Too depressed to clean

When I first started UfYH, it was a housekeeping blog very squarely aimed at lazy people. Mostly because I am one. As the blog gained momentum, though, I started hearing from people who were using the fundamentals to help them battle through something more serious than laziness: mental illness. More specifically, depression.

Now, I’m no stranger to depression. I don’t make it a secret that I have issues with depression and anxiety, just like I don’t make it a secret that I have poor eyesight and a bum knee. Depression, however, has its own set of related life issues that my poor arthritic knee has never caused. And one of those is the self-perpetuating cycle of depression and a messy home.

When you’re in the midst of a depressive episode, cleaning your house comes in on the List of Things You Want to Do somewhere after taunting a hive of bees and tap dancing on live television. Things are awful. It’s a struggle to walk to the bathroom. Making dinner seems more impossible than advanced calculus. Anything that’s not your couch or your bed might as well be hot lava. And so the mess builds around you. I purposely use the passive voice there because when you’re depressed, it seems nearly impossible that you’re contributing to the chaos of your house, because that would require energy, and you sure as hell don’t have any of that to spare.

Then you look around your messy house. And you feel worse. You feel more depressed, because now you’re exhausted and hopeless and can’t pull yourself out of bed, and on top of that, your house is a shithole. Which makes you feel useless on top of everything you were already feeling, and then probably overwhelmed on top of that, and quite frankly, having that many feelings at once during a depressive episode is like being crushed by a ton of bricks. So your depression gets worse, and your mess gets worse, and the two keep feeding on each other and it seems like there’s no end in sight.

Here’s the thing: you can interrupt that cycle. It’s difficult to imagine, and it requires a shift in thinking, because when you’re depressed, you’re looking at big-picture stuff. And you sure as shit aren’t going to be able to clean your whole house, so why even bother, right? Wrong.

Take five minutes. Just five. Set a timer. If you’re on the couch or in bed, look to see the closest surface to you. It’s probably the coffee table or your nightstand. For those five minutes, just focus on that one surface. Clear it off, throw stuff away, maybe even dust it. So when your five minutes is done and you’re back in bed, you have one clear surface to look at. You have an accomplishment to focus on. You did something. You don’t have to do everything.

In fact, you shouldn’t do everything. On the flip side of depression, we have manic episodes. For many people, myself included, manic episodes often manifest as cleaning marathons. While you might think this is a great thing, because, hey, clean house!, manic marathons can be damaging in a number of ways. You’re exhausted at the end of it, what you’ve accomplished isn’t sustainable because you’re not doing any maintenance on the mess, you’re just whirlwind-ing your way through it, and your brain, on some level, associates cleaning with being sick.

So, five minutes. That seems easy enough, right? No? It seems completely impossible and unreasonable? I understand. No, seriously, I do. But just try giving me five minutes. And make sure you stop at the end of it. Who knows? You might feel so energized by having one clean surface that you want to keep going, and that’s great. But not right away. In an hour. Or tomorrow. Give yourself plenty of time to take a break. The only expectation you should have is getting through those five minutes, and having one surface cleaner at the end of it than it started out.

The one thing I hear over and over again from members of Team UfYH about their depression is that these tiny accomplishments give them something to be proud of. Something to be positive about. Something that reminds them that they deserve better, and that they’re the ones who can make that happen. Shifting your thinking for just five minutes, knowing that it’s this tiny little moment of time, can be enough to reach in and interrupt that cycle. Don’t misunderstand me: cleaning your house is not going to cure your depression. But depression and a messy home don’t have to go together. You can accomplish something. One surface is a pretty big deal. It’s change. It’s positive change. And it might help lead to more.

You can do five minutes. I promise.


The 2-Minute Rule I Use When I’m Too Depressed to Clean the Kitchen

Keeping things orderly is not my strong suit, especially when I’m dealing with depression. While all areas of my home suffer, no area suffers more than my kitchen. Dishes pile up, clutter is not organized and surfaces are not wiped down. Of course over time it only becomes worse, making it all the harder to find the motivation to get into cleaning it. I recently discovered a method that helps me to slowly get things into shape.

One day while staring at the microwave, counting down the seconds, I looked around and thought about how messy things were. Instead of continuing to stare at the numbers, I wondered how much I could get clean in the time I had left on the clock. I quickly filled up the dishwasher in those remaining seconds, and was amazed by how much I got done in the short window of time.

It was in this moment that my two-minute rule in the kitchen was born.

I decided any time I was in the kitchen waiting for something to be finished, I would use that time to speed clean. So whether I was waiting for the microwave, or my coffee to brew, I could slowly get things done, two minutes at a time. Two minutes sounds manageable when I am dealing with depression, and since I’m already in the kitchen, I don’t have to find the motivation to get up and get going.

If I spend 10 minutes in the kitchen over the day, that’s 10 minutes I can also clean. More often than not, I will go over my time limit, as once something is started it makes sense to complete it. This system isn’t perfect, and I never quite get to the very clean state I would like, but I am able to keep things at a somewhat manageable level.

If you would like to give this rule a try, here are some two minute kitchen cleaning ideas. These cleaning tasks can be done while waiting for the microwave, toaster, coffee machine, water to boil, the last few minutes on the oven, etc.

1. Load or unload the dishwasher.

2. Sweep the floor.

3. Wash counters, tables, etc.

4. Put bills and other papers in their proper place.

5. Place any trash in the garbage/recycling.

6. Start soaking dishes or wash as many as possible.

7. Put dirty dishcloths and towels in the washer, replace with clean ones.

8. Organize your junk drawer.

9. Make a list of kitchen items that are nearly out for your next shopping trip. (Dish soap, paper towels, plastic wrap, etc.)

10. Arrange your pantry, check for expired items and take note of any food you either need or have too much of.

I have found that my rule really helps me to keep things tolerably clean, which is good enough for me when I am in the middle of a depressive episode. I offer you my method in hopes that it can help you too, especially when you have low motivation or energy. Happy cleaning.

Oh hey

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Pin


I don’t even want to talk about how gross my house gets when I get depressed, it’s a whole other level of disgusting.

I’m messy all the time but usually, I spend a lot of time putting things away and cleaning.

When I’m depressed that goes right out the window.

Cleaning when you’re depressed can be incredibly overwhelming especially if you’re like me and give up on it.

It’s really easy to have a messy house when you’re depressed and you can quickly find yourself in a vicious cycle.

You stop cleaning because you’re depressed but then the dirty house makes you feel even worse.

Challenge yourself to break this cycle and do a little bit right now if you can only do something small that’s OK!

Instead of focusing on what still needs to get done celebrate what you are able to do.

Recently, I did a big declutter of my house and it really helped me feel like I was giving myself a fresh start.

You can check out my video about it below.

If you’re interested in more mental health resources be sure to check out my other posts on depression and subscribe to my channel on YouTube.


Clean the things that will make you feel better first. For me, it is the dishes.

This is the first area I give up on when my level of functioning is low.

I get sucked into a self-hate cycle of putting off the dishes and then feeling bad about it.

Plus dishes get gross the longer you leave them. If having your bed made makes you feel like a queen then do that.

Pick something that will make you feel good and clean that first.

When you’re depressed your energy is precious and you want to make sure you spend it on the things that will actually start to make you feel better.

Write a list of what needs to be done and then just pick one or two things and only focus on those things.

Do a Little

Do a little bit. You don’t have to wash all of the dishes.

Start with a few or even just one.

A lot of times I end up getting a lot more done than I originally planned on.

Sometimes the hardest part is getting started.

Pick something easy at first.

Clean off the kitchen counter, your desk, or divide your house into areas and clean a small chunk of it at a time.

Start with a corner of your room or one side of the kitchen.

If you can’t clean your whole house it’s OK.

When you’re going through a hard time the goal can be to get a little bit done to keep everything from getting out of control and making you feel worse.

You won’t feel this way forever and when you are feeling better you can tackle more of the cleaning.

Make a Schedule

Make a list of what you need to get done and then divide it up throughout the week.

Make sure you are being realistic about how much you can expect yourself to get done.

Write it all out and hang it where you can see it. I like to set reminders on my phone to help me remember.

Schedule the things you absolutely need to do each week and do your best stick to your schedule.

I have posted the mental health planner I use and you .

It’s really hard to remember anything when you’re depressed so writing things out is crucial.

I always forget basic stuff like what day the trash goes out when I’m depressed.

Don’t Be Hard on Yourself

If you haven’t cleaned in a month don’t expect to clean the whole house in one sitting.

You’ll probably have to do small chunks but that’s OK.

Don’t compare yourself to what others are able to do or even compare how your house is now to how it was when you weren’t depressed.

Not everyone is managing mental health issues.

You are dealing with something difficult and it makes life hard sometimes, just do the best you can.

Beating yourself up is only going to make you feel worse and make it even more difficult to clean.

If you need some encouragement, check out the pep talk for when everything sucks that I recorded on the podcast.

Use Affirmations and Mantras

Pick an affirmation and try saying it out loud or writing it down.

Hold it in your mind and use it to give you strength and energy.

You can see some of my favorites affirmations in this post.

If you need even more inspiration, I have a Pinterest board of affirmations.

Affirmations can help you replace the negative thoughts in your head with positive ones.

Your subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between someone saying mean things to you or your own mind telling you negative things.

All it hears is a voice saying “you are useless” or whatever it is.

You want to feed your subconscious mind positive thoughts and that’s where saying affirmations can help.

Pick a few that resonate with you and say them throughout the day.

Pump the Jams

Play music that will put you in a good mood.

I like Beyonce but it can be whatever motivates you.

Google Play has a radio station for literally any mood you’re in. I’ve really been liking the indie disco station.

They even have a clean the house radio station here.

Putting on music can help elevate your mood so you can do a couple of the tasks on your task list.


Focus on what you’ve accomplished instead of what is left to do.

Any bit of progress can be a win. Just do a little bit and then rest or do more if you’re up to it.

Recognize you’re doing something hard and you’re strong. Getting down on yourself isn’t going to help anything.

Focusing on success is the key to cleaning when depressed.

After you do a task or two reward yourself with a TV show or your favorite snack.

Don’t expect yourself to clean the whole house and celebrate any small victory that you have.

Set a Timer

Decide to clean for a certain amount of time.

Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and see how much you can get done in this time.

Sometimes it’s easier than trying to go task by task.

When I find myself sucked into Netflix and/or the couch, I set a five-minute timer between episodes to clean the house.

This helps me feel like I am accomplishing something and keeps me from laying on the couch for hours on end.

Cleaning for a small amount of time can help you get motivated to clean when depressed.

Hire Help

I personally have never (and still can’t) afford a housekeeper but if you can afford it you should absolutely do it.

You’re going through something difficult so take any help you can get.

You’re getting something done that you need to have done and you’re helping someone else make money.

It’s a win-win. Everyone needs help at certain points in their life and there’s nothing wrong with asking or accepting help from others.

I am a huge advocate of going to therapy and if you’ve been struggling with depression I urge you to talk to a Doctor and a therapist.

Getting a good therapist and getting on medication completely changed my life for the better.

I will always be thankful I finally took the steps to get help and I hope you will do the same.

I hope these ideas help you get motivated to do some cleaning when depressed.

Remember that it’s OK if you can’t clean your whole house and your main priority right now should be on improving your mental health.

Everyone has hard times at some point so don’t feel like anything is wrong with you if you’re struggling right now.

If you’re looking for more articles about living with depression check out some of my other posts here.

Want to save these tips for later? to pin this post to your favorite Pinterest board!

I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. If you are suffering from a major disorder and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price. This post contains affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure policy here.

Radical Transformation Project is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

6 Ways to Clean House When You’re Depressed

One of the key signs of depression is when you suspend taking care of day-to-day chores, like cleaning your house. Depression leaves you feeling so down and tired that you just let things go. Unfortunately, a messy house can add to those feelings of depression — creating a destructive cycle that feeds on itself. Once the mess gets too large and chaotic, people with depression can’t imagine how to begin tackling the household duties. They feel hopeless and helpless against the clutter and dirt, which reinforces depression.

How to Keep It Clean When You’re Depressed

A recent study found that performing at least 20 minutes of daily physical activity, including domestic housework, benefited mental health and lowered risks of psychological problems. Don’t let depression force you to live in a messy house. Here are some ways to cope:

    • Break it up. Devise a schedule so you’re only cleaning one or two rooms every day vs. having to clean an entire house, which can seem like an enormous and daunting task.
    • Clean as you go. Sometimes keeping your house clean is as simple as not cluttering it up in the first place. Wash your dishes right after using them, rather than letting them sit in the sink, and store your tools once you’re finished with a project. By putting things away right after you’ve used them, you can prevent clutter from occurring in the first place — or from getting even worse.

      You can get further ahead by taking care of chores that will prevent dirt and grime from forming. For example, brushing your dog or cat once a week cuts down on all the tumbleweeds of fur rolling through your house, which you’ll eventually have to vacuum.

    • Don’t procrastinate. When you have depression, it’s easy to shrug chores off and say you’ll do them later — fight that urge and live in the present. If you take care of things now, it will cut down on the time and effort needed to clean up after the fact. Wiping up a spill right after it occurs is a lot easier than scrubbing a hardened, crusty stain once it’s dried. Depression might make you feel sad or sluggish, but taking care of these little tasks can offer you a sense of accomplishment and pride.
    • Store your cleaning supplies wisely. Not being able to find the necessary cleaning products gives you a chance to throw up your hands and say, “Why bother?” Don’t become frustrated — make sure you have what you need close at hand. Keep bathroom cleaners in the bathroom and kitchen cleaners in the kitchen. If you’ve got hardwood floors on the first floor and carpeting on the second floor, store your vacuum cleaner upstairs for easy access.

  • Pay attention to busy areas. If you’re feeling particularly tired or depressed, focus on cleaning the rooms where your family spends most of its time. Vacuum well-traveled hallways or clean up clutter in the kitchen and living room. Spend your energy where it will do the most good.
  • Rope your family in. Why should you have all the fun? Give family members specific housekeeping tasks to complete. Be sure to let them know that by helping with the housework, they are helping you cope with depression.

Keep in mind that things may not be bad as you think. Eighty percent of people with depression improve with the proper treatment, often within a few weeks. You don’t have to resign yourself to a messy house while you deal with depression — by getting your home in order, you will also rid yourself of a source of stress.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Messy teens are an adolescent stereotype. Refusing to keep their room neat is often a way for teens to claim their space and declare independence from their parents. However, a messy teen bedroom can also be a symptom of a mental health disorder. In some cases, when a teenager has a messy room, depression may be the underlying issue.

One out of every five adolescents suffers from depression. And depression brings with it a wide range of symptoms.

What’s the messy room–depression link? Here’s how the symptoms of depression can lead to teen messiness.

  • Exhaustion and constant fatigue are red flags of depression. These symptoms leave teens with no energy or motivation to clean their rooms.
  • Depressed teens often avoid social situations. That means they’re spending more time in their rooms, leading to more mess.
  • A sense of despair, sadness, and hopelessness often comes with depression. As a result, teens may feel that there’s no reason to expend effort to keep their personal space neat and organized.
  • The physical symptoms of depression include unexplained aches and pains, headaches, and stomach problems. Teens suffering from these issues are unlikely to prioritize room cleaning.
  • Having a hard time concentrating is another symptom of depression. This lack of focus can make it difficult for an adolescent to stay on task and get their room cleaned.
  • Feelings of failure and self-criticism typically accompany depression. Hence, teens might feel that they don’t deserve to have a clean, organized room. Living in a messy space might be a subconscious way of punishing themselves.
  • Binge eating and other disrupted eating habits often accompany depression. If teens are holed up in their rooms, snacking late at night or throughout the day, messiness is unavoidable.

Mess and Stress: How Clutter Affects the Brain and Nervous System

The messy room–depression cycle goes both ways. Hence, not only does depression result in teen messiness, a messy room can create stress and other negative emotions.

Studies have shown that clutter produces anxiety and can make people feel depressed. One study of mothers living in cluttered homes found that they had higher-than-average levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Thus, living in a messy room means that a teenager’s nervous system is always in a state of low-grade fight-or-flight.

Research using fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging) has found that disorganization and clutter have a negative impact on the way our brains work. Moreover, messiness also influences our emotions, behavior, relationships, and even our eating habits. Research shows that we’re more likely to eat junk food when we live in a chaotic environment.

As a result, clearing clutter from our environment helps us focus better, process information more efficiently, and increase our productivity. In addition, tidying up helps us feel less irritable and distracted, studies show. Hence, the act of cleaning can help reverse a bad mood.

The Japanese Art of Tidying Up Addresses an American Epidemic of Clutter

Unfortunately, most Americans are weighed down by clutter and the stress it creates. For their book Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, a team of researchers visited the homes of 32 typical middle-class families in Los Angeles. And they found that most had far more possessions than they needed or used. In the first house they went to, researchers counted more than 2,000 items in just the first three rooms.

The author and television personality Marie Kondo has an approach to clearing clutter that she calls the KonMari method. Here’s how she directs people to decide what to get rid of: Pick up an item and ask yourself, Does it spark joy? If the answer is yes, keep it. If no, thank it for serving you, and send it on its way to the dump or a donation center.

Since Marie Kondo’s reality show premiered on Netflix in January 2019, more Americans have been inspired to start clearing clutter in their homes.

Clean vs. Messy Room, Depression vs. Well-Being

How to get your teenager to clean their room is an age-old dilemma for parents. But as we’ve learned, helping teens keep their rooms clean can support their well-being and mental health. So it’s worth the effort to help teens dig out of the old pizza crusts, wet towels, and piles of tossed-off clothing.

Here are five ways to help teens clean up and feel better:

  1. Make cleaning a family project. The whole family can help each other clean, one room at a time. Or each person can clean their own room, and then meet in the shared spaces of the home to continue the cleaning project together.
  2. Clean to music. Each family member can contribute favorite songs to create a playlist that will serve as the soundtrack for tidying up. No one’s allowed to stop cleaning until the music stops!
  3. Take it one step at a time. Encourage teens to set aside 10 minutes daily to clear out one area of their room. It might take longer before the mess is gone, but the process helps to build a regular habit of tidying up.
  4. Negotiate and collaborate. Even if a messy room is really out of hand, an adolescent might feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. Make a plan and offer to help. Start by determining what needs to be done and who will do what. For example, if your teen is willing to gather up dirty clothes and bring them to the laundry room, a parent might agree to do the wash.
  5. Inspire cleaning with some new additions. Incentivize cleaning by letting teens choose a few new items for their room once everything’s off the floor and bed. Adding a comfy chair, cool posters, or a bunch of colorful pillows might give teens more motivation to keep their space clear.

In conclusion, a messy room, depression, and teen challenges often go together. If teen messiness appears to be the result of hopelessness, lack of motivation, and/or social isolation, it’s time for a teen depression screening.


J Neurosci. 2011 Jan 12;31(2):587-97.

Psychol Sci. 2013 Sep;24(9):1860–7.

Environment and Behavior. 2016 Feb;49(2).

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2010 Jan;36(1):71–81.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012 Aug; 69(8): 832–841.

BBC Trending

Image copyright IMGUR

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not,” according to an often-quoted line by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

One depression sufferer has now used social media to open a window onto their secret sorrows, to show not only how the condition affects their life, but to also record a small, but significant, personal victory.

The person, who uses a strongly worded username, published two photos of their bedroom on the photo-sharing site Imgur, in a post titled “Me 1 – Depression 0!” – which were viewed more than 300,000 times in less than 24 hours.

The first photo – reproduced above – is the most immediately striking. Dozens of empty bottles of soft drinks are strewn across the floor. Several used cotton buds keep them company. In fact, very little of the floor can be seen. The bed, too, is occupied by clothes, papers and a lone teddy bear.

“I suffer from severe depression and have a really hard time with cleaning and doing other kinds of household work,” explains the caption. “My room have been this messy for several months because I can’t push myself to take care of it. But this Friday I decided to finally do it!”

The second photo is the “after” image and shows the results of three days of cleaning.

Image copyright IMGUR

“You can finally see that I have a floor!” they exclaim with pride.

“Say hi to my teddy Nalle on the bed! I know its not a big victory, but for me it means the world to just be able to have my door open if people come over. I feel so at peace right now, just wanted to share with all of you wonderful Imgurians.”

Many of the supportive comments below the post are from fellow sufferers. “As a person who suffers from major depression, this makes me happy 🙂 don’t let it win!” was one.

“This gives me the motivation to do the same, way to go!” one person commented. Another said: “I have been suffering from bouts of depression and dealing with an eating disorder and my place is in disarray. This in inspiring.”

However, others were less supportive. As we don’t know the identity of the user, their location, sex or age, some wondered if the room really reflected the throes of depression – or was more a mirror of the lethargy of youth. “Don’t worry I aint depressed and my room looks the same,” wrote one person. Another comment – by somebody who may have had messy teenage bedrooms in mind – posed the question: “Where is the line between depression and lazy?”

It’s not an uncommon question and not one posed solely by unsympathetic bystanders.

Type the words “lazy or depressed” into Google and more than a million results pop up. There are also several discussions on depression forums on how to self diagnose if one is unmotivated or clinically depressed.

The user – who BBC Trending has approached for comment – is certainly not alone in sharing how their depression has manifested itself in domestic chaos.

There are several social media pages where sufferers convene to speak about the cycle of messy homes and depression.

Users on the website Squalor Survivors also share images of their homes and post stories about their mental health.

Image copyright Squalor Survivors / Kimmy

For information on the symptoms of depression and treatment in the UK, visit NHS Choices

Blog by Megha Mohan

NEXT STORY: Why are some of China’s happy couples getting divorced?

Shanghai couples rush to split up in the hope of buying more property. But need they have bothered? READ MORE

You can follow BBC Trending on Twitter @BBCtrending, and find us on Facebook. All our stories are at

You’re busy, things pile up until you can’t stand it or all of a sudden you have company coming over — and you have to do something about it right now. Then you go into a mad dash to clean everything. And you hate every minute of it. Does this approach to cleaning house sound familiar?

You’re not alone. “Most people want to clean as infrequently as possible, so that translates to ‘I’m going to do everything all at once,’” says Rachel Hoffman, author of Unf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess. The thing is, marathon cleaning is the worst possible approach.

It’s a matter of shifting focus from ‘this entire place is a disaster’ to ‘those are dishes, I can deal with those.’

But why? “Once you’re done with that marathon, sure your house is clean, but you’re exhausted and probably frustrated,” Hoffman tells NBC News BETTER. What’s worse, “you are now associating having a clean home with all of the stress that comes with marathon cleaning. it might be a good time to say ‘keep up with it now,’ in the back of your mind you say ‘that was terrible,’ so you have all these negative associations with cleaning.” And these sentiments likely echo earlier associations, she says. “How many of us when we’re kids, you have this trashed room and cleaning it is a punishment?”

No wonder the cycle continues to repeat itself.

Our Notions of Housekeeping May Be Unrealistic

Unfortunately, Hoffman says, conventional housekeeping systems are often written by and for naturally tidy people and people who don’t necessarily know how to reach someone who isn’t, she says. What’s more, they often make assumptions about the people using them.

“They own their house and live there with a nuclear family. might stay at home — there’s often a very traditional aspect to it,” she says.

While Hoffman doesn’t want to exclude anyone who matches that profile, “there are so many people who don’t fit into many of those boxes,” she says, “when you’re reading something that says ‘Tuesday you do xyz,’ and you’re like, ‘I’m at work till 8 and when I get home I’m exhausted.’ There are a lot of ways people are living their lives. For me ‘habitat’ is where you are, whether that’s a shared room or a dorm or a whole house to yourself. That’s your space and you deserve to love it. My goal is that every one of these people see there is a way to conquer your mess.”

And the way to do that, she says, comes down to a few key concepts.

Marie Kondo shows you how to organize your drawers

Nov. 5, 201801:39

The 20/10 rule

Start breaking yourself of the marathon habit, Hoffman says, by training yourself to do short bursts of cleaning followed by a break. “Set a timer. When it goes off, you stop and do something else. Sit down with cup of tea or take the dog for a walk or mess around on the internet. If necessary you get right back to cleaning .” That could be 20 minutes and 10 minutes, or five and 45, whatever it takes.

Ignore the big picture

The whole house is a mess? Forget about it. What can you do right now?

Get the better newsletter.

“I try to train people to refocus on the small things and how much of a difference they make when you’re doing them regularly and over time,” Hoffman says. “A lot of people look at the big picture and get overwhelmed. It’s a matter of shifting focus from ‘this entire place is a disaster’ to ‘those are dishes, I can deal with those.’ It’s a concrete, small thing you can deal with. This is a way for people to say ‘I can.’”

Make your bed

And those small things can start with just making your bed. Hoffman’s a huge fan of the childhood chore.

“The reason that’s a good idea is it’s a very small time investment,” she says, “but it immediately makes your bedroom look cleaner and neater. Even if you’ve got the floordrobe (aka a heap of clothes on the floor), if you’ve got a made bed it pulls things together a little bit. I know I’m calmer if I’m looking at a made bed rather than a messy one.”

Better still, “it’s easily repeatable so as you build that habit it becomes easier to build on and get new habits.”

How much of our mess can be just averted entirely by putting it away and not down?

Put it away, not down

There’s nothing new about this one, but for good reason. One of those new habits you build can be putting things away — straightaway. “How much of our mess can be just averted entirely by putting it away and not down?” Hoffman says. It’s another small time investment, just a couple minutes, she says, that can reap big rewards.

Do you know where your laundry is?

“When you wash things there are three steps,” Hoffman says. Her rallying cry, often seen in her social media challenges is wash, dry, and put it away. “Everyone forgets to put it away,” she says, so we end up with the “Big Rock Laundry Mountain.” If you’ve done a load of laundry or washed the dishes, it’s not done until they’re put away, she says. It’s all part of “training yourself to create a habit of putting things away before they can make a mess.”

Bribe as needed

Still can’t quite get going? How about a little carrot on the stick? “I’m 100 percent in favor of bribing yourself,” Hoffman says. “It’s absolutely the most effective way of getting yourself to do something.” Whether that’s a cup of special coffee or the next episode of whatever podcast or Netflix series you’re bingeing, it’s a thing you love that you can enjoy without guilt if you’ll just do this kind of unpleasant thing.”

If you’ve done a load of laundry or washed the dishes, it’s not done until they’re put away.

Step away from the phone — or at least swap Instagram for this tumblr

Hoffman has run a tumblr for several years where she reblogs readers’ before and after pictures. “The overwhelming response is, ‘OMG, that looks like my house,’” she says.

“At this point we’re really only seeing very, very carefully curated snapshots of people’s lives,” and that includes her own, she says. “If I’m taking a picture I’m clearing everything out of the background. If you went to wide lens you’d be horrified.”

The danger here, she says, is that “by constantly comparing our everyday reality to what other people are choosing to present it’s always going to make us feel inadequate because you think everyone else has it together.” In reality, she reminds visitors to her blog — who are all enthusiastically supportive of one another — “there are many, many many more people like us than there are like them.”

Now what?

If you’re raring to go, there’s no time like the present. “Go clear off a counter or a tabletop,” Hoffman says, “whichever one stresses you out most.” (And then maybe go have that reward!)


  • How often you should clean your home, according to science
  • The best spring cleaning products, according to the pros
  • Last minute guests? This is the one thing you should clean in every room
  • How often to replace everything in your bathroom, bedroomand kitchen

Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Share this Post

  • 404

Last Updated on August 26, 2019

Do you want more time to spend with your family and less time spent on trying to keep up with your house?

Do you cringe and feel like you have to profusely apologize when company shows up uninvited?

Girl, you’re not alone.

Life gets busy and sometimes things can get out of control; like, your house.

Do any of the below sound familiar? If so, this post is written specifically for you.

  • You’re in and out and only home long enough to make a mess and not get it cleaned back up.
  • Clutter comes in and nothing goes out. Dishes pile up faster than you can wash them. And the laundry pile keeps growing.
  • The amount of clutter and mess in your home fills your every thought and becomes a cause of anxiety.
  • You feel like your spinning your hamster wheels and know that there is more to life than trying to keep up with the house.
  • You feel like your house could possibly be on an episode of “Hoarders”.

Do you want to clean your messy, cluttered house, and keep it clean, but don’t know where to start?

When I say clutter and messy, I don’t mean you have a few things out of place or have a few dishes stacked on the cabinet that haven’t been put up from breakfast and it’s only 10 a.m.

I don’t mean the junk drawer that has needed cleaned out for the last 6 months. I mean “The Mess.”

You’re drowning in stuff; stuff to put up, stuff to make room for, stuff to get rid of.

I get it.

It can be exhausting to see “The Mess” and not even know where to start, it can be so big.

As a work from home, homeschooling mom of 4 kids the upkeep of my house usually comes last.

When my home gets to the point where picking up no longer helps, it’s time to do a deep clean and purge what we don’t use and what doesn’t have a place to get my house back in order.

I want to share some tips and advice on what I do when I get overwhelmed and stressed from “The Mess” and what you can do, because there has to come a time when you say, “Enough is enough, I’m not living in this mess any longer. I’m taking back my home.”

If your house is in a constant mess all of the time you should check out the Declutter Your Home Bootcamp by Tracy of Simple Living Country Gal.

There’s no reason for your home to be messy, embarrassing, and exhausting. You deserve better than that. Your home should be a place of rest and that’s just what Tracy gives you with her course.

The easiest way to clean your house when you’re overwhelmed by the clutter and the messes

The first thing you have to remember when your house is so messy you don’t know where to start is:

Everything has a place and everything in its place. Organization is key to a clean, tidy house. Grab boxes for items to store, a trash bag (or more) for trash, and make organization systems for stuff that stays in your home.

If you don’t know how to organize (because this is just not a strong suit for some people and that’s okay) find help.

Do you have a friend that looooves to organize? Your home should be ideal for her.

The next step after that would be to accept the help. If you’re anything like me it’s hard to ask for help and then it’s even harder to utilize the help. I want to do it all myself.

Utilize your help. Start with telling where one thing goes, then another, and another. Pretty soon you’ll be on your way to a clean home with the help of your friend.

Start small

When we try to tackle our whole home that’s cluttered it can be too overwhelming and we give up before we even start.

Sometimes starting small with something such as a cluttered corner or countertop or even a shelf helps tremendously.

After you get it done, it more than likely will inspire you to do more. Be careful and don’t try to do too much. Burn out can happen quickly.

On to the trash

Trash is the easiest thing to spot and grab and feel like your winning.

Take a sack, walk through the room, and start filling it up. After that, take a step back and notice the real difference it made. This will make you hungry for more.

Tackle one room at a time and one item at a time

Tackle the room that’s the most seen by visitors. It’s more than likely the room that gives you the most anxiety.

Find an item that doesn’t belong and put it up.

Then find another item and put it up.

Repeat until there isn’t any clutter left and everything has a place; a place either in your newly organized house or a place to go OUT of your organized house (in the trash or in the giveaway pile.)

Clean from top to bottom

Start at the highest area of the room (such as shelves) and declutter, then dust, and move down. Starting at the highest point will make sure you don’t have to clean the same area twice, such as when you’re dusting.

Don’t be afraid to purge

You have to break the emotional connection you have with your junk and clutter. Don’t be afraid to throw away or give away.

Purge, purge, purge, and then purge some more. If you haven’t used it in over 6 months you’re more than likely never going to use it. Give it away to someone who needs it and will use it.

Don’t worry about the money that you spent on it and wasting that money. It’s already wasted because your not using the item and it’s just taking up peace in your life.

I like to throw all the clutter in a pile in the middle of the room and start from there. This won’t work for everyone though. Depending on your personality, this could cause you more anxiety than you began with.

Get it out of the house now!

Get it out of the house as you clean. Don’t pile it by the door and hope to remember to grab it on your way out. Take it to the car now.

In my experience, the longer a bag of anything is sitting in your house the more tempting it is for the kids, husband, or even you to go through it and make sure there wasn’t anything put in there that they might possibly want in the future.

After it’s in your car, get it out A.S.A.P. Out of sight, out of mind. Don’t let it tempt you and don’t let it go from cluttering up your house to cluttering up your car.

Every time I go to town I like to take a bag or box to the donation box. If you’re like me and most Americans you’ve always got clutter and too much stuff laying around. You could probably do this too.

Create good clutter free habits and teach it to your kids

Create good habits that prevent clutter such as-

  • Taking care of mail as soon as it enters your house
  • Asking yourself if you can’t live without it. If not, throw it out.
  • Not buying more stuff than you need. Do you really need three of the same sweaters but different colors?
  • Not putting everything in its place when you are done with it. My family is the world’s worst at this and I’m right in there with them.

Teach these things to your kids. I asked a friend of mine who ALWAYS has a clean house what her secret is with 4 kids. She said, “I’m a nazi mom.”

She makes her kids clean up their messes and not leave anything out of place. She teaches them to keep a tidy house.

Keeping your home clutter free isn’t a big job it just takes discipline and perseverance. Take these steps one baby step at a time and you’ll be on your way to a clean, tidy home.

Is there something that’s keeping you from decluttering your home? If so, drop a comment below.

Funny Cleaning Guide for the Too-tired-to-care Mom

I used to adhere to strict sweeping and mopping standards. You could eat off my floor. It wasn’t required, but if you ever had to it would be clean enough. Those days are gone. Now, it’s literally a sweep of the foot and a wet washcloth to pick up leftover banana chunks from breakfast before one of three things happens:

A. The baby crawls by and decides to eat it as a snack four hours later.

B. The banana chunk slithers off by itself.

C. The banana chunk slithers off with the baby.

Substitutions or neglect are part of my current house cleaning policies, not because I’m a slob but because I’m too tired to care. Here’s a list of how my top house chores have changed since having kids:

As a general rule I don’t dust because I’ve always hated dusting. If the occasion calls for absolutely having to dust (e.g. we have guests coming or my dining room table resembles a petri dish growing a very dry, fur-like substance) I will use my hand or fingers to quickly clean it up.

Bed Making
If anyone questions the condition of your sheets I think a better question would be to ask them what exactly they’re doing in your bedroom.

You can’t fake vacuuming. If there’s cereal hanging out on the carpet there’s only three ways to clean it up:

1. Vacuum.

2. Crawl around and pick them up while the cat rubs against your head, because this is clearly the time for love.

3. Step on the cereal grinding it back into molecular form.

Dish Washing
Somewhere along the way I moved into a frat house consisting of one male adult and two tiny people that generate so many dishes they have to be done daily. I use the term “frat house” because you wouldn’t believe where and how I’ve found some of these dishes.

Bathroom Cleaning
The sad reality is if someone didn’t poop in the bathtub it usually gets pushed down the list. Note: The pooping in the tub only applies to toddlers. If you are not a toddler and you poop in the tub, you have bigger concerns to contend with than simply cleaning it up.

I have started loads of laundry and consciously made the decision to not follow through to the drying and folding stages. It causes a pretty massive pile up of laundry called: laundry castles.

Here’s how this happens:

Step 1: I ambitiously start the laundry with the washer.

Step 2: Once the cycle is complete I move the clothes into the dryer for sixty minutes.

Step 3: Once the dryer is finished I add another hour.

Step 4: Once that hour is up I add thirty more minutes or however much time it takes to conveniently forget there’s clothes in need of folding.

Step 5: The next day I ambitiously start the dryer again to de-wrinkle the clothes.

I repeat steps 3-5 as many times necessary until no one in the house has anything to wear but mismatched socks.

If you have children or have been around any then you know they leave a wake of destruction in their path – usually in the form of mashed snack foods and toys. Childcare has less to do with taking care of a child than it does taking care of the mess your child has made.

I don’t consider cooking housework because the only cleaning required is after it’s all done. This is also known as “doing the dishes.” If you were hoping to read what I had to say about this, you’re going to be pretty disappointed; much like how my husband is pretty disappointed when he comes home and dinner still isn’t ready.

Christina is a stay-at-home mom who lives near Denver with her husband, two daughters and a cat who’ll never forgive her for having children. You can find her lurking around at:

Author: Guest Blogger

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *