Drowning in a messy house? Do these three things to help stay afloat

Mar 28th 2019

Most people don't know that I started my business by complete accident. 

I used to be embarrassed to tell people the story because I don't come off looking too great. 

In fact, I was at my wit's end. I was miserable and exhausted. Life had overwhelmed me and everything I was trying to do felt way too hard. 

My house was a wreck. We subsisted on frozen pizza most nights. I was on anti-depressants. 

I didn't start an organizational products business because I'm super amazing, type-A, have-it-all-together. 

I was drowning and needed help and the business came out of my effort to hang on and right the ship.

I didn't have it all together. And I still don't.

I still have many days where I feel like I'm drowning. 

My house is still a wreck much of the time. We still eat a lot of frozen pizza. I am still on anti-depressants.

The difference is that now I have some tools in my toolbox to help.

I've long thought that the state of my house reflects my current mental and emotional health pretty accurately. It's like real-time analytics for what's going on inside my head.

When I'm on my game and feeling good about life, my house is (more or less) picked up. It feels relatively easy to get the laundry done and dinner on the table. 

When I'm overwhelmed and basically getting my butt kicked every time I turn around, my home gets messy and it seems all but impossible to stay ahead of the clutter. All the systems I put in place earlier unravel. The stacks of mail and piles of laundry silently mock me and all my good intentions.

It feels like I'm literally drowning in all the clutter, dirty dishes, and dust bunnies. 

After a few weeks (or months!) of feeling like I can barely hold on, something will happen and I'll start to come out of the fog. And then I look around and realize that I've got some work to do. 

After years and years of this cycle, I've learned a couple of things that help me get my house back in order. Don't misunderstand- the cycle still happens and I doubt it will ever completely fade. But knowing how to right the ship can make all the difference.

Whether you are in survival mode and barely hanging on, or you are feeling on top of the world about life, I hope these steps will help you. 


Do the steps in this order, and when you are feeling better and have the time to tackle more, do more. Most importantly, be kind to yourself- a clean house is great but your emotional and mental health is what's important!

#1: Start (or continue) doing the absolute necessities

There are several things that need to happen for a household to function and those are the things I'm talking about here. You need to eat. You need clean clothes. And so do the other people in your home. If life is kicking your butt, now is not the time to try and do all the laundry and get it folded and put away in a single day. But you do need clean underwear! 

Put a load of laundry on and make sure it gets into the dryer- smelly mildew clothes are worse than dirty clothes, in my opinion. If the clothes stay in the laundry room and you are digging through baskets, that's okay! At least it's clean. When you feel better and things calm down, you can konmari your sock drawer. But for now, we are making baby steps. 

The same goes for meals. If all you can do is turn the oven on and cook a frozen pizza, then make sure you have a freezer full of pizzas. If you can only cook once a week, then make a big pot of something and eat some leftovers. Again, be realistic about what you can do and then make steps towards doing those things.

#2: Pick a very small chore and do it everyday

Pick something that is small and can be done in 2-3 minutes. Maybe it's making your bed or going through the mail every afternoon. Pick one (just one!) thing and commit to doing it. 

When I'm overwhelmed and everywhere I look there is mess and clutter, yet I don't have the time or emotional energy to do anything about it, it helps me to calm down if I have at least one thing I have done to beat back the chaos. 

Often, this small thing will snowball and after a few days, I'll be able to do a bit more. Making my bed will inspire me to then sweep the bedroom floor and, while I'm at it, I will probably sweep up the kitchen and living room, too. 

#3: Set a timer for 15-30 minutes and clean everyday

Don't do this step until you are successfully doing the first two steps for several days or weeks. But, when you feel ready to take on a bit more, set a timer and get to cleaning. 

I literally don't have an agenda when I do this. I just know that in order for my house to stay somewhat tidy, I need to spend some time tending to it. I try and do it first thing in the morning, after the kids are off to school, so I know it will get done. 

I like to listen to a podcast or a sermon while I'm cleaning- it makes the time go by faster. I usually just put the timer on, and start picking up things as I see them. So much of the clutter in my house comes from people (myself included!) not putting things where they go. 

I KNOW if we would just put all the clothes/shoes/toys/books/trash/dishes in their place, the house would be less chaotic. 

I also know that isn't going to magically happen anytime soon, so this is my strategy for coping with all the clutter. I hope it helps you!

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