I Tried the One-Hour Cleaning Method To Make Tidying Up Less Overwhelming

Photo: Stocksy / STUDIO TAURUS
Roughly nine million adults in the United States alone have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and as one of those adults, I have particularly difficult time keeping my space tidy. Most people have a “junk drawer” in their kitchen, a single drawer wherein all of life’s random objects find a temporary home before being sorted or thrown away. I, on the other hand, have an entire junk corner. And while my New Year’s resolution has been to maintain a cleaner home, my junk corner has continued to grow.

In an effort to keep the mess at bay, I turned to CleaningTok to find a practical way to manage the mess. It was there that I came across a now-viral video from retired firefighter, lifestyle influencer, and busy mom Renee Alyse Belle. In the video, Belle, who also has ADHD, shares how the “one-hour cleaning method" has helped her clean and maintain her blended household of eight.

Experts In This Article
  • Renee Belle, lifestyle influencer behind Mommy Hasn’t Showered
  • Terry Matlen, LMSW, psychotherapist, author, and nationally-recognized ADHD expert

What is the one-hour cleaning method?

Belle’s one-hour cleaning method involves dedicating a single hour of your time to nothing else but cleaning. At the end of that hour, you can reward yourself with a timed break: Scroll away on socials, binge your favorite Netflix show, or whip up a snack. If you need to get more done, follow up that break with another uninterrupted hour of cleaning. Repeat this method as necessary, breaking up cleaning into focused, timed spurts.

What makes cleaning so overwhelming for some, especially adults with ADHD, is that it’s a never-ending task. Right when you *finally* finish cleaning one area of your home, another mess seems to pop up in its place. For Belle, creating a concrete boundary for cleaning and establishing a period of rest made tidying up more manageable.

“I don't love cleaning, which is kind of crazy, because my whole TikTok is about it,” Belle says. “This breaks it into all these little bite-sized pieces that I can do and not get overwhelmed, not get too tired. But then I can still feel accomplished at the end of the day, because I know I did these three things and didn't waste my whole day cleaning.”

One-hour cleaning method tips to try

1. Start with five minutes, then work your way up

Before tackling the full hour, Belle implemented bite-sized cleaning bursts into her routine, slowly working her way up to 60 minutes. If you’ve got a long week ahead and can’t dedicate a full hour to cleaning or find the length of time daunting, try implementing just a few uninterrupted minutes of cleaning into your day, rewarding yourself with a brief break afterwards.

Take it easy, and tack on more time as you go. The goal of this method is to make cleaning less overwhelming, so try it at your own pace.

“Yes, it's a one-hour method, and that's kind of your goal," Belle says. "But if you can only do five minutes, because you have physical limitations, or because it's upsetting, just start where you are.”

2. Begin cleaning where it matters most

You may have a laundry list (no pun intended) of areas that need some TLC in your house. What’s one area that, if cleaned today, would have an immediate positive impact on your life? Focus on that first, and work your way outwards, says psychotherapist, author, and ADHD expert Terry Matlen.

“Something that I found really helpful, and people I've worked with are finding helpful, is going inward and asking ourselves: What is it that I can do, that I need to do, that will make me feel better? Oftentimes, the answer is right there.”

Rather than stress about putting away Christmas decorations or organizing the garage, turn to tasks that will immediately improve your well-being, like washing the dishes, or running a load of laundry. If you end up having some time left over within the hour, you can then turn your attention to less pressing tasks.

3. Practice cleaning as you go

Beyond the one-hour cleaning method, try adopting a "don’t put it down, put it away" mindset, Belle says. Immediately after using something—body lotion, spices, sponges, you name it—put it back where it belongs.

“If I'm not in the one-hour cleaning window, throughout the day, I'll do little things along the way,” Belle says. “I'm always putting stuff away instead of just putting it down.”

Not only does this small habit prevent larger messes in the future, it also aids the executive dysfunction common in adults with ADHD.

4. Be patient with yourself

If you’ve been putting off cleaning, you’re not alone. Life gets busy and messes happen; after all, we’re human. Plus, cleaning and organizing doesn’t come easy for everyone, and that’s okay.

“We're so hard on ourselves,” Matlen says. “We don't need to be fixed. We need to learn how to work with our difficulties, and celebrate our differences, and be around people who celebrate us.”

My experience trying the one-hour cleaning method

Before trying the method, I reflected on the looming cleaning tasks that were affecting my life the most. My growing junk corner was *seriously* interfering with my day-to-day life and had become a major distraction, so I decided to start there. Should I complete it within the hour and have time left over, I would then tackle the dishes, since those had become an eyesore, too.

I set a timer on my phone, asked Alexa to play my go-to workout playlist, and immediately went to work. I decided to work from top to bottom, knocking out the round tabletop first. I started working on the loose pieces of trash, gathering stray receipts and tags as I found them. I then began moving the smaller items on the table to their respective homes, clearing off small amounts of space as I went.

As the hour carried on, I felt laser-focused on cleaning. Setting out with a clear intention to *only* clean helped me stay focused on the task at hand. Usually by this point, I would have allowed myself to get distracted by an old tucked-away photograph or my phone, but the promise of a break kept me fully absorbed in cleaning.

Messy table before and after the 1 hour cleaning method.
Junk corner: 0, Amelia: 1.

The results

By the end of the hour, I had officially won the battle against my junk corner (hooray!) and even had time left to re-organize my skin care and perfumes. The full hour flew by, and I had become so focused on cleaning that I was genuinely startled by my phone’s alarm at the end of the hour. I felt so focused, in fact, that by the time my rewarded “break” period came around, I decided to keep cleaning for another 15 minutes.

By the end of it all, I had managed to clean my junk corner, the dishes, and the bathroom. Dedicating a short period of time to cleaning allowed me to focus and take care of my messes without feeling like I had lost an entire day to the chore.

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