Random, Intermittent Laziness when it comes to Self and Home Care
April 12, 2015 8:31 PM   Subscribe

When I'm at work, at a party, going shopping, in a coffee shop - I am a ball of energy. As soon as I enter home, I become extremely lethargic to do even small tasks. If I have laundry, dishes, sweeping to do it will take me HOURS to pry myself from bed, the computer, etc. all because I feel an overwhelming lethargy, laziness to do this one task. Not doing these tasks means I live in dishevelled, messy, dirty conditions that make me unhappy. Truly unhappy. I know these tasks won't take that long. I live in a bachelor, for god's sakes! However, I find it extremely hard to get moving.

I'm motivated to explore the city, to work hard at work, to talk to strangers, to dance for hours, to get ready for hours, etc. I'm not motivated to do any of the things at home that it takes to have a clean, happy environment and a clean happy me. I feel overwhelmed with the duties of dishes, sweeping, laundry, EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING. I find myself wanting to watch just one more ridiculous Youtube video or take this time to read or do some other ridiculous, time-wasting thing. I know it would take less than 10 minutes to do most of these tasks. But I find it SO HARD to get moving and DO these tasks. It took me two hours to go to the dishes today and do them. And I sadly felt so proud after actually having done them. When I think "shit I better do the dishes", I immediately have a need to go to the computer, fuck around on the internet, sit around thinking about useless shit, etc.

It's been like this all my life. Anyone have an explanation or similar experiences? How did you change this random laziness? This is affecting me badly, as I sometimes won't upkeep myself to the best standards of hygiene due to not being able to find my toothpaste or deodorant. I also just have a hugely messy house all of the time, with dishes piled up for weeks and grimy counters and dirty bathroom... I don't want to be like this. Gross.
posted by rhythm_queen to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
Let's all blame our moms for this one. We just weren't brought up right. It's a struggle for me too. If I could afford it, I would hire someone to do it for me. There are just so many more interesting things that I would rather spend my time on. But, I have kids, and I can't afford to hire anyone, so, I do what needs to be done. It helps to focus on one main task a day. One corner of the living room or just the dishes. I will also have little races for myself like trying to get the dishwasher unloaded before my tea is ready. Before I had kids, I would just move every 6 months and start fresh. Maybe you could try that?
posted by myselfasme at 8:36 PM on April 12, 2015

Response by poster: To be honest, my mom is very clean, organized and the least lazy person I know :( She spends hours trying to coach me on how to become cleaner, how not to be as lazy, how to become more organized. I know the tips and tricks but cant get myself to move into action when it comes to these tasks. Moving into action mode is honestly what I want and need. All day at work I fantasize and intent on coming home and cleaning and organizing once and for all. Im so motivated. Then I get home and turn into a dough-girl. Not sure what happens, honestly. :(
posted by rhythm_queen at 8:41 PM on April 12, 2015

I asked a related question back in December about how to motivate myself to keep my house at a median level of cleanliness instead of all or nothing. You might find some good stuff there. One suggestion from that thread that seems to work is: Invite friends over regularly. Even if it's just planning to say, "Hey, I need to stop by my place and pick something up, want to come in or a second?" The shot of adrenaline and perspective change ("What would X think if s/he saw my apartment?") motivates me to get moving in a way that I won't for myself.

Also the thing that gets me to wash my dishes consistently (the one chore I actually do regularly!) is podcasts. Specifically, funny, conversational podcasts where I can imagine I'm listening to goofy friends riff on a theme instead of scrubbing dishes at the sink. Nothing too educational! I'm already doing something incredibly moral by washing dishes!
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 8:43 PM on April 12, 2015 [15 favorites]

Best answer: As far as getting home, I try to take advantage of momentum. Like, once you get in the door, put down your bag and then get started on your task list immediately. Get dinner going, work on other stuff while dinner's going, then you can be a vegetable afterwards. So, home, put in the headphones with either something mentally engaging (audiobook or podcast) or some really energetic music, workworkwork, then eat, relax, settle down for bed feeling accomplished. I'm not always great at it, but that's what works best.
posted by Sequence at 8:52 PM on April 12, 2015 [10 favorites]

Think about what you want in your home. What do you want to do in it? Think about what you would love to see when you walk inside and start building towards that. Think about the places in the city that you love going, that get you motivated and see if there is a common thread. Then use that to design your living space.

The book that helped me figure out how to be happier in my space was: "the life-changing magic of tidying up" by marie kondo.
posted by HMSSM at 8:53 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Maybe consider reducing the amount of stuff you have? If you only have 1-2 plates and bowls...washing them becomes less of a chore because it only takes a few seconds and you will need to use them again. If you only have enough clothing for 1-2 loads of laundry then even if you wait until you have nothing to wear...it still won't take very much time or effort to actually do the laundry.
posted by AnneShirley at 9:03 PM on April 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

I have similar issues. I'm currently trying to explore awareness about these issues rather than making huge changes. For myself, what I've found is that I grew up with a narrative that women were required to keep the house nice, and I rebelled against such gender stereotypes, but I was left without a good roadmap for keeping the house nice without dealing with gender essentialism. I then had an abusive marriage in which my husband intensified the narrative that women were responsible for keeping the house nice and men had no responsibility for such, and my divorce reinforced my rebellion against that narrative. I've spent the last few years in a weird battle against myself about cleaning; I absolutely feel emotionally/psychologically better when my house is clean, but I feel subserviant and crappy in the process of cleaning my house. I lived in the in-between for about a year and a half, which meant I mostly lived in a messy dirty house and just kind of reveled in it, and now I'm getting to the point where I feel like I want to clean for *me* rather than for any real or hypothetical or perceived critics. My actual cleaning is still haphazard, but I have been able to identify things that signal a downturn (for me, weirdly, it's refusing to unpack grocery bags completely) and stop doing those things, which helps me feel more in control in general. I'm working toward cleaning certain areas (kitchen, or bathroom, or vacuuming the living areas) without feeling like I have to scour the entire place. I think working toward finding any solution that's not 100% or 0% is worthwhile.
posted by jaguar at 9:06 PM on April 12, 2015 [15 favorites]

Oh, I meant to include: What's been helping me is the idea that one is respecting oneself by putting the effort into keeping one's living space habitable. "Habitable" is going to vary person to person, but that's why I like it as a concept.
posted by jaguar at 9:24 PM on April 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

To stay on top of dishes, I make it a point to not cook a meal until I've washed the dishes from the previous meal. (I might e.g. put some water on the stove, but I try to get the sink empty before it boils.) It also helps to immediately rinse (or wash) dishes after eating - not like seconds after you've chewed your last morsel, but not longer than 30 mins, say. When I don't do this, I'm in trouble - I wind up hating doing the dishes as much as you do because I've made the job harder.

Laundry, I do pretty often - maybe every other day or so, but at least twice a week at my worst. I do small loads (because delicates, colours, delicate colours, white cottons, etc.). It helps that the washer/drier are approx 3 seconds from my door, not sure I'd do this as regularly if I had to leave the building.

Reducing the amount of stuff you have will definitely help a lot. So will having places to put things - if you don't, it's time for a trip to Ikea. When you're walking around, just pick things up and move them to the right place.

tl;dr - lessen your workload by regularly staying on top of the little things and have a place for everything.

As far as a more general loss of motivation to be active when you get in, I know what you mean. I think there's something about living in a bachelor that contributes to that. It's essentially a box - the space itself doesn't suggest or inspire movement; there isn't any other room to go to. I put up a divider, finally, and that helped a bit. So did setting up defined areas for study/work and other activities (with required stuff ready to go and positioned for use). Not heading directly to the bed helps - use your actual seating, and don't lie down.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:32 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Taking care of your immediate surroundings is a way of taking care of self. My kitchen floor was always a wreck, I have lived here, nearly two years. I looked at it as a problem with a real cause, not some flaw in my character. Then I realized what was up in the cupboards, did not match, what I did on the counters underneath. I changed everything, now the stove burner I use the most is by the cutting board, which is by the fridge. In the cabinet above are cooking spices, and noodles, more food prep tools. The knives and tools are there. The counter where I bake now has the flour and sugar, the baking spices are above it. The counter with the microwave also has the hot water maker coffee pot and tea pot. The cups and coffee are above it. The dish rack is underneath where I store the dishes. The floor stays clean, and everything is so ergonimically situated, it is easy to keep it clean, while working in it. This kitchen now makes me happy to use it. It is much less frustratimg. Sometimes paying attention to dysfunction leads to a compassionate (for self) ending of it. You just have to believe it is posible to have a good relationship with self, with regard to matters of this sort. I don't know where all the fog comes from I walk around in at times, but rearranging the kitchen was great.

I set up to do artwork, photography, professional work, I have designed kitchems, I just hadn't thought through my space, and how I use it.

Just figure out how you use your space and make it work for you.

Here is one simple trick about dishes, consider cleaning the pan and utinsels you cook with, before you eat. Consider the meal isn't over until the kitchen is perfect again. Consider your grooming and dressing isn't over, until the bathroom is perfect again. Make your bed as soon as you rise from it. Throw dirty clothes in the bag or hamper, as you undress for bed. Make the efforts more encompassing, make them whole processes. Nicely make these your expectations for your new and improved consciousness of self in your surrounding. A lot of tidy well adjusted people I have known, use Saturday morning for tidying up, vacuumimg etc, catchimg up on laundry. Then lunch out is a reward for this, running errands, and a pleasant Saturday dinner with friends at home. It took a while for me to make this relationship work with myself.
posted by Oyéah at 9:35 PM on April 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Have you tried a reward system? Like, you don't get to go to the coffee shop, until you do the dishes? Or you won't listen to your favorite song, until you clean your counter? Or you can't go shopping/watch that new movie/whatever, until you've done X? Hold yourself accountable. I do this with tasks that stress me out, like job interviewing. It's easier to deal with the stress and follow-through on the stressful task, if I know I have a nice, shiny reward afterward.

You mention how good and happy getting the cleaning done makes you feel. Have you tried writing those feelings down? That's worked for me, as I've had some dark times in the past five years, and remembering how good and awesome doing certain (healthy!) things made me feel was enough to make me go do them, even when I truly didn't feel like it. Take a picture of your space after you've cleaned it, and use it for inspiration.

Also, if you have a laptop, don't plug it in. Use it until the screen shuts off. That's the only way I get off mine, sometimes.
posted by coast99 at 9:47 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do you ever have people over at your place? When I'm in a funk and I know no-one will ever see the conditions of my apartment, my standards really slip.
posted by porpoise at 11:31 PM on April 12, 2015

quickly and additionally, a couple of things you need to identify: the general layout of your home + your own inclination/habits. big cleanups feel great because they're so definitive, but it leaves this association that cleaning up is a big production. it should just be habit, like placing your keys in a particular place so that you always know where to pick them up the next day.

That's why I'd recommend having a review of your layout - is your cleaning materials in a particularly fussy storage arrangement? Is there actually not sufficient area for the intermediate to-clean/to-store things (eg drying rack; laundry hamper - to wash and to iron; lots of kitchen baskets and bowls for the washing up of vegetables and fruits; containers just for anything that you'll get to in a bit esp if you're not the sort to file away things immediately). In fact, is your storage particularly fussy ie it's actually a bit of a bother to put back the plates and cups etc, to keep your clothes? Half the battle is to make it easier for yourself - it's not meant to make you feel virtuous, but to keep it convenient. Then you can have a plan of attack in terms of long-term cleanliness, and a lot of that is making sure the space works with you, and your behaviour. I also find it extremely useful to use the space as a 3-D filing system of sorts -- as long as I know certain things go roughly in the same area, I can come back to it, even if the general clutter has built up. E.g. I just put my toiletries immediately on a particular shelf, bags and all, but I will know it's there. The clutter frustrates you when you can't find your stuff, so for me, having that general system goes a long way in not making feel like I've failed myself.

and you know what? if you can afford it, hire a regular cleaning service for the more involved stuff, like the vacuuming and dusting. this is probably my cultural background speaking, but there should be no shame in hiring service in this manner. it's an honest job, and it guarantees your sanity, while you pursue other interests. why not? bachelors used to expect a regular cleaner over all the time. (i'm only adding this because you didn't indicate any financial constraints to consider)

and definitely seconding UFYH as a motivational tool.
posted by cendawanita at 12:36 AM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

also, from your description, you clearly can work according to schedule. Why not schedule all these cleaning/organising stuff the same way? In this way it becomes part of your mental itinerary, and not just an ideal that you reckon you need to be in the mood for. (this probably explains a lot of the more fastidious behaviours of our parents! it's not so much that they're automatically neat and tidy, but there's a schedule in their head that they follow.)
posted by cendawanita at 12:40 AM on April 13, 2015

I'm semi-like this... Left to my own devices I can (and have!) live in squalor. It's awful but there it is. I've stopped making myself feel bad about not really being a tidy person. Now I just pay £30 every month for a cleaning service.

Once the place is all nice and clean, it is much easier and less overwhelming to clean up a couple of dishes, do a quick vacuum, etc. My flat is much cleaner now on a day to day basis because of this. It's when the task is or seems mammoth that people like me (and, from the sounds of it, you) procrastinate endlessly because we're inwardly cowering at the scale of the task.

If finances allow (and it REALLY shouldn't be too expensive), see how you feel about getting a monthly quick bout of professional help. Don't worry about being embarrassed by the mess, they've seen it all before.

I get a lot of judginess from some friends and family when I mention that I use a service. "Oh what a waste of money, I do all my cleaning myself", etc etc. But you know, it's my money, and it makes life easier for me, and it makes my space nicer, and it motivates me to keep things nicer. I feel like it's a win-win.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:35 AM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Reduce the number of dishes you own, and start doing the dishes immediately after you've eaten. For some reason the dishes become this huge thing once you've stepped away from eating/cooking, but they're a much smaller hurdle if you eat your cereal, go to the sink and wash your bowl and spoon right then and there.
posted by colfax at 2:45 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

To be honest, my mom is very clean, organized and the least lazy person I know

I'm like you, and my mom sounds like yours. I think my lazyness/unwillingness to do household chores is because mom always took care of them - perhaps it's similar for you?

After moving away from home, I was very lonely and depressed at one point. I remember going home from work one day, thinking about the grocery shopping I have to do, and wailing (silently, ofc.) why can't somebody take care of meeee? The answer, which I arrived at much later, is: because I'm a fully functioning adult who wants to enjoy the freedom this brings me, but there are also responsibilities attached.

Now I try to picture chores like something you simply need to do to enjoy all other benefits of being an adult. Like you wouldn't be able to go to a concert without buying a ticket and going to the venue, you can't eat a meal if you don't buy the groceries and cook. (Of course, you can go out, or order in, etc., but let's ignore the details.) The alternative to doing the chores myself would be living like a vegetable and yes, having someone else take care of everything, but also not really enjoying life.

(Also, nthing other posters about simply having less stuff to clean and/or hiring a cleaning service or investing money and time to make cleaning easier - we have a Roomba that I love dearly, but we had to rearrange our furniture so the Roomba could clean the whole place.)
posted by gakiko at 3:39 AM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Keep your shoes on when you get home or put them on when you want to get stuff done. I am way more productive when I'm wearing shoes. Weird trick but it keeps me up and unglued from the couch.
posted by sockermom at 5:07 AM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I would save up to have a pro come in and clean it out and then work in a routine to keep it clean thereafter. Getting over the mountain will make it much easier to make this a rewarding experience and will motivate you.

Also, I tell myself "I will keep my house clean in a fun and interesting way, it will be easy peasy", then let it go, and then it just happens in a day or few. As I'm lying in bed ready for sleep I mediate on finding that place in my mind that knows I can enjoy any task as much as dancing, I just need to let the worries go first.
posted by waving at 5:12 AM on April 13, 2015

As a life coach, I see this All. The. Time.
There comes a time when you gotta put on your big girl pants and do what you don't want to do.
It's almost like you're reverting back to an 8 year old when it comes to household chores, personal hygiene and just plain old taking care of yourself.

I ask them "Are you dating someone right now?"
They almost always say "No."
I know they would get their apartment or house spic and span if they had a date coming over, but for some reason, they won't treat themselves to the same respect.

You deserve a clean house.
You deserve basic hygiene and grooming.
You deserve to wear awesome clothes instead of sweats and t-shirts.

I encourage you to come at this from a self-love point of view and take pride in your little place.
Maybe hire a maid service to come in and give it a one time massive clean, and then it's up to you to take it from there and keep it looking wonderful.
Again, you deserve it, and you already know that you feel awesome after doing the little chores and maintenance work.

You feel awesome because you deserve it, you did it and you're allowed to bask in that warm feeling of taking care of yourself.

Maybe invite a friend or friends over at least once a week to hang out. This will encourage you to keep it neat and clean for them as well as yourself.

Again, you deserve the best, now give yourself the best.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:13 AM on April 13, 2015 [8 favorites]

When I think "shit I better do the dishes", I immediately have a need to go to the computer, fuck around on the internet, sit around thinking about useless shit, etc.

In my experience, it's the "getting started" part that is hard. Set a timer for 5 minutes and go. And object in motion tends to stay in motion, so it is likely you will finish the dishes once you've started, it's just the getting started part that is hard.

Rewards also work: I can have a smoothie IF I do these dishes. I can read The Toast IF I sort this laundry.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:19 AM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

There is an odd little method on reddit involving flashcards and a red pen which you might find useful. This post lays it all out, and there is also a subreddit.

Basically, pick a small, achievable habit you would like to add to your day. Maybe it's making the bed, doing the dishes, tidying for 10 minutes, etc. Something really small. To remind yourself, write a couple of reasons why you want to do it (use this post as inspiration). Make a 7x7 grid and every day, when you do your task, cross it off. That's it. After 49 days it will either be second nature, or you just make a new card and keep going. Good luck.
posted by flora at 5:55 AM on April 13, 2015

Are you my twin?! People who meet me outside my house describe me as organised and I want to laugh. My house is a tip. Towels fall where I drop them, there are huge piles of clothes on the bathroom, bedroom and living room floors, and my kitchen looks like a bomb hit it. I try and try not to be like this, but fail. God knows what it would be like if my partner didn't tidy up after me occasionally. One thing I have found to help is to watch something on my laptop while I do the washing up. It helps to keep my attention focused on finishing the job.
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 7:35 AM on April 13, 2015

I have almost exactly your problem. The only thing that works for me is to start my "chores" as soon as I get home with no break whatsoever. If I let myself take even a tiny break when I get home ("Come on, you worked hard today at work, you deserve a little break!") I am doomed. I have to keep my momentum going across the transition from outside to inside, or else I just collapse. So what I try to do is to come up with a very concrete list of specific tasks that I need to accomplish at home that day, and the order in which I am going to do them. I then try to work through the tasks in order, one at a time, without sidetracking and I start them instant I get to my room.

I try to remind myself that my working day is not over just because I'm home. That the work I do at my job isn't even necessarily the most important part of my day, and that now that I am home it is time to begin the work of my life. Break time doesn't happen until all my tasks are completed, if then. Some days I don't get to have a break, and that's just the way life is. I would like that to be different and am working towards a lifestyle that includes more leisure time, but it's important to have realistic expectations in the moment.

This isn't a perfect system. It takes a lot of mental discipline and self-coaching, because I have a very strong impulse to just collapse in a heap as soon as I get back to my house. However, it's the best strategy I have come up with so far. I'm still looking for some complementary coping mechanisms to help make up the rest of the gap, but the above tactic helps me a lot. It also works better the more days in a row I can keep it up; I become habituated to the system and it's less painful. It's always easy to backslide, but that's life. Nothing lasts unless you keep putting work into it, after all.

It's also very important to forgive yourself when you have an off day. Don't use that forgiveness as an excuse not to do better the next day, but don't beat yourself up about it either. If you can meet your goals even one day in three, you'll be a lot better off than if you give up.

Good luck, and if you find any particularly helpful strategies as a result of this question (and particularly if you find any that are still helping you a month or two from now, and you can remember) I and other future readers would be grateful to hear about them. Like I said, I'm always on the lookout for new coping mechanisms.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:37 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

One of my tricks to get myself going when I am just tired, unmotivated, down, whatever is pretty simple, but it works - and I've told it to friends who've tried it and they use it now too. What you need is a timer. You set it for five minutes, and do *something* productive for five minutes. Then you set it for whatever - 10 minutes if you feel motivated, 15 - 30 if you don't. But then you laze around, get on the internet, whatever, for that time, til the timer goes off, and then you do another 5 minutes of chores. You would be amazed at how fast you can make a difference in your house, and breaking down a big job into 5 minute chunks makes it much more manageable. Also, you get going and you're in the groove and sometimes you just won't stop at 5 minutes. A lot of the time I'll make a list of things I want to do, and then I'll chip away at them in 5 minute increments, changing what I'm working on each time to make it a little less boring. If I'm feeling more motivated, i'll do 10 minutes of work, but the main thing is to get up and do something, even if it's just a little bit.

I've tried the FlyLady and Unfuck your Habitat, but I've had a lot more success with https://habitrpg.com - it basically makes your daily tasks, to do list, and habits into a game where you get points and pets and silly stuff. It's ridiculous but I really like it. Combining that with the 5 minute timer trick, my house and my life are in much better shape.
posted by lemniskate at 9:07 AM on April 13, 2015

My mom used to call me jillian jiggs, as in, your house looks like it's been lived in by pigs.

I've slowly, as an adult, gotten a bit better. Part of it is the pressure that someone might come over soon and it shouldn't be a disgusting exhibit in my house, part of it is that I now live with my boyfriend who doesn't love living in a pig pen, and I think the most important part has just been realizing I HAVE to do it.

It's not optional. Dishes need to be done? You just have to go do them. There's no getting out of it, it just has to be done. House needs to be vaccummed? It has to be done, get out of bed and go do it. It's like when someone is at the door, you COULD just lie there and not answer it, but you just have to go answer it. I have to go answer the call of the dirty litterboxes, even though I don't particularly feel like it.

I have found wireless headphones and interesting podcasts or audiobooks to be a FANTASTIC motivator for cleaning. I want to listen to them anyways, and I need something to do with my hands while I do.. cleaning.

A lot of it is just the decision to do it though, for me. There's never been any tricks to willpower that work in my experience, it's just the mental decision to start doing something, and then the mental fortitude to continue doing it. Congratulate the hell out of yourself the entire time you're doing chores, try to convince your brain it's something worth doing. When your place is clean, sit on your clean clean floors and drink a celebratory glass of wine and revel in it. You did those dishes? You SHOULD feel proud. Let the serotonin wash over you. shout with glee! maybe you'll trick yourself into thinking you like cleaning!

(also, cleaning a little bit every day actually takes much less total time than letting it get filthy and then having to do everything at once. keep that in mind. also keep in mind that you CAN hire someone to do this, if you can afford it!)
posted by euphoria066 at 10:51 AM on April 13, 2015

If you like the timer idea and don't want to use your phone, this interval timer is great. Customizable to Pomodoro constraints, wearable on the body, has both an audible sound and a vibration-only alarm. (Most watches with chimes only sound on the hour, and the more customizable ones - some ADHD-specific brands and a few Timex and Casio models - are just hideous, frankly). It's easy to lose track of time if you're on the internet especially; good to have some external indication of time passing.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:13 AM on April 13, 2015

Downsize. Simplify. Streamline. Make a chore chart. I only have about 10 chores. Anything more than that, I'd get overwhelmed. I only have a few dishes. I wear dark jeans and t shirts that don't show dirt and have a "capsule wardrobe". I don't buy lots of stuff so there is less to compile. All my media is digital. PODCASTS! I'm so glad this has been brought up. There are so many out there, in addition to the fabulous NPR variety like This American Life. I usually do my chores Saturday morning when I'm fresh so they don't take as long to do. I don't have intense standards and live with a dirty room for a week or so if I'm really busy. Get dark colored versions of things that might be or light colors (rugs, sheets, clothes, towels ect).
posted by eq21 at 2:39 PM on April 13, 2015

Best answer: I feel like I've used this answer on several AskMes lately, but you might be suffering from willpower/motivation fatigue. It turns out willpower is like a muscle, one that can both get tired, and get stronger.
posted by Brittanie at 4:29 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Different things work for different people, so I'll share my top tip that I actually learned here on Ask Metafilter at some point: Any time you stand up (to get a glass of water, go to the bathroom, answer the phone, grab a sweater, stretch your back, turn on a light, get a snack, whatever) do one thing. It can be more than one thing, but it has to be at least one thing. Wash a cup, or pick up the towel on the floor and put it in the hamper/washing machine, or throw away an old magazine, or put away a book, or make the bed... etc. It can be a tiny thing (take this squeezed half-lemon from the kitchen counter and throw it in the trash) or a bigger thing (mop the kitchen floor) or a COMPLEX thing (pick up all the items I can hold that don't belong on the coffee table, and walk around distributing them in their proper places (pen in the desk drawer, book in the bookcase, plate in the sink, sales flyer in the trash, scarf in the closet).

Most of this takes under a minute. But if you do it 15 or 20 times a day, that's at least around 15 minutes of cleaning no matter how it's diced, and that's better than zero. And if you're feeling energetic and motivated, your one thing might be "clean out and wipe down the whole refrigerator," but even if it's only "throw away this moldy half carton of yogurt from the refrigerator," and takes all of five seconds, it's still a win.

When I keep this rule, my house is actually pretty damn tidy, and the process is just about as painless as it gets. Sometimes I do more than the one thing, just because I feel like it, and I don't feel pressure: hey, I've already done The One Thing this time, yay me! But maybe I'll just do these one or two extra things because I just want to right now. The cleaner things begin to look, the more I actually feel like doing during my "One Thing" time. Also, if you hate cleaning like I do (and apparently you do), you would think that maybe you'd feel like, hm, I'd like to grab an apple right now, but I won't because I don't feel like doing the One Thing ... but for me, it turns out to be the opposite: I end up thinking of stuff I need to stand up to do, because the One Thing gamification is kind of fun. And I noticed that the light switch in the hall is looking pretty grubby, so maybe I'll just go make myself some tea and while it's steeping, I'll wipe that down as my one thing.

This works out really well for me because it's low-stress, no-guilt, laid back and doesn't require planning or scheduling (which I suck at for this purpose: I've tried the calendar thing MONDAY: CLEAN BATHROOM, etc., and yeah no, it just doesn't stick for me). When combined with "every time you leave the house, Throw One Thing Away," it's even better.

Good luck, I hope you find your own personal groove that feels comfortable and do-able for you!
posted by taz at 3:50 AM on April 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

Someone commented here on AskMe a while back "what can present me do to help future me?" and that has made a ton of difference for me. For example: I hate to be late for things but was late all the time because I also hate to put gas in my car. So now I frame it in my head as "I'll just stop for gas on my lunch hour so that future me will be happy and relaxed instead of rushed and frustrated when I need to get somewhere". You can apply the same thinking to getting your laundry done, or getting your groceries, or doing the washing up, what-have-you.

Also, I can personally attest that getting rid of clutter has been the best thing for taking the dread out of wanting to clean up. Its just so much easier when there's room for the things that I do have, and I know where they all go. Trying to clean becomes the most difficult for me when I don't know where things go.
posted by vignettist at 2:05 PM on April 14, 2015

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