How To Start Cleaning A Cluttered House

I know how it feels to be overwhelmed with a messy house and not have the energy or time to clean. I also know that learning how to start cleaning a cluttered house can help to finally get your space looking fresh, organized, and welcoming again. 

There are many ways you can start cleaning a cluttered home… some of them don’t even require getting out a vacuum cleaner! Check out these tips below for how you can start tackling the mess in your house today. For help with the whole home, read about how to clean your house.

(Just need help with decluttering? I’ve got plenty of declutter tips to help you succeed!)

Text how to start cleaning a cluttered house on white background over image of woman in turquoise shirt and jeans wearing blue gloves to clean granite kitchen countertop.

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A Few Things About Clutter and Cleaning… 

A lot of ‘cleaning the house’ is really just putting stuff away. Then you take care of the dirt in its various forms. 

Sounds simple, right?

Ummm… not always. Cleaning a neglected house can take a lot of time. And let’s be honest, the more neglect there is, the longer it will take to clean. By the way, there’s absolutely no judgement allowed here… I totally understand how life can get out of hand for a few days — or months.

If you’re facing a massive mess, how do you even begin? Remember this: You don’t need to spend an hour cleaning every room to turn the tide from disaster to manageable.

I mean, you CAN… but if you had that kind of time and energy, there wouldn’t be an issue in the first place, would there? Let’s start with reasonable tasks.

The most important thing is that you start somewhere, and then keep at it. As time goes by, you’ll find how much time each task takes, how long your cleaning sessions need to be, how many items you need to be put away before you can really get started cleaning, and, well… all.the.things.

In the midst of overwhelm and clutter, it’s okay if you can’t clean your entire house in one day. It’s absolutely fine to only do a few small jobs, or incomplete jobs, or imperfect jobs. It’s still better than doing nothing at all.

Don’t ignore the clutter, but don’t get sidetracked by it either

Of course, your ultimate goal is to have a clean AND clutter-free home. But here’s the thing… When you’re just starting to get things back in order, you can’t completely solve both problems at once.

This is why it’s important to make decluttering a part of your cleaning process. You need to do both, but it may feel like more decluttering than actual cleaning for a while. 

Eventually, once all the clutter is gone, you can do some super-deep cleaning. But for now, at the start, it’s better to concentrate on maintenance cleaning while working through the journey of a complete decluttering job.

Okay, ready to get started on cleaning your messy house? Let’s do this! Here are some tips to make the job easier… 

Start With One Big Problem Area

The first thing you should do when tackling a cluttered space is figure out how to solve one of the big problems — the things in your house that are giving you the most anxiety or that make it difficult to navigate around your space. 

For example, if there’s an appliance you can’t reach or something blocking a doorway, that’s an important place to start. Clear the area and clean the newly open space, appliance, etc. Can’t sit on your couch or use your side table? Take care of the piles, vacuum or wipe down the couch, and dust the side table.

Start with an area that is most visible and then work your way through the rest of your home. By staying focused on what one thing needs to be done next instead of worrying about how much there still is left to clean, you’ll be able to make better progress!

Woman in white shirt sitting on floor and feeling overwhelmed by how to clean a messy house.

Create A Cleaning Station

Designate an area in your home that is used solely to store everything you need for basic cleaning tasks like sweeping, dusting, and polishing. This will make it easy to keep track of supplies.

Use baskets and caddies to separate items by task or room. For example, your bathroom caddy might have tub & shower cleaner, anti-bacterial cleaner, toilet cleaner, microfiber wipes, glass cleaner, a squeegee, a tub scrubber, and any other products you use for bathroom cleaning. 

Having all your tools and cleaners on hand will make it easier to ‘grab and clean’ super-quickly.

Tackle One Type Of Cleaning Job At a Time

Low on energy or short on time? Nobody says you have to pull out every cleaning product and tool every single time you need to clean. Instead, do one task at a time – like vacuuming or dusting – and see how much of the house you can get through.

When you’re finished with one task, take a break. The next time you start cleaning again, tackle another type of job – like wiping down the kitchen counters or doing the dishes.

This way, by taking on small jobs as they come up and breaking them into bite-sized pieces, it will feel less overwhelming to get started.

There’s no shame in how you get started. Small steps are always the first step to success, and as long as you’re doing something — anything — it will all add up in time!

Build a Cleaning Schedule

As you start to declutter and clean, you’ll find it’s helpful to get yourself on a schedule. Set your tasks, designate a time every day to work, and use a timer so you don’t get ‘lost’ or off-track.

It’s important to have a home cleaning schedule to ensure that you can stay on top of the mess and how much time it will take. It’s your goal to make your space feel like a neat and comfortable home again, and having a ready list of tasks will prevent you from wasting time wondering what to do next.

You’ll want to think about several things as you create your personal schedule: 

  • How much energy you have
  • How long it takes to clean different rooms
  • How much time you can realistically dedicate every day to cleaning the house
  • How to establish a daily plan that works for you
  • How often you *really* need to do various cleaning tasks 

Keep a checklist handy to help remind yourself what needs doing next — my Daily & Weekly Cleaning Checklist is perfect for this!

Take A Break When You Need To Rest

You can’t always tackle every chore in one day. Sometimes, you really need to be able to take a break and let your body rest before it’s ready for another round of cleaning.

Can’t get the entire bathroom cleaned in one day? Just do what you can! 

The guilt and pressure of feeling like you’re not doing enough is how overwhelm started in the first place, so take a few minutes to do something that will help recharge your energy for the next round of decluttering or organizing!

Don’t Give Up On Cleaning 

It’s easy to get discouraged when you first start trying to clean up a cluttered house. But remember that even though you can’t change the past, you CAN begin today to change your home for the better!

It can be hard to stick with the plan when things get tough, but take comfort in knowing that setbacks are part of any journey worth taking. 

It’s hard to see how things will turn out when you’re in the middle of it all. 

Remember that every time your energy starts wearing thin, and it’s time to take a break, it’ll start to seem like more manageable.

Sample Cleaning Sessions for Your Cluttered House

Here’s an example of how I start cleaning when my house gets extra-cluttered. Try doing this every day for a week, and see how it goes for you!

Start a load of laundry: Sort the dirty laundry into several loads. Set a timer so you can switch loads at regular intervals. I aim to do about 3 loads per day if I’m in ‘catch-up mode.’ It can take several days to get through everything, but then I drop back down to my usual single load per day. 

Be sure to set aside time to deal with the dry clothes — hang shirts as they come out of the dryer, take 3 minutes to fold everything else for each load, etc. Unless you have to do laundry for many small humans with many small clothes, folding a load really doesn’t take as long as you think. 😉 

Empty the trash: This is one of the easy ways to make your house less messy. Make sure you empty the trash from all the bedrooms, bathrooms, and laundry room, too. Toss in any random trash you find along the way.

Bedroom: It’s okay if you can’t give it a deep clean in one go, but try to at least make your bed and pick up any clothes on the floor or other items that shouldn’t be there. Also remember that unless you have VERY young children, you are only responsible for YOUR room. 

Woman in turquoise shirt and jeans wearing blue gloves to clean granite kitchen countertop.

Kitchen: Do ALL of the dishes, whether it’s running several loads through the dishwasher, or doing a mountain of them by hand. Afterward, clean the kitchen by spraying and wiping down all surfaces and clean up spills on the floor. 

If your dish pile was huge, this could take a while and you may need to save any other kitchen tasks for another day.

Bathrooms: Clean the toilets, counters, sinks, mirrors. Switch out towels. If you have the energy, scrub the tub and shower, but this may have to happen on a separate day.

10-minute declutter: Either work on your one worst area or do a walk-through and hit several smaller hot spots of clutter.

Those are the things I concentrate on when the house gets out of hand. Tasks like dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and other cleaning can be worked into the schedule on subsequent days as you get control over some areas and there is less clutter in the way.  

More Cleaning and Decluttering Tips and Inspiration

4 Action Tips for How To Declutter When Overwhelmed

Motivational Quotes For Cleaning: 20 Positive Clean Home Sayings

The 5 Best Reasons Why You’ll Want To Speed Clean – Organized Motherhood

Storage Ideas For Clutter: 8 Dynamite Ways to Organize the ‘Must-Keep’ Stuff

7 Ways to Get Motivated to Clean and Declutter

Start Cleaning Your Messy House Today

If you have a lot of clutter in your home, it’s going to take some work. It really can be overwhelming to know how to start cleaning a cluttered house. I do hope this post has helped you, but the most important thing is just getting started. If you think about it too long you will put it off forever. 

I know it seems easier to just avoid the work, but really that just makes everything worse. And I want you to have a good and peaceful home and life!

If you’re so overwhelmed that you can’t even think about what things need to be cleaned in each room, grab my printable Essential Cleaning Planner — It contains room-by-room checklists that will help you get started along with schedules and planning pages.

A few reminders:

  • Deal with what needs to be dealt with today
  • Tackle the hardest task first
  • Don’t do what you don’t have to do

Put on your comfy clothes and some motivational music or podcast. Take a deep breath, be brave, and start cleaning your messy house today!

You’ve got this!

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