How To Clean A Messy House Step By Step Now (Even If It Feels Impossible)

How do you clean an overwhelmingly messy house?

I’m not going to lie.

My house is quite clean and organized, BUT it wasn’t always like this.

how to clean a very messy house

Having been on the other side of a clean house – a messy and cluttered house – I understand the feeling of being paralyzed by the mess and not knowing where to start.

In a way is kind of a contradiction because I had worked as a housekeeper at hotels and private houses but I was so busy and tired that I didn’t have the time and the strength to keep my own house in order.

So, how did I get started? Using the 5-minute hack.

I spend 5 minutes at a time doing a task I don’t really enjoy.

I started by putting things back into their place.

Just like that.

And day after day I kept doing the same thing until I got control of the mess.

Next, I started with the cleaning.

Little by little.

One task at a time for 5 minutes.

That’s how I did it.

You don’t need to go overboard if you don’t want to.

Do what you can, but do something.

You will get there in the end, like I did.

Why Is My House A Mess? Is It Normal To Have A Messy House?

For some people, cleaning a home can be a normal everyday thing, but it can be a monumental task for others.

Doing a little every day can prevent this from occurring, but life happens.

Sometimes the house can get out of control due to circumstances you can’t control like depression, a heavy workload (in my case), a death in the family, or bringing home a baby.

At some point, we can all fall into one of those categories, and it’s not like this just happens due to laziness.

Oftentimes, it feels like it manifests itself overnight, where you skip one or two days because you’re too tired, and before you know it, the house is a disaster.

Once it reaches the disaster level, finding the motivation to start can feel impossible and you may ask yourself:

Where do I start cleaning a filthy house?

How do I start even if it is disgusting?

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How to clean a very messy house

How To Get Motivated To Clean When Overwhelmed By Mess

The thing that helped me most to take action was thinking about the benefits of living in a clean and organized home.

Here are a few of them:

  1. It can create a sense of calm and peace, and make it easier to find things when you need them.
  2. A tidy home can also be more inviting to guests, and may even help you save money by reducing the likelihood of losing important items.
  3. A well-kept home can be a source of pride, and may even improve your physical health by reducing the amount of dust and allergens in the air.

Small Steps and Tips To Clean A Messy House

1. Make a plan and try to prioritize what needs to be done first

Sit down and make a list of what needs to be done. Start with the easiest tasks first and work your way up to the more challenging ones.

2. The best thing to do when you are overwhelmed is to start small

Don’t try to tackle the entire house at once, instead focus on one area at a time. Start with one room or one task, such as making your bed, straightening up the living room, doing the dishes, or vacuuming.

Congratulate yourself on completing one small task. Now continue with the next area.

This method may take a bit longer than cleaning everything all at once, but it will help to prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.

Once you’ve completed it, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will spur you to keep going.

3. Get rid of clutter first and then clean

Get rid of all the things that you haven’t used for a long time or don’t need anymore. You will be surprised at the amount of free space you will have. Less clutter equals faster cleaning and organizing.

4. Designate a place for every item

Having a designated spot for each of your belongings helps to prevent clutter from taking over your space. It also makes it easier to find things when you need them.

5. Find a system that works for you

There is no right or wrong way to clean. Find a system that works for you and stick to it. And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect – just tidy enough so that you can relax and enjoy your space again.

6. Give yourself a reward

Promise yourself that if you complete all of your cleaning tasks, you’ll treat yourself to something special afterward – whether it’s a cup of coffee, a piece of cake, or an hour of Netflix time.

It is important not to get discouraged when you are starting. The house does not have to be spotless in an hour, just make progress even if it is small.

Once you’re in the best possible headspace you can be in today, follow the steps below to tackle a very messy or cluttered room.

Messy House Quote

“I make no secret of the fact that I would rather lie on a sofa than sweep beneath it”. Shirley Conran

How To Clean A Very Messy House Room By Room

A very messy house can feel like a massive and stressful job.

Don’t ignore that emotion.

Acknowledge that you’re doing something hard and be gentle with yourself throughout the whole process.

You could, for instance, break your house up into rooms, or if the task is too big, break the rooms into areas and prioritize what needs to be done in each one.

Maybe the kitchen is too much to think about, but you can throw in a load of laundry instead.

And if you feel up to it, here are a few ways you can make it more fun:

  • Play your favorite music while you work.
  • Ask someone you trust to help you.
  • Set timers so that every time your brain says “this is never going to be done! This is going to go on forever!” You can say to it “nope, we are only doing this for 3 more minutes, then we move on to the next task. See how fast it’s going?!”
  • Wear comfy clothes that you can move in and don’t mind getting dirty.

The Kitchen

Start by cleaning off the counters of all trash or food. Clearing up the counter space will allow you to move around dirty dishes if your sink is packed.

Then you can start washing dishes. If you have a dishwasher, great! Just rinse and load. If you don’t, rinse them all off and group them up and start washing.

If you start to feel overwhelmed, take a break. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Then you can come back, finish the dishes and wipe down the counters and stove.

Keep going cleaning the kitchen at your own pace.

Once you are done with the kitchen, move on to the living room or bathroom. I prioritize either of those as my number two depending on severity.

If you have company, they will probably see either of those rooms.

The bathroom can be the grossest, but the living room is where most people spend their time. You decide which one to tackle first and then do the other one.

Cleaning The Bathroom

The next main room you could focus on is the bathroom. This one can be the most labor-intensive.

I like to clean off the counters and clean out the tub first. Just sit everything on the floor or put it somewhere else to get it all out of the way.

Then take whatever cleaner you use and give a good spray over all the surfaces.

Next, coat the inside of the toilet bowl with the same spray or a different solution. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the cleaner do most of the heavy lifting.

If you keep a hamper in the bathroom, now would be a good time to start that load of laundry.

Once the cleaner has loosened up a lot of the grime, you can wipe it all away.

Living Room

If you’re doing the living room next then I would suggest starting with rounding up all the trash.

Once that’s all taken care of, you can take any plates or cups found and put them in your freshly cleaned kitchen.

Now you just have to tidy up the clutter.

Take any clothes and either put them away or in a hamper.

In my home, a lot of clutter migrates from other rooms.

So, once I reach this step, I take the hairbrush back to the bathroom, put the chips back in the cabinet, and throw my coat in the closet.

The Bedroom (the faster way)

After you have gotten most of the main rooms cleaned up, you can take out the garbage and work on other rooms in the house like the bedrooms.

We have a habit in my home of taking water to bed every single night. As a result, a large number of water bottles and cups accumulate beside our bed.

Clean up all the trash, throw all the dirty clothes in the hamper, and put all the clean rejected outfits back in the closet or dresser.

If you are feeling really good about yourself, then change the sheets while you’re at it.

The Bedroom (step by step)

1. Have all the supplies at hand

Make sure you have gloves, a garbage bag for trash, a giveaway box for things it’s time to let go of, and maybe even a mask.

Face masks come in useful for all the dust that gets kicked up or if you are the kind of person who gets headaches from strong smells (whether they’re coming from week-old grilled cheese that someone forgot or the cleaning fumes of your favorite multi-purpose spray).

2. Open the windows

This will let light and energy into the room and get fresh air circulating in place of whatever musty smells have accumulated.

3. Start with the bed

The bed takes up a large portion of the room, but this task is relatively easy so you will feel immediate satisfaction.

By seeing big, quick results you will feel heartened and inspired to keep going, plus you just created more workspace for yourself to organize things, as well as a safe place to sit down if you need any quick breaks.

4. Tackle the clothes

Gather everything dirty into a laundry basket or carry it to the laundry room. If you don’t have laundry in-house, get it ready to go to the laundromat.

Just make sure it’s out of the way so you can keep working on the room. Anything clean, set on the bed to fold or hang up.

Also, bring the hangers with you so you’re not wasting time going back and forth to the closet.

Once everything is on hangers, carry as much as you can and put it away all at once.

If you have too many clothes and don’t know what to do with them, you need to read how to declutter clothes and downsize your wardrobe.

5. Anything else left on the floor gets handled next

Stuff that doesn’t belong in the room should get put right away to make space.

By now you should be seeing (and feeling!) some admirable progress, so don’t forget to celebrate each little step.

Next, put the rest of the stuff from the floor onto the bed so you can more easily sort and organize it.

6. Desks & Drawers

Again, keep an eye out for anything that goes in other rooms. Also, be on alert for anything unused that could be given away.

Don’t just shove things in the closet to hide the clutter, it will just grow.

Then your childish nightmares will be true, there will be a monster in there. Instead, invest in more organizers if what you have isn’t cutting it.

If you don’t have the time or the funds for that now, use shoe boxes or bankers’ boxes that easily stack and hold lots of random items.

7. Clean the windows and mirrors

Ideally, you’d use glass cleaner, but if you don’t have any, use a damp rag and then wipe it off with a dry towel to avoid streaks.

8. Dust then vacuum

One of the last steps is to dust all surfaces and vacuum the carpet or floor.

9. Empty the garbage

The very last step is to dispose of all the garbage.

10. Enjoy!

Like skipping the cool down after the end of a hard workout, Do Not Skip This Step. You need to celebrate that you just did something awesome.

Let yourself sit and sip something cool in the beautiful space you just made or treat yourself to a stroll through your favorite park. Whatever you choose, let your brain relish in the fact that you rock.



Once you have most of the rooms decluttered and free of trash, you can move on to some of the larger tasks, like dusting.

You can dust all the main rooms of the house. Just move everything off your end tables, TV stand, and tables (or don’t) and dust it all.

You don’t have to spray it and wipe it all down if you don’t want to, just use some sort of duster you have on hand. After dusting, sweep and mop if you feel up to it.

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Tips to clean a really messy house
How to clean a messy house

How To Clean A Messy House Last Thoughts

Remember, this is not a guide to deep-clean an entire house in two hours or even in one day.

This is to help you find the motivation to clean a neglected house and formulate a plan of where to start and how to start.

This doesn’t even have to be done in one week or in the order listed.

You can prioritize what you need first and go from there.

Maybe your kitchen is okay, but the living room is out of control.

Do what works for you! Once the house gets to that manageable place, it is easier to keep it that way.

Every day you can do a small task, like wash the dishes or wipe down the tub.

If you have a deeper task that needs to be accomplished, like going through clothes, you can do that now that the house is okay.

Do not get discouraged, just find a place to start and go.

Progress is progress!

Cleaning and decluttering tips you might like:

How do you clean a messy house? How do you clean your home and motivate yourself even if you don’t know where to start? Please share your tips below. Thanks!

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