32 answers

How to Begin Cleaning an Extremely Nasty Home When You Lack Motivation!

I am a single mother of four and over the past few years it has been extremely hard for me to keep my home clean. It pretty much started when I was pregnant with my now three year old. Before I became pregnant with her I kept an immaculate home. I kept a regular cleaning schedule that included moving out appliances and washing walls on a regular basis. After I found out that I was pregnant I was put on bed rest and things just went downhill from there.

We moved shortly after she was born and still to this day have not completed the moving process. I live in a duplex and about a year after we moved in we got neighbors and they brought unwanted friends with them....cockroaches! They have since moved and now me and my children are stuck in a roach infested messy house! I have tried to clean the entire home a few times and have even made the kids help (which I used to not do at all). But it always seems to go right back where it started. I feel really incompetent as a mother and I know my kids do not deserve to live like this! I have been given a few lease violations and have done just enough to pass inspection previously. I am tired of living like this but I am now overwhelmed. I don't know where to start and I don't have the motivation to start even for my children as much as I hate to say it.

I tend to get physically sick when I start cleaning and I try to work through it until I at least finish the task I started. By the time I am done I usually have to lay down it feels like I am having an anxiety attack or something. I get really weak, my heart starts beating really fast, my hearing is muffled or something, and I feel really nauseated. I may be depressed or something. I don't know if that may be a reason or if I have just become lazy. I also don't have any medical insurance now to try to find out what is going on with me.

It just seems so hard and now it is harder because my washer and dryer have broke and I have tons of dirty clothes and I can't afford a new washer and dryer. And my kitchen sink is leaking AND clogged and I am afraid to call maintenance to fix it until my home is clean. I don't have very many cleaning supplies because when I did used to stay on my house cleaning I started using natural and homemade cleaners and now I am out of them. I just don't know what to do I am overwhelmed please help me figure a way to tackle this.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you to everyone who helped! I was able to clean the livingroom and the kitchen just enough to get the sink fixed. I had the kids help and we basically just did enough. We cleaned the floors and picked up things that didnt belong and cleaned off the countertops, table, and appliances. We got all of the dishes washed and started using paper plates and plastic ware just so we dont have to worry about that for awhile (thank you Elizabeth)! It has made it alot easier to tackle everything else since I got the sink fixed!

I really appreciate those of you who took the time out to make a plan for me to tackle this mess!!! I was really worried that I was going to get attacked for being a bad mom and I thought I was going to get yelled at for being lazy! I have not been able to find a doctor that I can afford that can see me in the near future but there is a clinic in my area that will be able to see me in March! That seems like forever away!

I failed to mention how old my kids are and they are 11, 9, 3, and 1. The older kids have been helping a lot more since I am trying to make it fun for them. I really regret not letting/making them help me before because as some of you did mention that is a life skill that they will need!

Thanks again guys for your help and taking the time out to deal with my problems because I know you didnt have to! :) And thank you for not attacking me! We are not near done with the house but we are working on it and taking it one step at a time!

More Answers

Here's a couple of ideas. First, you are overwhelmed so clean what is necessary; only do the heavy cleaning once a year and find a regular pattern to maintain what you have. Second, set up a routine of regular chores for your kids to help (I was mowing lawns as young as 5, though I did need my dad to start the mower). Third, find the fun in cleaning, my biggest problem is that I am lazy, but I find that when I start something small and finish I want to keep going to get more fullfillment in my day. Also, my MIL had similar problems as yours and she found help from the "Flylady"


7 moms found this helpful

I agree with the prior posts and have a few things to add...

1. You say your house is nasty. Not only because of a lack of thorough cleaning...have you "collected" a lot of unnecessary stuff over the years? Do you still have your 3 yr old's disassembled crib, outgrown clothes, etc?

2. I agree that you should tackle one room at a time. Perhaps start with the kitchen since it's used daily and you need repairs for the sink.

3. You don't say how old your kids are, but maybe they can join in by helping...have the littlest pick up any toys/personal items and put them in each kid's room. At least then everyone's stuff is where it belongs, even if it's not organized yet. Then have the next oldest pick up any garbage/broken toys and put all laundry in a big pile. Then your oldest two can help you make a pile of "donate" items and help YOU clean and keep an eye on the littler ones.

4. Baking soda acts like "Comet" to scrub tough stains, stuck on goop, and is excellent on sinks, toilets, etc. Regular dish soap can do most everything else.

5. Once you clean a room, like the kitchen to start, have everyone in the house agree that it has to STAY clean and can't become a dumping ground for personal items, homework, etc. Make designated spaces for papers you need to see from school & mail, where the kids should put their jackets, shoes and school bags when they get home, and laundry baskets or hampers for any dirty clothes.

We all have clutter. The key is to clean, then keep it clean by not bringing "junk" into the house, going through paperwork immediately and keeping things where they belong.

It's a lot easier to keep a house clean if you keep the NEEDS, organize the WANTS and get rid of everything else. The more clutter/undone projects/junk we keep, the harder it is to find space for it all and consequently keep things clean.

Try your best to have the kids help you get rid of stuff! The less stuff you have the easier it will be to keep your house clean.

4 moms found this helpful

I wish I lived near you so I could come over and help! You sound definitely overwhelmed. I've been in that place, too.

However, you have to start somewhere. I really like http://www.flylady.net because of the common-sense organizational and cleaning advice. One of the main principles is: "You can do anything for fifteen minutes."

Take what you have now for cleaning, even if it's just vinegar and water and a little shampoo (which is a form of soap), set a timer for fifteen minutes, and go to it in the kitchen or the bathroom. DON'T get sidetracked by detail cleaning - just work on basic cleaning. When the timer goes off, stop. I don't know whether you'll need to rest or get some fresh air or do something else on your to-do list, but do something else. Then clean for another fifteen minutes. Alternate these quarter-hour periods. You'll be surprised at what you can accomplish, even when you're feeling bad.

Your goals will be: 1) your need to let the maintenance people come in, and 2) your desire to discourage the nasty insects. Once again, don't get caught up in the details. Don't move the non-working washer. That can come later. Right now, use fifteen-minute spurts to get the rooms basically clean and livable.

If you can somehow get a physical checkup, it would be a great idea. Who is there near you for you to talk to about your depression? If you attend a church regularly, ask there. There may be someone able and willing to help you, but you won't know until you've asked.

You have lots of good advice posted here already. While you think about all of it, go hug your children and tell them you love them. Then start somewhere - anywhere that's visible (so you can see the results). Starting is the big thing right now. Start no matter how you feel about it. It's like the old, creaky joke: "How do you eat an elephant?" And the answer, of course, is: "One bite at a time."

4 moms found this helpful

Hi R.---Haven't read everything but I think that the responses you are receiving make sense. Start working on one or two of them at a time and before you know it, you will start feeling better.

I totally think your anxiety and depression stem from the fact you do not like the situation you are currently living in. First, don't beat yourself up that you can't keep an immaculate house anymore. You have 4 kids that need your attention as well. Something has to give so maybe those deep cleans only happen once a year instead of twice. I'm not going to go into details as I think others have done that. I think the 15 minutes at a time thing is a great place to start. How old are your kids? Have one of them participate in each of the 15 minute sessions according to their abilities. They can then start to clean certain areas on their own. I would have to go back over and reclean a few areas but overall, my work was lessened by having basic cleaning done by them. Go in the internet and google home-made cleaning products. You don't need a lot of fancy stuff. Two or three items, baking soda, vinegar and a couple of others work for just about everything.

Start somewhere. You will most likely find that your anxiety and depression will subside once you get into a regular cleaning habit. Doesn't have to be perfect. Then be proud of what you've accomplished, whatever that may be. Drugs will not help if the underlying reasons for the condition are not addressed. Does that make sense? Prioritize those things where you need outside help for now so that the sink will be repaired. Do some basic laundry in the bathtub and then set a time to go to the laundromat until you can repair your washer and dryer. Where there's a will, there's a way. You can do this because you don't like the way things are going now.

I'll be praying a rooting for your success. Do you want to succeed? Then make it happen. You can do it. Good luck...D.

3 moms found this helpful


First understand you are not a failure. Definitely have the kids help, by making it fun instead of "making" them assist. Go see www.flylady.net and she will help guide you in the way of making big tasks into manageable units, and going one step at a time. She is very positive, uplifting, and gets rid of the guilt.

Best wishes,

3 moms found this helpful

the roaches may be causing you to get sick. I have heard that kids in the south tend to have asthma due to cockroaches and I know for a fact this was the case with my kids because we lived in GA and the duplex we moved into had them before we moved there but the ones we saw upon inspection were dead and was told the home was sprayed. Well we ended up having them and had never had them before moving there. Within 2 months all 3 of our kids had asthma and we didn't have roaches that bad but did have them. I had them sprayed every month and my neighbor also had her side done at the same time but we still had some when we moved. Anyway we only had 1 with asthma prior to moving there, then the other 2 got asthma and I was also sick a lot. When we moved from there into another apartment that didn't have roaches and they sprayed stronger stuff every 3 months we didn't have roaches anymore after 4 months of the new apartment. After we moved from there all 3 of our kids quit having asthma symptoms and I felt healthier and none of us were sick very often.

Have you tried terro? I have heard this works well, it is a gel that you put on a small card and put in your cabinets and other places and can hide it pretty well so the kids don't get into it. I haven't used it personally but have heard several people say it works well. I think that is what terminex used in one of my friends houses in Georgia and she got rid of the roaches by using that company while our bug co didn't use stuff like that and just sprayed around the baseboards and outside the house.

I would also think this is a landlord problem and they should pay for an exterminator at least every 3 months. There are rental laws and need to find out what they are in your state and you may have a case where they are required to do that especially with it being a health hazard. As for the other maintenance issues, just pick up and clean your house as good as possible, don't worry about the bugs that is not your issue, and get the things fixed or you could end up with bigger problems like sewage exploding all through the house.

Vinegar and water works well for most cleaning and is very inexpensive. Bleach and water also work well for bad dirty bathrooms to get the scum out and is also cheap.

Just start cleaning the basics and don't worry about the extra cleaning like behind appliances, furniture, and the walls. You will feel good just starting somewhere, then when you feel you have accomplished the simpler tasks then move to the extra cleaning that you used to do. It isn't expected to do those extra things like that often and is usually what people consider spring cleaning and do once a year or every few years.

I would probably move and find a place that actually has pest control provided in their apartments. I know I was so determined to never have them again that I told my husband if the roaches weren't gone when we actually moved from Georgia we were going to put all our furniture out on the curb and start over with new furniture because I wasn't going to drag roaches along with me to another state so luckily they were gone and didn't have to do that but we did have to move out of the roach infested duplex to an apartment and they had a better exterminator than the one we had in the duplex.

I tried to keep the house clean, swept and mopped the floor every night so the roaches wouldn't have any crumbs to eat from but found out they will eat their own dead to stay alive so what few the bug spray killed they would feed on to stay alive and I would clean out my cabinets about every month as that is where I would find most of the dead ones but keeping the house near spotless nearly wore me out too and even though the house was very clean we still had the roach problem. A dirty house does not cause the problem, once they get in they are there to stay until you figure out how to get rid of them.

Good luck and don't give up but as far as cleaning to make yourself feel better.. Start one room at a time and you will feel good for getting something accomplished. If you are so overwhelmed try to get a few friends to come and help you. Offer to help them clean their homes if they can help you get motivated to clean yours. You will be amazed how much that will help you to even get motivated to get started. Sometimes just having moral support from your friends goes a long way even if they don't do a lot, they are there to encourage and cheer you on.

3 moms found this helpful

You have to start because the clogged sink is a hazard and letting a sink leak without reporting it is a liability and could get you in trouble. You really don't need too many products. You can use one general household cleaner, a bucket and rags for most things. You can use vinegar and water for windows and mirrors and baking soda for sinks and tubs. Do you have anyone that can come help you because it might be easier to keep your morale up if there is someone to help you - a friend or family member? If not, just tell yourself you have to get this done for the kids!
Here is a plan for you. Remember as you work through the plan that the easiest way to deal with a clean house going forward is to do it now. If something spills, clean it up. If junk mail comes to the house, pitch it the day it arrives. Put away things as you go - don't let it build up. Have a clean sink every night and make beds every day.
Week 1
Day 1: Start with the laundry to get it out of the way. Collect clothing, towels, sheets etc from all over the house. Recognize though, that laundry is ongoing so you'll need to make a commitment in your head that you will be back in 3 or 4 days doing it again because you don't want it to build back up. Don't let it beat you - stay on top of it! Change everyone's sheets. It will be a long day, but it's just laundry - you can rest in between loads at the laundermat
Day 2: Two solid hours in the kitchen doing all the dishes and cleaning up the counters and put away any food that is sitting out, throw out anything that you don't want or that has expired. Wipe down the inside of the fridge if there is time left. Any items that don't belong in the kitchen put in a box to be sorted through while you watch TV at night. Start picking up in the living room or wherever you and the kids gather at night while you watch TV. If the kids are old enough, assign nightly kitchen clean up (sink, counters, food put away) to them from now on.
Day 3: Two more hours. Clean the sink and the toilet in the bathroom. Put away any items that are sitting out. If you don't want the items any more, or if they are meds past expiration, pitch them. If necessary, use the box again to remove items from the room and sort things while you are watching TV. Do the kitchen floor. Continue pick up of living area during nighttime family time.
Day 4: Back to the bathroom for the tub/shower and floor. Then back to the kitchen for anything you missed there - like the inside of the fridge and wiping down the cupboard doors. Collect laundry tonight. Continue pick up in the living area. This should be looking pretty good after 3 nights so assign continuing monitoring of the living area to the kids, if old enough. They can make sure toys and clothes find their way back to their bedrooms, the laundry basket or toy storage as appropriate
Day 5: Laudermat Day. Also call maintenance. Things should be looking well enough to have them come in by this time.
Day 6: Vacuum and dust living area. Spend at least two hours so if there's time damp mop the kitchen floor and bath floor again. Then all your floors will be clean at the same time.
Day 7: Everybody does their bedrooms. Hang things up, donate old clothes, throw out unneeded items. Use the box. Finish with vacuuming and dusting the bedrooms. If the kids are old enough, make them responsible for their own rooms going forward.
Week 2- this is going to be more general because I don't really know the state of your house, but this week you need to concentrate on the deeper messes to make sure you have room to unpack. So go into closets and cupboards. Use 3 boxes -Throw out, donate, save for garage sale. Wipe down the inside of cupboards as you go. Keep up on everything else so the general kitchen (sink, counters, food put away) is done every day, the bathroom is done once a week, dusting and floors (vaccuming and damp mop) is done once a week. Laundry probably twice a week judging from the size of your family with one time including the bed linens.
Week 3 - Unpack. Keep up on regular chores
Week 4 - Start the deeper stuff, like baseboards, light fixtures, fingerprints on the wall, windows. Do this monthly. (you could do one thing once a week, like the light fixtures and rotate every four weeks)

You can do this. Once you get started, it will help make you feel good about yourself. You can, of course, make your own schedule, just have specific goals and a plan to keep it up going forward. Your kids will love being in a clean house and will be proud of you and their home. Once you are back on track, it will be easier to do things with them, too, that are an important part of their childhood memories like making cookies, playing board games. You're going to do this and it will be the first in a lot of good things to come. Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful

I agree with www.flylady.net. I don't use it on a regular basis, but, if I start feeling overwhelmed I open up one of her emails and seek the advice. I got a grip on my stuff. I had a rough last pregnancy, and my house was crazy. I was sick for most of it, but, by the time my son was 1 I had 'control' again. It takes organization, completing tasks you begin, and ASSIGNING KIDS CHORES! How else will they learn for themselves? You need help, and they need to learn how to take care of themselves. Your job is to teach them. So, get a family plan together, assign daily goals, and get at them. You can do it! They can do it! Get some vinegar and baking soda, get some cheap scrubbers from the dollar store, and teach them how to use them. I would start with the kitchen, move to the bathrooms, then begin clearing out anything you don't need anymore. Take that stuff to donate, and you will feel so much 'lighter' that completing the rest will be a piece of cake! Good luck. I feel for you as someone whose been there myself. I still have a few hidden 'piles' in the corner, but I feel so much better now that I got a grip on things that getting to a pile a week feels like nothing these days. :)

For roaches- get some roach baits from the dollar store also. Those little black ones. Get about 30! Put them everywhere you can. In corners behind doors, under sinks, behind potties, next to the refrigerator. This really will help. I promise!

3 moms found this helpful

1 / 3
Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.