To finally change my messy habits, I had to scrub away my self-limiting beliefs
ve been working out of my apartment since my daughter was born five years ago — but despite the amount of time I spend there each day, I never quite figured out how to, as the picture-perfect folks on HGTV say, “make my house a home.” The more I focused on building my online writing career, the more I struggled with housekeeping, eventually letting it fall by the wayside entirely.
I tried to ignore the mess. I made excuses that I was “just so busy,” that I had more important things to do, that it didn’t bother me much. But still, I constantly felt cranky and scattered.
It wasn’t until I enrolled my daughter in preschool — a transition that would require us to have actual morning and evening routines — that I finally decided to take control over my space. But I knew I couldn’t just spend one long weekend in intense Kondo mode and call my work done. I needed a sustainable plan, a system that would allow me to keep my home tidy through all the unexpected bumps, twists, and big deadlines that will inevitably come my way. Here’s what I did, and how it’s been working.
First, I got some goal coaching
Over the summer, I reached out to the productivity and mindset coach Liz Huber, who helped me identify some areas of my life that I wanted to change. My home was at the top of the list.
Huber led me to realize that as a single mom, I was so focused on my work that I didn’t even think it was possible for me to keep up with tidying. I also believed, as a woman with autism, that organization would never be my forte. I have a difficult time making mundane decisions without second-guessing myself, and an even harder time categorizing the objects throughout my home to put them in their proper place.
Through some coaching sessions, I finally started to recognize my self-limiting beliefs. I realized that my overwhelm had become a crutch. I wanted a more organized home, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t keep it up, so I didn’t even try. Admitting what was happening was an important first step.
Huber then helped me to identify what I wanted my home life to look like by asking me to describe my ideal space. I closed my eyes and began visualizing a home that wasn’t covered in clutter — the kind of place that didn’t throw me into a panic if someone dropped by unexpectedly. In the past, on more than one occasion, I’d actually asked our seasonal pest control services to skip spraying upstairs because I was too ashamed to let anyone see the piles of laundry and junk scattered across the floor. The best thing coaching did for me was to get me thinking about the possibility of success. Before I knew it, I wanted to do the work to change my life.
I approached a tidy and beautiful home as an investment in my sanity
I’ve spent most of my life in poverty. I’ve had to start over with nothing at least three different times. In terms of my house, this means I made it into my mid-thirties with very little furniture.
Once I decided to get organized, I invested in useful pieces like dresser drawers, shelving, and organizational bins. Since I also wanted my home to look good and feel comfortable, I invested in wall art, new bedding, and curtains, too. I’ve never spent so much money on furnishings before, but I knew that beautifying my place would help give me more peace of mind in the long run.
I then decided to hire a housecleaning service to come to my apartment once a week. That way, in between visits, I would only need to focus on laundry, dishes, immediate messes, and keeping the clutter in check. Between work as a writer and caring for my five year old daughter, that’s more than enough to keep me on my toes. I know what a privilege it is to be able to afford this help, and I’m grateful that I can.
I created a simple cleaning schedule
When I say “schedule,” I’m talking about a very relaxed list. It includes daily chores like picking up the clutter and loading the dishwasher, along with weekly chores such as laundry. On Sundays, I do laundry, and on Mondays, I do an extra sweep around my house so that the house cleaners can clean on Tuesdays without difficulty. It’s like clockwork.
What has helped is breaking down chores into smaller pieces, which I do with the to-do list app Wunderlist. “Laundry,” for instance, can feel like an overwhelming task, but “washing,” “drying,” “sorting,” “folding,” and “putting away” each seem more manageable.
I made a habit of completing small tasks during work breaks
If I have housework hanging over my head, I find it best to complete a small task every time I take a writing break. I might finish writing one story, head upstairs to fold some laundry, and then head back downstairs to write again. The same thing goes for picking up clutter or unloading the dishwasher. Not only does this leave me with more time to spend with my daughter when she gets comes from preschool, it gives me nice mental breaks throughout the day.
I forced myself to remember that done is better than perfect
One of my self-limiting beliefs has been the notion that doing something is pointless if the results aren’t perfect. These days, I am learning how to accept my imperfections instead.
I may not be the greatest housekeeper. Shoot, I may never ever like to clean. It doesn’t matter. What I do like is a clean and comfortable home, which means I’m now willing to do the work to make it happen. If you’re similarly struggling with keeping things neat, it might help to think of that housework as an investment — one that begins paying off almost immediately.