How to Start Cleaning an Insanely Messy House

No one has a spotless house 100% of the time, nor should they. Homes are meant to be lived in, which means there will be clutter, messes, and dirty dishes. And if you have kids, the messes are even harder to contain!

While messes are unavoidable, sometimes things get out of hand. Whether you’ve been under the weather, busy at work, or just plain unmotivated, it doesn’t take much for those little piles of clutter to turn into overwhelming mountains of clutter. A few dirty dishes quickly turn into an overflowing sink of dishes if neglected for a few days. Maybe the kinds of messes and clutter in your home run deeper – like hoarding or simply not cleaning out storage closets and spare bedrooms.

No matter the current state of your house, we can all relate to the sinking feeling of being in over your head when it comes to cleaning up your home. When things get this bad, it’s easy to get overwhelmed to the point of not even trying to keep things clean and organized.

If this sounds all too familiar, don’t lose hope! Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you get started.

Make A Plan

This is the first step to just about every endeavor, isn’t it? Yet, when it comes to the overwhelming task of cleaning a messy house, we skip it entirely. I’ve found that writing things down and being able to cross them off a list eases some of the stress and anxiety in my mind. If you think about everything you have left to do all at once, no wonder most of us feel stuck and overwhelmed!

However, once you see individual tasks listed out, it doesn’t seem quite as insurmountable. Sure, the list may be long, but at least you know what needs to be done instead of lumping everything together into one huge task that feels never-ending.

Making a list can also help you set a reasonable timeline. Most of us want to tackle the whole thing in a weekend, but that just isn’t realistic in most cases. If you set a tight deadline, you’ll only be more discouraged when you miss it. But scheduling a few chores over a week gives you something to do while also giving you time to rest and do other things that need to get done.

Start Off Small

Sifting through a cluttered attic or deep-cleaning the fridge are huge (and at times gross) projects. These are the big-ticket items we want to check off our list in order to feel accomplished, but you might want to reconsider. According to Psychology Today, there is a lot of power behind “small wins.” Each small win gives us a boost of dopamine, which in turn boosts our mood and helps us feel more motivated to take on bigger tasks.

What are some small things you can do to get started? Washing the dishes is a great goal to have! The end result is not only clean dishes but a cleared off sink and counter. Another small task you can do is gathering up the garbage and taking it out.

One Room At A Time

So, you’ve completed a few small tasks and are finally ready to tackle the rest of the house. You’re motivated, but still a bit overwhelmed. Take it one room at a time. More to the point, take it one space at a time. I don’t know about you, but my bedroom is the messiest part of my house – by far. The best way I’ve found to get everything clean without losing my mind is to focus on one area at a time.

I’ll start with the cluttered nightstand, removing empty water glasses and other things taking up space. Then, I pick up the dirty laundry, which actually makes a huge difference. Not only does the space look less cluttered, but I’m accomplishing a second task – doing the laundry – at the same time. Next, I focus on the dresser, clearing off the top, dusting, and refolding clothes if necessary. From there, I tackle the closet, make the bed, and vacuum. You’ll find a routine that works for you!

Organizing vs. Purging

Clutter stresses me out. I have a very low tolerance for piles of shoes, miscellaneous office supplies scattered on counters and in drawers, and haphazard stacks of books and DVD cases. My initial instinct is to organize these items – shoes go back in the closet or lined up on the shoe rack by the front door. Office supplies go back into the home office, and books and DVDs get put away on shelves. Seems legit, right?

The thing is, a lot of the clutter I end up organizing and reorganizing doesn’t even need to be in the house at all. Empty printer cartridges? Sticky notes with old grocery lists? I mean, even in my earlier example, who even watches DVDs anymore if they have all the streaming services? These things don’t need to be organized into stacks and put away, they need to be thrown out or donated.

This is a big task, that’s for sure, but once you get the initial purge over with, it’s only something you’ll have to do once or twice a year – and these purges will be much smaller and more manageable.

What other cleaning and organizing tips do you have? Tell us in the comments

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Hailing from the great state of Iowa, Jess currently lives on the eastside of Seattle where she loves to write, crochet, upcycle, redecorate her tiny apartment and play with her cat. Oh, and her husband lives there too.
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