I have to say, my heart just jumped into my throat when one of my favorite Disney folks on Instagram made a confession in her Insta Stories.. She was so overwhelmed when cleaning. Well, needing to clean. In fact, she was sitting in her car, in the driveway. Not wanting to go inside. Because she didn’t know where to start.
Now, I worry a lot about a skewed view of life we get because of “Instagram Perfection”. However, I know that the plus side of social media is that if we carefully discern who we follow? We can find inspiration and pleasure with social media. Especially those folks who inspire me with their beauty and authenticity. Where I really get a sense of who a person is at heart is through those Instagram stories.
There, you are able to see through the cracks of even the most perfectly curated feeds. Because, of course, the cracks is where the light gets in.
But back to the Instagram Story that caught my attention. I starting following this “Disney Mom” as part of planning for a trip to Disney. And because she is just so delightful and funny. And that shining light of her soul shines through.
Yet there was this bright beacon of joy and light. Almost in tears. Sharing that she was feeling so overwhelmed by cleaning her house that she didn’t want to start.
And, of course she HAD to do it. Because all their friends and family were coming in a few days for a birthday party for her kiddos.
My heart jumped around because I so feel her. I used to BE her. Just the thought of needing to tackle the house paralyzed me. How could I feel anything but overwhelmed when cleaning?
Though we didn’t have Instagram stories back when I had little ones, I can remember sitting in my car after dropping them at school, just trying to find any excuse to do anything but go home and start tackling the clutter.
And on top of that, a cluttered home can give us the feeling of shame, which can leave us feeling alone and isolated.
Have you turned down having friends over because you’re overwhelmed from the thought of them seeing your home in that state? Or, like the gal on Instagram, felt panicked when you knew company was coming?
Let’s be honest, it’s not just moms who get to this point.
We all have experienced a crazy week (or month) that has been super full. And we feel so overwhelmed with cleaning – even the prospect of cleaning – that we don’t want to go home.
Kids or sans kids, how familiar does this sound: You’re getting home late, and up early. Not only have you been feeling stretch too thin and your brain feels significantly crowded, but you home is now starting to resemble what your brain looks like.
There’s a mountain of laundry in your bedroom. It started as clean clothes that were ready to be put away. But over the last week, it’s morphed into both clean and dirty clothes. Somehow they have ended up in the same pile.
According to the email you got from the library, there are some overdue library books somewhere in your home. And the clock is ticking until the library decides that you max out on overdue fines and now you have a replacement fee on your account. The kids’ reading lists are…somewhere? Hopefully.
You’ve been resorting to frozen dinners and take out . You can’t cook anything that requires pots or pans. Because the clean pans are still in the dishwasher, but you haven’t had the energy to empty it out.
You finished that big project at work and have a couple days off. So, you’ve decided it’s time.
You’re finally going to clean the disaster zone that is your home.
You stocked up on garbage bags, paper towels, your favorite cleaner. Now! You are ready to tackle this mess, and start fresh with a clean house!
But the more you survey the damage done by your busy schedule and all the things that have distracted you from keeping up with cleaning, the more overwhelmed you begin to feel. Where to even begin?
You certainly can’t start cleaning all the rooms at once. You start cleaning one area. Then you go into your bedroom to put some things away, and something else catches your eye. Which of course seems more important to tackle, so you start working on that.
Next thing you know it’s getting late. How is it already time to make dinner?
You are so overwhelmed when cleaning that hours later your home barely looks like anything was done. And you begin to get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. You know that feeling so well. And you just know that it’s going to be the same story again the next day.
You are so overwhelmed with even the idea of cleaning tomorrow, too. That you just want to run away from home.
Does this sound all too familiar? Even a little bit?
Yes, I know it’s discouraging and embarrassing. But darling, the good news is that you’re not alone in this. And the other good news? Even when you are feeling overwhelmed when cleaning. And frustrated with the hot mess that is your house, you don’t have to live this way forever.
You don’t have to give in to these feelings of shame and hopelessness about your home, just as you don’t have to give in to those same feelings when it comes to other areas of your life.
The key to dealing is to deal first with the clutter. Because, darling, when you tackle all the piles that have accumulated it helps set you and your home up for a better future. This isn’t about perfection, sugarplum. It’s just once you get your home back to “normal” it will be so much easier to maintain rather than be in a constant state of trying to catch up.
Here’s the thing about clutter: not only does it make your house look untidy, but it also makes your brain just as untidy. Because on top of everything you have going on, you have to take up mental space trying to deal with the piles of stuff that you just have laying around.
So how DO you deal?
How do you make your house look tidy despite feeling overwhelmed when cleaning?
First, remember that your house didn’t get like this in one day, and it’s not going to be all cleaned in one day. So take that pressure to feel like this is going to take a couple hours to fix. Aren’t you starting to feel like this won’t be so bad, after all? Give yourself the gift of realistic parameters in your undertaking of cleaning your home, to let yourself off the hook from perfectionism, which is a one-way ticket to feeling overwhelmed when cleaning.
Next, make sure you understand the distinction between tidying up and decluttering. With tidying, you are putting things back in the places where they belong. With decluttering, you are deciding where “stuff” goes. And that means deciding what needs a permanent spot, what can be donated, and what can be discarded.
One of the reasons we get overwhelmed with our things, especially when we know we should be cleaning, is because decluttering means making decisions. And because we often have emotional attachments o our things.
Rather than getting stalled when decluttering, here’s how to make some major progress. Quickly.
Here’s what you need:
- a timer of some sort
- a trash can
- a trash bag
- a paper bag (or cardboard box)
- a laundry basket
And the magical ingredients: a sturdy reusable bag. And/or a storage bin.
Move into the room you most need tidied. The one that you desperately need to be tidy and peaceful. If you aren’t sure where to start, prioritize cleaning the areas that you spend the most time in. Like your bedroom, living room, or and office area. Having a tidy sleeping space, place to relax, and working space will help clear away that mental clutter that is also plaguing you.
Now, to build some momentum. Are you ready?
Set a timer for fifteen minutes. Methodically move through the room as quickly as you can. Trash goes in the trash can and recyclable items (like magazines) into the paper bag or cardboard box. If there is something that can be donated, it goes in the trash bag. Any item that belongs in another room goes in the laundry basket. By placing the item in a laundry basket, you don’t get distracted in another room.
Now about those things you aren’t sure of? They go in the sturdy reusable bags. Or storage box.
Here’s the thing: you can get overwhelmed by cleaning and decluttering because you need to make too many decisions. By employing my secret weapon – The Bag & Bin Method – you can clear a space quickly. And then, make decisions later. When you are rested or aren’t trying to rein in the chaos. So, anything that you aren’t sure of? It gets placed in the reusable bag or storage bin.
Focus on one area only. Do not leave the room or fret over the state of something else you happen to notice while you’re working. If it’s really nagging you, you can work on your next round of the timer.
You build momentum by continuing to tidy and declutter as you race against the timer.
(It may also help to have some great music to help keep you moving and grooving!)
When the timer goes off, give yourself a couple minutes to collect your thoughts and admire your handiwork. before you set a new timer to work on something else.
Now, you may need two or three more sessions with the timer and your tools.
The thing is, sometimes you feel even more overwhelmed when there is too much stuff to think. By making quick work and getting clear spaces quickly you feel as if you can breathe. And think.
After no more than an hour of work, put things away. Put the trash and recyclables in your bins. Put what needs to be donated in the trunk of your car so you can drop it off at Goodwill in the next week. Set the timer again, and put everything in the laundry basket away where it belongs.
(Tip for parents: kiddos can have their own laundry basket to learn how to put their own things away)
Once your home is clutter-free, It’s so much easier to clean!
And, because it’s easier, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed when cleaning. Better yet, consider hiring a cleaning service to help. No, it’s not cheating. And though you may be a stay-at-home mom? Darling, you still need help sometimes.
We ALL need help sometimes. And hiring someone to do things like mop floors and clean bathrooms is worth it. Especially if you’ve done the hard work of clearing clutter!
Now, about those bins and or bags.
They go in a closet. We call ours purgatory. It’s tempting to stop here. To never look at those bins or bags again. And let them pile up. The trick for this to work for really clearing clutter is to set a date on your calendar to deal with “purgatory” and those bins and bags.
Set a date on your calendar when you are going to have a bin and bag party. Yep, I said a party. Because you are going to celebrate your fabulous life. This life that you love. And your decision to tackle your clutter.
Part of the trick to this working to finally clear clutter rather than allowing the bins and bags to grow into more clutter? You do this no sooner than seven days after you store them. Too soon, and it’s still hard to make decisions. But don’t let them linger in there beyond three months.
When I have a bag and bin party? (Because, yes, I really do this.) I drag my bins and bags into the living room. Then I put on a movie I’ve been waiting to watch. And I sort through things until the movie is over.
Everything gets tossed, recycled, donated, or put in a permanent place. Use your same tools again: laundry basket, trash bags, trash can, and a paper bag or cardboard box. However, the rule now is that nothing goes back into the bins or bags.
And like the timer when you are tidying up, you are racing to finish your project before your movie is over.
You don’t have to feel overwhelmed when cleaning or decluttering.
You deal with your feelings of overwhelm by clearing your spaces quickly. Then, you go back later. When you are rested to make the decisions about stuff you just aren’t sure about. Giving yourself the mental space to focus on one task at a time. And having a real action plan that is not only logical, but doable? It clears your spaces so that you can clear your mind.
Darling, you don’t need to feel paralyzed when you think about tidying up your place. No more sitting in your driveway not wanting to go in the house. No more allowing the piles to build. You deserve to have a home that feels loving and welcoming. Just like you deserve to have a life that you life. I promise you, darling, that when your home is a haven, it’s easier to curate a life you love.
If you feel overwhelmed when cleaning, maybe you just have too much stuff to organize.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that you cannot welcome new things into your life if you don’t release some of the old stuff. You need to begin to purge things from your life. Getting clear in your life by dealing with your physical clutter (big clutter and small clutter) will allow you to direct your precious energy towards creating the clear path to living your best possible life.
Join me for 30 Days to Clarity: Clutter Busting Edition
2022 Course Dates:
- Before the Holidays: Beginning Sunday, October 30, 2022
Course Investment: $21.Purchase Clutter Busting Email Course