The majority of us don’t wake up in the morning, throw off our covers, and say “I just can’t wait to clean today!” and get right to work. Most of us wake up and throughout our morning routine will say “oh, I need to get to that”, “I need to clean that”, or “I’m gonna tidy that when I’m done with work.” We then get carried away with other tasks of the day and by the time we have time to clean, we don’t want to. Particularly on days when my kids are home, the house looks like a tiny tornado went through it by naptime. When I finally get them both to sleep, the last thing I want to do is spend my precious quiet time cleaning.
But, as you have heard me say a million times before, doing a little every day, throughout the day, is always easier than letting it build up into a BIG task for another day. So, I’m going to share with you three simple steps to get instant motivation to clean.
Step 1. Change your thoughts: You’re never going to feel like it so you might as well do it now.
More than likely, when it’s time to clean, your brain is going to default to “NOPE, I don’t wanna do that”. Especially on days when you’re busy or exhausted. But, the fun thing is you actually have some control over your brain. You can tell it what to think. We don’t always give ourselves enough credit for how much control we have over the thoughts in our own heads. Your thoughts are very powerful, but you have some sway in reprograming them by being conscious of them and remembering you are the one who puts thoughts there in the first place.
Your brain has a default mode and a direct mode. The default mode is essentially for all of the things that happen on autopilot. Inhaling, blinking, and lifting your cup to your mouth to drink. It’s there because you need it. Your body has to do so many things every day that you can’t be actively participating in making those choices. But sometimes, even your THOUGHTS can end up in a default mode. If you think the same thoughts over and over, it can tell your body to put them on autopilot. So your brain will autopilot to that thought process.
Sometimes you need to change your thinking from default to direct. When your brain is in direct mode, you’re more deliberate and intentional with your thoughts and actions. So, when your default to wanting to clean is NOPE, you need to change your thinking.
In the book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman points out that we tend to phrase things in a limiting way. We’ll say “I just can’t clean right now” or “I’m too tired to do that.” Deep down what we really, more often mean, is “I don’t FEEL like doing these things”.
No one is physically holding you back from cleaning, it’s just that we really don’t feel like it because our brain has defaulted to “nope” when we wanna clean. We need to change that thinking. I remind myself constantly that I’m never gonna feel like it. Whenever I’m faced with something I don’t wanna do, like getting out of bed in the morning, doing the dishes, or cleaning up a mess–I can’t sit around and wait until I FEEL like doing it, because I never will. A lot of things you’ll NEVER feel like doing. As the famous artist, Chuck Close, once said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”
If you are avoiding getting started on a cleaning project because you don’t feel like it, remember that you don’t actually need to feel like it. Remind yourself “you’re never gonna feel like it” and then get going. And remember that YOU are in control. Instead of focusing on the mess or the amount of work you need to do, focus on the fact that you’re in control of this situation and you are the one that can make it better.
If you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, start small with a single area or room. That momentum will get you going, which brings me to your next step.
Step 2. Get your body moving: A body in motion stays in motion
Once you’ve shifted your thought process, the next step is to get moving. I always say “a body in motion stays in motion, and a body at rest stays at rest.” If you’re sitting down, relaxing, it’s going to be a lot harder to force yourself up to get cleaning or complete a task. But, a body in motion typically is easier to propel into further motion. If possible, I tackle cleaning tasks BEFORE sitting down to relax.
For example, if I just put my kids down for a nap, I’m not going to sit down and relax for 30 minutes before cleaning. I’m going to clean now while I’m standing up and already in motion, and relax after. It’s going to be a lot easier to do it now than to convince yourself once sitting down to get up and do it. Have you ever tried to will your tired body off the couch to do something boring? It’s nearly impossible.
Now, if you do find you’re already sitting and having trouble getting the motivation to get going, start by just standing up. Walk around the house, put on some music. Commit to completing a very small task. Prolonged sitting has been associated with a lack of motivation and general fatigue, so by just getting yourself up and moving, you’re breaking down that wall. Typically, good breeds more good. Once you’re up and moving you’ll find it easier to start tackling some of your cleaning to-do list.
Step 3. Change the narrative: You deserve to have a clean home
My last idea kind of goes off of the initial one of changing your thoughts to get you started. But this one is for the motivation to keep going and that’s to change the narrative. I heard Cas from Clutterbug talk about this once, she mentioned telling yourself “I deserve a clean house.” It switches the narrative of cleaning from a chore to an act of self-care.
I’ve heard people say to use the “I get to” mindset. Saying “I get to clean” not “I have to clean.” I get to clean because I’m lucky enough to have a home, and I get to do dishes because I have a family I love who was lucky enough to have food to eat. I think there is a really nice sentiment to this thinking–I’m all for daily gratitude practice so I think it’s a worthwhile mindset.
However, I don’t think it’s a super motivating mindset, especially if the tasks seem super daunting or really large. That’s why I love the “I deserve it” mindset. I deserve a clean kitchen to cook my dinner in tonight, I deserve clean clothing in my drawers when I go to get ready tomorrow.
I talk a lot about doing something the future you will thank you for. Putting out your clothing the night before so it’s easier to get dressed in the morning. Cleaning your kitchen sink at night so you get to walk down to a clean sink in the morning. Prepping food ahead so you don’t have to do it during the dinner time rush. Making your bed in the morning so you come home to a clean bed. These are acts of self-love. You do these things because you believe the future you deserves it. Remind yourself you’re doing this as an act of service to your future self. Personally, my love language is acts of service, so it’s the best thing I can do for myself!
There you have it. I use these tips for myself, particularly to clean, but for other things, too. When I’m feeling super unmotivated, or when I face something and I default to NOPE, these are the 3 tips that really work to get me moving. And, I’m always glad that I did, I never regret that I take the little bit of extra time to get the task done. I hope these tips help you, too.