Staying Motivated to Clean, Tidy and Organise

Since I’ve been writing The Organised Life Project, I’ve noticed the same question coming up over and over again. In a nutshell, how do you stay motivated to clean, tidy and organise?

The comments are always similar: “Great stuff – now I just need to find the motivation to do it.” “If only I was as energetic and motivated as you.” “I get going for a bit but then I get distracted and before I know it, it’s a mess again.” “I love these ideas, just need to get motivated.” And so on. Sound familiar?

The thing is, I’m definitely not naturally that organised. I’m over-ambitious, and think I can get more done than I really can. I’m an optimist, rather than a realist. But my life has been so busy that I needed to get organised. Now that I am fairly organised, things just run so much more smoothly. I’m less stressed. I enjoy my home more. I enjoy my family more. Perhaps surprisingly, I have more time for myself.

Have a vision

I am a real dreamer, so putting together a vision of a calm, uncluttered, peaceful home was very easy for me. However, I share that home with a husband who loves his projects and two boisterous boys. Plus, like everyone, we have a limited budget so there are some rooms which won’t be getting makeovers for a very long time.

Instead, now, my vision involves everyone: opportunities for lots of creative play; a calm environment for focused work; systems and routines that work so effectively it’s almost automatic; a relaxed, cosy and comfortable home. This also involves everyone being able to share the jobs and tasks, and everyone being able to feel that they are part of the home – including guests and visitors.

Take some time and put together your vision. You may like to work through a typical day, thinking about what your home would be like at each stage of the day. You may like to share this process with your family too.

At one point this weekend, I looked around. There were toys pretty much everywhere (the Hot Wheels tracks were being tested by Lego Ninjago villains, who were being fought by the Go Jetters while Peter Rabbit made tea), I was cooking dinner according to our meal plan, the laundry was completely under control, the cleaning was done and the house had a busy but productive feel to it. The key thing for me was that I knew where every single toy, every single ingredient and piece of equipment belonged when we had finished with it – and so did everyone else. Tonight, Ben tidied up before dinner and Tim helped him with the last few pieces before bed. That’s pretty close to my vision

Take responsibility

I think this is going to be slightly controversial, but if you want your home to be organised, you have to take responsibility for it. I know that in an ideal world, everything would be split equally with our partners, but in the first instance, if you want to get organised, you need to make the effort.

The first stages to getting organised are decluttering and then establishing routines. The initial decluttering should really only happen once, and then you may need to seasonally declutter. The routines can be shared really easily by specifying who is responsible, once you have cleared the clutter.

No-one else is going to get you organised. You need to do it for yourself. If you take your family along with you, so much the better. But you need to take responsibility for yourself here. Similarly, children will not organise themselves – you need to teach them how to do it.

Know what to prioritise

When I’m feeling low on motivation, I do the things which have the biggest impact. I grab boxes and tidy all the surfaces. You would not believe the difference that makes!

Learn to walk into a room and identify the biggest problem. Is it the laundry mountain? Or the stack of library books? What is making you feel stressed and guilty? Tackle it, quickly, and take note of the impact on how you feel. I’ll bet you feel a lot better after just 10 minutes.

Similarly, identify the things that are stopping you getting organised. Most of the time, this will be unnecessary clutter. Once you identify the problem, you will start to look for solutions.

Don’t over-think: Just do it

I’m a huge fan of a timer. You can accomplish a huge amount in 10 minutes, and double that in 20 minutes. If you’re feeling low on motivation and energy, promise yourself that you’ll stop in 10 minutes – I’ll spend 10 minutes cleaning, then I’ll stop. Most of the time, you’ll get the job done in 10 minutes.

So much of our lack of motivation and focus comes from internally. We tell ourselves that we’re too tired, or that it’s not worth it. This is the time to return to your vision and know that it will be worth it.

I think these are the things that have really helped me to stay motivated – plus having the external accountability of the blog and regular visitors to our home! There are some things I’m still working on, and it’s definitely an ongoing process, but I do now really love my home and feel calm, organised and purposeful here.

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  • This is such good advice. You’re right, no-one else is going to do it so we might as well get on with it! I also love the idea of doing whatever will make the biggest impact, that is definitely a motivator.