THREE tips to stay focused while cleaning

It doesn’t matter if you only have 30 minutes, a full day, or the whole weekend to clean. Here are three tips for staying focused while cleaning.

Keep reading to see what my “quick tidy” cleaning checklist looks like, too!

staying focused while cleaning

1) Make it “your time.”

Yes, we all know that cleaning sucks. But if you do it right, cleaning can be a bit like meditation.

There’s a bit of magic in clearing out your mind while you clean up a space!

Let’s not forget that clutter and mess cause stress. With that in mind, you could consider cleaning a bit of self-care.

Isn’t that much nicer than thinking about cleaning as a chore that you loathe?

Here are some ideas to make the experience more enjoyable all around:

  • Do you have an audiobook you’ve wanted to hear? Maybe there are a few podcasts you’ve needed to catch up on. Is music your go-to?- Download these in advance next time you’re scrolling your phone.
  • Be in comfortable clothing.
  • Treat yo’self- have your favorite drink at the ready (tea, coffee, soda, whatever you enjoy while you tackle the project)
  • Learn how to use your phone’s replying function- don’t get distracted by having to pull out your phone to answer texts or calls. Looking at your phone will trigger you to check social media or some other shiny-screen time sucker.

2) Write it down

Staying focused while cleaning is easy when you can see what your plan is before you start! Think of it as the blueprint for your success.

Date and time (be specific)

  • “Wednesday at 6 pm, I will clean X, Y, and Z.”
  • “This weekend, after breakfast, I will deep clean X.”
  • “I will ‘quick tidy’ on Friday at 5 pm.”

By making this statement, you create a contract with yourself. You also have time to prepare yourself if this is an area of stress mentally.

Make a list of the “to-do”‘s

  • When I make a list, the first thing I put on my list is “make a list.”
  • After I finish, I can immediately check something off the list.
  • It makes me feel accomplished right out of the gate. “Woohoo! I did that!”
  • The more specific you are about your list, the more times you can check something off and feel accomplished.
  • Having the list helps if you find yourself forgetting what you were just doing- I can be just like Dory so often.

3) The “Go-Backs” Basket

If you have trouble staying focused while cleaning, this will change your life.

Here’s how the “go-backs” basket works:

  • Keep a laundry basket or bin with you until the end of the clean.
  • Take it to the room you are working in and set it in the doorway.
  • Every time you find something in that room that doesn’t belong in that room, you place it in the basket.
  • Keep a small bag in it for trash also.
  • By not allowing yourself to leave the room to “put that back” or “throw that away,” you remain focused on the task at hand.
  • At the very end of your list, you will complete “take out the trash” and “go-backs basket.”

Remember: It’s important to finish what you start! This “go-backs” basket will help you stay focused on the task at hand instead of running around the house and potentially letting the mess remain.

how to stay focused while cleaning your home
Stay focused so you can have a clean and tidy kitchen.

The ‘Quick Tidy’ List:

This list is what I do when my parents or friends are visiting. It’s a great go-to list that I can refer to again and again.

  • Make list
  • Do laundry-
    • Clothes- wash/dry/fold
    • Towels- bathroom and kitchen wash/dry/fold
  • Clean Kitchen-
    • dishes
    • stovetop
    • cabinet door uppers
    • cabinet door lowers
    • fridge door
  • Living room-
    • pick up toys
    • fold blankets
    • wipe down coffee table
  • Bathroom (1)
    • clean toilet
    • put things away/wipe down the countertop
    • clean mirror
    • empty trash
  • Bedrooms
    • Bed made- bedroom 1/ bedroom 2
    • side table- bedroom 1/ bedroom 2
    • dresser- bedroom 1
  • Floors
    • Sweep- Kitchen, Bathroom, etc
    • Vacuum- living, bedroom 1, bedroom 2
  • Take out all trash
  • Tackle “go-backs” basket

I recommend making a ‘Quick Tidy’ list of your own for this sort of situation. You can create your own document that you print off and cross off, or you can keep a note on your phone.

The more you utilize this list, the easier it is to get into the routine the next time. Pretty soon, you may not need the Quick Tidy list!

Even More Tips to Help You Stay Focused While Cleaning

  • When you touch an item, put it away (or in the go-backs basket). Don’t put something back down! This is a waste of time and energy, and it can get you sidetracked quite quickly!
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes (or 30) and clean until it goes off. You just have to focus until that little alarm goes off. This trick works for focusing in every aspect of life from cleaning and decluttering to work!
  • Don’t move on to the next area until the first area is finished. We want no scattered movements taking away the focus! If you’re working on cleaning the kitchen counter, don’t get sidetracked with taking out the trash until the counters are done.
  • Keep cleaning supplies handy. Maybe you have a cleaning caddy that you tote from room to room. Having what you need on hand will help you focus on the task instead of finding what you need.
  • Done is better than perfect. It’s the doing that matters. Don’t get caught up in perfection or else you might never be able to focus and finish a cleaning task! Remember: You can always do the task again if it didn’t meet your standards the first time around.

You may also enjoy reading about house cleaning triage. It’s the way to company clean your home in 30-60 minutes!

I hope these tips help in staying focused while cleaning.


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16 thoughts on “THREE tips to stay focused while cleaning”

  1. Great tips! I started using a go-backs basket when I started tackling my clutter. I hated not having a place in the other rooms to put the go-backs so I built a shelf in my laundry room and put a box for every room in the house on the shelf…neatly labeled. Now I take my go-backs basket and sort the items into their appropriate boxes. Then when I have that particular room under control part of my “go-backs clean-up” is to take the box labeled for a tidy room and but any items in that box back in their home. For example stray dishes get sorted into the Kitchen box. Once the go back basket is sorted, the kitchen box comes off the shelf and goes to….guess where…the KITCHEN! and dishes are put in the dishwasher or other items find their homes. It has worked well for me!

  2. Have always used a list !! Keeps me on track and I love crossing off the “done” items. I can also skip around do a shorter length thing if I am going to need a “break” soon!

    • Me too. Just need to leave enough time to empty it! Sometimes I still have stuff that needs to be put elsewhere left over.

  3. I have physical limitations that require frequent “breaks”. So One thing I found myself doing is taking a 15 min break that becomes a 2 hour break. So I set a timer on an Ap called “Alarmed”. It has “nag me” alarms so if you set an alarm that says “break over” and set it for 15 min, you can tell it how often to nag you. So I set it for 5 min. That way if I don’t “clear” it by marking it done it will repeat every 5 minutes. You can set the repeat for any amount of time that works for you. This is perfect for people like me who can get distracted by social media or Pinterest for hours.

    • I have back problems so 15 minutes or more on my feet, or lifting things, and my back starts to hurt, therefore I have to take breaks…and then of course, I easily get distracted, once I am on a break, and often never get back to the original task. A friend recently gave me a Fit-Bit when she upgraded, I noticed it has a “notification tab. I can use your suggestion of a Nag Me alarm. I’m ready to give it a try. Thanks.

  4. My aha moment: I’ve heard of the idea of a “put in another room” cardboard box. But the laundry basket idea makes more sense to me because I already have a place for empty laundry baskets. When I would use a box, I didn’t always get things put away, and now I have multiple boxes sitting around the house with random things in them that I don’t quite know where to put away. I just knew they didn’t belong in the room they were in. But, it seems having a laundry basket with stuff in it would spur me to make decisions about the items within it, because the basket would NEED to be put away at the end of the day! ????

  5. Great tips here! The Go-Back Basket is my favourite way to do a clean – it keeps me from traveling room to room a million times and keeps me focused instead.

  6. Love all the tips, I have not found the videos to watch. It is hard for me to make the time. My calendar is an open place for People to fill up. I was going to watch the first video but a phone call sent me to pick up my mother in law. She is a sweet lady andI love her just wasn’t expecting her to be staying with me this weekend. Im going to be behind, but I will rise and do this. I keep my home clean but to much clutter.

  7. I have a question about what to do with old encyclopedias. What do i do with them? I have two complete sets of them. One is from the 70’s and the other is from the 50’s. The older set came from my husband’s grandmother, and the other his parents. I feel guilty tossing them, because I know they paid a lot of money for them and they were not rich people. A used bookstore isnt going to take them, they are too old. They are on shelves in my storage room that i want to use as a pantry. Help! What do I do?

  8. I have a very hard time staying focus especially when the. Tv on my only draw backs are to do laundry I. Need 12 quarters for wash& dry & when I got rhythm the Cat is following me wants to eat every 5 minutes them I am to poop to do anything

  9. I live in a apartment and the washer requires 7 quarters for each machine & when I finally get the quarters I focus on the task at hand but the hardest thing is the close up the laundry Room at the weekends


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Welcome. I’m Sarah!


I’m the creator of Decluttering School (formerly known as Early Bird Mom), lover of organized spaces, encourager to women and mom to four boys. Click here to read more!

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