We all want a spic-n-span home with everything in its place — but between work responsibilities and endless duties on the home front, we don’t always have a ton of cleaning motivation. To the rescue: Top clutter-busting pros share simple ways to boost your tidying mojo in minutes, plus, tips to keep your home tidy so you don’t have to clean as often. Read on for their must-try secrets.
1. Watch someone else clean
Ugh, cleaning. Just seeing the word is enough to send shivers down our spine. That’s why making it fun is key to getting started. “Motivation to clean isn’t something that hits us out the blue — we need to create it ourselves, and the best way to do just that is by borrowing it,” declares organizing expert Cassandra Aarssen, host of Hot Mess House on HGTV and the Clutterbug podcast. “Hop on YouTube and watch someone else clean for a few minutes or look at a motivational video because other people’s enthusiasm is contagious and will help you feel excited yourself. When I watch Mel Robbins or Tony Robbins — any Robbins, really! — I feel their energy,” she says with a laugh.
Boosting your mojo with Team Robbins (either one!) is great, but an even more enjoyable way to ramp up your cleaning pep may be a bit, well, steamier: “When I listen to an ‘inappropriate’ romance audiobook, my brain shuts off and my hands and feet start moving without me even realizing it,” says Aarssen, author of The Clutter Connection: How Your Personality Type Determines Why You Organize the Way You Do..
To get inspired, check out the cleaning videos from YouTuber GoCleanGo — like this toaster-cleaning before and after!
2. Try the 5-minute trick
We tend to overestimate how long a chore is going to take, says Aarssen. “That’s why my mantra is ‘5 minutes matters.’ If I tell myself I can quit after that, I’ll get going and what usually happens is I don’t want to stop. Before I know it, I’ve gotten so much done and don’t even want to stop!” What’s more, she adds, “Even if I do quit, I’ve still made progress, and little wins make me want to go-go-go, whether I’ve accomplished everything I set out to or not.”
3. Let your senses inspire you
Another energizing way to help you breeze through to-dos is by tapping sensory motivation, suggests Dorothy Breininger, author of Face Your Stuff or Stuff Your Face and organizing expert for the hit A&E show Hoarders. “Pick one sense that most resonates with you because it’ll likely spark positive memories of cleaning and organizing that will inspire you today.” Here, how to use your senses to get motivated:
Tend to be visual?
For those who are drawn to bright colors and think in vivid pictures, Breininger suggests Googling images of a sparking bathroom or kitchen to engage your sense of aesthetics and spark motivation to clean. Visually creative people like you can’t wait to put the ideas they glean on Pinterest into practice.
Have a super sense of taste?
Just when you thought it was impossible to develop a taste for tidying: “Bite into a ‘clean,’ crisp, food like a celery stick or carrot,” suggests Breininger. “Note how they make your body feel good. The same principle applies to a clean home: it’ll improve your mental outlook.”
Warm to touch?
If everything from the embrace of a weighted blanket to the soft feel of your childhood teddy bear makes you feel instantly at peace, touch is your “comfort sense.” “Pull out a new sponge, a soft feather duster or a crisp dish towel and visualize cleaning your space with these tools,” Breininger advises.
Strong sense of smell?
She advises throwing open the windows, even on a brisk day, because the smell of fresh air will awaken your brain and spur your body to get moving. “You can also grab a scented cleaner or your favorite essential oil and spray it to signal to your brain that it’s time to clean.”
Sensitive to sound?
For you, there are few things more motivating than a curated cleaning playlist. A few of Breininger’s top spic-n-span-spurring songs: “Cleaning Windows” by Van Morrison, “Happy Working Song” from the Disney film Enchanted; and “So Fresh, So Clean” by Outkast.
4. Picture the future you
Often when we’re stuck in a clutter rut, the real reason we’re procrastinating goes deeper than we first realize. To uncover what’s truly holding you back, decluttering pro Kerri Richardson, bestselling author of What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You and From Clutter to Clarity, suggests picturing the future you. “Imagine you’ve finished cleaning — what is the next thing you see yourself doing?” she says. “For example, once you’ve tidied up, you might be expected to have company over. Introverts will often use clutter as a boundary, so they don’t have to confront difficult people or let them know they just need time alone to recharge.” If this sounds familiar, consider having an honest conversation with a few people in your life and setting limits. Being open with them removes the need to use clutter as a “moat” to keep people out.
Your case of delays could also be keeping you from starting an exciting new chapter. Richardson recalls a client who was looking for a job, but a Mt. Everest-sized mountain of papers on his desk kept him from searching in earnest. “He would say, ‘As soon as I clean my desk, I’ll send out resumes.’” But after reflecting on the real reason for delaying his job hunt, he realized he no longer liked his line of work, and his paper pile was just a barrier keeping him from facing the truth. “As soon as he admitted to himself that he wanted to go in a different direction, he cleaned his desk in 20 minutes.” The empowering takeaway: “No matter your situation, get curious instead of self-critical.”
5. Go on a trash treasure hunt
As you begin to tackle boxes, piles and stacks, look only for items you’re ready and willing to part with, urges Richardson. “They may truly be trash, but they may also be things you can donate, sell or give away,” she says. “All that matters is that there is no question in your mind as to whether you want to keep it: You’re happy to see it leave your house.” When you remove the pressure of having to make decisions in the moment or needing to find a “home” for every item, it becomes so much easier to focus and stay motivated.
Promises Richardson, “Regardless how seemingly insurmountable the job, every time I’ve challenged a client to go on a ‘trash treasure hunt,’ they’ve been able to get started on a task they’d been avoiding for years. Simply taking that first step allows you to immediately reclaim power over the once daunting chore. It can even begin to feel, dare I say, doable!”
6. Recruit an accountability partner
Picking a specific date and time to clean is like having a starting and finishing line at a race, says Breininger. “Tell a friend you’re going to tidy X space for 20 minutes and that you’ll call her afterward.” Just knowing you have this to look forward to makes you much more likely to follow through. “I personally dread going through old papers at the end of the year, so I let my friend know I’ll be shredding taxes on Sunday and will call her when I’m done,” Breininger reveals. “We’re always playful about it: This year, she asked me what I’m going to wear to my ‘shredding party’ and joked that she was going to give me a medal.”
7. Grab your tidy tote
A simple way to put cleaning and organizing on autopilot so you don’t need motivation? Just pick up a laundry basket, cloth tote or cardboard box and quickly walk through your house once a week, suggests Aarssen. “As you go from room to room, toss everything that doesn’t belong in that space into your ‘tidy tote,’ like your grandson’s toy on the living room floor or papers on the kitchen counter. The one ‘rule’ is that you have to empty the tote before you’re done.” She’s quick to add that this isn’t a “doom box,” as there’s no need to stress yourself out by pinpointing the specific drawer or shelf for orphaned items. Just quickly stick them in the room where they belong and put them away later when you have more time. “This strategy makes tidying so much faster.”
8. Put your plan on a ‘playing card’
Once your system is in place and it feels automatic, consider jotting it down on a 3×5 index card, suggests Breininger. When it comes to cleaning the bathroom, for example, you might break it down by time limits:
- Step 1: Spray tub and shower, 6 minutes
- Step 2: Scrub toilet, 4 minutes
- Step 3: Wipe sink, 3 minutes
- Step 4: Shine faucet: 1 minute
- Step 5: Wipe down mirror, 3 minutes
- Step 6: Reload toilet paper, 1 minute
- Step 7: Mop floor, 3 minutes
TOTAL: 21 minutes
“Including the how much time each step takes helps you stay motivated and the card itself makes to-dos easy to share — just give it to family or send it to them on your phone,” says Breininger. After all, the ultimate measure of a successful tidying routine is that it can be outsourced to loved ones, allowing you to spend less time cleaning and more time relaxing.
For more cleaning tips, click through the links below!