21 Ways to Psych Yourself into Cleaning Your Kitchen

updated Apr 8, 2021
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Don’t feel like cleaning? I get it: It can be tough to face a pile of dirty dishes, a grimy oven, and too-cluttered counters. Even if you like to clean, tackling the kitchen can often feel like an insurmountable task. Whether it feels too overwhelming or there are just other things you’d rather be doing, sometimes you really have to amp yourself up for the task.

The good news is that it can be done: Psych yourself up enough and there’ll be no stopping you! And turning this task from a “to-do” to a “done” line item can have a huge effect on the overall feel of your entire house. Are you already getting excited?

The biggest impediment to tackling a dirty kitchen is almost always a mental one, so here are 21 ways to psych yourself up for the idea of cleaning.

1. Turn on some music.

Whatever you want. Full blast. And know that you get bonus points for dancing. 

2. Or listen to an audiobook or a podcast.

I’ve recently been on an Erik Larson kick and I’ve been looking for excuses to clean because it means more listening time. Plus, shutting out distractions as you perform the mindless steps of cleaning up the kitchen helps keep you on target and gets the job done faster. Listen to a book or listen to your favorite podcast. (Pro tip: You can borrow audiobooks from the library.) You can even put on one of your go-to shows if you can see the TV from your kitchen.

3. Set up a “go-backs” basket.

You know how, when you make a return at Target, the casher puts your item in a basket or cart? At the end of the day, they use the basket to return items to their rightful spots. And you can do the same thing. Add a basket to your kitchen and use it to hold or gather all the things that don’t belong in that room. Then, at the end of the day, make it a point to empty the basket. Carry it around with you, room to room, as you put things back where they go.

4. Use the clockwise method.

Start in one spot of the room, doing one thing, before moving on to the next. For instance, I could start on my “baking counter” and clear off the surface, going all around the room until I’m back at my starting spot. Then I could switch tasks to wiping down the counters and repeat the clockwise method with each new task. It’s honestly kind of fun this way.

5. Make the circumference of your mess smaller.

This method involves starting at the “outer edges” of your mess and bringing the mess in. For instance, start by clearing off the counters, bringing dirty dishes to the area near the kitchen sink, and then washing the dishes. You’ll literally end up corralling your mess!

6. Enlist help or delegate.

Get other members of the household on board the kitchen-cleaning train. Many hands make light work, as they say, and chances are, you weren’t the only one who made the mess in the first place. 

7. Use some really good-smelling soap.

Sensory stimulation can ground you in the task at hand and, of course, makes it more enjoyable. Up the effect by purposefully grounding yourself in the sensations of the water’s warmth and suds. 

8. Invite someone over.

No, not to clean. To hang out on the porch for a safe, socially distanced visit. Knowing that someone else might see your kitchen should be enough to light that fire under you to get it cleaned up. Clean it for them, even if you can’t muster up the gumption to do it for yourself. 

9. Pick one thing to do.

As with many undesirable tasks, the hardest part is crossing over the hump of getting started. Pick one thing to do and do that. Keep this one thing simple and small, like clearing the table and tell yourself you’re just clearing the table. Once you do the first thing, with any luck, further tasks will snowball. 

10. Give yourself a reward when you’re done.

Dangling the carrot motivates you to get something done because you’re looking forward to it. Your carrot could be going on that walk, sitting down to watch your favorite show, or reading that book that you hate putting down. 

11. Tell yourself you can’t do something until it’s done.

If tough love is a better motivator for you, put it to yourself like this: You’re not allowed to do that thing you want to do until your kitchen is clean. 

12. Institute a kitchen-cleaning routine.

Following a routine every time you clean the kitchen takes the decision fatigue out of the job. By having and following a set way of doing things, muscle memory kicks in and, pretty soon, one task follows another without you having to think about it. 

13. Make a checklist.

Making a list turns the giant chore of cleaning the kitchen into manageable action items. Also, checking items off gives you a little dopamine hit each time you complete a bite-sized task and motivates you just enough to do the next small task — until the checklist is finished and your kitchen is pristine. 

14. Buy a new cleaning tool or product.

If you get excited to try out new cleaning products or tools, the chance to use one is as good of a reason as any to address the mess. 

15. Set a timer.

A timer can do a few things. For one, it helps you see that it actually doesn’t take that long to do various chores. (You’ll be shocked at how much you can get done in just three minutes!) And it also turns cleaning into a game of beat the clock! Choose a task and a time limit and see if you can finish, say, loading the dishwasher in five minutes. You probably can! 

16. See how many tasks you can “do” at once.

Finding ways to multitask is another way to game-ify the big job of cleaning the kitchen. Some examples are mopping the floor while the dishwasher is running, soaking pots or pans with dried-on food while you put dishwasher items in the dishwasher, or steaming the microwave while you clear the table. 

17. Post about it on social media.

Making yourself accountable to others is a huge motivator. If you post a “before” photo on Instagram or even text a friend what you intend to do, you could be giving yourself just the nudge you need to cross the finish line so you can share the “after.” 

18. Plan your “cleaning capstones.”

What’s a cleaning capstone? The special, final touch you get to do when you’re done cleaning. My favorite final touches are putting cut flowers on the table and lighting a candle on the counter, which are all the better when set to the sound of humming dishwasher. 

19. Give yourself a pep talk.

One way to move into action is to tell yourself what you’re going to do. As you’re giving the kids a bath or brushing your teeth, you tell yourself, “I’m going to clean the kitchen,” over and over, pretty soon it becomes the truth you’ve followed through on. To take this idea a step further, practice telling yourself (and others!) that you are the kind of person who strives to have a clean kitchen. Making something part of your identity is one of the strongest ways to drive behavior change, according to habit guru James Clear

20. Visualize your clean kitchen.

Visualizing is a powerful tool for getting things done. Therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW of NY, quoted in Bustle, puts it this way: “Visualization helps our brain send a signal to our body to start behaving in a way consistent with the images in our head.” Imagining a clean kitchen puts us well on our way to having one. 

21. Start with a clean kitchen.

This one is a little tricky, but hear me out: Cleanliness begets cleanliness. So if you just power through and clean your kitchen already, it’s likely to stay that way. You’ll be more likely to put that cup in the dishwasher (instead of the counter or the sink) or to wipe up those crumbs, if you’re starting with a clean space.

Do you have any tips and tricks that help psych you up to clean the kitchen? Tell us about it in the comments below!