I 'employed myself' to clean for a day – this is how it went

Lacking cleaning motivation? Try employing yourself to clean

Coats and bags hanging on wall hook in a beige entryway, a wooden bench with a basket bag beneath
(Image credit: Nkuku)

Even the most motivated of us can find it difficult to get started cleaning our homes at times – or at least I know I do.

When my house fell into chaos after a period of illness, I needed something to help me get motivated to clean. Luckily, my co-worker recommended a cleaning hack that involves 'employing yourself' where you pay yourself to get through chores.

This is how I got on, and why we think it might be the perfect solution when you're struggling to find the energy.

I employed myself to clean for a day

In essence, the cleaning tip is simple. Much like hiring an actual cleaner, you decide how much you would be willing to pay a cleaner for their time (I looked up some basic rates online before starting) and schedule some time in your diary to get everything done. For each hour you work, you pay yourself an hourly wage.

amber spray bottles with cleaning sponges and brush in basket

(Image credit: Alamy)

At first, I thought this method may be a little silly. I was paying myself with the money I already had, after all, but the idea was to set aside the money specifically for a treat. For me, this was something as simple as going to buy some sweet treats from a local bakery, but you could create a cleaning savings pot and build the fund up for something bigger like a day out, a holiday, or an investment piece. Having something to look forward to is ideal when you are cleaning when you feel overwhelmed

Editable Weekly Cleaning Checklist | View at Etsy

Editable Weekly Cleaning Checklist | View at Etsy
This printable Canva template is editable and can be customized to your liking. Canva is a free easy-to-use design program where you can add your own colors, fonts, and lists.

I blocked out two hours after work in my daily planner to give this trick a try, making a note that I was going to work on my bedroom and home office – two spaces that had become dumping grounds when I was ill. While you can create a cleaning card system to help you tackle these areas professionally without missing a step, I decided to use the ski slope method instead and work around the room one area at a time to avoid writing a never-ending list. 

I also set myself up for success by ensuring I took all my decluttering and DIY cleaning solutions up to the rooms with me – you wouldn't expect a cleaner to turn up without any tools, after all. This helped me breeze through the tasks, starting with changing the bed and disinfecting surfaces, and finishing with taking anything that needed washing down to the washing machine.

In the end, I ended up having to work some ‘overtime’ to get everything done, so added a little bonus for extra time, helping me to avoid giving up just because my time slot was over. 

Minimalist white bedroom

(Image credit: Renee Kemps)

I am not the only one who loves this method, either. Rachel Bull, Homes & Garden's head of gardens also used a similar approach when her children were younger to help stay on top of everyday chaos:

'Employing myself to do household chores is something I’ve done since my children were born. It started when I was on maternity leave. I used it as a way of staying motivated when the burden of housework fell on me. Rather than setting aside amounts of cash, I would reward myself with small treats like a takeout coffee and a pastry in the afternoon, or I’d book a manicure for the weekend.

'Chores can feel thankless at the best of times,' she shares, 'but I think by trying to turn each one into a small win that can earn you a little treat is a handy mentality to have.’

Rachel Bull head of gardens
Rachel Bull

Rachel is a gardening writer, flower grower and floral designer. Her journalism career began 15 years ago on Country Living magazine, sparking a love of container gardening and wild planting. After more than a decade writing for and editing a range of consumer, business and special interest titles, Rachel became editor of floral art magazine The Flower Arranger. She then trained and worked as a floral designer and stylist in London for six years, and has created floral installations at iconic London venues including Kew Gardens, the Barbican and Peckham's Asylum Chapel.

My verdict

All in all, I think this is a great alternative to simply rewarding yourself with a nice drink and a cookie after a hard cleaning session – especially if you have that little bit of disposable income that would otherwise be relegated to mundane everyday purchases. There is nothing like a cash incentive to give me motivation to get something done and done well. 

Over time, I am sure working like this will also help me to get into the mindset of a professional cleaner, too, helping me to clean a house fast and encourage me to tackle the hardest of household cleaning tasks without overwhelming dread. 


What can a cleaner do in two hours?

How much a professional cleaner can do in a certain time will depend on the state of the area they are cleaning. For a more casual cleanup, a pro can usually fold laundry and put it away, disinfect surfaces, clean floors, and clean a kitchen and bathroom in two hours.  

Why do I never have the motivation to clean?

A lack of motivation to clean can be caused by a few things, from generally feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start, to having a low mood. No matter the cause, it is important to talk to someone about any struggles and ensure you practice self-care to help improve your mood. Feeling better in yourself will give you more energy, allowing you to start cleaning and get motivated by the progress you see.

Although this method is incredibly motivating, it is important to remember not to over-clean your home just to give yourself a little treat – remember that you can technically do this at any time and don't need to clean when you don't have to. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.