I Stopped Being Messy and it Changed My Life

Seriously, it’s a big deal

Claiming that anything is “life changing” is pretty cliche, I know. It’s the sort of statement we throw around, but it doesn’t really mean anything…

So I should really call this post something else, but I’m struggling to come up with anything less cliche that could actually convey just HOW MUCH this simple change in my habits has improved my life at home.

I’ve stopped being messy. I do this thing where I put stuff away now.

It’s not like this is something I stumbled upon that no one has ever thought of before, in fact, it’s something that naturally tidy people come by… naturally. But I am not naturally tidy.


UPDATE: Someone asked me if my house is still clean now that I have multiple kids. It was a struggle, but yes, my house is still clean. So I wrote about that too: How to keep your house clean when you have little kids.

 My messy struggle with messy

A while ago, I set aside a few hours on my day off (Monday) to really clean the house. Just like every other Monday. But before I could start vacuuming and scrubbing, I had to spend half of my entire Monday off putting stuff away. (Um, just like every other Monday).

All stuff that wasn’t where it belonged.

  • Recycling that was sitting by the front door
  • Baby bottle (from last night’s feeding) on the coffee table
  • coats that were over the back of a chair
  • dishes that were clean but hadn’t been put away
  • tea cups on the coffee table
  • my husbands work stuff all over the dining room
  • receipts from our last shopping trip
  • unopened mail sitting on the counter
  • hair stuff and make up on the bathroom vanity
  • piles of screws/connectors that come out of G’s pockets
  • random travel things from our last trip (over 3 weeks ago)
  • tiny person clothes in the kitchen (why? why are the tiny people’s clothes in the kitchen?)

Stuff was EVERYWHERE. And this happened every week. Every Monday I had to spend hours “putting away” just so I could clean. It’s not like I’ve never tried to keep it tidy before. Every week I tidied the house, it looked amazing, and I’d think to myself “That’s it. Now I’m gonna keep it this way”.

But every week I’d give up. Life is busy and we rush in and out and set stuff down and eventually the house looked just like it did last Monday morning. For a while I thought my main problem was too much stuff (and part of it was) but I have really reduced clutter in my home and I was still losing the battle, week after week. The truth is that even when you have less stuff, that stuff still doesn’t put itself away.

I believed I wasn’t capable of actually keeping the house tidy, since I had tried so many times and failed over and over and over.

But then I realized my problem was me…My house was messy because I was messy. Anything beyond that was an excuse.  I finish feeding the baby, and instead of taking the bottle to the sink, I leave it on the coffee table.

I come inside, and instead of hanging my coat up, I put in on the chair. And then I feel sad, because my house is just so…. messy. 

I determined that I wasn’t going to live in defeat. Not just because I don’t want to be a big nasty hypocrite, (I’m always saying that I believe change is possible if you’re willing to put in the effort), but because I hate it when my house is messy.

It seriously weighs me down. I feel overwhelmed by the mess. Why am I allowing something I hate so much to continue?

Related: How to Clean When You Feel Paralyzed by THE MESS

So I decided to stop it. Cold turkey yes, but still one thing at a time, I stopped. Stopped putting my coat on the back of the chair, stopped leaving the mail on the counter. Stopped “soaking” the dishes over night and stopped going to bed without clearing my tea cup from the living room.

I stopped leaving make-up out in the bathroom, I stopped leaving my clothes on the bathroom floor. ( ← RIGHT HERE, this is where it all fell apart every week. As soon as those clothes are on the floor, I lose the battle.) 

Every night before bed I take a two minute walk through the house and put away anything I missed. I pick up the toys scattered across the floor, and I load the dishwasher. But as time goes by, there is less and less that I’ve missed.

I’ve stopped being messy. I don’t let myself think of the chores I don’t want to do as mundane or time consuming. I think of them as a means to an end, a way to improve my life. It’s a lot easier to wanna wash dishes if you think of it as improving your life.

Now I can relax in my home. I don’t feel overwhelmed. I don’t feel guilty. I enjoy being here. I CAN FIND STUFF. Mornings aren’t a rush to get organized, because everything is where it’s supposed to be. The “cleaning” on Monday mornings is drastically reduced, since I can wipe the (empty) counters and sinks everyday. And then I have Monday free to do whatever I want.

You’ll find the same thing – if you would like to enjoy your day off and drink wine and watch TV, then GO for it. If you want to sit around in your pajamas and kill some time by taking online surveys for pocket money without feeling guilty about it, ( I recommend Survey Junkie) then GO for it. If the mess in your house isn’t weighing you down, you can enjoy yourself.

This is how life is meant to be lived. 

If you’re like previous me, thinking it’s impossible…

Well, it is then. Until you tell yourself it’s possible. You can not change old ingrained habits if you tell yourself you can’t (really, you mean you won’t).

And yes, it’s a bit much sometimes, especially if you have little people. But the picking up still only takes a few minutes – and they’re watching you and learning to pick up themselves. Major bonus!

It’s totally overwhelming to look at a busy, messy house and tell yourself you’re gonna be “tidy”. But If you start with a clean house and think of every single thing you touch as a new (and not overwhelming, since it’s just one thing) opportunity to change your bad habits you can totally do it.

And if you miss something in the day, just do it before bed. When you wake up to a clean house in the morning, you’ll be so encouraged that you’ll do it again today.

You might be able to enlist the help of the other people who live there… I said to my husband (when I started this, that Monday) “Please let’s try and keep the house clean this time. Please help me.” I have to admit that 80% of the mess (at least) is my fault, so it really hasn’t been much work for him to “help me”.

Get your kids on board with rewards (or bribes, whatever) if they’re big enough. Mine isn’t – but someday he will be!

If you are the one that runs the house, it might come down to you just deciding you’ll do it, with their help or not. I want to blog, and I want my house clean. I’ve pretty much given up watching TV during the week so these things can happen. I have prioritized them. (And actually, I’m finding the whole “keep the house clean thing” isn’t even taking any REAL amount of time. 10 or 15 minutes here there. It might take you half hour a day if you kids are really small and really messy. But it’ll be worth it).

Whatever it takes for you to make the change, just do it. 

If “forgetting” that you want to create a new habit is your problem, put a post it note on all the problem areas – bathroom counter, kitchen sink, coffee table. Or enlist a friend to text you every night and check to see if you’ve picked up the house. Tell them a guilt trip is what you need.

If you have no idea where to start – or if you need a major overhaul on your home making skills – there’s help!

I found an amazing (and cheap) step-by-step online course that will help you get yourself decluttered and organized in no time: It’s called The Organized Home by Hilary from Pulling Curls. It is created just for people like us, who need to be given  bite-sized tips & lessons on organization so we know where stuff is, save time & feel more peace at home. (Because we do ACTUALLY deserve to feel at peace in our homes!)

This is the perfect course for you if:

  • You always need hours of notice before having guests because you’re embarrassed about the state of your home.
  • You’re always worried you misplaced an important document or won’t be able to find things when you need them.
  • You’ve ever wondered why can’t YOU enjoy peaceful time on the couch or enjoying your family instead of always stressing out about the state of your home?

If you need someone to TEACH you how to get organized, Hilary is your girl, and you can get 10% off the course here with the code MOP10. 

Being intentional about being tidy (or about anything) isn’t always easy. But it’s worth it. Now that my house isn’t messy, I am happier. (Which seems crazy, I don’t even really know how that works. Maybe because cleaning my house on Monday takes me 2 hours now instead of 4, or maybe it’s because I don’t feel the weight of the mess whenever I’m home). I’m happy in my house. And I feel really, really proud of myself, which is always sort of nice.

More from Mommy on Purpose:
How I Conquer Clutter When it’s Emotionally Difficult
4 Clean Kitchen Habits You Can Adopt Today
Where to Start When You Are Drowning in CLUTTER 


very messy home, clothes over the couch, table covered in clutter. Overlay text reads "I quit being messy and it changed my life"

58 thoughts on “I Stopped Being Messy and it Changed My Life”

  1. I am such a mess…my house…my car. UGH. I constantly say I am going to be better and well, both are currently very untidy. Like you, every time I say “no more” it lasts two days or so and then poof! stuff is everywhere again. It really does feel so much better when it is clean though. I guess I will take your advice and go cold turkey on my messiness 🙂 (stopping by from Monday Madness)

    • HI! Thanks for stopping by 🙂 I’n new to link ups but they seem to be a great way to get to know other bloggers! Going cold turkey was hard because it has to be something that you are actively doing every day, but it’s so worth it! Annnnnnddd you’ve just made me realize there is no good reason my car is still a mess. So… that’s changing today! Thanks!

  2. Hey Carly,
    Superb post!!
    In my house, my parents wouldn’t let you be a slob! Later, I was pretty good at keeping things neat except of course the infamous pile. Paper is made for piling — right? Filing is for people with filing cabinets and the like. 😉
    I usually put my clothes away, papers in draws, kept my finances in order, but then I broke my back and I couldn’t DO what I needed to do to keep things neat!
    When you said “feeling overwhelmed by the mess!” It rang true with me. I love the concept of the nightly check putting things away.
    That’s I’ll do!
    I’ll give you an update later. Warmly, Anne
    p.s. The website is still under construction at its new address.

    • Thanks for stopping by Anne 🙂 I can only imagine that being forced into messy by a broken back would be MORE than a little overwhelming. Especially if you are an already tidy person! I’m still going strong with my resolution to put things away every evening and it’s still working. I’m Looking forward to seeing your blog when it’s up and running.

  3. Ha! This has changed my life, too. Putting things away right NOW, instead of avoiding it because I’m tired has actually made me able to get more rest. I’m not always stressed about my messy house. So now I can actually rest and breathe when my babies rest… Now to just convince my husband it’s a good idea ;).

    • LOL my husband is generally SO much cleaner that I am, so I guess I’m lucky that way. Tons more free time (for resting… or blogging… whatever) is an awesome perk of being tidy!! Thanks for reading 😉 xo

    • HI Debbie! Thanks for the heads up on the link! I’ll have a look at that right now 🙂

  4. That’s awesome. Your post was very inspiring. I’ve recently become a stay at home mom and I feel like it’s my responsibility to keep the house clean, and since I’m the messy one of the family (the toddler doesn’t really count) I should be doing this anyway. I love the idea about the sticky notes. I think this is my problem, I just forget that I’m trying NOT to make a mess.

    • Congrats at becoming a stay at home mom… I’ll be making that transition in December and I’m looking forward to it! Actually it was part of the reason that I wanted to change my messy habits NOW lol. It took me a while to remember not to make a mess, but after a while it becomes more like second nature. I’m still going strong with the clean house! You can do it too! 🙂

  5. “even when you have less stuff, that stuff still doesn’t put itself away” I know, right?!
    Now here’s to remembering. Every day. Every time.
    Thanks for these great tips! 🙂

    • Hi Ruth! I think I DIDN’T know that at first. I de-cluttered and I was expecting that to solve my problem… but no luck. lol. It does get easier, everyday. I just looked around my house again tonight and did a little happy dance 😉

  6. This post was amazing and very eye opening for me. Thank you… you are so very very right! Going cold turkey starting now. Cleaning my house in the morning and going to be TIDY, because I CAN.

    • EEK Deena, I’m so excited for you! You are going to love it so much, you’ll never go back 🙂

  7. Thank you for this post! I am a stay-at-home, homeschool mom of 9 (soon to be 10!) kiddos in a small house. Needless to say, we can make the house messy VERY fast! BUT…I have lots of helpers…I just need to use them. 😉 *I* am the messy one and they are just following my example. Thank you for the encouragement to stop making excuses (I have 10 of them!) for my messy house and to make a decision to stop living in a mess, as it really does make my life less-than peaceful.

    • Hi Gwendolyn! I’m so happy to hear that you found this post encouraging! It’s soooo easy to be messy and I always thought it would be hard to be tidy, but once it’s a habit, it’s just as easy lol. And you’re right… life is soooo much more peaceful when the house is tidy. Good luck getting your kiddos on board – 10 is a whole bunch of help!!

  8. The two minute walk through the house is a great idea! I do many of the things you mentioned, but could use a final walk through before I go to bed. Mainly to pick up spare toys that are still laying around. 🙂

    • Hey Emily – the battle against toys EEK! One thing that I am a little bit dreading… actually probably the thing that I am dreading the MOST about parenthood (I know I’m probably in for a rude awakening LOL). Am I cruel if I limit my kid to one box of toys and tell family we don’t want any as gifts?

  9. I always say that my home is messy bc I’m such a perfectionist. Seems like an oxymoron, I know, but you said it above…the mess overwhelms me. I am organized everywhere else in my life except my home. For me, coming home is an opportunity to let my hair down and relax. I take that big sigh (not literally) and just seemingly drop everything — clothes on the bathroom floor – that’s me! And then bc I’ve dropped everything, wherever, and it’s a mess…and it’s overwhelming…it’s too much for me to try and make it ‘just right’ so it just builds from there. If I can’t ‘do it right’ I don’t seem to want to do it at all. I don’t just want to put things away, I want it organized exactly as it should be…and nothing less will do. (ie, Perfectionist)

    • That is TOTALLY ME. If I can’t do it right, I don’t want to do it, and once it’s not getting done I’m totally overwhelmed by it. I think that’s the reason that it’s been “life changing” for me to live in a tidy house. STILL, every day, I wake up happy and inspired to keep being tidy… I was afraid it would “get old” but apparently not! (Thank goodness…)

  10. Loved reading this! I’ve been chastising myself so much for not keeping things in order. It drives me crazy but it continues to happen. I’m still trying one day at a time to get better. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • I have complete faith that you can do it Margie 🙂 (Cus if I can do it, you can do it…) Thanks for reading!!

      • story of my life…by the way it comes to a time where i cried so much coz i see like i can not change that behavior and am a wife and mother i have to be a good influence on them so iits really painfull…..thanx for your encouragment i believe in my self that i can change.

      • Hi Emanuella – I’m sorry to hear this has been such a struggle for you! I believe you can change too, it just takes a little effort and a solid WILL to do it. Knowing that you are influencing your children can really give you the boost you need to make a change 🙂

  11. One thing that I have found helps a great deal is to notice your ‘hotspots’–the places that collect clutter in a big way. The end of the kitchen countertop, the dining room table, the table by the door, your dresser…whatever it is in your home…figure it out and then DECORATE it! Put something pretty smack in the middle of that spot. Put pretty placemats and a centerpiece on the table or a flower arrangement on the table by the door. That way, when you begin to toss your clutter there, you see the decor and are reminded to put it away instead!

    • Interesting Ronda! That makes SO much sense… if I had room in my bathroom to put something “pretty” (where I like to ditch my clothes) I defenitly wouldn’t be able to ditch them there! I am still doing SO great with the bathroom, but the nightstand by my bed is a bit of a problem area yet. I wonder if I can use this there… Thanks!

  12. How can you have more time if you spend more time cleaning? This week I spent a half day cleaning my kitchen, and a half day cleaning my master bathroom. I don’t have that kind of time every week!

    • HI Claire, I’d say since I stopped being messy I spend LESS time cleaning! When there was stuff everywhere I had to, for example, put away everything in the kitchen that didn’t belong there or that was just hanging out on the counter, before I could CLEAN the kitchen. So it might have taken me an hour or more to clean it before. But now, since the kitchen is already tidy, cleaning the kitchen takes 15 minutes.

  13. Overwhelming is IT! It gets me depressed looking at piles of mail/papers, containers of unread/filed mail. I feel if I file it, I won’t know where it is or remember I have it. Being at home is overwhelming too. Cuz, I’m the one who has time to do it, so its all on me. Also I feel I will do it the mext day. It’s a ficious cycle….

    • O Lisa I hear you on all accounts. I wish I could encourage you to tackle it somehow, in a manageable way… I REALLY believe that there is a way that could make it easy for you!

  14. Your blog seems very honest and authentic so I’m going to trust you on this one. I’m messy too, so it seems hard to believe, but I desperately want it to be true. We hate being at home on weekends because there is always so much tidying to do. I’ve been slugging away at various rooms for a few months (we’ve been here for almost 10 years, so there is a lot of stuff accumulated). How did you get started?

    PS: loving your blog!

    • Hi Bee! Thanks so much 🙂 Honestly, I started with one thing at a time… Just picking something up and saying, where does this go? and then putting it there. And then picking up another thing, and doing it again. It sounds tedious, but it works!!

  15. As I read your sweet and heartfelt post, I thought, “She doesn’t have kids.” When I got to “…or 30 minutes if you have little ones…”, I knew for sure. I’d love for you to come back and update the post once your baby is a toddler. Cleaning with a toddler is a constant evolution. LOL! I have actually mopped the same floor THREE times in one afternoon! LOL Once they turn three, you can start putting them to work. Tho that usually creates more mess for you at the time, if you start training them young, eventually it pays off! ???? So, everything is going to take three times as long, for the first few years… in between begging them to get dressed (because they won’t let you do it anymore), and praying that you started early enough today, that you won’t be late yet again. ???? I actually got most of my clutter-busting done during that daily 30 minute clothing session (if he didn’t dissolve into a tantrum – add 20 mins for tantrum because I had the nerve to wash his third favorite shirt) My friends’ 2 1/2 y/o daughter slammed open her bedroom door at 1:30 am this morning, screaming that she woke up in the wrong Minnie Mouse PJs. ???? ENJOY THAT BABY! It’s actually the most precious, sanest time of parenthood! LMAO! And SLEEP! SLEEP NOW! Sleep as much as you possibly can… And revel in your clean home… Oh and don’t tell people not to buy toys, just rotate them. When the new toys come in, put equal number/size away in a closet. 2 or 3 weeks later, when ghey’re bored with them, switch out some of the new with the old…

    • HI Jo 🙂 I realize life will change pretty drastically when the baby comes. I’m just gonna go with the flow 🙂 But I really AM gonna limit toys, because I think that will be half the battle. I’ll just switch out…. fewer toys. That’s a great tip!! Thank you 🙂 (And I’m trying to sleep all I can but my back hurts sooooo bad… I hope at least when the baby gets here I’ll be this tired but in less pain. LOL.)

  16. Thanks for the inspiring post! I struggle with tidying up, but love a clean house and definitely find it less stressful. I like the idea of quitting cold turkey and relating it to mental happiness and less stress. It really took a while to notice that the mess caused me stress. definitely gets messy with kids and toys. the best advice there, limit the toys to things you like too and quite things to use their imagination with – wood blocks, wool balls, etc. Next tip is to get them in on the tidying. this gets easier as they get older, but by 12-18 mo. they can help put things away. little bits at a time, but helping is key and they love helping at young ages, so awesome to get them involved from the start. then, they see the clean house makes a happy house and happy mom and they will be all over it!

    • HI Amy!! Thank you so much for reading 🙂 I have had people tell me that I’m awful for saying I’ll limit the toys – but why not?! I don’t want to teach my kids that they need a ton of stuff! I WANT them to learn to love living in a tidy house. Watching my niece “wash” and “sweep” is adorable, and I totally agree that you can raise them to be all over a happy clean house. GREAT way to think!


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