I Can’t Keep my House Clean, What’s Wrong with Me?!

I Can't Keep my House Clean, What's Wrong with Me?!

Ten years ago, this was a common phrase out of my mouth. I didn't notice anyone in my peer group with a home in the same shape as mine. I didn't really understand how to maintain a clean house and after failing at it for the last ten years I felt like a complete idiot.

I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me that I simply wasn't able to keep up with housework.

I'm here to tell you that you are not alone and there is hope for change.

Ten years ago, the house was filled with clutter, we were bursting at the seams. I didn't believe that surfaces, like coffee tables and the tops of the entertainment center or piano could ever stay clear. When people would talk about decluttering their catch-all area, I thought "What do you do when every area is a catch-all area??"

It took me 3 days to prepare for company coming over. And by prepare, I mean: take all the stuff from those catch-all areas and pile them in my bedroom or the basement.

Then I would take care of the noticeable things- vacuum, dust, scrub the stove top...

After the visitor's left all the things from the bedroom and basement would creep back out and fill all the surfaces again.

Fast forward to today

I live in a minimal home, I have a simple cleaning routine that happens throughout the day without me thinking about it and each Saturday the entire house gets a once-over with very little effort on my part.

What changed??

First off: my thoughts about it.

I had built these tasks up so big in my mind, I had this belief that to keep a tidy home I would have to be cleaning and putting things away every waking hour. I thought I would never have time to be creative, I would never have time to play games with my kids and I would be utterly exhausted from it all.

I also felt alone in the task. No one cared to do it with me, the kids certainly wouldn't be paying attention to what needed to be done and my husband didn't seem to be bothered by any of it.

Then a mentor said to me:

If it's important to you, then you are the one that needs to take the action to change it.

Talk about an aha moment! She was right. My husband and kids didn't care at all, they didn't notice it, it wasn't affecting them, why should I expect them to do something if they didn't even see it needed to be done?

Shift what you focus on

I hated cleaning. When I did clean, I would say to myself "I hate cleaning. I hate laundry. This is stupid, I just keep doing it over and over and there is no point. I never have help. Etc. Etc."

Instead, focus on how cleaning benefits you:

"I love having a clean house. Having these things done means I'm free to do whatever else I want. I love having clean laundry and having it all put away. I love having the dishes done. I love having an empty sink. I love walking into my bedroom and seeing the bed made. I inviting people in when they stop by. I love being free to accept invites from others."

Build a routine

All my "clean" friends didn't relate if I tried to talk to them. I would ask about doing the dishes and they would say "You just do it because it needs to be done."

That didn't work for me. If I saw that they needed to be done, I would promptly talk myself out of doing them.

But I needed something to change! So I used a chart and decided to get the dishes done after breakfast and after dinner every day.

The first couple days were good and kitchen looked pretty, but then it got monotonous and I lost my motivation. But I still had my chart and I wanted to keep those checkmarks consistent, so I did it. Not perfectly, but seeing a chain of checkmarks keeps me on tasks.

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Get rid of clutter

Building a routine and getting rid of clutter are the two most important points of this post. You can't have a clean house without both of these in place.

You have to have a routine or rhythm to complete the daily maintenance. When the daily maintenance is taken care of, the rest of life and the rest of the house seems in control. If you skip the daily cleaning and just get rid of stuff- all the daily household things will pile up and become overwhelming and it will be a flip-flop between decluttering and cleaning.

What we're trying to achieve is a balance of both cleaning and decluttering.

Focused energy is important with decluttering. Don't be tempted to flit around from one pile to another, tossing random pieces of junk.

Instead: commit to one room. Each day, sort through one area: one drawer, one shelf, one pile. Follow it through to completion (in order to do that, make sure the area or pile you pick is small enough to complete the sorting in 10-15 minutes).

If you don't focus your energy on one room, it will be spread out over the whole house and regardless of how much back and forth and running around you did, it won't feel like you got anything accomplished. When you have a specific area of focus, you see results every day and it's motivating.

About the author, Rachel

Hi there! I’m the Joyful Space Specialist. it’s my desire help others create a joyful space of their own and enjoy their time spent at home.


  1. Cathy C on 06/06/2018 at 2:26 PM

    Thank you for this. Other people dont get it, even I did not grasp the struggle, because it was a slow, downward spiral. Getting help is hard, esp. if you have work, illness, legal and other stresses compounding your challenge to “keep up with it all” with kids. Starting with baby steps is necessary, for many of us “coming back” from being buried/overwhelmed. Having a focus is such a key point. For me, a room is too big – but a drawer, single hall closet or small dresser is a good start – to remove and reduce what’s hiding, so what we are using, what’s sitting on the floor, waiting to go in, can go in!

    • Rachel Jones on 06/06/2018 at 4:32 PM

      Thanks for sharing Cathy! And that’s a great point- focus as small as you need to.

  2. Ailsa on 06/06/2018 at 8:03 PM

    Oh my goodness! That is absolutely me! I’ve been working on the 2018 in 2018 but lose my way so time for a refocus. Thanks so much.

  3. Meeghan :) on 06/08/2018 at 12:43 PM

    Life can get busy for sure. Rachel I love your website and always appreciate your insights. The clutter has become mentally debilitating for me over the last few years, especially as an OCD neat freak kid. Life just got way out of control, work, illness, child. I’m on the other side of all that now and feel so fortunate that your site can mentor me through the emotional as well as the obvious clutter. I’m at 808 items checked off on my 2018 decluttering chart and making slow and steady progress. I’ve also had a friend join in with doing her own chart (she is now at 1,300) and my folks (at almost 500) Every one is at at different place on their journey and supporting one another is paramount. One thing I am really proud of myself for is the change of preconceived value I placed on ‘things’. My mindset is slowly shifting back to a healthy place and over this past year I have become far more conscious of my choices. Blessings to all you do Rachel! Thank you just can’t convey the depth of my gratitude for being part of this journey I have embarked on.

    • Rachel Jones on 06/08/2018 at 6:28 PM

      Oh Meeghan, that’s so wonderful! ❤️ Thank you for sharing, and for the encouragement! ☺️

  4. Sharon on 12/02/2018 at 2:07 PM

    I have really bad depression and it is really hard for me to clean or do anything at times.

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