Woman cleaning the counters and wiping down an kitchen wall wearing green cleaning gloves and using a yellow sponge, woman has a blue shirt on and has short dark hair, wall has a grey wallpapered pattern

How To Clean A Messy House Step By Step

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, PLEASE READ MY DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO.

Living in a messy house can be overwhelming and stressful. Sometimes we don’t realize how much clutter and mess can affect our overall mood and wellbeing.

If you are ready to restore order and find a good balance, this post will show you how to clean a messy house step by step.

I’ll personally guide you through cleaning your messy house and will help you make cleaning a pleasant (not stressful) experience.

Or as pleasant as cleaning can be lol. Let’s jump into it…

How To Start Cleaning A Messy House

Collage of gross messy houses, top image: cluttered kitchen counter with disgusting dirty dishes on top with wood cabinets and silver handles, bottom left image: laundry piles in a white laundry basket with clothes on the floor, right image, dirty living room with clothes and papers everywhere and messy table

If you can relate to any of the pictures of the messy houses above, then you know sometimes just starting to clean is the hardest part.

You may even have trouble knowing where to start cleaning a messy house. That’s okay, there will be an entire section on it later.

Many times there is so much guilt and shame involved when your house gets out of control messy. I’ve been there too and I get it.

All of those feelings weigh on you and make you stressed, making it feel like cleaning is an overwhelming process.

It also makes you feel like crap because you feel like there’s something wrong with you that you could let your home get like this.

If you’re feeling like this I want you to know, don’t be ashamed or feel like you are a scattered person just because your house is messy.

Life happens to all of us sometimes and no one’s house is perfect 24/7 (no matter how much those darn social media influencers want us to believe).

So first, take a deep breath and let all those feelings go.

Say bye, wish them well and STOP LISTENING to those thoughts because you don’t have time for them, you have a house to clean…

A messy house doesn’t say anything about you as a person, it’s simply just a messy house.

So now let’s get to some helpful tips on how to actually just start cleaning. Because as mentioned before starting is sometimes the most challenging part.

The most important thing to get you started on cleaning your house is getting in the right mindset and setting up a game plan.

These tips below will help you get in a good headspace to start cleaning as well as give you a clear-cut plan.

Tips & Tricks To Get You Started So It’s Not So Overwhelming

All of these tips may not be for you but even if just one works, it will help you feel less stressed to get your house clean.

  1. The best trick to get you started is to really think of how you will feel once your home is clean.

Less overwhelmed, relaxed, or happy?

It’s good to identify the exact feeling that comes along with having a clean house.

Your goal then becomes, “I’m cleaning my house to feel good.”

This ends up being a lot bigger motivator than cleaning your house just because you have to.

Clean house with two cognac sofas facing each other with colorful throw pillows and blankets draped over the couch, marble coffee table in the center, grey fireplace in the center of the room and bright clean windows on the side of the room, wood floors and a rug underneath the coffee table and houseplant in the left side of the room

2. Set a realistic timeline of how long your house will take to clean.

Some people can clean their messy home in a couple of hours while for others it might be two days or more.

Believe me, I’ve been there before where my house was such a mess it took a few days to really clean it.

It’s perfectly okay if it takes you longer to get your house clean, it isn’t a race. Let go of any pressure you are putting on yourself.

After all, if you haven’t cleaned in a while, it’s not going to be a quick 30 minute cleaning session.

3. Establish when you are going to clean and write it down.

Just like you fit things in your calendar, set a day and time you are going to work on cleaning your house.

This will look different for everyone. Some people might have an entire day to clean while others may just have an hour after work.

If you fall under the category of just having one hour after work, maybe you just clean a few nights a week for an hour each day.

If you write it down and have a set time slot you are going to work on cleaning, you’re more likely to start and stick to your cleaning plan.

4. Make cleaning fun (or at least tolerable).

Okay, let’s get real. For many of you (including me), cleaning is not fun. I don’t like doing it, period.

It might never ever be “fun” but there are things you can do to make it more tolerable and a better experience.

Here are some ideas for making cleaning fun:

  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • Clean with others. Having someone to talk to will make cleaning go by faster, plus you’ll be done sooner as well.
  • Listen to audiobooks or podcasts.
  • If you have kids, make it a game. Set a timer and see who can pick up the most toys in a certain amount of time.

What Order To Clean Your House

You may be wondering which part of the house should be cleaned first. Here is a rough guide but I’ll get into it in more detail in the next section.

1. Start a load of laundry.

Let the laundry run while you’re cleaning your home.

2. Spray cleaner in the bathroom and kitchen and let it soak in while you’re cleaning other parts of the house.

Presoak or spray down anything that has caked on grime (bathtub, kitchen counters, dishes, etc.).

Let everything in the bathroom and kitchen you pretreated soak in and move on to cleaning other areas of the house in the meantime.

3. Clean the living room, dining room, and any other living areas of the house.

Living areas include your living room, dining room, family room, front entryway, home office, etc.

For the sake of this post, the living areas will be any area or room of your house that is not the bedrooms, kitchen, or bathrooms.

4. Move on to cleaning the bedrooms.

5. Clean the Kitchen.

6. Now it’s time to clean the bathrooms.

This should be easier since you pretreated surfaces like counters and the bathtub.

One last thing on the cleaning order…

Just know everyone cleans differently and this way may not be the best for you.

You don’t have to do it in this order but pretreating and presoaking things first will save time because you won’t have to scrub the surfaces as long.

How To Clean A Messy House Step By Step

Woman wearing jeans and white socks cleaning her light colored  floors with a vacuum, with white couch in the background

Background Cleaning Tasks

These are things you can do at the beginning of the day if you are going to spend several hours cleaning and working through each step on the list.

If you plan to spread the step by step cleaning list over several days then you don’t need to start with background tasks.

I touched on some of these in the last section but here we’ll get into them in a little more detail.

1. Start laundry and keep it moving.

Before you do anything else, throw a load of laundry in and get that started.

Set a timer for one hour or however long your washer cycle takes so you remember to put the load in the dryer.

Woman wearing jeans and a white blouse sitting on a white bed grabbing clothes out of a laundry basket in front of her

Plan to keep laundry moving throughout the day as you work on cleaning.

2. Set your oven to the self-cleaning setting.

If the oven needs to be cleaned, start the cleaning cycle on your oven. Your oven may not have this setting though.

3. Presoak your toilet bowl with cleaner.

Squirt toilet bowl cleaner in each toilet to soak the bowls.

4. Presoak your bathtub.

Fill your bathtub with water and whatever cleaning products you use for the bathtub.

I like to let it soak there for a while, then you don’t have to scrub the bathtub as much later on.

5. Presoak dishes, silverware, pots, pans, etc. that have a caked on mess.

If you don’t rinse your dishes off right away, food can get caked on them and it can get frustrating scrubbing everything off.

Round up all your dishes that could use soaking and fill them with warm water and soap.

I even do this for silverware and utensils by putting them in a bowl of warm soapy water.

Close up of silverware with caked on disgusting food stuck to it in a basket

6. Presoak or pretreat anything that you can.

As you can tell by the other tasks above, I’m all about pretreating items so once you get around to really cleaning them it’s not as difficult.

Think of anything you can soak in warm soapy water or pretreat ahead of time with cleaning products.

How To Clean Your House From Top To Bottom

If you’re wondering how to clean your house the most efficient way possible, it’s the top to bottom approach.

Cleaning from top to bottom simply means you will be cleaning the highest surfaces first, then end with the lowest surfaces.

So for example, if you were cleaning your kitchen, you’d start with the highest surfaces which would be removing cobwebs by the ceilings and then cleaning the upper kitchen cabinets.

Then you would move on to cleaning the lower surfaces which would be the counters and finally the lowest surfaces like the lower cabinets and floors.

Why should you clean from top to bottom?

You should clean from top to bottom because if you don’t, you end up having to clean the same surface multiple times.

If you are wiping off dust and grime from the top parts of your house first like the cabinets, all the dust is going to fall on the surface below (like the floors).

Then you can easily clean the bottom areas last. When you clean from top to bottom it’s the most efficient and smartest way to clean.

Someone who doesn’t clean top to bottom might clean their floor first. Then they wipe their counters off.

You can probably see by doing this the person would have to reclean their floors because when they wiped their counters down they spilled crumbs and dust onto the floor.

Avoid twice the work for yourself and adapt the top to bottom approach, it will help make cleaning so much more efficient!

The below section will go over cleaning each area of your house using the top to bottom approach.

Cleaning Living Areas: Living room, family room, dining room, etc.

This list is for cleaning any living areas in your home.

Not everything on the list is going to apply to each room. For instance, if I mention cleaning your tv, that won’t be in your dining room.

Clean living room with grey couch and grey throw pillows, shelves with plants on the wall in the background, dining table next to couch with grey chairs, wood floors and grey rug, room is painted white

Use this list as a general guide for all the rooms or areas in your home that aren’t the bedrooms, bathrooms, or kitchen.

This includes areas like your entryway, home office, etc.

Omit tasks below when necessary if it doesn’t apply to that specific room.

1. Pick up and put things away.
When you are ready to get started cleaning a cluttered house, your first step will be picking up and putting away all your things.

Once all of the scattered belongings are back where they belong, you can begin cleaning surfaces.

2. Remove Cobwebs.
In each room, start at the top with a duster and go around all of the walls at the ceiling level to remove spider webs.

You’ll need a duster with an extension rod to complete this step.

3. Wash the windows.
Use a good glass cleaner to spray each window and then wipe it off with paper towels.

You can use a plain old chalkboard eraser to remove streaks if that’s an issue.

4. Dust and wipe down the furniture.

This includes furniture like entertainment centers, side tables, coffee tables, dining room tables and chairs, desks, etc.

Be careful to use the correct cleaning products on certain surfaces, if not your furniture can get ruined.

5. Clean your tv and don’t forget the remote.

Sometimes cleaning your tv and remote can get overlooked. This post will show you how to properly clean your tv so you don’t scratch the screen.

6. Clean upholstered furniture such as couches and chairs by vacuuming them and/or dusting them with a cloth or duster.

Person sitting on a grey couch vacuuming it with a cat sitting on the couch in front of a grey pillow, cat is white with brownish spots

Don’t forget to remove your cat or dog from the couch first before vacuuming lol. Most cats do not like the sound of a vacuum.

All kidding aside, one quick tip I have if you have pets is to put your animals in a separate area when you are cleaning.

My cats typically run in the other room when I clean but my dog likes to get into everything.

Keep your pets in a different area while you clean, it just makes everything easier.

Okay, back do cleaning the furniture…

Next, dust all the furniture so that any stray dust will be moved to the ground. You can use a microfiber cloth or a duster.

This next step is optional but I like vacuuming the couch as well.

Use a vacuum attachment or a dustbuster and quickly go over your furniture.

For in-depth cleaning tips for couches and upholstered chairs, this guide is pretty helpful and also covers cleaning stains off the couch as well.

7. Wipe down the baseboards.

Take a damp cloth and wipe down the baseboards.

8. Sweep or vacuum the floor.
Use the vacuum or broom depending on the type of surface you are cleaning.

Overlap each pass of the vacuum or broom to make sure you don’t leave any dirt or mess left behind.

9. Mop if Needed.

Certain types of floors need to be mopped after you have swept them to remove the dirt.

If you have laminate or tile flooring of any kind, go ahead and use your mop. I love a good steam mop for this job.

Cleaning Bedrooms

Tidy bedroom with a bed with light colored bedding and one green pillow, light  fabric headboard, light wood side table next to bed with items arranged neatly on the nightstand, overhead lighting, white walls and wood floors

These cleaning tasks will be very similar to the ones above from the living rooms section, just with a couple of additional steps.

1. Go through your bedroom and put away any items on the floor or laying around.

Try to do this quickly if you can. You can always go back later and really organize items.

2. Gather any dirty laundry on the floor and place it in the hamper.

3. Do a quick tidy of all surfaces like your nightstands, dressers, etc. putting away any items you missed before.

If you notice your dresser or other areas of your bedroom are super unorganized, make a mental note or write it down.

For now, just stick to cleaning and you can declutter those areas later.

4. Quickly pick up your closet if you have any clothing or other clutter on the floor.

It’s best to do this quickly and not get stuck on organizing or deep cleaning your entire closet.

You can always go back to those tasks at a later time.

5. Wash the windows with a good glass cleaner.

6. If you have any upholstered furniture in your bedroom such as a chair, dust it with a cloth or duster and vacuum if needed.

7. Dust other furniture like dressers, nightstands, headboard, and your bed frame if needed.

8. Make your bed.

The time you want to take making your bed is really up to you. You may only have time to throw your comforter and pillows back on your bed.

If you have more time and want to make your bed pretty, by all means do that. Do what works for you.

9. Wipe down the baseboards.

Take a damp cloth and wipe down the baseboards.

6. Sweep or vacuum the floor.
Use the vacuum or broom depending on the type of surface you are cleaning.

Overlap each pass of the vacuum or broom to make sure you don’t leave any dirt or mess behind.

10. Mop if needed.

Kitchen House Cleaning Steps

Very clean kitchen with stainless steel dishwasher, white farmhouse sink with green dish towel hanging over sink, white countertops and wood floor

1. Start at the top removing cobwebs.

2. Clean the windows.

3. Upper cabinets.

To clean the fronts of your cabinets if they are greasy, add a bit of dish soap to a bowl of water and use a washcloth dipped in this solution to scrub the fronts of your cabinets.

4. Wiped down appliances.

Next, you’ll need to spray and wipe down appliances.

5. Greasy Filters.

While you are in the kitchen, don’t forget to clean the filters in the fan over your cooktop.

These days, you can often throw these filters directly in the dishwasher.

6. Clean the oven.

Once your appliances are clean on the outside, you might want to consider running a self-cleaning cycle for your oven.

After the self-cleaning cycle is over, clean the inside of your oven.

7. Go through your fridge and throw away old food, as well as clean the inside of the fridge.

First, go through and toss expired items or items that have gone bad.

Then, take all the items you are going to keep out of your fridge and place them on the counters.

Wipe down the inside of the fridge and don’t forget the drawers. Finally, put all the food back in the fridge.

8. Scrub the sink.

If your sink is looking a little dull or has coffee stains you should scrub the sink and clean the faucet.

9. Wipe countertops.

Move each counter-top appliance and wipe the surface underneath. Wipe the backs of the counters as well, to remove dust and debris.

10. Wiped down the lower cabinets.

11. Take out the trash and clean the trash can.

Take out the trash. Then take the time to spray and wipe off the trash can.

12. Sweep and mop kitchen floors.

Clean the Bathrooms

Clutter free bathroom with a white countertop and silver sink faucet, cup, soap and a plant next to faucet, circle mirror hanging above sink, background is a grey tiled shower

In the bathroom, you will need to wipe down all surfaces with an appropriate cleaner, so make sure you have that on hand.

  1. Start at the top removing cobwebs and cleaning windows

You should know the drill by now lol. Cobwebs and windows first in all rooms in the house.

2. Next, clean the mirror with a glass cleaner.

3. Spray the shower walls, starting at the top.

4. Scrub your shower with a scrubber brush.

Person scrubbing unclean shower with a purple bristled brush with cleaning supplies and next to the person, grey and white tiled shower

Depending on how long it has been since your shower was thoroughly cleaned, you may need to use a scrubbing brush to remove the soap scum.

Even if you don’t have soap scum buildup, it’s still a good idea to give your shower or tub a quick scrub.

5. Rinse.
Once you’ve scrubbed to loosen the build-up, rinse with water.

6. Scrub toilet bowls.
If you didn’t presoak your toilet with cleaner, just add toilet bowl cleaner to the bowl as soon as you arrive in the room.

Let it soak while you wipe down the walls and shower.

7. Wipe off flat surfaces.
The sink and faucets will also need to be sprayed and wiped or rinsed to remove any residue.

8. Floors.
Sweep and mop the floor last.

Other House Cleaning Tasks – Don’t forget to do these!

These are cleaning tasks that don’t fit in one specific section, so I added them here.

  • Fill all soap dispensers with soap.
  • If you have pets, clean out their bowls, litter box or any other pet areas.
  • Deep cleaning: This post is all about everyday and weekly cleaning but don’t forget arbout deep cleaning monthly or seasonally. Wiping down fans, cleaning windows and blinds, etc.

Finishing Touches Cleaning – Make it pretty!

(This part is totally optional.)

After I’ve done the hard work of cleaning, I like to go through each room and do little things to make everything look tidy and put together.

Woman wearing beige pants and top fluffing pillows to put on her cognac colored couch, white walls

Below are a few tasks that’ll make your house look even cleaner and put together:

  • Arrange the pillows on your bed and furniture how you like them. Don’t forget to fluff them up.
  • Make sure all your soap dispensers are filled up.
  • Put out fresh towels in the bathroom and dish towels in the kitchen.
  • Diffuse your favorite scent or burn a candle. When your house smells good, it’ll just feel cleaner.
  • If you love flowers, add some fresh flowers to a vase. Nothing is better than a clean house with some pretty flowers!

More Tips On How To Clean Your House Or Apartment

Set Your Own Pace

If you aren’t sure you can devote the time needed to clean your entire house at once, don’t stress about it!

Instead commit to spend fifteen, twenty, or thirty minutes a day and work on one room at a time.

If you are consistently using this method of cleaning, it will get less and less messy. Each week it will be easier to clean.

Hire cleaners to clean part or all of your house if it’s within your budget.

This one doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people don’t have the money to spend on professional cleaners or just don’t want to spend money on them. This is totally understandable.

However, if you need help cleaning the house, don’t be afraid or ashamed of that. Hire professional cleaners to get your home sparkling clean.

You can find many affordable home cleaning services. The most affordable are often individuals who will come and clean for a per-hour rate.

If you can’t afford to pay to get your whole house cleaned, maybe you can afford to hire someone just to clean the bathrooms. This is still incredibly helpful!

Get Your Kids Involved With Cleaning

If you have kids, get them involved in this process from the very beginning.

Even the tiniest of toddlers can put their own laundry away (with your help), pick up toys, and run a little dust cloth along the baseboards.

At that age, they think it’s a fun game and are so excited to be doing something with mom or dad or the whole family.

Woman doing dishes with brown haired child helping her, sink is stainless steel and the counter is white

As children get older, they can handle more responsibility on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Everyone in the family can help clean up. Your children will be thankful for these important life skills when the time comes to be on their own.

Best Way Clean Your House – One Step at a Time.

As mentioned above, you do not have to complete all of these steps on the same day or even in the same week.

Take one room at a time and work your way down the list. Then when you have time again, move on to the next room.

Person mopping wood floor wearing purple striped socks and jeans, cleaning supplies next to them and white cabinets in the background

How To Clean Your House In One Day

Now as stated above, you may spend a couple of days or even a week cleaning your house, that’s perfectly fine.

But for those of you who want to clean their home in just one day, I have some additional tips for you.

  1. Delegate your time throughout the day so you can get through every step of the cleaning process listed out above in this post.

Instead of setting a time limit to clean the entire house, give a time limit for cleaning each area.

For example, “I’m going to spend forty minutes on the kitchen and thirty minutes on the bedroom.”

Set a timer for each area and try to stick to the time allotted for each area of your house as much as possible.

2. Enlist help wherever you can.

As mentioned prior, getting other people involved in the cleaning process will help you out so much.

This is especially true if you are trying to clean your entire house in one day.

3. Don’t get hung up on the small things.

If you only have a day to clean your house, you don’t need to spend tons of time wiping down the inside of your cabinets.

If you notice something really dirty that could use more of a deep clean, make a note of it and come back to it another day.

The goal is to get your home clean in one day and then go back later to time-consuming projects.

4. Just clean the interior of your house for now.

Sometimes when we think of cleaning our house we also think of cleaning the exterior like our patio and living spaces in the backyard.

While you of course need to clean these areas, reserve cleaning the outside of your house for another day.

For today, just focus on the interior of your house so you don’t get too overwhelmed.

5. Don’t forget to schedule breaks.

Be sure to break up your cleaning throughout the day by scheduling little breaks. This will help you from getting burnt out.

6. Focus and eliminate distractions.

If you only have a day to clean, try to eliminate any distractions you can.

Put your phone in the other room if possible to resist mindlessly scrolling on your phone.

You can still go back and check your phone on your break but eliminating wasting time on your phone will help you clean faster.

Bonus: Expert Tips For Cleaning A Dirty House

If you have a little bit of extra time to watch this video, these expert cleaning tips will really help you get your entire home clean!

You can even watch this while you’re folding a load of laundry. See what I did there? lol

These genius tips come from Jamie who has a Youtube channel called Jamie’s Journey that is packed with cleaning and organizing ideas.

Everything clean? Now it’s time to organize.

Once my house isn’t messy anymore, I love to then take the time to organize everything.

I find that the more often you declutter, the fewer items you end up having to put away.

So cleaning and organizing go hand in hand.

Remember, you don’t have to organize everything at once either.

To eliminate all the overwhelm, I created this 30 day free organizing challenge for you.

It even includes a printable to help you stay on track with organizing your home and life.

Following this challenge will transform your cluttered house into a super organized space.

Share Your House Cleaning Tips…

Have any tricks on how to clean a disgusting house?

If you have any home cleaning tips of your own, I’d love to hear them! Share them in the comments below.

About the Author

Annie Brown is a frugal living expert and the founder of Savvy Honey.

Her expert advice has also been featured in Yahoo Finance, BuzzFeed, GOBankingRates, Woman's Day, MSN, The Spruce Crafts, and more.

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