Why You Struggle To Keep Your Home Tidy – And How To Fix It

'Cleanfluencers' continue to cash in, but can their hacks really change your habits?

We’re spending more time in our homes than ever before – and it seems we’re desperate for tips on keeping things spick and span.

Stacey Solomon’s Tap to Tidy recently became the fastest-selling book of 2021, having sold more than 100K copies in three days, while her pal Sophie Hinchliffe, aka ‘Mrs Hinch,’ surpassed four million followers on Instagram.

Gen-Zers on TikTok are hot on their heels, where cleaning hacks are apparently cool now. Meanwhile decluttering guru Marie Kondo was recently named top of the home influencer rich list, with an estimated annual income of £1.1 million.

If you look at the ‘cleanfluencers’ with equal parts envy and despair, I hear you. Never mind tutorials on how to de-fluff the tumble dryer filter, I’m still mastering the art of loading the dishwasher straight after dinner. A sparkly home would be lovely, but tidiness seems to permanently evade me. Why?

Some people are genuinely more inclined to be tidy than others, says Vickie Dellaquila, education director of New York’s Institute for Challenging Disorganisation (yes, it’s a thing). And apparently, we can blame our parents for our filthy habits.

“Some people may be tidier due to the skills they learned as a child or adult to stay organised, or if they grew up in an organised environment,” Dellaquila tells HuffPost UK. “If that skillset is in place, it’s easier to continue to stay organised.

“People who are ‘messy’ may have not been taught organising skills, grew up in a cluttered environment, or have some other factors that inhibit their organisation skills such as ADHD.”

How messy or tidy you’re feeling can also correlate with your mental health. Some people may use tidying as a stress reliever, while for others it slips off while they’re stressed. Life traumas (such as divorce or death of a loved one), transitions (such as having a baby), or illness can cause a person to backslide.

The impact of being “messy” can in itself contribute to stress and even financial loss, adds Dellaquila, particularly if you forget to pay bills on time or lose them. But there’s good news: it is possible for a so-called messy person to master tidiness – it just requires you to work on the basics.

“Brains that have had enough sleep, nutrition, or proper exercise may help to contribute to better organisation skills.”

“Brains that have had enough sleep, nutrition, or proper exercise may help to contribute to better organisation skills,” says Dellaquila, so work on self-care before you even attempt to clean those windows.

People who have health issues such as diabetes, ADHD, or depression may have lower energy and motivation to tidy, she adds. Speaking to your GP about any associated symptoms could do you – and your home – the world of good.

For those of us who simply find tidying a bore, learning a hack or two to fake it ’til you make it may be the easiest solution. My personal favourite tip is putting one item back in the right place every time you leave a room. Sure, putting things away, straight away, may be more efficient – but this works for those allergic to logic and keeps the clutter hitting unmanageable levels.

If that doesn’t help, there are ways to master the art of tidying in a short amount of time. ‘Queen Of Clean’ Lynsey Crombie shares quick tips in her new book – ideal for those who want a tidy house, but can’t be bothered to put the work in.

Here’s Crombie’s 15-minute routine to have your place looking presentable (just don’t look too closely). It might take a little longer than 15 minutes – depending on how thorough you are – but view it as a quick way to spruce your home all over.

How to get your house ship-shape quickly:

  1. “Clear and clean surfaces, less clutter means less means and makes cleaning the surfaces with a spritz of product so much easier.

  2. “Open doors and windows and let the fresh air in to help banish any musty smells.

  3. “Plump up sofa and bedroom cushions.

  4. “Spray bathroom cleaner into the bath, shower and sink and just let it sit there to work for 5 minutes then simply rinse away and buff dry with a clean dry microfibre cloth, this makes cleaning the bathroom easier and quicker. Whilst the product is soaking you can do something else.

  5. “Run the vacuum around quickly and then go over any hard floors with a microfibre flat-headed mop. Flat-headed mops are easier to run around as you lose the bucket and get right into those pesky corners and along the skirting boards.

  6. “Add a few bunches of fresh daffodils to add a pop of colour and a calming atmosphere.”

The 15-Minute Clean: the Quickest Way to a Sparkling Home by Lynsey Crombie (Welbeck, £14.99) is out now and available to buy at amazon.co.uk

And if you really can’t get on board with tidying? Don’t bother if you’re happy enough in your own space.

Psychologist Dr Lesley Prince, associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, questions the nation’s obsession with cleaning and tidying – and says you shouldn’t bow to the pressure to have a pristine home.

“I have tidied up to some extent, but only as far as I felt like it,” she previously told HuffPost. “Tidy home, tidy mind? How about messy house, interesting mind? Or, chaotic house, complex mind? I create things, and that needs tools and materials, and that leaves a certain amount of chaos in its wake. I prefer to be creative than tidy.”