Five Barriers to a Clean Home (And how to fix them!)

Some people, like my parents, have a consistently clean home that mostly stay neat, tidy, and calm.  They have some preternatural ability to keep up with cleaning and chores such that anything out of place doesn’t stay that way.  They aren’t ashamed if someone drops by unexpectedly. And to those people I say “congratulations on your work ethic!”.  But that’s not me and if you’re here it probably isn’t you either.

Since you are, in fact, here, you may be struggling to get your home in order.  And I get it. I struggled too.

Overflowing closet

Learning to keep my home (mostly) mess-free has been a journey fraught with ups and downs but also many lessons along the way. As I built the systems I use to keep my home clean as a kinda lazy person, I realized that there were a number of things hampering my initiatives.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You want to put your clean clothes away but you never do it. If you did do it, you’d find your closet and dresser were already overflowing and there’s nowhere to even put your clean clothes. Or perhaps

If putting something away involves muscle power and some legendary tetris skills, you probably aren’t going to do it very often. Any barrier you encounter makes it more unlikely you’ll get to that clean house you want for yourself.

Personally I had to take a number of actions to even be able to clean my home. One of which, as you may have guessed, was to get rid of all the clothes I wasn’t wearing stuffed into multiple closets and dressers.

If you’re someone who faces resistance to cleaning your home, you might have a few barriers you need to address before you can truly make progress.  

Here are five common barriers to your home being a pristine, sparkling castle and how to fix them.

1. Your belongings don’t have a home

Items in your home not having a dedicated place they live is one of the hardest things to deal with when tackling a mess.  

Sometimes we just don’t want to deal with something out of place in our living space. And often the reason is that this thing doesn’t have a home. We might not even consciously realize WHY we are avoiding this particular task, but our subconscious knows. There’s nowhere to put it.

pile of random things on a trunk
If your belogings don’t have a home set them aside until you find them a home

Things that don’t have a home can be wide and varied. It could be something you’re holding on temporarily, like a gift. It could be mail or some kind of paperwork you need to take care of. It could be something new you’ve purchased, or a storage space that is so overstuffed it’s hard to put anything away.

If there isn’t a clear place where something belongs, you subconsciously know it’s going to take more effort to “put it away” and you’re more likely to just walk away, leaving it for tomorrow you to deal with. (Or next week you, next month you, or even next year you.)  

How to fix it

When you are cleaning, put aside everything that doesn’t have a home. You could put it into a box or a pile or whatever, just out of the way.  This way, your brain isn’t hampered by seeing these items.

When everything else is done, take on your “no home” items and make it into a little project to give each one a home.  That project might involve decluttering, reorganizing, and acquiring the right storage containers.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Ideally you should store an item near where you use it most
  • Your item should be easily accessible
  • Your item should also be easy to put away
  • For temporary things like gifts or a purchase that needs to be returned consider a designated box or bin. 
  • You may need to clean out a drawer or closet to make room for new things
  • Old boxes and things you already have make great temporary storage containers

2. You’re waiting until you have enough time

If you feel like cleaning your home is a huge, overwhelming process you might just decide not to do it. Been there.  We hate things that feel too big or too chaotic to take on.

woman holding baby while typing on a laptop
When you’re busy use time saving tips for efficient cleaning

Thankfully we have a magical process on Uncluttered Mindset that addresses this barrier.

How to fix it

Break your cleaning tasks down into pieces so small none of them feel overwhelming.  There are a number of posts that break down exactly how to do this:

  • Post link 1
  • Post link 2

Every step of the cleaning process can be broken down into small, discrete pieces that can be spread out over time. You can easily do one small bit and then come back later to take on the next thing. I’ve also created a system that helps you be extremely efficient with time spent cleaning and organizing. 

3. There is a task you personally loathe

We’re all different in what our brains find acceptable and unacceptable.

For me, one thing I LOATHE is cutting the grass. It’s not so bad once I’m out there doing it, but finding the right time, making sure the grass is dry, getting gas, dealing with a finicky starter, a week whacker with constant string problems, etc… It felt overwhelming. I hated it, put it off, and endured constant stress from knowing I was shirking my neighborly lawn mowing responsibilities.

Another thing I seriously hated was unloading the dishwasher and putting away clean dishes.  My dirty dishes would back up endlessly because I had nowhere to put them.  

If there’s a task you really hate, like me, you might just avoid it while your stress, mess, and anxiety builds.  

How to Fix It

There are 2 things you can do if you absolutely loathe a task.  The first is to break it down into smaller bits such that none of them is especially annoying or difficult. (See Barrier #2!) The second is to outsource it.  Outsourcing could mean getting a partner or roommate to do it, assigning it as a chore to your children, or paying someone else to do it. 

2 women in orange overalls cleaning a living room
If you hate some aspect of cleaning consider outsourcing the job

I now pay someone else to cut the grass and they even do my edging once a month. It is absolutely worth the money for not only time saved but the stress relief of not worrying about the grass at all.  Also the professionals can do the same job I did in a quarter of the time.

I can’t pay someone to come over and put away my clean dishes every day so I made the task doable by breaking it down into smaller pieces.  

  1. First I get everything out of the dishwasher and just put it on the counter
  2. Next I move the dishes etc to the area where they will be put away
  3. Finally, I put things away when I happen to be near that part of the kitchen

I don’t necessarily do these things at the same time – it could be hours in between each task –  but it gets done. And more importantly, it gets done without me feeling like I made any real effort. 

What do you hate doing?  How can you outsource it or break down a task so it doesn’t feel overwhelming?

4. You don’t have the right tools or supplies

A bad workman blames his tools, so they say.  But if you don’t have the right tools or supplies to begin with you’re going to have a hard time cleaning up your home.  You might even avoid cleaning altogether because it seems too difficult.  

basket of cleaning supplies
Make sure you have right tools and supplies to clean your home

Tools and Supplies for getting your home in order are highly dependent on your personal situation but might include:

  • Soaps and sprays
  • Rags and towels
  • Brushes of various sizes and shapes
  • Garbage bags
  • Screwdriver, hammer, wrench, pliers, screws
  • A flashlight
  • A drain snake

It’s also important for every one of your supplies to be easily accessible when you need it.

Is there anything you are avoiding because you don’t have the proper supplies?  Are the tools you need in a difficult to reach or inaccessible place?  

One thing I used to struggle with was the undersink area being a disastrous mess. It felt gross so I never wanted to rummage around in there to find my cleaning supplies.  The outcome was that I avoided a bunch of cleaning tasks for way too long even though technically I did have the supplies.

How to fix it

First, figure out if you are missing something you need to do a good cleaning job or complete a house project.  Walk through the things you avoid and ask yourself if any are related to supplies or storage. 

If something is amiss, what would you need to do to change the situation?

You may need to just order something online or do a little project, but get your tools and supplies in order so everything else is easy.

area under sink nicely organized with black and white flowered drawer liner on the bottom of the cabinet, has rows of cleaning supplies on shelf
Drawer liner makes the cabinet feel fresh and clean instead of grimy and gross

For my cleaning supplies storage problem I first installed a rack into the area under my kitchen sink. This was helpful in terms of storage space, but it didn’t solve the problem because the bottom of the cabinet itself was gross and I still hated going in there. Ultimately I laid down some pretty drawer liner I already had and that made all the difference. The cabinet feels clean and I have no problem reaching in there to grab whatever sprays or sponges or garbage bags I need. (It also only took 10 minutes!)

You will likely have a different a different problem, but regardless it’s important to resolve any issues with tools and supplies.

5. Your kids make a huge mess every day

Kids are messy creatures (and to be honest kind of rude about it) and this can create the feeling that you can NEVER get ahead.  

kids room with things everywhere
Give children responsibility for some cleaning chores

You might feel so overwhelmed by kid mess that you just don’t do anything at all.  But there is hope!

How to fix it

If your kids are running wild and leaving a tornado behind them wherever they go, I’m here to tell you that this need not be the case. Once they are of age to run around making messes they are also capable of cleaning up after themselves (most of the time). 

Kids can be taught, with firm and consistent guidance, to put away their toys before getting out new ones. Kids can clean their rooms. Kids can clear their plates at the table and wipe up after meals.  

Parenting advice is beyond the scope of this website, but I know plenty of parents with clean homes and kids who have been taught to be conscientious and helpful. It’s not easy but it’s possible.

Here are some ideas to start with:

  • Teach your kids how to clean
  • Make cleaning something you do with your kids and integrate them into the process
  • Require kids to clean up after themselves before they get something they want (like screen time)
  • Set a good example of cleaning up after yourself
  • Give a lot of praise for a job well done 
  • Make sure kids toys and belongings have a clear place where they belong (remember step 1)

Conclusion

There are so many reasons we don’t keep our homes clean and we may not even be aware of them most of the time.

Here are potential barriers you might face when it comes to cleaning your home:

  • Your belongs don’t have a place to live
  • You’re waiting until you have more time (which never happens)
  • There’s a task you absolutely loathe
  • You don’t have the right tools or supplies
  • Your kids are like tornadoes leaving a horrible mess in their wake

Addressing and removing barriers is an important step on your journey to the sparkling clean home of your dreams and the time you spend on it will pay dividends as you move forward on this journey.

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