I've always struggled to make my bed and clean my bedroom. When I had a clean bedroom, I hated it. Here's how I'm overcoming this problem.

If you’ve been around awhile, you know how I struggled for years to learn the habit of making my bed.

Well, first I argued for years that it was a silly, stupid waste of time. Then I wrestled with my habit of griping about it and all the advice out there to try it because it truly makes a different. I gave in, tried to change my ways, and found that simply deciding to change wasn’t the end. It took years of attempting to change my habit before it stuck.

I’ve written before about what finally made the habit of making my bed stick.

But as I was attempting to build that habit of making my bed, I was also trying to improve upon that beginning by actually having a clean bedroom and keeping it tidy.

I never did clean my bedroom as a kid unless I wanted something – I knew the first question mom would ask is “Is your room clean?” A clean bedroom was uncharted territory for me.

So, I did what I usually did: went gangbusters and totally cleaned my bedroom from chaos to neat and clean in a day. “Now,” I thought, “all I have to do is tidy up 5 minutes a day, hang my clothes in the evening instead of dumping them on the floor, and it will stay clean. Simple.”


It didn’t work that way.

When I woke up Monday morning to a clean bedroom – nothing to trip over, a clear expanse of floor, clear and clean surfaces – I actually felt uncomfortable rather than pleased.

Sure, it looked way better. I admitted it was way better. But it was no longer my bedroom. I felt like an intruder in a strange place, rather than at home in my own bedroom.

A clean room made me feel awkward and discombobulated.

It didn’t take long for the room to return to its normal, “comfortable,” disheveled state.

I went through this cycle multiple times before I even recognized my inner trouble with a tidy state. When I then read Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard, I recognized my issue as an identity issue – the same one that was causing the bed-making habit not to stick.

I did not feel at home in a tidy space. That’s an identity problem. I wouldn’t call myself a person whose identity is Messie – I didn’t want to actually own that – but it was true nonetheless. All the evidence I needed was that my identity was threatened in a neat and clean bedroom.

With that recognition, I knew this would be a long-haul change. It was bigger and deeper than just a weekend cleaning spree. That was not all I needed. I needed the cleaning blitz, for sure – many times over – but that was not the only thing.

I needed time to acclimate. Gradual change is easier to grow accustomed to than complete overhaul. So, I selected small sections at a time and focused on keeping them tidy, on recovering them first when messiness overtook me again.

I needed to push back against the discomfort. That discomfort was not a signal that something was wrong, but that I was growing. They were growing pains, to be mostly ignored because the good inner work was happening underneath them.

I needed to notice and enjoy. In order to become a person who lives in and prefers order and cleanliness, I had to actually notice it. After cleaning, I would pause and survey rather than move onto the next thing or simply function on autopilot while living in my head. Every time I stopped in my room, I would notice what was neat and think affectionate thoughts about that area, and I would notice the untidy places (like my closet floor) and add it to my weekend to-do list not with guilt, but with the assumption that I would prefer my shoes in paired, straight, and visible lines.

This is still a work in progress for me. My bedroom is where clothes to sort pile up, where things to deal with accumulate, where I still set things down rather than put things away.

But I have felt the shift. I have started picking things up automatically rather than out of guilt or a feeling of obligation. I feel happy when it’s clean. I love walking through my room in the dark and knowing I won’t trip. It’s nice – when it happens.

So traction is happening, but it’s still slowly gaining, picking up speed and momentum the longer I give it scraps of my attention amidst the other details of life.

Patience, perseverance, and awareness will win the day – eventually.

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  1. I normally don’t leave comments but this has been an often difficult issue for me. Messie was comfortable for me: my buddy. So a few months ago I started with two places that were mine in my house: my closet and my corner in my bedroom. Those are the most kept places! If I take something off, I put it away in the closet instead of throw it on the closet floor. Now it’s unconscious and second nature for me! I sometimes go in that area and just smile and that encourages me in other places of the house! It’s still a long road ahead but I am moving on that road instead of staying still! Thanks for discussing this and sharing your experience!

  2. Mystie, I love you for this! You make me feel slightly better about myself now! So this means I’m not a total failure for having a messy room? I definitely live in my head, too! Ha! :D

  3. I have also struggled with this feeling. The discomfort can sometimes be surprisingly intense. I think, for me, it also leaves me with more space (physical and mental) than I am comfortable with. When things are tidy and I don’t have fires to put out it is difficult to shift gears into “real” productivity.

  4. I struggle with this, too, although it’s not my bedroom that is the problem. Most of my house is moderately cluttered, but two other parts of my house are the big problem. The sitting room is a catch-all when we have things to dump somewhere (like when I cleaned out the garage a week ago). I also have one specific counter that I simply can’t keep clean. And as much as I like the spaces clean, they also look so inviting when I look for a place to set things. I think your slow approach is probably the better answer. I get so stressed tackling the space and then losing ground again quickly. Perhaps if I make small lasting changes then I might have success over time. Maybe I’ll always have a pile on the counter, but maybe it won’t fall into the sink. LOL!

  5. This is so me! I try to be more tidy because my husband love a neat and tidy house but I don’t feel like it’s my home anymore. When I’m doing craft with my son and the maid clean scraps (still usuable scraps) right under our feet it irritates me! what’sthe point of doing crafts if we can’t be a lttle messy for an hour? I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of everything but I listen to the decluttering program and I will start by the 10min declutter. It still feel that messy is part of me

  6. I’ve felt this way for YEARS and never seen anyone else talk about it or explain why. Thank you! It makes SO much sense!

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