how to keep cleaning from feeling overwhelming

Overwhelmed by Cleaning? These Steps Helped Me Out of that Cycle

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Do you ever feel so overwhelmed by cleaning that you can’t even start? Then the messes pile up, and a vicious cycle starts. The more we delay, the harder it seems to do and the more overwhelming it feels. But what if I told you there’s a way to break this cycle?

I’ve dealt with depression more times than I can count in the past ten years. Every time, it’s meant my home has gotten out of control. What follows are the steps that I’ve used to get things back on track. They’ve helped me stop feeling overwhelmed by cleaning, so I could turn my home into a place of comfort again.

Step 1: Create a List of Specific Goals.

Before you clean, have a clear set of goals you want to accomplish instead of just a general idea to “clean the house.” Literally write out the exact things you want to clean.

I find just having a clear, actionable plan helps me feel more confident. Plus, I get to measure progress by crossing off things, which helps me stay motivated to clean.

Step 2: Clean by Room.

So, there are two main approaches to cleaning: task-based and room-based. With task-based cleaning, you complete one task throughout your home before tackling the next. So, you’d dust every piece of furniture first then vacuum every floor after that. It sounds efficient, but I found myself spending hours decluttering without cleaning a thing. And that destroyed my motivation.

So, that’s why I use the room-based approach: it offers clear priorities and tangible results. And when I’m overwhelmed, I start with the room that irks me the most and clean it top to bottom. Then I work through the rest of the rooms from most to least annoying. To me, it’s an empowering way to get my home under control again.

Infographic comparing task-based and room-based cleaning styles

Step 3: Know the Time Things Actually Take.

Have you ever told yourself cleaning something would take all day, then it only took an hour, maybe even less? I’ve learned to keep that from happening by setting a timer and telling myself I’m going to clean as much as I can before it goes off.

Then, when I’m finished, I make a note of how long it took.You’d be amazed by how helpful it is having that list on hand to prove to your brain that it’s exaggerating things.

Step 4: Pace Yourself.

The day I realized I didn’t have to clean a room from start to finish in one go was an eye-opener. I’m a goal-oriented person, so I’d often just plow through and wear myself out. But physically, I’d pay for it.

Then it dawned on me: ten minutes of cleaning repeated three times in a day is still thirty minutes of cleaning. So, when I feel overwhelmed cleaning an entire room, I’ll grab one of my house cleaning checklists and work through it in ten minute chunks.

Step 5: Stop at the End of Your List.

Remember that list of goals? Stop when you reach the end of it and be proud of yourself. You do not have to clean your entire home in one day.

In fact, that belief is why cleaning stresses you out, because it doesn’t honor how your body is feeling. It puts your home’s mess before your needs. Every time I’ve done that—every single time—it’s sent me straight back into the spiral.

But once I started using this approach, I stopped feeling overwhelmed. There’s no more cleaning to the point of exhaustion. No day spent dealing with clutter and not seeing anything actually get clean. I fit cleaning into the time I have available, without letting it take over my life. And, most of all, I remember that cleaning my home is not more important than taking care of myself.

I’d love to hear if these tips help you stop feeling overwhelmed by cleaning, too.

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