How To Clean a Messy Home When You’re Overwhelmed

Where To Begin?

If you aren’t a naturally organized person it can seem like everyone else has neat little color-coded lives except you. If you’ve gotten a little behind in your cleaning goals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the massive monster of mess surrounding you. Don’t worry, though, we’re here to help.

The most successful projects start with a plan, so let’s make one.

  • You’ll need one or two hours straight of dedicated time to clean, depending on the size of your house and the size of its resident mess monster. Try to carve out a space when no one will interrupt you.
  • Check your cleaning supplies. Make sure you have some rags, a duster, the toilet cleaner, your mop, broom and vacuum cleaner. Check your detergents to see if you have enough all-purpose cleaner, dish soap for the dishes and vinegar for the mirrors and windows.
  • Put on your favorite playlist or podcast at full volume to get motivated!
  • Pick up clutter, one room at a time.
  • Start cleaning with the handy checklist we’ve included below.

Pick up Clutter First

Before we get down to the dirty job of cleaning, let’s harness our organizational skills and start with some decluttering. This will be easier if you grab a basket for things that need to be put in their place and a giant trash bag for things that need to be thrown out or donated.

Just like moon landings and journeys of a thousand miles, cleaning an overwhelmingly messy home starts with a single step. Pick up one item. Forget the rest of the mess monster for now. Grab the nearest out of place thing, and decide if it goes in the basket or the trash bag.

Next, pick up another thing. Does it need to find its home, or is its home the trash bag? One thing at a time, you’ll soon find yourself in an organizing rhythm with a rapidly filling trash bag and basket.

Putting away one item at a time is time consuming, inefficient and can even be overwhelming. Organizing clutter into Stay and Go receptacles and then taking care of all of them together will save you a lot of time. You don’t need to get swallowed up by the dark forest, just take it one tree at a time.

Focus on One Room at a Time

Break your cleaning time up into room-sized chunks. Just like it’s easier if you focus on one item at a time, it’s also best to focus on one room at a time. Start in a corner and work on getting all the clutter into either the Go trash bag or the Stay basket.

Just like each successfully classified piece of clutter motivates you to move on to the next one, each room you finish decluttering will give you momentum to move on to the next. Momentum is a powerful motivator that can pick you up and carry you like a surfer riding a wave to the shore. Once you get your momentum started with a few small, easy tasks, you may find it hard to stop.

A great way to fire up the motivation is with some audio entertainment. If you need rhythm to get you moving, launch a snappy playlist and dance from one piece of clutter to the next. If you’re an information junkie or you run on curiosity, put on an intriguing podcast and bury your fingers in clutter while your mind explores new worlds.

Start Cleaning

Once you’ve taken care of the clutter, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start cleaning.

We like to start with the living room. It’s usually the first room that guests will see, so it needs to be on its best behavior to make a good first impression. After that, we’ll move on to the kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms.

Here’s a great 10-step cleaning checklist you can use for each room:

  1. Use your duster to rid each surface of its dusty coating.
  2. Wipe any tables, counters and appliances that are beginning to look grimy.
  3. Put throw pillows and decorative items back in place.
  4. Consolidate all loose cords from your entertainment centers, appliances and other devices using a cable sleeve. A zip-up cable hider will help you cut down on visible clutter and make any room feel more organized without losing accessibility.
  5. Wash any dishes that are lying around.
  6. Make the beds.
  7. Put any dirty laundry in the laundry basket.
  8. Clean any toilets, sinks, mirrors and showers.
  9. Empty all trash cans.
  10. Sweep and mop or vacuum the floors.


The secret to living in a magazine cover home is to have a place for everything and to spend a little time cleaning every day. You can avoid getting overwhelmed again by starting a short morning cleaning routine of just a few minutes:

  1. Do a quick tidy up. Put things away that don’t belong, and straighten things that do.
  2. Tuck any lose cables into your cable sleeve. If you don’t use a cable hider, this flexible neoprene wrap can bundle up to 10 cables with a quick zip up. You can also make entrance and exit holes wherever needed.
  3. Dust and wipe all counters, tables and other surfaces.
  4. End with a quick sweep.
  5. This should take you no longer than 15 minutes and should keep your house lived in but refreshingly tidy.
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