Each person is different, so what causes someone to not clean their house thoroughly- or not be able to KEEP it clean- can vary from person to person.
But chances are you’re experiencing 1 or more of these 4 obstacles if you find yourself wondering why your house is so messy.
(Below you can read the post or play the podcast version- about 17 mins.)
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For years I struggled with maintaining my home. I constantly felt like my house was a disgusting mess. I remember thinking, ‘No matter what I do, my house never looks clean.’
And I didn’t understand why it was so hard to keep my house clean.
Now I’ve finally realized what I needed to change to get and keep my house clean. And I’ve been able to identify 4 of the most challenging obstacles that can stand in the way of a clean home, as well as what can be done to overcome them. So here they are.
Becoming skilled at cleaning when your house is a mess means you’re starting at a higher level than your skills are at.
This is different than how we learn other life skills.
Imagine, for instance, you wanted to learn an instrument. At a beginner’s level, you don’t start by learning complicated songs a professional would play in an orchestra.
But if we don’t naturally have amazing cleaning & organization skills, especially when it comes to being able to maintain a clean environment, and our house is a mess, it’s like we’re starting out with beginner skills at a level 20 challenge when it comes to cleaning.
Many people who have a hard time getting their house under control are starting at a way more difficult ‘cleaning level’ than the people who have developed really good cleaning skills.
And let me just clarify what I mean by the term ‘cleaning skills.’ I don’t simply mean knowing how to clean or being able to clean.
Even as a child, I knew how to clean things. I even had a couple of cleaning jobs as a teenager that I did a good job at.
But I didn’t have cleaning skills in the sense of being skilled at maintaining a clean home environment. There is a huge difference in having the ability to clean and actually keeping things clean and clutter-free.
Focus on one small area at a time instead of the overall room or mess.
For example, when I finally started a cleaning routine that worked, I’d focus on one counter-top or surface. I’d clear off unnecessary clutter from that one area and clean it, before moving on to the next surface/area in the room.
This helped me to actually make progress in one area at a time, even if that area was relatively small versus running back and forth trying to clean different areas of the room, tiring myself out, and not really accomplishing anything.
So my suggestion is to use a cleaning checklist. And you can then gradually clean each room, one smaller area at a time.
If you feel like you’re at a disadvantage with a messy house and don’t know where to start, you can download my free daily routine cleaning checklist. I designed this based on the strategy that saved the state of my house after years of a cluttered mess.
I used to feel like I didn’t have time to clean.
And granted, it takes purposeful effort to make sure I do get my cleaning routine done every day. And yes, there are some days where I don’t get through my routine in full.
Update 10/22/2020: I purposely do my cleaning routine 6 days a week. I take a break from my cleaning routine on Saturdays.
I’ve learned that for those 6 days, telling myself that I don’t have time to clean is not based on facts.
When I first started my cleaning routine, despite my house being not under control in the beginning, once I used the routine, I actually didn’t really spend any more time cleaning, as I began to get & keep my house under control, than I did when it was a total cluttered mess.
I simply changed my focus from cleaning up things that couldn’t wait any longer/disaster areas to maintaining areas I already cleaned. And then I’d make more progress in my house.
Simply use a daily routine, commit to maintaining areas that have already been cleaned, and then make more progress.
Because it takes a LOT less time to maintain rooms you cleaned yesterday versus a room you haven’t done anything in for a week, you likely won’t be spending any more time cleaning than you are now.
The truth is: I used to spend the same amount of time maintaining a cluttered messy home as I do now maintaining a much cleaner one. And it’s all because I changed how I go about it and what I do in my daily cleaning routine.
If you want to learn more details about the big cleaning mistake I used to make and how I made adjustments, check out the House Gone Sane Podcast or Post Episode 1.
Something no one really thinks about is that a mess will always cost you time. Believe it or not, wasted time is actually one of the negative effects of having a cluttered house.
For one thing, you likely will lose things more often.
When I have all of the surfaces cleared off in our house except for a few items on top of each one that are supposed to be there, we don’t have to spend 20 minutes looking for the car keys.
If someone puts them on a desk, instead of the key hook, they aren’t buried in a pile of clutter. They’re in clear view.
Something I realized after getting my house under control was that I’d wasted time ‘mentally cleaning.’ Every time I’d walk by something and remember how it needed to be put away or thought about how I needed to clean this or that, I was mentally cleaning.
And I was spending more time mentally cleaning than actually doing the work.
Please don’t spend more time thinking about doing something or dreading doing it than the time it actually takes to do it. That is wasted time, my friend.
Now that my house is under control with my daily cleaning routine, I now have more time for other things I need/want to do.
One of the challenges for maintaining a clean house is when other people are adding to the mess. This is especially difficult to deal with when your house is already out of control.
There are 5 other people living in my house, 4 of which are kids. So I get it.
I used to feel that as I cleaned one area, the 4 kids were just flinging items in different directions all over the rest of the house.
And how could I possibly keep up with that?
I’d get frustrated at everyone in my house for contributing to the mess and for not helping as much as I thought they should. But this really just made me irritable, and it wasn’t constructive.
The most important thing you can do when you’re living with other messy people is to focus on what you have control over.
I can control my daily routine. And I can follow through on making sure the kids clean up their rooms and do chores they’re responsible for.
But I can’t prevent every mess they make.
I can ask my husband where he wants certain items. I can ask him if it’s okay if I store certain things of his in certain places. And I can choose to put away his items that have a designated spot.
But I cannot control whether or not he picks up after himself immediately, what things he chooses to keep, and where he chooses to keep things within his own space.
And while I can respectfully ask, I can’t demand he clean what I want him to- or when I want it done. I also don’t try to organize things he wants to keep within his storage space, even though I don’t like how they are. But that’s okay.
Having designated areas in the house for each person to store their own things in, can go a long way. For our family, these areas are generally located in furniture & storage space within our individual bedrooms. They are generally not in the main areas of the house.
And real quick- just to clarify- by ‘main areas of the house’, I mean rooms that are shared space, like our living & dining areas, the kitchen, bathroom, etc.
Now let’s be real. Every day I find personal items belonging to my husband and kids while I’m doing my daily cleaning routine. (And to be fair, I find my personal items too. It’s not just them.)
But when I come across my family’s belongings during my routine, I simply put these items back in the kids’ bedrooms or within my husband’s space.
In rare cases where it’s something important someone might look for, I’ll let them know where it is. (But most times, these are not life-changing items.)
If I find an object belonging to a child and they are present then, I may ask them to grab it and put it away. But when they aren’t right there, I just quickly put it in their room or with the toys, etc.
Something you can do if you have kids and are feeling overwhelmed by them messing up the house while you’re cleaning, is to clean when they’re asleep or when you’re home by yourself. That way the house isn’t getting messed up as you’re cleaning.
Now with our kids that are old enough, I do have them help out with certain chores in addition to cleaning their own rooms. But I still do my own cleaning routine in the main areas of our house, and within my bedroom that I share with my husband.
2 of our kids are toddlers, so I find it helpful to do my cleaning routine while they are asleep. I get done a lot faster when I do it this way.
I am just going to be honest right now, that I am not a ‘clean as you go’ person. I’d love to be able to do that one day, and for my house to just always look totally spotless. But right now, I cannot possibly keep up with every toy on the floor, dish in the sink, or crumb on the table as soon as it happens. And I just can’t spend all day cleaning.
So at this time, I’ve found a better method is to just do a daily routine. Even later in the day on days I do my routine, my house still looks relatively decent. This is even after any added mess since doing my routine for the day.
And I usually, (not always, but usually,) do my routine in the mornings.
I’ve had people stop by unexpectedly multiple times. And any day I’ve done my routine, I’ve never really felt embarrassed anymore.
When there are toys on the floor, I can literally pick them up before the person gets to the door.
Of course, if there’s a gross mess/spill or food all over the floor, those things I’ll clean up immediately. But in general I don’t re-clean things as I go.
I do my cleaning routine for the day. And that’s pretty much it.
I don’t put extra pressure on myself or get frustrated at my family for using the house. Once I’ve cleaned each room, I give myself permission to not worry about it until I clean again tomorrow.
Now if I have company over, I’ll keep the house looking as good as I can while they’re here. But worst case scenario, my house only has one day’s worth of mess.
This way it’s manageable, even with 6 people in our house. And the house generally looks pretty decent throughout the day.
I’ll try to have the kids included with an evening clean-up on days when it works out.
But even when we don’t fully tidy up at night, the house generally doesn’t look crazy or dirty. It just looks lived in, which it is, so that’s okay.
Update 10/22/2020: Podcast or Post #8 focuses on tips for dealing with the mess of family and kids and how you can get them to help.
Chances are if you naturally procrastinate in general, it’s going to affect your house.
Even the New York Times wrote this article discussing different studies on clutter, at least one of which found a connection to procrastination.
If you feel like a hopeless procrastinator, let me just share this real-life example of the low point of my procrastination.
Just so you realize that if someone like me can actually stick to a daily cleaning routine, well, you probably have like a much higher probability of success than I did.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, we were moving from an apartment to the house we’re in now.
Now most people fully pack before they move. Um, I was not even halfway packed on ‘moving day’, and I was pregnant… with a cold. I also had not asked anyone to help my husband & I move. And we know at least a few hundred people that live in our area.
My husband had one of his friends come over to help, and they decided to first move the fridge. In doing so, they dropped it down the stairs, and it was stuck in the stairway. His friend then had to leave because he had to be somewhere else.
Later, another one of my husband’s friends came to help and he really was a great deal of help. They got the fridge unstuck and loaded. But after we moved about 1/2 of our stuff in the moving van, we lost the keys to the van.
So, sick & pregnant, with some of our stuff still not packed, I proceeded to waste a few hours looking for the Uhaul keys. But we couldn’t find them that night.
My husband’s friend ended up finding the Uhaul keys the next day outside in the grass. But overall it was a total stressful disaster.
And I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, if I had been more organized, more prepared, and didn’t procrastinate with packing and arranged for the help we needed, we wouldn’t have had ALL that stress.
Even with added responsibilities and kids now, I manage my house/time much better than when I had less to do. I don’t manage these things perfectly by any means. And I still live with my natural tendency to procrastinate, but I’ve made some serious progress.
The reason I’m telling you this is that if someone like me who procrastinated so badly that I literally did not pack before we moved, then you should know, you can totally stop procrastinating too, at least when it comes to a daily cleaning routine.
The best thing you can do is to simply just make yourself clean even when you don’t want to.
Understand that the benefits of getting started now outweigh the reasons you want to wait.
Something that pushes me is knowing cleaning takes less time when I do a daily routine, as I mentioned earlier.
When I was younger, I did well in school, but I would always procrastinate with doing my homework. I would literally do it in the morning on the bus ride to school.
I’d manage to get it done just in time and turn it in. Whether I did it at night or in the morning, I had the same amount of homework. And it’d take the same amount of time to complete it.
But what if someone had told me, that if I did my homework as soon as I got home, it’d take half of the time? And that if I procrastinated it would take twice as long, and I’d get an extra page?
You better believe I would’ve stopped procrastinating and gotten it done early every night.
Because I wouldn’t have wanted to spend even more time doing something I didn’t want to do.
But here’s the crazy thing with cleaning procrastination.
When you don’t maintain the regularly used areas of your house daily, once you finally clean them, you’re going to have to take more time to do more work, than if you just maintained things on a daily basis.
I have been in the situation with a messy house as someone who procrastinated terribly. And now I have a relatively clean house, at least after I’ve done my routine for the day. So having done both, let me say that maintaining a clean house is easier, and 110% worth it. It actually doesn’t take any more time than when I was maintaining a cluttered mess.
Do I jump out of bed every morning singing a song about how I just love to clean?
No, and I probably never will.
But my house is manageable now. I feel comfortable in my home, find things I’m looking for, and I’m not mortified when someone shows up unannounced. Those are just some things that push me to do a daily routine when I don’t feel like it.
You have to figure out what’s important to you that will push you past any lack of motivation.
So those are 4 obstacles that make it hard to keep your house clean. By doing a daily cleaning routine, cleaning when you don’t want to, and focusing on what you have control over, you’ll be able to keep your house clean.
I wish you the best in your cleaning endeavors. I know that if I can get my house mostly together, you can too.
Download our free printable daily routine cleaning checklists. These will help you customize your own personal daily cleaning routine, and give tips for what order to clean things in different rooms.
The tips and suggested order of what to clean in each room on these checklists are based on the daily cleaning routine strategy I’ve used to finally get my house in order.
So make sure you grab the free daily routine cleaning checklists I’ve designed. I’ll also send you the link to my free resource library where you’ll find some other great home management tools.
Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by!
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