How to Clean Your Messy House: The Simple Guide You Need to Succeed

Your home’s a total disaster and there’s so much to do that you don’t know where to start. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to help you conquer the chaos and clean your messy house

You might have a great job and work full time, be a single mom with young kids, or just have a crazy busy life, and can’t keep your home clean. A spotless house just isn’t your top priority, nor should it be.

At the end of the day, your energy levels are a little low and you just want to spend your free time watching a tv show or playing a board game with your family.

You try to keep your house clean on a daily basis, but before you realize it, it’s a total wreck. It actually looks like a tornado ripped through every room and tossed everything all over the place.

There are piles of laundry, dirty dishes, and lots of clutter everywhere. You’re so overwhelmed by the mess that you feel completely hopeless and don’t know where to start cleaning first. 

The messier the house gets, the worse you feel. The worse you feel, the harder it gets to do anything about it. 

It’s a vicious circle that gets increasingly worse, but there’s hope. You CAN clean that messy house and I’ll help show you how.

woman so overwhelmed she doesn't know where to start cleaning her messy house

What are the Effects of Living in an Untidy House?

Living in an untidy or dirty house can cause anxiety and stress due to the chaos of having so much stuff around. It can affect your mental health and make you feel overwhelmed, hopeless, depressed, and even cause a lack of focus. 

Living in a messy house can cause safety issues too, including trip hazards and fire hazards due to the amount of stuff piled everywhere.

The dust, dirt, and animal debris covering the surfaces can cause respiratory issues and create breeding grounds for lots of bacteria, mold, and even uninvited critters.

Is a Messy House a Sign of Mental Illness?

Messiness is a personality trait, not a mental illness. However, it can be a sign of physical or mental health issues including depression and anxiety1

If you suspect that you or somebody you know is struggling with a mental health issue, please consult a local mental health professional and get proper help.


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How to Clean a Really Messy House Step-by-Step

Before you begin cleaning your messy home, it’s extremely important to give yourself a little grace.

Every room of the house is pretty messy right now and that’s frustrating and overwhelming all at the same time, but it happens. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure, a bad mom, a bad wife, or a bad person.

It’s also not a permanent situation. You can and will get it all cleaned up, it just might not happen in a single day. So take a deep breath and stop being so darn hard on yourself.

1: Decide Where to Start Cleaning Your Messy House

The first step to cleaning a messy house is to decide where to start. This can be a big challenge and one of the toughest roadblocks to overcome. 

The typical advice of ‘start with the messiest room so you can get the hardest room out of the way’, ‘start with the messy kitchen, it’s the heart of the home’ or ‘start with the bedroom, it’s your sanctuary,’ doesn’t work for this kind of a mess.

You can’t tackle the entire room all at once. If you try, you’ll likely end up feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed before you even start and it’ll be easier to do nothing at all.

If a wave of relief just swept over you because somebody finally understands, I have some good news for you. Not only do I understand, but I’m going to tell you exactly where and how to start and give you a simple game plan to clean your entire house step-by-step.

Where to Start Cleaning Your Messy House

Start cleaning your messy house right where you are. It’s really that easy. You’re not going to clean up the entire room right now, you’re just going to focus on any flat surface that’s right in front of you.

If you’re sitting on the couch in your living room staring at a cluttered coffee table, start there. If you’re standing by the fridge staring at your cluttered kitchen counters, start with one kitchen counter.

Here’s a list of 10-minute decluttering tasks to give you some ideas.

frustrated woman picking up dirty laundry in her messy house

2: Throw Away the Obvious Garbage

The simplest thing to start with is obvious trash. It’s easy to identify, and getting rid of it doesn’t normally cause any emotional reactions, so it’s a great task to start with.

Beginning with the area right in front of you, scan for obvious trash and start picking it up. Once your hands are full, throw the trash in the garbage can. If there’s still more trash, bring a trash bag back with you so you don’t have to keep going back and forth.

3. Pick Up the Dirty Dishes

Once the garbage is cleared out, start collecting the dirty dishes.

If they’ve been sitting out for very long, it’s probably best to run a sink full of hot, soapy water and let the dried-on mess soak for a little bit.

Once the sink is half full, wash, rinse, dry, and put away the clean dishes. It’s a lot quicker and less daunting to do a small load of dishes from start to finish instead of trying to maneuver around once the sink is overflowing.

If your sink is already full of dirty dishes, clear space to stack them and do them a small load at a time.

This is a great task to enlist help from other family members. Ask your husband or older kids to work on the dishes while you continue cleaning other things.

frustrated woman doing dishes and laundry to clean her messy house

4. Collect Any Dirty Laundry

The next step is to pick up any dirty clothes and start a pile near your laundry room if possible. Once there’s enough of a pile, throw a load in the washing machine.

If there’s a lot of dirty laundry, consider sending your husband or teenage children to wash and dry it all at a local laundromat. When they get home, they can put the clean clothes away then help with the rest of the house.

This is an easy way to get your family members to help and get them, and the laundry, out of your way for a little while

5. Remove Things that Belong In a Different Area

Once the trash, dishes, and laundry are done (or being worked on by somebody else), start collecting things that don’t really belong in the area you’re cleaning. When you have a handful of things that go to the same place, take them to where they belong.

If there’s a lot of stuff that belongs in different areas or rooms, grab a tote, or laundry basket to collect those things in so you don’t have to keep going back and forth.

Make sure you keep track of important documents so you don’t miss a due date or important appointment.

kids toys and memorabilia in a carboard box

6. Put Away Things that Do Belong In that Area

At this point, you should be left with stuff that actually belongs in the room you’re in but just wasn’t put away.

Collect those things and put them away where they belong.

7. Wipe Down the Cleared Surfaces

When you finish removing all of the stuff, wipe the cleared surfaces down with a damp microfiber cloth to get rid of any surface dust.

Once each area is finished, pick another and work through the steps again. Once you’ve cleaned the entire room area by area, you can put the finishing touches on by deep cleaning each room.

Tips to Make Cleaning Your Messy House Easier

Here are some tips to help make cleaning a messy house a little faster and easier.

  • Take ‘Before’ pictures so you have a point of reference for your progress and to provide motivation.
  • Have family help with common areas. You don’t make the mess alone, you shouldn’t clean it alone.
  • Break larger rooms or spaces down into smaller tasks that keep you focused and prevent overwhelm.
  • Work through one room at a time to see your progress and stay motivated to continue.
  • Soak dishes with dried-on food so they aren’t as hard to wash.
  • Create a regular cleaning schedule to help keep a tidy house.
  • Keep a couple of cardboard boxes handy for items you want to take to the thrift store.

Overcome the Overwhelm and Clean Your Messy Home

A really messy home can seem like a lost cause, but there’s hope. Follow this step-by-step plan to get it clean.

  • Pick your starting place and break rooms down into smaller areas.
  • Start small and easy by throwing away the trash first.
  • Remove the clutter that belongs in other rooms.
  • Put away things that belong in the current space but have been left out.
  • Clean the areas you just cleared off.

Grab my weekly cleaning checklist to help you keep your home clean and tidy all the time.


weekly cleaning checklist on a tablet

Join thousands of VIPs for cleaning, decluttering, and organizing tips sent straight to your inbox. As a welcome gift, we’ll send you this FREE printable Weekly Cleaning Checklist that lists exactly what to deep clean in every room of your home.

1 Here’s what a messy room can tell you about your mental health – The Insider

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