Despite our best intentions, there are times when cluttered houses just… happen. For those times when you need a super-quick fix, here’s my one-hour ‘cheater’ method for how to clean a cluttered house fast.
(For help with other parts of house cleaning, read my tips on how to clean your house.)
The situation: You’ve just gotten word that family will arrive in about an hour to visit. Panic sets in as you look around at a cluttered mess. Your mind starts spinning. ‘How did this happen? What will they think of me? I’m the worst housekeeper in the world. This house is so messy I don’t know where to start. How can I possibly clean this place in 1 hour?’
Take a breath, my friend. This has happened to many of us, and we’ve all survived.
If you haven’t yet read my declutter tips to start getting control of the clutter and these 4 daily habits to KEEP a neat and tidy house, then I suggest you bookmark them and start working on a permanent solution… tomorrow!
But for NOW, try the following tips to speed-clean and (sort of) declutter your house really fast so you can relax and enjoy your visit.
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Here’s the thing… If you’re looking for an uber-fast way to have an immaculate, fully-decluttered, and deep-cleaned home in an hour, this isn’t that kind of post.
This is panic-mode, good-enough type of cleaning. I’m simply giving you a solid framework and the steps to take when your brain feels frozen and you can’t decide what’s important or what to do first.
Also, I’m assuming you’re doing this on your own. If you happen to have capable family members, they 100% need to be working on this along with you. There’s no reason for you to run around like a madwoman while your teens or partner stare at a screen or leisurely make their way through one tiny task. (Divide and conquer, baby!)
*Note: If you live in a true hoarder house where you can’t move around and there’s no place for people to sit, then this method is not for you. Meet your family at a restaurant. When you get home, start decluttering right HERE and consider reaching out for professional help.
Now, back to the task at hand…
Before you do anything, breathe deeply for at least 1-2 minutes and repeat all the positive things… ‘They are coming to see ME, not judge me on my house.’ and similar statements.
Then, put out your ‘my house was clean last week, sorry you missed it’ sign (it’s a real thing, and yes I have one near my front door) and get to work.
Exactly How to Clean a Cluttered House in an Hour
This plan for how to clean and declutter fast takes about one hour. That might seem like a long time, but it will go FAST.
Right now you’re aiming for the illusion of a clean and tidy home. Get the clutter out of the way so you can clean CRAZY-fast.
So don’t waste time with thinking or making heavy decisions. Just follow the plan, and you can deal with difficult stuff-related decisions later.
*Note: This is NOT the way I recommend decluttering ‘for real’ — but it works in emergencies. When you have more time, you can read about why I think a slow declutter is best.
A few pre-work tips:
1. You know those roundabouts we all hate when driving? Well, let’s learn to love the word roundabout and use our natural tendency to run in circles. Yes, this really will work for good-enough decluttering and cleaning when you have to do it FAST.
2. Play some fast-paced music. It WILL help you get through this more quickly than cleaning in silence. Call it your cleaning motivation music. 😉 My inner 80s-girl loves this playlist: https://youtu.be/129kuDCQtHs
3. Use a timer. Your phone will work just fine, especially if you’re using it to also play music.
60-minute method to clean a cluttered house
5 minutes: discard trash — Make one round through the public areas of the house with a trash bag and gather all the trash.
5 minutes: start cleaning — Squirt toilet bowl cleaner in the toilet, sweep clutter off the counters, and spray your favorite cleaner on the bathroom surfaces. Let those cleaners sit and do their job.
Don’t worry about the shower/tub… just close the curtain. Also, only do the bathrooms your company has a reasonable chance of seeing. It’s perfectly okay to close the door to private rooms — and maybe even lock them if you have nosy friends/family.
10 minutes: gather clutter — This is the part I really hate to suggest. It’s always better if you can take your time to declutter and NOT just shove things into hiding places, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Grab an empty box, bin, laundry basket, or trash bag and make a pass through the public areas of your home. ANY clutter you see needs to go into the box.
After you’ve gathered everything, hide it. Ughhhhh, I know! But who is going to look in your closet or the garage? Remember, this is extremely temporary!
10 minutes: take care of the kitchen — Unload and re-load the dishwasher. Set it to run if there is a full load. Run hot water in the sink and soak any dishes that couldn’t go into the dishwasher.
If you haven’t already cleared the clutter from the counters, throw it all into a bin or box and hide the container.
Spray down and wipe the counters with your favorite kitchen cleaner. Wash the dishes if they’re fully soaked. Or — hide dirty dishes in the oven — but don’t do this if you plan to bake anything later in the day!
5 minutes: wipe down the bathrooms — The cleaners should have done most of the work, so do this FAST. Put out fresh hand towels when you’re done.
10 minutes: dust the worst areas — Remember, you’re just doing a surface cleaning. Don’t move objects or dust behind anything.
10 minutes: sweep or vacuum as quickly as possible — Don’t worry about getting into all the corners, but remember to vacuum any furniture your guests may sit on during their visit. This is especially important if you have pets. Spot cleaning is okay!
5 minutes: final touches — Fluff throw pillows, artfully toss a cozy blanket over a chair, close doors to still-messy areas. Maybe use a little something to make the house smell good but not overpowering. Try your favorite cozy candle or a gentle air freshener.
What if you don’t have a full hour? If meeting at a place other than your home isn’t possible, then get ready to do the speediest tidying of your life! Here’s how I recommend tackling the problem:
Super-emergency 25-minute declutter-and-clean plan
2 minutes: Spray multipurpose cleaner in the main company bathroom.
8 minutes: Do a roundabout to gather and hide ALL clutter from main areas, even if there’s some trash and everyday items mixed in. Don’t sort ANYTHING, just get it into any handy containers you can hide away. Completely clear all counters and tabletops.
2 minutes: Wipe down bathroom surfaces and put out fresh hand towels.
5 minutes: Empty and reload the dishwasher. Hide any leftover dirty dishes in the oven if you know you won’t be cooking. (Set a reminder on your phone to get the dishes OUT of the oven later.) Spray and wipe kitchen surfaces.
3 minutes: Dust main surfaces.
5 minutes: Vacuum or swiffer floors. Leave some vacuum marks to prove you cleaned. 😉
Still have some time? Grab a shower… or at least change into your favorite pretty & comfy outfit.
Whew! You’ve done it! Enjoy your clean and (sort of) clutter-free home while you reconnect with your guests.
What Comes AFTER the Quick Cleaning and Decluttering?
Now that the initial panic-cleaning emergency is over, you absolutely MUST understand that you still have work to do! While it’s fine to enjoy the appearance of a clean and decluttered house, at this point you’ve really only shuffled the clutter.
Eventually you’re going to have to deal with those boxes, bins, bags, and dishes you’ve hidden from prying eyes.
Do not — I repeat, DO NOT — simply leave everything hidden away and pretend you’ve taken care of the original clutter problem.
One good thing is that now you can deal with the clutter more easily because it’s not taking up your visual space. Plus, if you’ve stored it in bags or boxes, then you can pull out one at a time and sort through it in defined time periods.
More Decluttering Help
Need more help for regular cleaning? My 27-page Essential Cleaning Planner has everything you need!
This cleaning planner was designed to take the stress out of cleaning. Create your personal scaled-down cleaning plan, or use the checklists as-is to stay on top of the exact cleaning and maintenance tasks that will keep your home clean and comfortable.
As you declutter your home ‘for real,’ you will have fewer panic attacks when similar situations happen in the future. It’s so much easier to clean when you don’t have to deal with clutter!
In fact, making my home easier to clean was one of the top reasons I began heavy-duty decluttering a few years ago.
Developing systems and using the right storage methods to stop clutter from gathering (hello… paperwork!) makes a huge difference. It’s easier to clean — and KEEP things clean — when you don’t have to move 3 things to clean 1 thing.
Once you’ve done this cheater method of clearing clutter and cleaning your home, imagine how quickly you could clean if you didn’t have to deal with clutter at all!
Plus, I don’t know what it is, but clutter seems to attract dust and dirt, making an otherwise clean home LOOK dirtier than it is. You shouldn’t have to work hard to keep a clean home and never be able to enjoy any results. That’s some fantastic motivation to get rid of the clutter!
Of course we can always say ‘who cares if my house is cluttered? My family/friends should only be interested in seeing ME or my family.’ Sure, I get that! And while it’s 100% true in theory… In reality, we won’t be able to relax and enjoy a visit when we’re constantly moving clutter to find a place for people to sit or dashing off to make sure the bathroom counter isn’t messy.
Do yourself the favor of enjoying a clean and clutter-free home all the time.
You’ve got this!
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