How to Clean a Messy House Step by Step

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With 5 kids even a couple days out of our cleaning routine and our house turns into a disaster fit for television hoarding shows. That’s how I came out with this step by step guide to clean a messy house: my own experience.

Certain life events, like our dishwasher breaking or the birth of our twins, seemed to draw in an insurmountable amount of mess and clutter. Somehow there’s always a way to dig ourselves out from under the pile of crap and get the house shaped up once again.

Get Things Done Fast: The Quickest Way to Clean a Messy House

This isn’t a guide to getting your house spotless. If your house is at the point where you are needing help just getting it clean enough to stay sane, you probably won’t be the type to keep it that way anyway. Neither am I. That’s OK!

You also probably have too much stuff. Decluttering is a great idea, but clean your house first!  

Your house is messy, there’s no time to read! Let’s jump right into getting that place tidy. Here’s how to clean a messy house step by step:

Before you begin:

  • Let go of the guilt for letting things get this way. It doesn’t matter how you got here, just that you’re getting out.
  • Gather up all your supplies: Garbage bags, boxes or baskets (ideally several), cleaning products.
  • Get rid of the kids. If you can’t actually get rid of them, find some mess free activities for them to do. If they watch TV all day, who cares, it’s just one day!

Most people can get this done in one solid day of hard work but if you have a large house, a baby, or other distractions it can take longer. If you need more time just make sure the things you’ve already cleaned stay clean!

Getting started with the step by step instructions to clean a messy house: Boxes filled with random stuff that needs to be tidied

Quick Tips For Cleaning a Messy House

  • Start early.
  • Plan mess-free meals for that day.
  • Put on a great cleaning playlist to help motivate you and pass the time.
  • If you need to buy any cleaning supplies do that before, not the day of.
  • Have a basket or box available for each room in your house to make things go faster.
  • Let go of perfectionism. When the house is really messy just getting it clean enough is good enough!

How to Clean a Messy House Step by Step

Step 1 – Start the Stuff That Takes Time

Start by loading the dishwasher and putting it on. If you don’t have a dishwasher, fill the sink, and throw some dishes in there to soak. Next gather up a load of laundry and put it on. If you’re in the no dishwasher camp (I’m sorry) wash that load of dishes and leave it to air dry.

Step 2 – Gather Up the Laundry, Dishes, and Garbage

Now you’re going to do a quick run around of the house and gather up the rest of the laundry. Throw it all in the laundry room for now. After that, do the same with dishes. Finally, grab a garbage bag and do a quick clean up of all garbage or anything you feel like it’s time to throw away. Try to resist the urge to trash everything (unless you can live with that).

I’ll bet your house is already looking a lot better! 

Step 3 – Clean the Bedrooms

Very messy bedroom with clothes on the floor and bed waiting to be cleaned

We’re going to start with the bedrooms. Normally professional cleaners recommend cleaning the house, literally, from top to bottom. This is because of how dust settles and all of that. You’ll do that next time you clean (hopefully) but right now it’s probably hard to walk around. Let’s take care of the floors first.

Here is my fool-proof floor cleaning technique!

First, sweep everything into a pile. If you have carpet you can probably still sweep most of it. Start with the trash (that you missed earlier) and throw away what you can see. Next, grab any big items that you can tuck away immediately for quick results. This is also where your baskets will come in handy – assign one to each room. When you’re picking stuff up that doesn’t belong  in that room stick it in the corresponding basket. 

Once you get the bulk picked up off the floor move onto the surfaces and do the same thing: trash, big stuff, other rooms.

Wipe Down Surfaces and Walls

Once you’ve cleaned the floor pull everything off surfaces. Then wipe it all down, and arrange things properly. Unless you can make decisions instantly, now is not the time to purge. Place things back in baskets or neat piles.

At the same time, wash the windows and spot wash walls where you see obvious dirt.

Beds

If sheets need washing, strip the bed. Otherwise just make it now. Pull everything out from underneath if you haven’t already and repeat the cleaning steps once again. Do this for the closet too. 

Finish it off

Finally, clean up what’s left on the floor and sweep/vacuum. That’s one room done! Take out all baskets/trash bags and shut the door.

Ban anyone from entering.

Repeat the above technique for your remaining bedrooms.

Step 3 (Part 2) – Resume Ongoing Chores

Laundry that's spilling out of a washing machine

Do these in between cleaning each bedroom.

If still have dirty dishes, fill your sink. Your laundry is probably done now so put it in the dryer or hang it on the line. Put the next load in. Same for your dishwasher – unload and fill again. Wash those dishes if you don’t have one after you put the laundry on.

Step 5 – Empty Bedroom Baskets

Baskets filled with toys

Now that you’ve done the bedrooms you probably have some pretty full baskets. Put away the bedroom ones now.

I always find this to be one of the most tedious parts, but if you don’t do it the stuff just collects and you never do it. Then inevitably this kids will dump it and you’re right back where you started.

Step 6 – Work on Laundry and Finish Dishes

Mom and daughter washing dishes together

Don’t forget to turn over your laundry again. If you have a dishwasher, empty it. Fold and put away the first load of laundry that should be dry now – so much easier with clean bedrooms. If there are more dishes repeat the dishwashing steps, if not, yay!  

Step 7 – Bathrooms

Man cleaning the bathroom mirror

Bathrooms should be quicker. Start with the same technique: trash, big stuff, other rooms, small stuff on the floors, counters, shelves, etc.

  • Make sure you wipe down all the surfaces as you remove stuff.
  • You can also give soap dispensers a rinse at this time.
  • Throw all towels and bath mats into the laundry room to get washed.
  • Clean the toilet and fill the bowl with cleaner, then do the mirror, bathtub, and wipe down any dirty wall patches.
  • Vacuum or sweep the floor then mop or wash by hand. 

Repeat for each bathroom.

First world problems, you can do it! Don’t give up! It’s probably lunch time.

Take a Break

Maybe it’s past lunch time. Go make lunch. Take a break, you’ve earned it. 

After lunch make sure to wash the dishes or load them into the dishwasher. If you laundry is ready now put on the next load and put away the dry one. 

Step 8 – Living Room

Family cleaning the living room together

Next up is the living room. Unless the floor is very bad, start with the couch. Remove anything from it and fix the cushions. If you’re feeling inclined, vacuum it too – it makes a difference. Pick up any blankets and pillows and put them away. Return any out of place furniture to its proper location. 

Then, use something or life the couch to clean under it. Pull everything out and sweep into a pile with everything else, just like you did with the bedrooms. Use the same floor cleaning technique that you did in the bedrooms to get everything tidied up. 

Wash windows, the TV, and dust all surfaces. Make sure your coffee table gets cleaned too. If you have stuff in your living room basket put that away now too. Once again, stack up clutter as needed or place on shelves.  Even if it’s not perfect we’re going for clean enough here.

Sweep or vacuum the floors when you’re done.

Step 9 – Finally, the Kitchen!

Messy kitchen counter that needs to be cleaned

All your dishes should be done so it can’t be that bad.

Start by putting away anything that you can quickly. Then remove anything that doesn’t belong and place in its correct basket. Clean off the countertops as best you can and wipe everything down including the cupboards. Sweep or vacuum the floor.

Try not to worry about the insides of cabinets right now. There will be time to declutter and clean, like when you’re spring cleaning. Right now the goal of this step by step is to clean a messy house up!

Step 10 – The Finish Touches

Person cleaning the floor - the messy house is almost clean thanks to these step by step directions

Now that you’re done the main rooms, make sure to empty anything left in the baskets.

You also can mop the kitchen, finish up your laundry or dishes, and take care of anything else that needs to be done like hallways or the front entrance.

If you have more rooms like an office or family room, repeat the steps above to get those ones done too. If you can’t do everything today, that’s fine.

Now relax, put your feet up, and have a glass of wine. You’ve earned it.

How to Clean a Messy House Step by Step

How to Clean a Messy House Step by Step

Cleaning a messy house can be overwhelming! As a parent of 5, it's happened to me more times than I'd care to admit. Here's my tried and true method to get the entire house clean (usually in just one day).

Active Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours
Difficulty Medium

Materials

  • Garbage bags
  • Boxes or baskets
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Vacuum and/or broom
  • Mop and bucket

Instructions

  1. Gather up supplies and put on a great cleaning playlist or audiobook to stay motivated.
  2. Go around and collect all the laundry and dishes you can find. Strip beds if sheets need washing.
  3. Take a garbage bag and collect all obvious garbage, including emptying garbage cans as needed.
  4. Start anything that will take time like laundry, dishwasher, etc.
  5. Designate baskets and boxes for different rooms and areas of your home to make sorting quick and easy.
  6. Clean the Bedrooms

  1. Clean the floor quickly by sweeping everything into a pile in the middle then picking out anything that's not garbage. Put items away or in their designated basket. Toss the garbage.
  2. Wipe down or spot clean walls and all surfaces, including windows.
  3. Clean under the beds.
  4. Make beds, using existing bedding, washed sheets, or spares. If bedding is in the wash come back to this step later.
  5. Tidy closets.
  6. Clean anything left on the floor, then sweep/vacuum.
  7. Remove any garbage bags and baskets, then shut the door.
  8. Repeat this for all the bedrooms in your home.
  9. Make sure you rotate laundry and empty/reload the dishwasher between rooms as needed. This will be ongoing throughout the day depending on how behind you are.
  10. Once you've cleaned all the bedrooms, empty the baskets and put everything away in their proper spots.
  11. Work on laundry and dishes, putting away as many loads of laundry are done and emptying the dishwasher or washing another load of dishes.


Clean the Bathrooms

  1. Remove everything that doesn't belong.
  2. Put away everything left out that does have a spot in the bathroom.
  3. Do a quick toss of anything that's garbage.
  4. Throw all dirty laundry and mats in the laundry area.
  5. Rinse and refill soap dispenser.
  6. Clean the toilet and fill with cleaner.
  7. Wipe down the mirror, shower/tub, counter, etc.
  8. Spot wipe walls.
  9. Clean the inside of the toilet.
  10. Sweep or vacuum then mop the floor.
  11. Repeat for each bathroom.

This is a great spot to take a break or eat lunch!

Living Room

  1. Clean the couch, including inside the couch cushions.
  2. Put all blankets and pillows back in their spots.
  3. Clean under the couch.
  4. Sweep everything into a pile and sort (same technique as the bedrooms).
  5. Throw away all garbage.
  6. Wash windows.
  7. Dust or wipe all surfaces, including coffee table and TV stand.
  8. Sweep or vacuum floors.


The Kitchen

  1. Put away all dishes that haven't already been cleaned up.
  2. Remove anything that doesn't belong and put it away or into a basket for another room.
  3. If you haven't already, wash and put away the remaining dishes.
  4. Clean countertops and sink.
  5. Wipe cupboards and appliances.
  6. Clean the floor.

The Finishing Touches

  1. Empty all the baskets that have something left in them and put it away.
  2. If you haven't already, mop all the rooms in your house with hard floors. You can also do this as you go, but I prefer to do it all at once.
  3. Clean hallways, entrances, or other common areas that aren't on this list using the same techniques as the other rooms.
  4. If you have extra rooms, eg. a home office, apply the same steps as the bedrooms or living room to get them cleaned quickly.
  5. If you can't do everything in one day, leave the less important rooms for tomorrow.

Notes

The goal is clean, not perfect! If you have a lot of clutter, stack it into piles or organize it the best you can. Don't get caught up in decluttering, purging, or organizing right now. If you have kids, try and plan ahead to either have someone else watch them or activities ready for them to do that don't make any additional mess.

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