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Are you feeling a little overwhelmed by all the housework you have to do?
We’ve all been there.
For me, the overwhelm was worst right after my first baby was born. I just kept getting a little bit further behind every day until I hit a point where I didn’t know how to fix things.
I had clutter everywhere, laundry had piled up, the sink was full of dishes, and I had no energy or desire to deal with any of it.
Mama, if this is you, I’m waving at you from the other side. It gets better, and you can do this. I’ve got a foolproof system for getting you back in the game when you’re overwhelmed by housework. Let’s get started.
Step 1: Brain dump
First, get out a blank sheet of paper. We’re going to start this whole process off by writing for a few minutes.
What are you writing? Everything.
All of that crap that’s rolling around in your head. All of the to dos that are giving you a sick feeling in your stomach. All of the worries that are keeping you up at night. All of the things you see around the house that make you think, “Oh, I really need to take care of that.”
Write it all down. Write until your head feels clear again and your stomach starts to settle down.
Why are we writing first instead of jumping right into a cleaning or organizing task? Because part of the overwhelmed feeling you have right now comes from constantly running over and over in your head all of the things that need to be done.
Often, once we get everything out on paper, the list doesn’t look so bad. Even if it is a bad list that seems to go on forever, at least it’s easier to begin to tackle it once you can see it all written out.
Step 2: Decide what actionable thing is bugging you the most
Ok, now let’s look at your list.
Read over it a couple of times. What jumps out at you? Acknowledge any worries or annoyances that you’ve written down that you can’t do anything about right now. It’s ok to have a moment to feel sorry for yourself as you consider these things.
Today is about action and turning this ship around, though, so put those unactionable stressors to the side. The items on your list we’re focused on right now are the tasks. If you’re like most of us, there are probably a lot of them, and it’s time to prioritize a bit so you can start knocking them out and stop being overwhelmed by housework. Ask yourself the following questions as you look over the list:
- Is there an item that is bugging you more than all of the other stuff?
- Is there one task, which, if completed would make everything in your life feel better?
- Is there one dirty thing in your house that seems grosser than the rest that would make you feel awesome once it was clean?
- Is there one room that would be easy to spruce up to give yourself a haven in the midst of the chaos?
If any of your tasks comes to mind as you ask these questions, highlight it, underline it, draw a circle around it, or write it on another list. These are going to be your top priorities. I wouldn’t choose any more than five. Three is probably even better. The idea here is to knock these priorities out to get yourself a quick win and start building forward momentum.
Step 3: Create a task list
Once you’ve chosen your 3-5 priorities, look at them critically. Are your priorities tasks or projects? What’s the difference? Well, a task is a single action that is pretty straightforward to complete. A project is an undertaking that is made up of several smaller tasks. Often, these projects contribute to our sense of being overwhelmed by housework because we don’t actually know how to start them.
The process of cleaning a messy kitchen, for instance, might involve washing the pots, taking out the trash, loading, running and unloading the dishwasher, wiping down the counters, mopping the floor, and removing spoiled food from the refrigerator. We resist even starting to clean the kitchen because we fear the project will take forever. Simply making your first goal to clear the sink, though, gets the project started and makes it feel less daunting.
If you’ve added a project to your priority list, now is the time to do one of three things:
- Cut it from the list altogether
- Break it into tasks, add the first step to your list, and save the rest of the steps for another day
- Break it into tasks and add some or all of them to today’s list. Be sure you remove any other tasks you’d planned for today that you now won’t have time for.
Remember: each of the 3-5 items on your priority list should have a clear action that you should be able to accomplish in the time that you have available.
How much time will these tasks take to accomplish? Although it’s often hard to estimate, it’s a good idea to do so. At the very least, set a time limit for how long you’re willing to work on the item today.
Step 4: Give yourself a boost
Ok, now that you know what you need to tackle, it’s time to get started, but before we do, let’s set ourselves up for success. A lot of the time, overwhelm comes with a little side of depression. We start feeling bad about ourselves for not keeping up on things better. As time goes on, the situation gets worse and can seem to be more and more hopeless. If you really want to stop feeling overwhelmed by housework, it’s time to give yourself a little boost of motivation.
As cheesy as it sounds, take a second to look in the mirror, and repeat one of the affirmations below.
- I am in control of this situation.
- I create order in my family’s life.
- I am doing the best I can, and that is enough.
Why do you do this?
Speaking affirmations helps you reprogram your subconscious mind–the mind that has been telling you that you just can’t get on top of things. By saying positive statements like these out loud repeatedly, we can begin to believe more positive things about ourselves and start to create the reality we want.
Put on your favorite uptempo, singalong, makes-you-feel awesome music and crank it up. Studies have shown that music is a powerful tool for elevating your mood.
The experience of creating order in your life shouldn’t be miserable, and the more positive you feel about the whole situation, the easier it will be to keep going. If you need some help choosing music, here’s my personal Clean the House Mix:
Step 5: Set a timer
Whenever I’m tackling a big project that I don’t really feel like starting, I always set a timer first. It feels much easier to say, “I’ll clean for 10 minutes” than it does to say, “I’ll wash dishes until the sink is empty.”
More often than not, I’m enjoying having the music cranked up, and I’m happy to see the house looking better, so it feels easy to complete another 10-minute block (and another) until the task is done.
You’ve already estimated how long each of your tasks will take, so decide if you’ll set the timer for several short blocks of time (recommended) or one long block of time. You might make a game out of things and see if you can go faster than you’d estimated.
Aim to just do one thing during your time block (no starting another task unless it’s truly an emergency). See what ten minutes (or more) of focused time can do!
Step 6: Rinse and repeat until things get better
This is the process you’re going to use to slowly make things better. They didn’t get overwhelming overnight, and they won’t get fixed overnight. By choosing clear, actionable priorities each day, getting yourself in a positive frame of mind, and working through the issues a few minutes at a time, you WILL get things sorted.
To truly get things under control in the long run, though, you’ll need to dig a little deeper and get some routines in place. The best way to prevent being overwhelmed by housework is to never let it get out of control in the first place. Want some help setting up a foolproof system for managing it all? Check out my course The Bare Minimum.
In the meantime, I’m sending you a big fist bump and a giant YOU GOT THIS.