Confessions of a (Recovering) Messy Mom 2: Seven Tips To Help Get Tidy

So, as I said in the first post in this series, keeping my place clean and organized has never really been easy for me…

except when I lived a minimalist life style in my dorm room at college… hmmm–note to self.

In my previous post, I wrote down some reasons why I think I have messy-tendencies and also some truths about why I think I should and can improve.

Maybe they will help you, too?

The more I think about these truths, the more they motivate me to get going.

But how does a recovering messy mom like me actually begin to make a difference in her home?

Here are some methods that have be working for me, little by little:

1. Change your Mindset about Yourself

One of the most important things to do when we are trying to build new habits is to change how we see ourselves and what we tell ourselves.

For example, if I use my personality type or any other reason as an excuse for why I can’t get tidy–I certainly won’t get very far in this area.

I called myself a “messy mom” in humour and because it contains elements of truth, but I really shouldn’t embrace this label as who I really am.  That’s why I added “recovering” in the title.

One day I truly hope to be more or less “recovered”:  a generally neat and organized mom and woman.

So I need to begin to think of myself in that way.

Here’s an example of what I could tell myself:

“I can do this! With God’s help, I can work on my organizational tasks and do the regular cleaning I need to do, too.  I can even enjoy it!  I can get this done and still fulfill my purpose in other areas of my life–in fact, it will help me to do so.”

This fills me with faith, and the more I tell myself this, the more easily I’ll be able to do it–honestly, it even makes it seem like an exciting area to conquer.

What truths can you tell yourself?  Write them down and put them up somewhere where you can review them regularly.

2. Grace is a Much Better Motivator than Harshness or Perfectionism.

I used to be quite a perfectionist, so if I made any mistakes on the way to my goals, it wasn’t good enough and I’d often give up in discouragement.

But this is not the way it ought to be.

Perfectionism kills motivation, while aiming for “progress” and encouraging yourself no matter what, is what will help you actually make progress.

So even if you totally botch it and things seem to get worse rather than better, encourage yourself.  If you beat yourself up, you’ll stay down.

But if you encourage yourself,  you’ll be treating yourself as God treats you–He is so understanding, merciful, and encouraging.  He accepts you as you are, but gently tells you that you can do it if you rely on Him and take those baby steps.

Sometimes failure is the best teacher. Give yourself grace and try to learn what’s stopping you and think of some little ways to do better next time.

You’d probably be surprised at the years of failure for me in this area (with some little successes, maybe) before I recently got serious and began to make a difference. (And blogging about it sure helps with accountability.)

Even now, I’m not where I want to be in this area, but I accept myself and believe that I can do it and one day I will get there.

How can you be gracious and encourage yourself in this area?


3. Make your Cleaning and Organizational Goals Tiny (Especially if It’s Normally Hard for You to Get Going)

As the creator of the Tiny Habits program, Stanford professor B.J. Fogg says, we are more likely to succeed in building new habits if we set teeny-tiny goals for ourselves and aim to do them each day for a week.

He suggests making them ridiculously tiny, such as just setting out your shoes every evening for a week rather than taking the actual run, and moving up little by little from there.

My goals right now aren’t quite so tiny, but small enough for me right now, I think.

My current goal is to organize an area of my house (at the moment, my office or basement) for only 15 minutes, 5 days/week.  I also set the goal to do regular cleaning 15 minutes, 5 days/week .

 I often use a monthly habit tracker check-sheet to prioritize the habits I want to master and so for this month I’ve written both goals on my tracker sheet. 

If I get carried away and want to put in more time that that, great!  But if I only do 15 minutes–also, great. I’ve made progress and I’m building the habit, and I can add a check mark to my sheet 🙂

Here is my Monthly Habit Tracker, if you’d like to sign up and download it for yourself. You’ll get my weekly newsletter, as well.

And remember, if you don’t get the number of check marks you hoped, no problem. Give yourself grace and be happy with any progress–just using the tracker is progress! So encourage yourself and realize you can try to improve your stats the next week or month.

What are some tiny goals you can set for yourself in the area of cleaning/organization?

4. Get A Little Help from Your (Organizational-Loving) Friends

Some people actually like cleaning and organizing–LOL 🙂  

So let’s learn from them!

You can find great blogs on the topic of home organization. Although you don’t want to get lost reading and looking at the beautiful  photos and never get to your own work, you can no doubt pick up some ideas you never thought of for your own place.

(I’d suggest, though, not to spend a mint trying to organize just because someone else does. I believe we can do it on a budget and may not need everything someone recommends we have to do so.)

You can also invite others over, if you like, to help you think about what might work.  Maybe they can offer some suggestions or take care of your kids while you focus on the task at hand.

Also, one of the most important things for changing habits is accountability.  

Blogging about these goals of mine has REALLY helped me because I know that by the end of this –month, I need to have my office and basement looking a lot better–my readers are going to see pictures!

So, let some people know of your goals and ask them to check in with you later.

You might even want to hire an organizational coach (of which I am not, although I’d be happy to help you in this way.)

What resources and people can you think of who might be able to help you out?  Who can also gently hold you accountable and check in with you about how things are going?

5. Just Do It 🙂

Sometimes you may not feel like it, but it’s important to learn to press through those feelings.   If you do, you may find that you actually start enjoying the task–or at least you’ll have the satisfaction of getting it done.

And as you get used to doing your cleaning and organizational tasks over time, it will start to become more automatic and not so difficult to do.

Sometimes it’s good to do something you don’t really want to do as early in the day as possible, so you don’t put it off. As Ann Voskamp says, “Do hard things first”.

I actually haven’t been following this morning advice so far, but it might be a good idea that I try to organize my office a bit then, so that I get it done and can write my check mark 🙂

I also often do give in to the feelings of not “wanting” to, but I am thankful to say I’m making progress in this area.

When do you need to “just do it”?


6.  Break Big Cleaning and Organizing Projects down into Small, Doable Goals.

Again with the “small” goals.

Sometimes organizational projects can feel so overwhelming, we don’t know where to start… so we don’t.

But if we take the time to look and think about what needs to be done overall, and then break it down into little steps, it can feel much more motivating.

For example, organizing my office just sounded like a big, unpleasant chore. But when I analyzed and created the step of finding a cupboard at a thrift store to store baskets in under my desk, this sounded kind of fun and I went out and did it happily.

Praise God, after a few trips to various stores, I found something great for $2.  So this was a little win that motivated me to take my next little step in organizing my office.

I created the e-workbook “Operation Organization on the Home Front” to help me plan and set little steps for my organizational goals –and to help you, too!

I’ll include it in my next blog post (about resources for cleaning and organizing) so stay tuned.

What small tasks can you break your big organizational projects into?


7. A Teaspoon of Honey Makes the Medicine Go Down

And finally, we can try to make it more fun.

If it’s really hard to get motivated, set up a nice reward for yourself.

For example, when I get my office organized sufficiently, in a month, I could have a beach day (with friends) and make sure to get some ice cream while I’m there!

But more importantly than a “big” reward, We need to encourage and reward ourselves just a little each and every time we practice a new habit–even with tiny “good for you!” thoughts.

That is also a tip I learned from B. J. Fogg. As I mentioned before, I often use a monthly habit tracker check-sheet to prioritize the habits I want to master.  Being able to just write a simple check mark can be a little motivating reward for me.

I can also make tasks more fun by doing some of the things in this blog post, such as listen to podcasts or music, as well as take little breaks.

How can you make your cleaning and organizing tasks more fun?  How can you reward yourself in big and especially little ways?


Final Thoughts

Okay, so I’m not aiming for a perfectly clean, tidy, and organized house.  A little mess makes it feel like home to me, I think, and people have told me that they feel comfortable because my house isn’t pristine.

But I do want to make significant progress, and I believe that can happen by practising the previous tips!

In my last post in this series, I also suggest some resources you might want to get that have helped me in my organizational exploits. Check it out here.

Want to think about these tips further and download a PDF of them so you can write down your own thoughts to the questions?

Sign up here to get this blog post in PDF form and receive my weekly newsletter as well!


Hey, I’ve also finished writing an e-book to you and I get our places organized.  It’s been helping me so far, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.

Check it out here:  Operation Organization on the Homefront.  It’s only $3.99.  


How about you?

What tips do you have for making progress in cleaning and organizing tasks and projects? I’d love to hear them!



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