How to Clean When You Feel Overwhelmed

How to Clean When You Feel Overwhelmed

Cleaning can be anything from satisfying to boring to even anxiety-inducing for some, but if you put off sprucing your place up, it’ll only get dirtier and more overwhelming—a vicious cycle. While everyone is different and has their own way of getting the job done, some approaches are more decidedly more effective than others. There are a variety of cleaning “methods” out there, each promising to help make your cleaning time more efficient. There’s no universally correct method, so let’s go over a few of the most popular ones to help you find a groove, whether that means you buckle down on a tight schedule or try a new approach to your existing mess.

Cleaning methods involving scheduling

For some, being overwhelmed by cleaning can be combatted with a little pre-planning and scheduling. Determining times of day—or even days of the week themselves—for certain tasks can help take the uncertainty out of tidying and get you to work faster.

Try the D.E.W. and S.S.S. methods from Lorie Marrero, creator of The Clutter Diet, for instance. In the morning, think “D.E.W.”: dishes, eating, and wash. Put away last night’s dishes; decide what you’re making for lunch and dinner; and fold any dry clothes, move washed ones to the dryer, and stick a new load in the wash. At night, think “S.S.S.”: start the dishwasher; set yourself up for tomorrow by packing your lunch and putting your keys by the door; and straighten up any obvious clutter.

Another method that works to combat the feeling of being overwhelmed by using strict scheduling, the “one-hour” cleaning method from TikTokker @Mommyhasntshowered is great for more major tasks that are going to take a while. You set an alarm for one hour and try to clean as much as you can in that hour, but when the timer goes off, you stop and do something else. You’ll return to the task for another hour later, but you allow yourself the reprieve of stopping when the time is up. This can help keep you motivated through your one-hour bursts.

Procedural cleaning methods

Sometimes, it’s not about timing or scheduling, but just having a sense of what the hell you’re supposed to clean when you start. There are some great methods for figuring out where and what to tidy up, but let’s start with a technique that combines process and scheduling: The “Fly Lady” method, which I’ve told you about and will continue to hype up. Popularized by organizational guru Marla Cilley, it involves breaking your home into “zones” and then cleaning those zones on a schedule. You set aside just 15 minutes per day to clean through them at a set time each month. The results aren’t instant, but it’s also not overwhelming, and that’s the point. After a month or so, you’ll notice a major improvement.

Want to forego scheduling altogether? How about the “junebug” method, which involves attacking the same spot over and over and over again, like a junebug does when it’s trying to break through a screen. You can get distracted by other tasks as much as you want as long as you vow to keep coming back to the focal point, whether it’s a dirty sink, a messy playroom, or a laundry pile. Keep returning to it until that task is done, even if you finish five others first. Then, pick a new one.

Maybe the best procedure for you is no procedure at all. In that case, the “pile” method—which comes from a TikTokker called—might be the solution. She says when she gets overwhelmed by how disorganized her house is, she simply takes everything that’s out of place and sticks it in a bin. She dumps the bin in a central room, turns on the TV, and starts turning one huge, messy pile into a bunch of smaller piles, one for each room. Then, she takes each little pile of items to the room where it belongs and puts them away.

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