, the less time it will take. Don’t believe me? Time yourself the first time you work in a room, then time yourself again a week later and compare your results.

Timing yourself overcomes the fear that cleaning will take forever.

During my cleaning slump, I put off cleaning my bathroom because it seemed like such an enormous task. So, I timed myself. Turns out, it only took 20-minutes. That’s it! Now,  I get motivated to clean by remembering how much better I’ll feel in 20 minutes if I just do it.

Need more structure?

You don’t have to go it alone! If you need step-by-step guidance, you’ll love the plan in my book 30 Days to a Clean and Organized House. You just open the book and do that day’s tasks. Yep, it’s that clear-cut.

At the end of 30 days — or even longer, if you like — your home will be transformed, and you’ll have learned to keep it that way all the time.

21 Comments

  1. Michelle Leslie says:

    Yes!!!!! It makes so much sense Katie. I’m in the “don’t feel in the mood to clean” slump and honestly, tackling one surface seems so much more doable. Thank you for that. I think I’ll start with my bedside table. The pile of books is getting out of hand and every time I go to bed I worry that they’ll come toppling down while we’re sleeping. Great post

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Starting with your bedside table is a great idea, Michelle! You’ll see a nice, uncluttered spot first thing in the morning and last thing at night — great motivation to tackle other areas when you’re ready!

  2. Katie Berry says:

    Thanks for visiting!

  3. First I’d like to say I’m sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine… and second, starting smaller than small? Brilliant! I am recently a stay at home mom with a toddler and I love the idea of starting smallest. I’m so glad I came across your site. I now have a better idea of how to tackle my unruly house. Thank you!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thank you. It’s so hard juggling a toddler and cleaning tasks, but starting small can really help.

  4. Thanks for this. I’m pregnant, exhausted, and moving to a smaller home soon. So I’m a little stressed about how I’m going to manage everything when the baby comes. The second trimester is a little bit sunshinier than the first, so maybe if I start this routine now, things won’t be so difficult later. I plan to start with the kitchen table; I think seeing it clean will be a big motivating factor for me. Great advice.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Do what you can and don’t stress about the rest, Erica. You’re growing a human and that’s hard work!

  5. Amber Kelly says:

    Thank you! I’m a stay at home mom to an amazing 3 year old boy who has Autism . Motivation is key when it comes to cleaning with me! I’m going to go tackle my 1 surface while hes asleep! Thanks again

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Amber,
      I’m happy to have helped you rediscover your motivation!

  6. Thank you so much for this. My own story is honestly at this point almost laughably terrible at points and although I’m pretty resilient I definitely have serious problems simply continuing on some days. I’ve read this post several times since I found it last year. It helps immensely to know that – yes – there are people struggling with REAL things too.

    I’ve had a clean foyer table for a while now, and I’ve moved on to other areas. Your tips are well-written, well-thought-out, and actually help. Thank you so much. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Meg,
      You’re so welcome. I’m glad you’ve found it encouraging! If you haven’t already joined, you might enjoy our Do Home Better Facebook group, too. We’re a supportive, motivating bunch. 🙂

  7. Loved this article! Well written and it has some powerful tools for motivation.

  8. Really helpful. I have arthritis on my back and it’s very hard to try and handle housework. Plus house is being remodeled so there is so much stuff laying around which makes me lose my motivation to even try. But I am going to start small and see if I can get my motivation back. Thank you again

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Hilda,
      You’re welcome! Remember to take care of yourself first: there’s no point in having a clean house if you’re in too much agony to enjoy it.

  9. Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to read. I’ve been caring for my mother in her home, while maintaining my home, and helping my two children with school from home due to this covid pandemic. Mum passed away a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t been motivated to do ANYTHING at either house since. This feels like a very manageable plan, I feel positive now. Thanks xxx

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It sounds like you’ve had your hands full, Zoe. Glad to hear this helped you feel a bit less burdened. Take care.

  10. Thank you so much for this, I understand totally what you mean in the first paragraph or so. My dad has brain cancer and the way you describe it and how it effects loved ones is so true. It’s like a nightmare that never ends and the most horrible thing is that I know it will end, but end the most horrible way. I have been struggling with motivation for quite a long time and some days even getting out of bed is just impossible. I really have to force myself. I am actually a house proud person so my house looking a mess is actually dragging me down further. But then I have no motivation, so there is the vicious circle! I loved the idea of reward ping yourself and also of timing yourself. I am definitely going to try those, thank you.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so sorry you and your father are going through this. It’s a horrible form of cancer that truly affects everyone in the family. Be extra kind to yourself during this time.

  11. thankyou some great ideas, such as drying a sponge in the microwave, and remermering that nothing is a forever thing including house cleaning!

  12. Wow!! I just searched and clicked on this website for some tips, my husband was diagnosed with Brain Cancer just over a year ago GBM4.
    You do know exactly what I am going through!
    Thank you

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It’s a hard road ahead. Take time to make memories together. That’s so much more important than cleaning right now. God bless.

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