Recipe for a Clean House

November 27th, 2013 | Posted by Alison Spath in Motivation

I love to live in a neat and tidy house, but naturally-neat-and-tidy I am not.  Items collect on our dining room table, clothes gather on furniture, colored pencils and drawings scatter like plastic bags in a windstorm.  In a perfect world I would stay on top it of regularly – but the reality is that I get behind and end up needing to devote time to picking up and cleaning.

I feel like the Slobbiest McSlobberson to admit this, so I take comfort in messy house memes because it leads me believe I am not alone.

Messy House Prayer

Promises, promises.

The problem I often have is just getting started, because once I’m in the groove, it’s all good.

Ingredients for Finding the Motivation to Clean

These three things work great for me:

A playlist of your favorite songs.

Music you like to workout to works great for cleaning – it’s especially helpful to crank up the volume.   If I’m working by myself, a podcast or audio book is good too.

Clothes to move in.

Get dressed to clean from head to toe!

A time limit.

Look at the clock and say to yourself: I am going to work until [15, 30, 60 minutes from right now] o’clock.  Even 15 minutes is a good place to start, especially if you know that you’re likely to keep going once you’re warmed up.  And if 15 minutes is all you have time for, then get to it and just remind yourself that done is better than perfect.

More Cleaning Done

(This is why the time limit thing works for me!)

Getting the Kids to Help

My tip for getting the kids involved is to threaten them give them very specific instructions on what they need to do.  If I just barked “help me clean up!” they will stand around not knowing what to do first or will get busy playing with some Amazing Grace toy that was once lost but is now found.

“Please pick up all your stuffed animals and put them in the crates.”

“Find all the books and put them back on the shelves.”

“Only pick up the toys you want to keep and I’ll throw the rest of them away.”

(I have totally said that in my Not-So-Proud Mommy Moments.)

The girls are definitely getting better at being able to see what needs to be done as they get older, but it took lots time, patience and infinity hours of specific instructions to get to the point we’re at now.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

Or NEAT.  I could spend an hour on a walk through my neighborhood, or I could spend an hour getting housework done – both help me feel good, but sometimes I need a clean house more than I need a walk.  With the right clothes and some good tunes, cleaning can easily feels like a nice, low intensity workout, especially when you shift your mindset to think of it as exercise.

Remove Distraction

I’m fairly sure that Newton’s first law of motion is: a person in motion tends to stay in motion until they hear the chime of their email notifier.  

I have been known to power down my computer so I’m not tempted to check email or scan Facebook when I’m feeling bored with the task at hand.  Whatever distracts you, get rid of it for a little while!  Silence your phone, tip over the chair in front of your desk, let your youngest child make a mess if it keeps him out of your hair while you’re cleaning up other messes.

Toddler Making a Mess

Whatever it takes.  Let 15 minutes of guilt-free chill time in front of your favorite distraction be your reward when you’re all done.

De-clutter on a Regular Basis

Reducing the amount of STUFF we have is a FlyLady tip that I love and it really does make it easier to tidy up in a relatively short amount of time.  (Although another look at the contents of our craft cupboard tells me there’s more de-cluttering to be done.)

An Attitude of Gratitude

This borders on corny, but if I ever catch myself feeling frustrated or resentful, I remind myself to instead feel grateful that I have a house to clean, a healthy family to pick up after and able body to get the work done.  It’s much easier to find joy in your work when you can re-frame it as something that you’re lucky to have and are able to do.

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5 Responses

  • Kimberly says:

    I can sooooo relate, Alison! I’d never heard of FlyLady but I just peeked at the reviews and they were great, so I’m going to get that book. As always, thanks for sharing!!!!

  • Aunt T says:

    After sharing Thanksgiving with you yesterday and saw how you get pulled three wonderful ways all day, it really took me back. And then after reading this post, our familial relationship is SO CLEAR to me. I could have written this post! It is SO me and how I did things as a young mother, and even as an older one. I actually enjoy cleaning when I get dressed for it, get pumped and put on my tunes! I feel like a whirlwind—-a little caffeine goes a long way as well. I laughed so hard to your term “amazing grace” toy—once lost and now found. You are a GREAT writer and I love you.

  • I completely agree on the time limit. I will set my microwave timer for 20 minutes and tell myself I can stop cleaning when it goes off. I almost always keep going. It’s the greatest tip ever.