How to Clean a Messy House (When You Don’t Know Where to Start)

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Mama, I’m so glad you’re here, because I feel your pain! I know what it’s like to live in a house that is cluttered and messy. Fortunately, over the years I’ve found some simple tips and systems that have helped me to conquer the clutter and mess. And if you are wondering how to clean a messy house, then the tips below can help you, too!

Having a messy or cluttered house doesn’t make you an awful person, or a lazy person, or a mentally ill person. 🙂 It likely means you have more on your plate than you can get done in a day, so you have to choose how to prioritize your time and decide what you can’t get done everyday. Some things may only get done every two or three days, or even once a week.

Just do the best that you can, and work to improve if you need to. Your kids won’t be tiny forever. Eventually they won’t be quite so messy. 🙂 And eventually they’ll be able to help clean more.

In the meantime, the following ideas can help you to conquer the clutter and chaos. 🙂

Tip: Save the image just above to Pinterest so you can easily refer to the tips below on how to clean a messy house later.

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Where Do I Start Decluttering a Messy House?

I know that a messy room and a messy house can feel overwhelming. I’ve been there too.

I have three young kiddos who are home all day, I work full-time, and I also have a side hustle (blogging/online business) that I spend quite a bit of time on, so I know what it’s like to feel like there is not enough time in the day to get everything that I want done.

And that means that often, house cleaning is one of the lower priorities on my list.

That in turn means that sometimes the house gets to a fairly cluttered and chaotic state before I tame the mess and bring it back to a fairly orderly state.

The way I tackle the mess is to simply take things one step at a time.

I start with the things that will be easiest to conquer, and that is garbage and stuff to be recycled (broken toys, yogurt cups I find under kids’ beds :(, old school papers, and so on).

Then I move on to toys, and I get those back to a toy bin. (I don’t bother with certain toys in certain bins.)

Any dishes that I find in the kids’ rooms get put in a pile to be taken back to the kitchen. Dirty clothes get put in the laundry basket, and clean clothes get put back in the dresser or hung up.

Then when the floor is clutter free, I do the sweeping or vacuuming, and call it a day.

How Do You Declutter a Really Messy House?

One of the easiest things to do is to get rid of some stuff so there is not so much clutter to deal with.

I know if you have kids and a lot of the clutter is toys then that is easier said than done, but start by getting rid of toys the kids no longer play with (even if they say that they do). Also donate or toss (if they are in bad shape) clothes that no longer fit. Put old school papers in the recycle bin (take a picture of some of them first if you want to for sentimental reasons).

If you don’t have enough places to put things, either get rid of the things, or put them in containers. You can find a variety of storage containers for the bedroom and for the living room or family room online. I really love these under-the-bed storage containers, too, to make use of otherwise wasted space. These more heavy duty and durable storage containers also work well for the garage or shed.

Or you can also check your local Goodwill or thrift store for containers, or get them from Walmart for pretty cheap. (If you have young kiddos you may not want to get super expensive bins, if the kids might be rough on them.)

Do try to have a particular place for everything, even if it is just a junk drawer or shelf for miscellaneous stuff in the utility room or garage or storage room.

Tips to Clean a Messy House

Here are some simple and effective tips to help you clean a messy house so you can conquer the clutter and overcome the overwhelm.

1. Take on the task in manageable chunks.

Don’t try to clean your whole messy house in one morning or one afternoon or even in one day. If you have the time, you could spend a couple of hours a day for several days in the evening working on it,

2. Start small as you work to clean your messy house.

This is related to the idea above. But it’s important. If it has taken several weeks or months or even years for your house to get to the state it is in, don’t expect to undo all of that mess and clutter in a day or even several days or a week.

It may take a few weeks or even several months (depending on how much stuff you have and how much time you have available and how much help you have available) to go through all of your stuff and declutter and clean it all up.

3. Do one room or one area at a time.

You will be able to get more done if you concentrate your efforts in one area.

For me, this often means that I focus on the most visible areas first, like the front room and entryway and hall.

Then I focus on (what I feel) is the most important room to get in some kind of order, which is the kitchen. That means sweeping first, and then washing the tables and countertops and stoves.

4. Get containers and storage accessories.

One of the biggest challenges with stuff that causes a lot of clutter is not having any place to put toys, clothes, and other common items. So one of the first important steps is to buy storage containers, if you don’t have them.

You can find a variety of storage containers for the bedroom and for the living room or family room online. You may want more heavy duty and durable storage containers for the shed or garage.

5. Enlist help to clean your messy house.

If your kids are at least 2 or 3, they can help some to clean up. They can help to pick up their toys and clothes and books.

If they are older, they can do even more. They can help to fold laundry, and do the dishes. Depending on how old they are, they might be able to help sweep or vacuum.

You can also enlist your spouse’s help, if you don’t get routinely work together to clean and declutter your home.

6. Buy less stuff and get rid of what you don’t use.

The less you buy, the less you will have that can be messed up. 🙂

For stuff you don’t use, toss it. Stop holding on to it. If it has been in a box for six months or a year or more, you don’t need it. Just let it go.

7. Set up a simple routine to help you clean your messy house.

If it’s easier for you to do some cleaning and decluttering in the morning, do it then. If you need to do it in the evening after work, do it then. If you can do it during naptime or school time or some kids’ TV time (no guilt), then do it then.

But if you can spend an hour a day every evening cleaning, you can get a ton done.

If you want more help with cleaning and decluttering, check out my cleaning and decluttering binder with helpful cleaning tips and hacks, decluttering tips, and helpful checklists for every room in the house.

Final Thoughts on How to Clean a Messy House

I know living in a messy and cluttered home is stressful. I know it is overwhelming. But you don’t have to get it all fixed in a day.

Start small. Pick one area, and do the easiest things, like throwing away garbage, tossing toys in a bin, recycling paper clutter, putting laundry in the basket or back in the dresser, and putting any dishes in a pile to return to the kitchen.

You can find more cleaning, organizing, and decluttering help here.

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