20 Ways to Get Motivated to Actually Clean

20 Ways to Get Motivated to Actually Clean
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Let's be real: It can be very, very hard to get us to actually want to clean. But the truth is, there's nothing more calming (or satisfying) than looking around at an actually clean home. Although with kids, it's more like a "temporarily clean space that yes, probably still has little sticky bits somewhere in this room that simply could not be found this time around." It's such a catch-22 -- we love having a clean home, but we absolutely do not want to be responsible for cleaning it ourselves. 

When mama's short on time, cleaning cheats help us get way more done in just one stolen hour than we thought remotely possible. If an hour's all there is, it's still possible to get the house closer to clean. Thinking outside the box and using crazy cleaning shortcuts may also get the job done -- sort of. 

For anyone looking for a little retail therapy to get themselves into cleaning, try buying some fun tools to make life easier. Honestly, testing out a new gadget can be such a good investment in getting that cleaning motivation really going!  

One nice truth that doesn't sound really nice from the get-go -- but bear with us here -- is that there's something freeing about knowing that we don't actually have to like cleaning to get it done. And knowing that there really are some good ways to trick our brains (and bodies) into cleaning whether or not we are in the mood (which we hardly ever are).

  • Trade Off With Friends for a Cleaning Party

    Trade Off With A Couple Friends For A Cleaning Party

    Yes, these have to be really close friends because they're going to see all the mess and clutter -- but to be fair, with this plan, we see all the mess and clutter in their home, too. Trade weekend days, blast some tunes, and drink a beer or two -- it's being worked off anyhow. 

  • Download a New Podcast

    Download a New Podcast

    Podcasts can motivate us to do a whole lot -- exercise, go on long road trips, and yes, even clean. We really love Sawbones, a weekly, comedic podcast hosted by medical doctor and absolute delight Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband, podcaster and comic Justin McElroy.

  • Pick One 20-Minute Task Each Day

    Pick One Twenty-Minute Task Each Day

    Instead of doing a big clean at the end of every week or two, pick a different to do every single day. It involves a little discipline and the whole house is never 100% clean at once, which may be a dealbreaker for some people, but it's honestly much easier overall than setting aside all the time for one big clean. 

  • Send the Kids Out & Slap On a Face Mask

    Send The Kids To The Park Or Yard

    To clean out areas that kids would just make worse (we're thinking mom's bathroom and bedroom, specifically) that's a great time to send kids to the park or out to the yard with another parent, a friend's parent, or a caretaker. Do it with a face mask and add a little self-care to the routine.

  • Set a Smartphone Timer

    Set A Smartphone Alarm

    Set a timer and get going, knowing that the work can only last as long as the timer -- and that there's total permission to stop as soon as the alarm goes off. Of course, if inspiration strikes by then, go with it!

  • Make a 'Cleaning Dancing' Playlist

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    A good playlist always gets us moving -- and we really believe in the power of dancing to help us motivate to clean. We strongly recommend Lizzo's "Good as Hell" as an excellent song to get the cleaning-dance party started. 

  • Block Out Time on a Calendar

    Block Out Time on a Calendar

    For us, the only real way to get something done is to have it written down as a to-do list. We believe strongly in the power of the to-do, and if something appears on our calendar as a "this must get done," blocked-off item, whether it's a doctor's appointment or time to clean the kitchen, it actually happens. 

  • Start With a Big, Showy Task

    Start With A Big, Visual Task

    Organizing drawers can feel really rewarding, but once we're done with it, the space looks and feels the same. Start off cleaning with something big and obvious so it feels like a big impact, like tidying the living room.

  • Pick Out Some Organizers

    Pick Out Some Organizers

    It's hard to really clean and tidy if there's nowhere to put things back so that they can look neat. Open cabinets and shelving are popular, but they can add a lot of visual clutter -- consider cabinets with opaque wooden, plastic, or metal doors instead.

  • Start With a Less Awful Task

    Start With A More-Fun Task

    We absolutely can't stand vacuuming. Don't know why -- it's certainly less taxing than scrubbing floors with a mop and it's less gross than cleaning toilets -- but we'd rather do either of those two tasks than vacuum. Start with a task that isn't absolutely the worst to stay motivated.

  • Create a Reward Structure

    Create A Reward Structure

    Just as positive reinforcement works for kids, it also works great for us (and our partners ... and dogs, to be honest). Life is short, so why not reward ourselves with something we enjoy for cleaning? After putting in some good hours, we can give ourselves a treat like Chinese takeout for dinner instead of messing up the clean kitchen, or ask a friend, partner, or family member to take the kids out to the park for an hour or two so we can have a bath and a glass of wine.

  • Don't Stress Over Perfection

    Don't Worry About Making It Absolutely Perfect

    Perfectionism may not be the root of all evil, but it definitely is the root of all not-actually-getting-anything-done. Much like the 15-minute workout we actually cram into our schedule is better than the perfect hour-long workout we didn't do, a 20-minute clean of the living room that really happens is better than a ceiling-to-floorboard clean that didn't happen because there isn't time. 

  • Associate a Chore With a Small Treat

    Associate A Chore With A Small Treat

    One of the best ways to cut down on the hours spent on cleaning days is to just keep the place tidy to begin with. This is more or less impossible with kids, but there are some small ways to help -- and associating the act of getting a little treat (even something as small as pouring a morning cup of coffee) -- with a chore (for instance, emptying the dishwasher from the night before) can mean that that chore always gets done. 

  • Create a Chore Chart

    Create A Chore Chart

    Kids don't love cleaning their rooms or helping out around the house, it's true. But kids who learn to do their chores learn responsibility (and may even grow up to be kids who keep a clean house). Even kids as young as 4 can help with chores like laundry, picking up, and dusting.

  • Throw Out or Store As Needed

    Throw Out Whatever Can Be Thrown Out (And Store Whatever Can Be Stored)

    Clutter makes keeping surfaces and other spaces harder to clean (and makes cleaning them take longer). Spend the time to throw out all the nonsense that's taking up room around the house -- paper menus, plastic containers that don't have lids, whatever -- and box up stuff that should be kept but that doesn't need to become clutter (every single piece of childhood artwork, keepsakes). 

  • Break the Process Down Into Multiple Days

    Break The Process Down Into Multiple Days

    Having one big cleaning day is intimidating (and we want to put it off), but breaking it down into bite-sized pieces feels doable. Today we just have to clean the bedrooms? OK, that can be done! The downside is that there's never one whole day where the house is really clean, but how often does that actually happen with kids, anyway?

  • Switch Tasks When It Feels Good

    Switch Tasks When It Feels Good To Switch Tasks

    For full-on cleaning days, giving ourselves permission to switch it up -- even if we're only halfway done with a room -- can be really freeing. Are we just super kick of doing the bedrooms and are suddenly more in the mood to do the kitchen now for some weird reason? Yes? Go for it!

  • Outsource When Possible

    Outsource Whatever We Can Afford To Outsource

    If the family budget allows for any help at all with cleaning -- for instance, a cleaning service once a month, or even once every two or three months -- that kind of help with a true deep clean can be invaluable. It's not in every budget, but if there's a possibility of doing it even annually, it can be so great to have help with a true spring cleaning.

  • Try a New Scented Product

    Try A New Scented Product

    We know it sounds weird, but hear us out: Trying a new product that smells different from our old one -- or just adding a couple drops of essential oil to a vinegar-based DIY cleaning solution -- is a way to motivate to clean because the scent can be energizing!

  • Throw a Party

    Throw A Party

    The best way to motivate us to get the house into real shape? Throw a cocktail party (which is easy), a dinner party (harder), or a low key potluck ladies' night (super easy). No matter what kind of party we choose, we know we have to get the place clean before anyone arrives -- which is strong motivation and a deadline!

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