11 Tips to Help You Get Motivated to Clean

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Hi Heather!

I came across your blog almost a year ago and I took my time making a (Home Management) guide, probably about a month. It’s lovely. But there’s one problem, I don’t use it! I want to use it (or do I??) no I swear I do….but I just don’t use it. I think I made it too big and intimidating so recently I started reorganizing into something smaller. I can see how this will help us, I just can’t seem to stick with it. Any advice or experience with this? We are due with baby number two in May and I rrrrrrreally want to get into a groove before then!

I think this reader is referring specifically to the cleaning lists and work schedules in the HMG, and her email prompted me to write about something that I know is an issue for each and every one of us…including me.

Motivation.

Most of us really do enjoy having clean homes, but the work involved isn’t exactly a picnic, am I right? (Some people tell me that they enjoy cleaning toilets – I don’t believe them). I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather read a book, or write a blog post, or do pretty much anything else. So, how do you get motivated to clean, when there are other things that are so much more fun?

Well. If I had the answer to that question, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog post in order to avoid cleaning my basement. Obviously, I can’t give you the perfect solution to the problem of motivation (or lack thereof), but I can offer some tips that may help.

Silence is not golden.

When I’m really struggling with a lack of energy, I put on some upbeat music because it instantly boosts my mood. My favorite cleaning music right now is Lady Gaga. I’ll admit that I think she’s a total freak, but the chick has some serious pipes. I also have Adele’s 21 in heavy rotation right now. Rumour Has It is a great cleaning song, as are upbeat worship songs, such as Everlasting God, by Lincoln Brewster.

Look at your work from a new perspective.

A change of attitude makes a big difference. If you think of your work as drudgery, you won’t be very enthusiastic about it, and let’s just be honest here – motherhood can be a pretty thankless job. Husbands and kids aren’t always appreciative, and it’s easy for our work behind the scenes to go unnoticed, and be taken for granted. I find that it really helps if I consider my work to be of service to the Lord. HE sees my efforts, and my job IS important to him (see A Mom Who Works for the Lord).

Do just one small thing.

If I have to clean a room, and the task seems overwhelming, I divide the room into four parts, and tell myself that I’ll just thoroughly clean one part. If I don’t feel like doing anymore after that, I don’t have to, but the funny thing is that I usually do. As with any large project, getting started is usually the hardest part, but action leads to more action. It’s the housekeeping snowball effect.

Set a timer

I think that many of us (me) put off projects because it seems like they’ll take forever, and we just don’t have time, but is this really true? Usually not. The lack of time defense is a common and convenient excuse for procrastinators, who build things up in their minds to be bigger than they actually are, as a method of avoidance (and how do I know this? Because I do it myself). However, if I time myself when I do some unpleasant task, such as cleaning off my desk, I often discover that it takes only 15 minutes or so. And who doesn’t have 15 minutes? The next time you’re facing a messy house, set a timer for 15 minutes, and see what you can accomplish. When the timer goes off, you can quit if you want to, but I bet you’ll want to set it for another 15 minutes, and maybe another, and before you know it your entire house will be clean.

Ask for help.

You don’t have to do it all. Really. I hear women complain about how their husbands don’t help them, but I always say, “Have you asked? Nicely?” It’s amazing how often they admit that no…. they haven’t. They’ve stomped around, huffed and puffed, complained and moaned, but they haven’t actually asked for help, because they feel that their husbands should be able to see the work that needs to be done, and just do it. But men, God love ‘em, don’t really work that way. At least mine doesn’t. He’s always more than willing to help me when I ask him, but he needs to be told specifically what to do, and he responds much more positively when – instead of throwing a fit about how “I have to do everything around here!” and dissolving into a hysterical mess – I just ask him politely. An added bonus is that when we work on projects together, they go so much faster, because we enjoy each other’s company, and time flies when you’re having fun.

Make a small change.

Rearranging a room, or even just the china in the cabinet, or the books on the shelf, often motivates me to clean, because I think changes – even small ones – are refreshing and invigorating. In that same vein…

Buy something new.

It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. It can be a scented candle, or new throw pillows, or even a garage sale picture frame. For example, this weekend I asked my husband to spray paint a plain wooden frame that I found at a garage sale – for $1. He used some black paint leftover from another project, and when the frame was dry, I matted an adorable photo of The Boy with a black photo mat that I found in a garage sale free box last summer (I actually found about a half dozen, in various sizes and colors!). I polished the glass, and hung the framed photo in the hallway.

This refurbished frame made me so happy, because it allowed me to display a photo that makes me smile every time I see it. I got great satisfaction from hanging it, and then I noticed that the other framed artwork in the hall needed to be dusted. This led to dusting the bookshelf, and the art in the living room…

Which led to dusting the fireplace mantle…

Which led to reorganizing and dusting the china cabinet.

I decided to just tidy up a bit too, and then I noticed that the rug needed to be vacuumed. Before I knew it, I had a completely clean living room! See what I mean?

Bring out “The Hoarders Defense.”

When I need to motivate my children to clean their room, or let go of excess stuff, I use what I call the “Hoarders Defense.” I remind them that we’re happier and calmer when we don’t live in chaos, and we have limited space to store stuff. If we keep more than we have room for, and don’t stay on top of clutter, we could end up like the people on Hoarders. It works with them…and me. When I’m REALLY lacking in motivation, watching an episode of Hoarders online often results in a cleaning frenzy. Whatever works.

Imagine how good you’ll feel when you’re done!

I’ve said before that feeling good about myself is the best motivation, and I don’t feel good about myself when my house is a pigsty. I feel like a lazy slob, and then I get depressed, and even less motivated.

Promise yourself a reward, and follow through.

All work and no play makes Mommy a dull girl. And also a big crab. So promise yourself a hot bath when you’re done scouring the tub with Comet. Or a nap, when you’re done changing the sheets. Or whatever makes you feel good!

Pray!

Don’t forget that your desire for cleanliness and order is no accident – you crave it because you were made in God’s image. HE is an orderly God, and he cares about all the little details of your life. Ask Him to help you with this area of your life, to give you a positive mindset, and the right heart attitude toward housework. He won’t let you down (He’s faithful like that).

SO! I’m going to go admire my nice clean living room for awhile, in the hope that it will motivate me to tackle the mess which has accumulated in my craft room, where I dump everything to be dealt with “later.”

The crap in the laundry baskets goes to the consignment store and/or Goodwill, but I need a box for it. I have one in the back shed. I just need to walk on out there and get it, but that will involve finding my keys so I can unlock the door, plus I’ll have to put shoes on! And probably a coat! And it’s just so much work, and it will take forever.

AHEM…..

While you’re praying for motivation for yourself, if you think of it, send up a little prayer for me too. Obviously, I need it.

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Heather is a minimalist in love with a recovering packrat. 7 years ago, she and her husband sold pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down in order to pay off their mortgage, and they've been living happily debt-free ever since. They have 3 hilarious little kids who were conceived with the help of in vitro fertilization, and they haven't had a good night's sleep in the last decade. Heather is an anglophile who loves all things British, and spends her free time looking at real estate listings in Cornwall. Every day, she and her family work toward a simpler, more meaningful life. Some days are awesome, some are disastrous, and you can read about all of them here.

Have a question? Need a listening ear? Contact Heather, or visit Want What You Have on Facebook.

© Heather at Want What You Have, 2008-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of material, including photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Heather at Want What You Have, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Derivative works are not permitted.

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43 comments… add one

  1. Amy January 9, 2012, 1:57 am

    Yup, Lady Gaga rocks!  I listen to “You and I” over and over again when I clean.  Plus I love to sing along which leads to much eye rolling from the hubby.  Ah whatever.  :)

    Reply
    1. Charles Fleury February 28, 2014, 5:09 pm

      Lady Ga -Ga sucks… she is a Madonna carbon copy. Madonna sucked. It’s good to be different. But different isn’t always good. Ga-ga’s lyrics are slightly more intelligent than Madonna’s, yet that whole popular style, created in the eighties sucked. There is always a market 4 trendy. Cleaning your house to “Macarena” is about the same…try “THE WHO” or “Surfing With The Alien” by Joe Satriani…put some sand in it….

      Reply
  2. Stacey January 9, 2012, 3:07 am

    Great post Heather!  Im having an awful time getting motivated to clean these days.  Love the tips!

    Reply
  3. Amy nj January 9, 2012, 3:15 am

    I can get motivated frequently but my issue is frequent interruptions from the kids… I get distracted then have to figure out where I left off or I rush and feel bad if I do a less than adequate job? It does sometimes feel like an endless circle of cooking, dishes, floors, laundry.

    Reply
  4. Janel January 9, 2012, 3:19 am

    This was a great post Heather…it spoke to me :) I pray all the time and I hear God saying “you know what to do, just start doing it”…God is good like that :) I also pray for discipline…if you can ever do a post on that one, I would truly appreciate it…LOL! Hope Bee is feeling better…Janel

    Reply
  5. Sarah January 9, 2012, 3:37 am

    Oh this post hit the nail on the head for me Heather! I am a big procrastinator, so I agree with everything you said because recently I have started cleaning a little which has lead to a lot of organization in my home. So goodluck with your basement I know you can do it once you get started ;) Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Liz January 9, 2012, 3:39 am

    Been awhile since I last commented but I wanted to say thanks for these reminders. We moved in with my dad and it’s like pulling teeth to clean the hoarder like rooms he’s built up over e years. Losing motivation is my biggest problem as I often feel overwhelmed by all of it. So thanks again! :)

    Reply
  7. angie January 9, 2012, 3:44 am

    Love it!!!  You are FANTASTIC!  I could read posts like these all the time (of course, I wouldn’t get much work done…but it’s such wonderful motivation!).  :)

    Reply
  8. Jessica F January 9, 2012, 4:33 am

    I love Adele! My little girl got the Adele CD for Christmas and I want to steal it–but I just loaded it into my iTunes and rock it out!

    Reply
  9. amanda.ewing January 9, 2012, 12:04 pm

    My husband and I decided to finish our basement our basement this year to make it more useable this year.  The problem is, it’s like your craft room, and full of stuff to be dealt with later.  We started last week and made a nice dent in it.  I’ve already taken one load to goodwill, and have a pile of things for consignment and eBay, but still have about 2/3 left.  I’m bookmarking this post so I can come back to it while we finish this project.

    Reply
  10. Michelle Pate January 9, 2012, 1:48 pm

    Great tips! Also, every time I am not feeling well I think how much I would LOVE to be able to get up and clean or take care of the family.  Then I think about people with chronic illness and am so thankful I just have a cold or whatever.  Guess it goes with the perspective tip.

    Reply
  11. Dreyer Becky January 9, 2012, 2:37 pm

    This is great! I just started using a daily cleaning schedule for 2012 and I LOVE it! I like that every room has its own day, so I don’t feel overwhelmed at cleaning the WHOLE house in one shot. Much easier to break it up.

    Reply
  12. Kamani January 9, 2012, 3:15 pm

    Great tips!  I face this problem EVERY Monday, LOL.

    Reply
  13. Anonymous January 9, 2012, 4:55 pm

    Great Blog! I can relate to your reader and to what you said.  Best of all, it made me laugh! My hubby is the same way and i have tried the huffing and puffing which didn’t work and finally realized, that much like your husband, much more gets done when I just ask and without resentment or aggravation!
    have a great day all

    Reply
  14. Mindy January 9, 2012, 5:17 pm

    For school I had to take a Time Management course.  One thing that stuck with me was my instructor talking about a book called “Eat That Frog:  21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” by Brian Tracy.  She went over many of the main points during class – I have yet to read the full book, but just found it a few days ago as a $0.99 downloadable book.  I thought this may be a book right up your alley!  It’s the next one on my reading list (in between text books – haha!)

    BTW – I LOVE your blog – I have been referring many friends to it and to your recipe blog!!  You have so many useful and thought-provoking topics.  I’m sure I’ll refer to this particular post several times over the next couple months.  I just gave up a storage unit and moved everything into one of our two garages so that it is easily accessible so I can sort out and minimize.  My husband has said that I can ‘throw everything out’ but I have photo albums and keepsakes that had been stored away.  The plan is to consign what I can, if I have enough bigger items to have a garage sale, and to donate to the Epilepsy Foundation (which is great because they pick up curbside every 2-3 months and have no limit on the number of bags/boxes!!)

    Reply
  15. Kim January 9, 2012, 5:20 pm

    Another tip that might be of help to others…I used to get around to my weekly cleaning whenever it worked out best for that particular week.  But, of course, I would keep pushing it off because, as you said, really who *wants* to clean?  (Well, I’ve got one girlfriend who likes to clean, but other than her?)  For us, we are such a sports family that in the fall I found that on Monday morning – after everyone went back to work and school – that I was faced with a dirty house AND a ton of stuff to put away from the crazy busy weekend.  I was totally overwhelmed by it.  By making Friday my cleaning day I felt the house was still clean on Monday morning and I wasn’t faced with such a monumental task of cleaning AND picking up.  I could just spend some time straightening up and feel like order was (more or less) restored (with three kids is order ever completely restored?!?!).
    Thanks for another great post and Happy New Year!
    Kim

    Reply
  16. Shawna January 9, 2012, 7:02 pm

    Hi Heather. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but this is the first time I’ve left a comment. I just wanted to let you know how meaningful your blog is to me. You always have such great tips and ideas, and I love your writing style. This post was just what I needed today. Before I read this, I was looking at the mess in my kitchen and thinking how I’d much rather curl up with a book than clean. I decided to check WWYH first, and it’s like you were reading my mind! So, thank you for a great blog and a great post…now I must tackle that kitchen!
    Shawna

    Reply
  17. Sherry January 9, 2012, 8:17 pm

    I needed this today. It’s Monday, it’s raining, and I just feel blah. You’ll be in my prayers and say one for me too!

    Reply
  18. Solange January 9, 2012, 8:49 pm

    So funny!!! I was just thinking about how seriously unmotivated I have been. I also made a cleaning plan after looking at your HMG and I LOVE it. It’s worked for months but right before the holidays I got tired and LAZY. Everything went crazy and I haven’t picked it up since. Yesterday my amazing husband cleaned the entire kitchen without even being asked!!! Now that it’s done I just maintain it until my kitchen cleaning day (Monday). This helped me get into gear for the bathrooms! Thanks so much for your motivating list-I love the timer idea :)

    Reply
  19. Anonymous January 9, 2012, 9:33 pm

    I so needed this post today.  It seems like all I ever get done is putting things back in their place, washing and putting away dishes and clothes, making beds, etc. but never get around to deep cleaning.  These tips, however, give me the motivation to get in there and keep trying.  I especially like your point about how just getting started and not taking on too much at once can often result in renewed energy to finish the entire project. Momentum is key in completing any task or reaching any goal.  Thanks again!

    Reply
  20. Amber Kersenbrock January 10, 2012, 2:56 am

    Thank you! I really struggled last week getting *anything* done! I even googled “motivation for moms” one day but I didn’t find much. This post is great! I already put a few of your ideas into practice today and did much better. I appreciate your honesty too. :-)

    Reply
  21. Kathy January 14, 2012, 3:40 am

    Thank you so much for the lighthearted, helpful and authentic post. I enjoy your blog very much and today, this was just what I needed. God bless!

    Reply
  22. Baasmith0913 February 13, 2012, 4:04 am

    Hi there! I am sure someone said this already, as I am not super original, but this would make a GREAT “If you give a mouse a cookie” type book, but made for mommies!! :O)  Will be praying for you and me!

    Reply
  23. Nenaliliana February 19, 2012, 9:56 pm

    Hey! i really love your blogs! i’m trying to stay organize and you are helping me a LOT! God bless you and your family, you are doing a great job. Please keep doing it :D

    Reply
  24. Susan Mutavu February 23, 2012, 8:27 am

    My God Heather. You don’t know what a motivation you are to me. I am in my final stages of working and i will be a stay home mum effect April. Your blog has answered and keeps answering most of my questions and fears for being a stay home mum. i am now focused and am happily counting down days to freedom for working for others yet my own work is pending. i cant wait. thanks for this and may God continue to give you grace and wisdom.

    Reply
  25. Sarah June 19, 2012, 8:35 pm

    This is so funny!  I watch Hoarders too for the same reason.  I would describe myself as a rather lazy homemaker, but watching Hoarders always helps me to get motivated. 

    Reply
  26. Hannah January 8, 2013, 4:33 am

    Loved the post! i actually just got (almost) done with my craft room. it looks like Martha Stewart/junkyard/mod podge heaven! :) I do the same thing. I shove things in there like…ill go thru it later (not…). And I will cover the bed (guest bedroom/craftroom!) with stuff, so that no one wants to spend the night here. Aren’t I horrible? LMAO! my husbands sisters *grunt* like to come spend the night? are we 12? negative. So i cover the bed with stuff. :)

    Reply
  27. tt January 30, 2013, 2:22 am

    i dont mind cleaning i just get tired of doing the samething over and over everyday its like it never ends its like as soon as i get done with one thing and head onto the next i have to go back and redo it my boyfriend and my sister helps but it still seems overwelming we have six yes six kids between all of us please help

    Reply
  28. V.S. June 6, 2013, 6:49 pm

    Hmmmm….. the fact that you call Lady Gaga a freak in one sentence and then turn around and try to be all ‘pray to the Lord’ the next really annoys me. Just stop! If your going to call someone a freak, fine, but don’t try to be all holier than now in the article over CLEANING, it just comes off as trite.

    Reply
    1. Heather June 6, 2013, 7:52 pm

      I’m so sorry you feel that way. Do feel free to not read my blog anymore, since my writing so clearly rubs you the wrong way.

      I still think Lady Gaga is freakish, and it’s disturbing that she CHOOSES to present herself the way she does. That’s my opinion, just as your opinion is that my writing is “trite.” Furthermore, I’ll continue to pray about ANY area of my life, AND write about it here, because I pay for and maintain this web site, and that’s my option. I don’t expect you to agree, but if you have something more to say, perhaps you should consider getting your own blog.

      Reply
      1. Daisy July 11, 2013, 2:04 am

        @VS SHE IS NOT BEING HOLIER THAN NOBODY FOR EXPRESSING HERSELF ON HER CHOICE OF CLEANING MUSIC ARE YOU KIDDING EWWW .. BACK OFF

        @HEATHER YOU ARE AWESOME DON’T EVER STOP BLOGGING !!

        Reply
        1. Heather July 11, 2013, 2:10 am

          Thank you, Daisy. This response is awesome!

          Reply
  29. Brynn June 23, 2013, 3:15 pm

    Thank you for this post. The most helpful tip was to pray about it! I never would have thought of that on my own and it really worked. Thank you!

    Reply
  30. Diane August 2, 2013, 10:37 pm

    Upbeat music can really boost some energy with a little beat of dancing will set the mood!

    Reply
  31. Sharon :) August 6, 2013, 6:44 pm

    Thanks for the advise. I appreciate the pray comment. Please pray for me as I try and clean up after myself, two messy boys and a couple of puppies. I have a long job ahead of me. Thanks again.

    Reply
  32. Best Mom January 13, 2014, 2:40 am

    Fuck this. When did God become a He?

    Reply
    1. Heather January 13, 2014, 4:37 am

      God is referred to as “He,” and as “The Father” in the Holy Bible. Therefore I refer to Him as He, because I’m a Christian who believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.

      If you disagree, fine, but do NOT come here and spout off. It will not be tolerated because I’m not interested in listening to it, and I doubt that any of my readers are either. Intelligent people know how to disagree in a kindly-worded, respectful manner. Consider that the next time you get keyboard-happy.

      Reply
    2. Shannah March 22, 2014, 5:14 pm

      I hope your home is cleaner than youryoung, especially being that you are a MOM. GEEZ Way to ruin the positive thought on cleanliness is next to Godliness. She was trying to incorporate prayer into motivating someone today, and surely wasn’t your place to pass judgement on how she feels about our Father.

      Reply
      1. Shannah March 22, 2014, 5:18 pm

        sorry I meant to say I hope your home is cleaner than your mouth

        Reply
  33. Shanna January 16, 2014, 9:24 pm

    Thank you for putting this together. I was looking for a way to motivate myself to clean my apartment, and your blog both provided a much-needed review of how to motivate myself in general and taught me some new things about how to motivate myself to clean.

    I also really appreciated the thoughts about God being orderly and about the power of prayer in motivation. After all, what’s the point of anything we do in life without the Lord?

    Just one more thought, another motivation that I remembered after reading this that didn’t quite make your list: having someone to be responsible to. If you tell someone you’re going to do anything in a time frame, chances improve that you’ll do it. It’s even better if this overlaps with getting someone to help you clean, like you listed as a motivation. :)

    Reply
  34. Shannah March 22, 2014, 5:05 pm

    Great post I’d like to add a couple tips, open the windows and maybe the doors if you dont have pets that will get away, the natural light and warmth help, start from the right of the room and work your way around the room organizing using handy boxes to put outer room things in helping to keep you focused on one room until complete. It also helps to look at pictures of neatly decorated rooms in magazines or stopping by a model home really helps to inspire the cleaner in anyone. And I love making a list and checking one at a time it gives me the feeling of accomplishment. Happy Cleaning

    Reply
  35. Rheanna May 21, 2014, 4:50 am

    I thought I was the only one who could get motivated to clean from watching Hoarders. I feel so bad for them, but I don’t feel overwhelmed at all after watching it. And its true, getting started is the hardest part, if I can just get started it puts me in a cleaning mood and then its not hard at all. I think I am going to get on Netflix and watch Hoarding right now so I can get started on my guest bedroom!

    Reply
  36. Priscilla July 18, 2014, 5:20 pm

    Loved the article! Great advice. Enjoyed reading it. Thanks!

    Reply

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