‘Junebugging’ Is the Psychologist-Approved Trick That Will Help You Keep Your House in Order—No Matter How Much You Struggle With Cleaning

Photo: Stocksy / Alba Vitta
If you've ever had trouble finishing your household chores or organizing tasks, you know how important it is to break big projects into smaller steps. Even when you've narrowed down your cleaning task to a few tasks like, "Take clothes off the chair" and "Load the dishwasher," however, it can still be tough to actually get it done—especially if you often get distracted by other things that need your attention.

Something that can help anyone who struggles to focus on their cleaning tasks at hand? Junebugging. It's a trick used by psychologists to help people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) stay focused on tasks, but it can be beneficial for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.

Experts In This Article

What is Junebugging?

When used in a psychological context, the term "Junebugging" is a playful metaphor for sticking to a task in the same way that June bugs exhibit a behavior known as "site fidelity," where they often return to the same area or location over time. Scientists aren't entirely sure why they do this, but they may be attracted to certain environments due to factors like food availability, suitable breeding conditions, or the presence of artificial light sources at night. The term "Junebugging" is not a formal term in psychology; rather, it's a colloquial one used to describe coming back to the same "anchor task" again and again until it's completed.

Here's how Junebugging works for cleaning: Instead of saying, "I'm going to clean my entire room today," which can feel overwhelming, you would pick a smaller chunk to tackle. For example, you could say, "I'm going to organize my desk today." The desk is your "anchor point" or focus.

“Junebugging is doing what the Junebugs do; you go all over the place, but you always go back to your set spot, so you’re working with your brain instead of against it.” —Nikki Pebbles, MS, productivity researcher

“You know that you're probably going to get distracted, but no matter what, you always go back to that anchor spot,” says Nikki Pebbles, MS, a personal trainer, business psychologist, and productivity researcher who has ADHD. “Essentially, Junebugging is doing what the Junebugs do; you go all over the place, but you always go back to your set spot, so you’re working with your brain instead of against it.”

Why Junebugging works so well as a cleaning method

Videos on TikTok with the hashtag “junebugging cleaning” have so far amassed 15.4 million views, showing people practicing the method. The reason it's been adopted so readily is because it takes the focus off cleaning and puts it back on just getting one task done, no matter how long it takes.

According to Pebbles, Junebugging helps lower the temperature on the pressures to maintain a clean, organized home and turns your attention to what really matters, which is making your home comfortable enough for you. "You're removing the shame [of cleaning] and just giving yourself a little bit of grace," she says. "All you're doing is building trust and creating a safe space for yourself."

It’s also a clever way to prevent the "executive function" issues that so many people with ADHD experience, [such as] poor planning, being highly distractible, and failing to stay organized, according to Stephen Hinshaw, PhD, a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies ADHD and mental health in children and adolescents.

"It is okay to wander, but the key here is to always return back to the main spot you’ve decided to work on."—Sabrina Romanoff, PhD, clinical psychologist

Junebugging isn’t the most efficient way to clean or organize. But the point, says clinical psychologist Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, is to not worry about straying off task because that's baked in; rather, the important thing is to always return to the task. "Once you pick a spot you want to clean, you can keep yourself disciplined and contained to that area no matter how much you want to drift off," she says. "It is okay to wander, but the key here is to always return back to the main spot you’ve decided to work on."

3 tips to use Junebugging to get your house in order

1. Pick your anchor point

The first step to Junebugging is choosing your “anchor point,” says Pebbles. She recommends picking one specific place to work on so you don’t get overwhelmed. Once you have your anchor point set, stick to it until it's finished.

Here are some ideas from Becky Rapinchuk, cleaning expert and author of Clean Mama’s Guide to a Healthy Home, for each place room in your house:

  • Bathroom: wipe floors, clean bathtub/shower and toilet, wash bathroom linens
  • Bedroom: make the bed, pick up and fold any clothes that’ve been left out
  • Kitchen: wipe counters, put away leftovers, load or unload the dishwasher, sweep or vacuum floor, pick one drawer to organize
  • Living room: dust surfaces; return items like remotes, books, or dishes to their proper place; wipe or vacuum floor; fluff up couch pillows
  • Office: clear the top of the desk, put away papers and computer

2. Use a timer or body double to stay on task

Pebbles recommends setting a timer for 10 or 20 minutes—or playing a favorite song or album—and trying to focus on cleaning for that period. Try your best to make some progress during that time.

Body doubling, or working alongside someone else to finish a task, can be a helpful way to stay motivated. Pebbles recommends calling a friend on FaceTime and doing a cleaning task together.

3. Accept that you'll wander off, but focus on coming back

According to Dr. Romanoff, you don't need to fight the impulse to stop cleaning or switch tasks while Junebugging; just focus on one task for the duration of a song or as long as your timer dictates, and see what happens. "Accept and allow yourself to wander to another task, but then return to this spot when you do notice your attention skipping," she says. "The key is noticing your departure from the task, and re-diverting your energy back to it when you do."

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