How to Get Motivated to Clean When Overwhelmed by the Mess

Finding it hard to clean because you’re so overwhelmed by the mess and can’t find the motivation to get started? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Everyone gets overwhelmed by their clutter and the long list of house cleaning tasks at some point. 

Luckily there’s a way to get over the slump and get your home management to-do list done! Here’s the short guide for getting motivated to clean when you just don’t feel like it.

Shift Your Mindset to Get Motivated to Clean When Overwhelmed by the Mess

It may not seem relevant, but shifting your mindset is really the most important part of getting motivated to clean when you’re overwhelmed by the mess.

Some beliefs just don’t help you and make it nearly impossible to get caught up in housework, much less keep systems in place that keep things running smoothly. Let’s quickly talk about the mindsets that contribute to your overwhelm and burnout.

Shame, Guilt, and Comparison

Things like feeling guilty or ashamed of your messy house, not having motivation or self-discipline, and comparing yourself to a certain person or standards are common things to feel, but that doesn’t mean that they’re true or helpful.

In fact, they’re rooted in some kind of story that you, the people in your life, and society tell you. Let those mindsets go, choose a different belief, and shift your perspectives. 

On that same note, ditch the all-or-nothing mindset. Just because you can’t clean every room of the house doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tidy up one zone or one room, or even complete a single task. Small accomplishments lead to big changes over time. Choose to believe that there’s no shame in focusing on the small things first.

And when it comes to comparison? Yeah, that’s gotta go, too. Stop comparing yourself to your mother or sister-in-law, your friend, the organizing shows, and what your relatives or some book says you should be doing. None of that actually means anything because it’s all an illusion and doesn’t account for what really matters – you. Your priorities, your standards, and your mental well-being. 


Now let’s talk about waiting for motivation to get started. Truthfully speaking, you will never really feel motivated to do things you just aren’t interested in doing. You can shift your mindset, do the thing anyway, and gain momentum along the way. But nobody just wakes up after years of procrastinating and disliking home management to suddenly feeling motivated to do dishes and put away laundry. (I know. Bummer.)

If you’re waiting to feel motivated to get anything done and expect that motivation to come out of nowhere, you’ll be waiting forever. 

Realize that motivation doesn’t come first, but is created through momentum. You pick one thing that needs to be done, you find a way to energize yourself and make it a little more fun (put on some music and get an iced coffee, ya’ know?) and then you just do the thing. As you see the progress you’re making, the motivation will naturally flow. 


Progress takes patience, so if you’re looking to motivate yourself to clean when you’re overwhelmed by the mess, accept that things will get clean eventually and give yourself grace. Things didn’t get this cluttered and your to-do list didn’t get so long overnight, so you won’t take care of it all in one or two nights, either. 

Look at the bigger picture, reflect on the past months or years, and see the patterns and habits within your family that contribute to the mess. Just like progress requires patience, habits and patterns do, too. 

Giving yourself grace and being patient with your home management will help you feel more motivated, as well. 

Your Why

The biggest motivator aside from just gaining momentum is finding and reminding yourself of your why. Figure out why you want a cleaner house, why you’re dealing with the mess now, and how it’s going to impact the other areas of your life.

Will you feel less stressed, be more productive, and host events at your house for once? 

Focus on the feelings and environment that you want and why you want them. Before you get started cleaning, take some time and envision what your environment will look like and how you will feel when you’re done. 

If that still feels too overwhelming or farfetched, break it down and focus on the little things like an empty sink and clothes put away in their closets. Then just focus on your next steps to achieve those things (fill the sink with soapy water, wash and rinse one load at a time, and so forth.)

You don’t have to do all the things or finish the biggest task on your list to make a big difference in your home.

Get Strategic About Cleaning (Especially When You Don’t Feel Like It)

Once you shift your mindset, it’s time to get strategic. And yes, you need both mindset and strategy! 

This doesn’t need to be complicated – and shouldn’t be. Keep it simple and just come up with a loose plan to guide you through your cleaning session. Figure out the basics like which area you’ll clean first, who you want to help you, and how long you’ll spend cleaning.

After that, figure out what you need to prepare and how you’ll set yourself up for success. Do you need to put the baby in the high chair with some toys, gather your cleaning supplies, or eat a meal first? How will you set yourself up for success and energize yourself? Do you need to put on some music, open the curtains, or drink a big glass of water? Find what works for you and keep those ideas handy for next time!

Once you’ve decided what needs to be done and what you need beforehand, it’s time to block out some time in your day to actually do the cleaning. Don’t let the thought of scheduling scare you – just jot down a small chunk of time when you’re most likely to get it done and set a reminder for that time.

Start with five or ten minutes at a time if you can’t clean for longer periods of time yet, whether that’s because you’re overwhelmed or because your kids interrupt you. 

Then…just get started and get moving! Seriously – don’t overthink it or talk yourself out of doing it.  Just get started!

Evaluate and Plan for Next Time

Once you’ve cleaned and had some experience to go off of, it’s helpful to evaluate how your strategy is working and how you can plan for next time. How did this cleaning session go? What can be done differently and better next time? 

Then you can dig a bit deeper. What are some things or habits that need to change to prevent overwhelm next time? This will take some introspection.

You need to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, where you need support, where you thrive, and reasons why you put off cleaning or find it overwhelming. Things like having ADHD, depression, a busy schedule, or anything else should be considered so that you can understand yourself better and then make adjustments as needed.

It’s helpful to also think about your standards and expectations. Sometimes the expectations we put on ourselves and others aren’t realistic or healthy. The standards we hold ourselves to can be overwhelming and unrealistic, too. Taking things like this into account can really help you reframe your mindset and your priorities when it comes to home management. 

If you’re holding yourself to a standard that nobody can meet, you’ll always find it difficult to get motivated to clean (especially when you’re overwhelmed by the mess.)

Not because of the mess itself (though that can be overwhelming), but because in the back of your mind you’re thinking it’s never good enough.

So, while you’re evaluating how your current cleaning plans are going, think about how your standards and expectations are playing into how you approach your home management.  

Get Support

One of the best ways you can get motivated to clean even when you don’t feel like it is to get help and support. This can look like delegating trash to your partner, reading a cleaning book that will teach you how to clean better and faster, or hiring a cleaning service. 

Expecting yourself to handle everything on your own, all the time is not just unrealistic – it’s unfair. So if you need an organizing specialist or want to take a course to simplify your home management, do it!

Think about the season of life you’re in right now, your priorities, and what overwhelms you most. Maybe it’s not cleaning at all. The answer could be that you need more childcare, to have a hobby outside of mom life, and so forth. If you’re overwhelmed in any area of life, that exhaustion and stress will eventually spill over into the other areas, too. 

The Gist

If you’ve searched for all the tips, tricks, and hacks and still wonder how you can get motivated to clean when you’re overwhelmed by the mess…you’re not alone. It’s something that everyone faces, but not something that should hold you back. 

The best way to get motivated to clean when you don’t feel like it, is to just start. Motivation will come the more you make progress, and that’s especially true if you also shift your mindset following the tips from this post. It’s also helpful to come up with a flexible plan, block out some time, and evaluate as you go. 

If you’re still finding it too exhausting or overwhelming, get support.

Delegate some tasks to your kids or partner, take a cleaning course, find some cleaning schedule templates (like the ones you can find here in The Vault), hire a cleaning or organizing company – or just do the basics and call it a day!

You don’t have to do all the things, have an Instagram-worthy home, or follow the same cleaning plans as someone else. Find what works for you and your family, and just keep doing that. Then you’ll feel more motivated than ever to clean, even when the mess looks overwhelming at first.

Remember: you can do this!

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