Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
LEARN MORE
Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
LEARN MORE

April 25, 2024

August 31, 2022

Why Does a Messy House Give Me Anxiety? How to Stress Less About Cleaning and Keep Your House Functioning

E:
136
with
KC Davis
@domesticblisters on TikTok and Founder of Struggle Care

What You'll Learn

  • How to Reframe Our Thinking About Care Tasks
  • Practical Ways to Approach Cleaning as Functional
  • The Role Intensive Mothering Plays in Anxiety Over a Clean House
  • Why We Should Let Go of the Concept of “The Lazy Mom” 
  • A Simple Method For Cleaning Up (Even When It Seems Overwhelming)
  • Why Prioritizing Ourselves is Important

Why does a messy house give me anxiety? Why can’t I motivate myself to clean since I had kids? Am I just a lazy mom? Moms often worry about these things, feeling immense pressure to keep a clean house and experiencing shame when they fall short of those expectations. 

As moms, we can’t always buy ourselves more time to clean. But we can approach the concept of cleaning differently, learn to overcome our anxiety around cleaning, and develop simple tips for keeping the house functioning without getting overwhelmed. 
Today, I’m joined by KC Davis, author of How to Keep House While Drowning, known as Domestic Blisters on TikTok and founder of Struggle Care, to discuss reframing our thinking about “the mess” and tips for cleaning with kids.

The Laundry Mountain and the Invisible Load

When my kids were born, my husband and I worked to divide out the physical tasks in the home fairly. We came up with a system for laundry that worked for us, played on our strengths, and sounded fair on paper—he would wash and dry the clothes, and I was responsible for folding and putting them away. 

But sometime during my third maternity leave, I found myself becoming paralyzed at the thought of folding the laundry. 

The pile of unfolded clothes in our bedroom started growing, turning into a mountain. I told myself that I just needed to tackle it—that it was easy. I wondered what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just fold the clothes?

Eventually, I took a step back and got curious about myself and my reaction to the laundry. What was really going on? Was I really just lazy? Or was there something else happening I wasn’t seeing? 

Was I really just lazy? Or was there something else happening I wasn’t seeing?

When I did, it suddenly clicked for me—it wasn’t about the laundry itself. The season was about to change, so I knew that I needed to sort through clothes and change out the dressers and make sure that everybody had clothes that fit that were weather-appropriate. I needed to shop for clothes, organize, and think about so many things. 

As I started thinking about all the steps that I needed to do before I even folded that laundry, I realized that it wasn’t that one surface task that was holding me back—it was all the other labour, the invisible load that went along with it. 

That was actually the moment that I started to understand the invisible load, and that’s why I talk about it so often. We often don’t even realize how much we are carrying—we just feel ourselves drowning and can’t figure out why. 

And because we have grown up with gender norms that tell us a clean house is something that “good moms” maintain, it can often lead to shame and guilt when we can’t keep up with the massive invisible labour that falls to us. 

When I started seeing KC Davis’s content, it was eye-opening. This was a different way to approach the concept of a “clean house.” I was excited to chat with her about how to keep the house functioning without drowning in labour. 

How to Reframe Our Thinking About Care Tasks

The cleanliness of our home can play a large role in our identity as moms, but KC pointed out that the concept of the home often gets left out of conversations about mental health. There is a sense of shame connected to a clean house that is particularly strong in women and even stronger in mothers. 

We often end up searching for organization tips and videos online, but they can make us feel even worse about the state of our own homes. When we see moms online with perfect refrigerators full of organized bins, and we’re covered in spit-up and struggling to find time to shower, it’s easy to feel like we’re failing. 

There is a sense of shame connected to a clean house that is particularly strong in women.

KC said that if we want to overcome anxiety and shame around having imperfect homes, we have to reframe our thinking about care tasks. 

We tend to think of household tasks as moral—there’s a sense of superiority in having a clean home. This leads to thinking that there is something wrong with us if our house is messy—that we are lazy or inefficient. 

We also often think of care tasks as binary—either they are “done” or we are behind. This leaves us in a neverending state of chasing the “done” status. 

But instead, she says they should be viewed as functional, cyclical, and morally neutral. Care tasks exist for a function. 

For example, the task of doing laundry has one function—to make sure everybody has clean clothes to wear. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to do it, and it doesn’t need to be morally charged. 

Shifting our thinking around care tasks to cyclical also relieves some of the pressure to get tasks “done.” For example, laundry isn’t done or not done—it’s a cycle. There are clothes on our bodies, clothes in hampers, clothes in the washer, and clothes that need to be put away. It’s unrealistic to think of it as a task with an end. You’re not a “bad mom” if laundry is at a certain stage of the cycle. 

Practical Ways to Approach Cleaning as Functional

Once you start to view household tasks as functional instead of moral, you can determine what works for you (and more importantly, what doesn’t). As you discover what your needs and your family’s needs are, you can start to let go of unnecessary subtasks and expectations. 

For example, KC pointed out that in the past, sorting clothes by color was necessary. However, now it isn’t always a functional need, with advancements in detergents and washers. So, that is a task that she has eliminated in her household. She doesn’t need to do it in order to make sure that everyone has clean clothes. 

She has created shortcuts that work for her and her family that still allow them to achieve the same function. As she started looking at what was necessary, she realized that she didn’t need to fold clothes and put them in three separate closets. She created a “family closet” with bins of clothes—instead of folding the clothes, she simply sorts them into bins. 

She also pointed out that moms sometimes try to take ideas from online or from TV and apply them without thinking about the function. If you ordered a bunch of clear bins because somebody else told you to, without considering the function, you haven’t reached the root of the task. You still have to consider the function and decide if it’s something that works for you. 

Ultimately, it’s about digging into what your family really needs and letting go of the moral expectations or the cookie-cutter traditional way of approaching household tasks. 

The Role Intensive Mothering Plays in Anxiety Over a Clean House

It’s also important to think about why we created the expectations around clean houses in the first place. Who decided we had to have every piece of clothing folded and every toy put away at all times?

For many of us, this stems from intensive mothering—the idea that we must give all of our capacity and resources to our children in order to be “good moms.” Our identity as moms often becomes wrapped up in how much we martyr ourselves. 

Our identity as moms often becomes wrapped up in how much we martyr ourselves.

KC pointed out that this can happen to moms who wrapped their identity up in their work before they became moms. Sometimes when they are home with their children on maternity leave or working less, they look for that identity and validation in the “work” of motherhood. 

The issue with that is that at work, you can clock in and out. But motherhood is neverending. This can lead us to feel like we must be working on household tasks at all times in order to have value as moms. 

KC encourages moms to ask themselves, “Is this house serving me, or am I serving the house?” If it’s the latter, then we need to reevaluate our approach. 

We also have to consider the role that gender norms play in the expectations around our homes. Many of my clients feel embarrassed about the state of their homes—they feel as if they would be judged if somebody came over to visit. But that same shame doesn’t apply to dads. It’s steeped in gender stereotypes. 

KC sometimes faces judgment online from people who say she talks about motherhood as if she doesn’t like being a mom. But she says that’s not the case—she would just like to experience parenthood the way dads are able to—checking out and taking time for themselves as well as being present in the home. 

Why We Should Let Go of the Concept of “The Lazy Mom”

When my clients mention to me that they feel embarrassed about the mess in their homes, they are often worried about being viewed as lazy. Sometimes, they even view themselves as lazy. This was something I faced when I couldn’t bring myself to tackle the laundry mountain. 

But KC said that she doesn’t believe “laziness” even exists. It’s a morally charged word that indicates there’s something wrong with us. When we are unable to complete tasks, there is almost always something else happening beneath the surface. That could be neurodivergence, mental health concerns, task initiation struggles, or even just overwhelm with the invisible load. Other times, it’s simply that people prioritize tasks differently.  

When we’re in the throes of motherhood, sometimes we don’t even have a few seconds to spare.

It becomes hard to explain why managing the household is so difficult after motherhood. We can’t understand why we can’t do a task that would just take a few seconds. But when we’re in the throes of motherhood, sometimes we don’t even have a few seconds to spare. 

KC believes we should move past the concept of laziness and look beneath the surface for what is contributing to our inability to tackle tasks. 

A Simple Method For Cleaning Up (Even When It Seems Overwhelming)

Letting go of perfection and understanding that mess doesn’t make us bad moms is a big part of the puzzle. But KC also acknowledged that there are still tasks we need to do to keep our house functioning. 

The struggle comes in when we don’t know what to prioritize or how to begin tackling tasks when the invisible load is so massive. 

KC’s “5 Things Tidying Method” is a way to cut through the noise and clean up even when we don’t know where to start. 

She pointed out that in any mess there are only 5 things: 

  1. Trash
  2. Dishes
  3. Laundry
  4. Things that have a place but aren’t in the right place
  5. Things that don’t have a place

She recommends working through that list, starting with the trash, when tackling a messy space. Teaching children this method also helps them learn how to clean up. Breaking a big mess into tiny pieces makes it easier to tackle and prioritize. 

Using this method can help us contain our cleaning to manageable tasks so that we can let ourselves have time left over, for rest, for our own mental health, and for time to reset. 

Why Prioritizing Ourselves is Important

We often get so caught up in chasing a clean home that we feel like we can’t even take breaks or carve out space to rest. 

KC said that care tasks don’t end, and if we as mothers are waiting for those tasks to be finished before we rest then we will never rest. 

We have to carve out time for ourselves and give ourselves permission to check out and reset. For KC, that meant resting and relaxing during naptime, even if it meant the house remained messy. 

She realized that she was incapable of being the kind, respectful mom she wanted to be and keeping a perfect house—and the better value to her kids was allowing herself to reset so she could be an engaged, happy mom with a sense of identity. Without space for herself, she felt as if she was literally falling apart, leading to overstimulation, Mom Rage, and dissatisfaction in motherhood. 

Without space for herself, she felt as if she was literally falling apart.

By prioritizing herself and giving permission to let tasks wait, let her show up as the mom she envisioned. 

The perfect mother myth tells us that we should sacrifice every bit of ourselves for our children. And KC pointed out that at the end of the day, she would sacrifice her physical health and well-being for her kids if it would make them happy. But when she sacrifices everything, it doesn’t make her kids happy—in fact, it’s detrimental to their well-being. 

Prioritizing yourself is not an issue of righteousness, and sacrificing your well-being does not make you a good mom. Taking time and space for yourself and your mental health allows you to enjoy motherhood more, and it creates a better space for your children. 

KC pointed out that it’s important for our children to see us prioritizing ourselves as well. If we always sacrifice ourselves, we will raise sacrificial children. We want them to know that it’s okay to take care of themselves. Setting the example early teaches them that their mental health matters. 

Do you find yourself getting stressed, overwhelmed, and overstimulated because of mess and chaos? Register for our Managing Overstimulation in Motherhood workshop to learn how to reduce stressors and stay grounded in triggering moments.

NEWSLETTER

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Tags:

Why does a messy house give me anxiety?

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood

Share Now:

OUR GUEST

KC Davis
@domesticblisters on TikTok and Founder of Struggle Care

KC Davis is a licensed professional therapist, author, speaker, and the person behind the mental health platform Struggle Care. KC's compassionate and practical approach to self and home care for those dealing with mental health, physical illness, and hard seasons of life has drawn over a million followers on social media. Her book, "How to Keep House While Drowning" has sold over 50,000 copies and has been translated into multiple languages. KC Davis began her therapy journey at 16 when she entered treatment for drug addiction and mental health issues. After getting sober she became a speaker and advocate for mental health and recovery. Professionally, KC has worked most of her career in the field of addiction in roles such a therapist, consultant, and executive director. She lives in Houston with her husband and two daughters.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.
RELATED ARTICLES
April 29, 2024
April 24, 2024
Understanding and Implementing Responsive Parenting: How to Break the Yelling/Shame Cycle
E:
222
with
Dr. Cindy Hovington
Founder of Curious Neuron
June 5, 2024
April 17, 2024
How to Maintain Friendships (and Make Friends) as a Mom
E:
221
with
Danielle Bayard Jackson
Author
June 5, 2024
April 10, 2024
How Stressed Moms Can Cope: Understanding and Breaking Out of the Stress Cycle
E:
220
with
Amelia Nagoski
Co-author of Burnout
March 25, 2024
March 20, 2024
How Partners Can Share in the Invisible Load and Reduce Mental Labour for Moms
E:
217
with
Zach Watson
Content Creator and Invisible Labor Educator for Men
June 5, 2024
February 28, 2024
How to Embrace Career Change as a Mom: Finding Your Passion and Overcoming Guilt
E:
214
with
Jess Galica
Career and Leadership Coach, Best-Selling Author
June 5, 2024
February 14, 2024
Rekindling Your Sex Life After Baby: Communication Is Key
E:
212
with
Vanessa & Xander Marin
bestselling authors & hosts of the podcast Pillow Talks
February 26, 2024
January 31, 2024
Postpartum Rage vs. Parental Anger: How Social Expectations Create Overwhelmed Moms
E:
210
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder and CEO of Psyched Mommy, licensed clinical psychologist
June 5, 2024
January 24, 2024
You’re Not an Angry Mom: Why We Experience Mom Rage (and What We Can Learn From It)
E:
209
with
Minna Dubin
Author of Mom Rage: The Everyday Crisis of Modern Motherhood
February 20, 2024
January 17, 2024
What Causes Mommy Brain? The Role of the Invisible Load on Forgetfulness and Brain Fog
E:
208
with
Dr. Jodi Pawluski
neuroscientist, psychotherapist and author
February 20, 2024
January 3, 2024
How Parents Can Avoid Information Overload: Maintaining Confidence in Our Decision-Making
E:
206
with
Cara Goodwin
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
December 6, 2023
Navigating Different Sex Drives in Parenthood: What Impacts Libido and How to Reconnect
E:
202
with
Dr. Lauren Fogel Mersy & Dr. Jennifer Vencill
Licensed Psychologists and Authors
February 20, 2024
November 29, 2023
Prioritizing the Invisible Load of Motherhood: Valuing Our Own Time and Letting Go of Mental Labor
E:
201
with
Whitney Casares
Founder and CEO of Modern Mommy Doc
February 20, 2024
November 22, 2023
Erica’s Husband Reflects on Sharing the Invisible Load
E:
200
with
Frenel Djossa
Erica’s Husband & Co-Founder of Momwell
February 20, 2024
November 15, 2023
Breaking Generational Trauma Cycles: Healing Our Past and Moving Forward in Motherhood
E:
199
with
Dr. Mariel Buqué
Psychologist and the author of the book Break the Cycle: A Guide to Healing Intergenerational Trauma
February 20, 2024
November 8, 2023
Is There Such a Thing as Healthy Perfectionism? Reframing the Concept of “Perfect” in Motherhood
E:
198
with
Katherine Morgan Schafler
Psychotherapist and author
February 20, 2024
November 1, 2023
Breaking Out of the Default Parent Role: How to Communicate with Your Partner and Change Patterns
E:
197
with
Erin & Stephen Mitchell
Founders of Couples Counseling for Parents
February 20, 2024
October 18, 2023
Rebuilding Connection and Intimacy After Baby: How Family Systems Can Help Us Navigate Relationship Challenges
E:
195
with
Aaron Steinberg
Co-Founder of Babyproofing Your Relationship
February 20, 2024
October 11, 2023
Embracing the 7 Types of Rest: Why Moms Are Exhausted and What Actually Helps
E:
194
with
Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith
Board-Certified internal medicine physician and award-winning author
February 20, 2024
October 4, 2023
Interpreting Newborn Hunger Cues and Sleepy Signs: How to Learn Your Baby’s Needs
E:
193
with
Sharon Mazel
Author of Bite-Sized Parenting: Your Baby’s First Year
February 20, 2024
September 27, 2023
Understanding Overfunctioning in Relationships: How to Change Dynamics After Baby
E:
192
with
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish
Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Expert
February 20, 2024
September 20, 2023
Managing Mom Anxiety: Why Millennial Moms Are So Anxious and How to Overcome Our Fears
E:
191
with
Dr. Lauren Cook
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
September 13, 2023
Embracing Power as Moms: Reshaping Dynamics In and Out of the Home
E:
190
with
Claire Shipman
NYT Bestselling Author
February 20, 2024
September 6, 2023
How to Raise Confident Kids: Breaking Cycles of Negative Self-Esteem
E:
189
with
Dr. Vanessa Lapointe
Founder of The North Star Developmental Clinic
February 20, 2024
August 23, 2023
Understanding Sensory Self-Care: How Overstimulated Moms Can Regulate and Regain Calm
E:
187
with
Holly Peretz
Pediatric Occupational Therapist
February 20, 2024
August 16, 2023
Navigating Matrescence: The Roller Coaster of Becoming a Mom
E:
186
with
Dr. Catherine Birndorf
Co-Founder and Medical Director of The Motherhood Center of New York
February 20, 2024
July 26, 2023
The Journey of a Bereaved Parent: Stefania Thomson’s Story of Navigating Grief and Loss
E:
183
with
Stefania Thomson
Bereavement and Grief Advocate
February 20, 2024
June 21, 2023
Myths About Toddler Behavior: How to Reclaim the "Terrible Twos"
E:
178
with
Dr. Cathryn Tobin
Pediatrician
February 20, 2024
June 14, 2023
The Invisible Load of Fatherhood: How Dads Can Challenge Gender Norms and Become More Involved
E:
177
with
Dr. Singley
Psychologist and Director of The Center for Men’s Excellence
February 20, 2024
March 29, 2023
Birth Trauma Part 2: Facing Pregnancy After a Traumatic Birth
E:
166
with
Kayleigh Summers
Clinical Social Worker
February 20, 2024
March 22, 2023
Birth Trauma Part 1: How Birth Trauma Impacts Our Family Decision Making
E:
165
with
Kayleigh Summers
Clinical Social Worker
February 20, 2024
March 15, 2023
Real Self-Care for Moms: Why Mindset Matters More Than Massages
E:
164
with
Dr. Pooja Lakshmin
Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
February 22, 2023
Navigating Working Mom Struggles: How to Let Go of Norms, Expectations, and Guilt
E:
161
with
Mary Beth Somich
Mental Health Counselor
February 20, 2024
February 8, 2023
Overcoming Mom Guilt: Rewriting the Motherhood Contract and Charting Your Own Path
E:
159
with
Libby Ward
Founder of Diary of an Honest Mom
February 20, 2024
December 28, 2022
Coping During Postpartum with No Family Support: When Reality Clashes with Expectations
E:
153
with
Emmalee Bierly and Jennifer Chaiken
Founders of ShrinkChicks
February 20, 2024
December 14, 2022
Navigating Career and Motherhood: Approaching Maternity Leave with Confidence
E:
151
with
Allison Venditti
Founder of Moms at Work
February 20, 2024
November 23, 2022
The Mental Load of Motherhood: How to Address the Imbalance of Household Labour
E:
148
with
Gemma Hartley
Journalist and Author
February 20, 2024
November 16, 2022
Surviving the Baby Witching Hour: How to Cope With Colicky and Fussy Babies
E:
147
with
Dr. Whitney Casares
Pediatrician
February 20, 2024
November 2, 2022
How To Deal With Toxic Positivity As a Mom: What To Do When Someone Invalidates Your Feelings
E:
145
with
Whitney Goodman
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 19, 2022
Returning to Work After Maternity Leave: Navigating the Emotions, Difficulties, and Challenges
E:
143
with
Dr. Cassidy Freitas
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 12, 2022
How to Know if You Have Postpartum Anxiety: Red Flags to Watch for in Pregnancy, Birth, and After Baby
E:
142
with
Dr. Sarah Oreck
Reproductive Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
October 5, 2022
Protecting Maternal Sleep: The Relationship Between Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression
E:
141
with
Dr. Nicole Leistikow
Reproductive Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
September 21, 2022
Encouraging Independent Play: Why Unstructured Play Matters and How to Foster It
E:
139
with
Susie Allison
Founder of Busy Toddler
February 20, 2024
September 14, 2022
Dividing Labour Fairly in the Home: Redistributing the Mental Load of Motherhood
E:
138
with
Dr. Darcy Lockman
Author and Psychologist
April 25, 2024
August 31, 2022
Why Does a Messy House Give Me Anxiety? How to Stress Less About Cleaning and Keep Your House Functioning
E:
136
with
KC Davis
@domesticblisters on TikTok and Founder of Struggle Care
February 20, 2024
August 3, 2022
Overcoming Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: Why Support Matters and How to Find Resources to Help
E:
132
with
Dr. Wendy Davis
Executive Director of PSI
February 20, 2024
July 27, 2022
Overcoming Working Mom Guilt: Why Moms Should Never Be Ashamed to Be Ambitious
E:
131
with
Lara Bazelon
Law Professor and Author
February 20, 2024
February 16, 2022
What is Matrescence? The Transition into Motherhood (And Why Being a New Mom is Hard)
E:
108
with
Dr. Katayune Kaeni
Perinatal Psychologist
February 20, 2024
February 9, 2022
How to Prepare Your Dog for a New Baby: Planning, Introducing, and Keeping Everyone Safe
E:
107
with
Dominika Knossalla
Certified Dog Trainer
February 20, 2024
February 2, 2022
Discover Your Personal Core Values
E:
106
with
Dr. Cassidy Freitas
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
January 26, 2022
When Mommy Rage Strikes: How to Prevent and Control the Anger
E:
105
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
January 5, 2022
Sleep Training Doesn't Have To Be Scary
E:
102
with
Dr. Aubrie DeBear
Founder of Baby Sleep Dr.
February 20, 2024
January 19, 2022
Carrying the Mental Load: How to Redistribute the Burden and Give Moms More Freedom
E:
104
with
Eve Rodsky
New York Times Bestselling Author
February 20, 2024
January 12, 2022
Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression: How to Spot the Signs So You Can Seek Support
E:
103
with
Dr. Kristina Deligiannidis
Reproductive Psychiatrist