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How to clean a messy house – your step by step guide

Inside: How to clean a messy house with a step-by-step guide.

There are two types of people in this world. Tidy people and untidy people. And I don’t know about you but I fall into the untidy people category. I am just not someone who naturally tidies up after myself – instead I seem to leave a trail of destruction wherever I go. If you’re nodding your head or maybe you live with people who sound just like that then this post is for you.

There is a difference between tidying the house and cleaning the house. And mostly to be able to clean your house you need to have a tidy house – you need to be able to see surfaces to clean them. But, life isn’t always like that so this post will help you clean your home without having to go all Marie Kondo.

If your house is a mess, that’s ok – it means it is lived in. But you can still have a clean home, you just need to know how to do it.

How to keep your home clean

The trick to keeping a home clean is to clean it regularly. Sounds simple enough but it is easier said than done. However, if you can set up a routine then you can tackle a little bit each day to stay on top of the entire house.

Small steps towards a bigger goal

  • Attach tasks to established habits. For example, wiping down your bathroom sink at the same time as you brush your teeth each day. Or wiping down your kitchen surfaces while you wait for the kettle to boil.
  • Set aside a day for certain tasks. For example, vacuuming the carpets on Mondays, changing bedding on Tuesdays, emptying bins on Wednesdays etc…
  • Have a focus for the week. For example, you may want to dedicate a whole week to the kitchen but only do a little bit each day so as not to get overwhelmed.

Ongoing task of decluttering…

If you live in a messy house it is easy to blame the people living there, but actually mess is caused by having too much stuff for the space available to you. As much as this post is not about tidying or decluttering, it would be silly of me not to mention it.

You don’t have to dedicate hours and hours a day to the cause, but if you can set aside a donation box and drop things in it each time you find things that don’t belong, then you’ll soon clear the clutter.

Essential cleaning supplies

To have a clean house you need to have the right tools for the job.

I have listed various cleaning products above but actually I use Bicarbonate of Soda, Soda Crystals and White Vinegar to do many of the jobs around my house. Vinegar is great for cleaning windows and mirrors, and white vinegar with soda crystals makes a great disinfectant. Check out this post about how to clean grout naturally for more tips.

woman on floor of messy house

Start at the beginning

I know what it is like to feel completely overwhelmed by mess. It can cause a total paralysis and prevent you from doing anything at all. Hopefully this step by step guide will help give you a sense of direction and keep you motivated.

TOP TIP: Put on your favourite music to help get your body moving. If you’re going to be doing the cleaning you may as well listen to something you enjoy while you’re at it.


If your kitchen is clean then you will be able to safely prepare meals, so it is a key room to start with. However, it can also be an overwhelming space so you need to start small…

Clean the sink.

The first thing to do is clean a small space, something that won’t take long but that will leave you with a sense of accomplishment.

  • Remove anything in the sink and anything on the draining board. You don’t have to clean the stuff or put it away, simply move it to the side.
  • Use a multipurpose cleaner to clean the sink, taps and draining board.
  • Buff it dry with a microfiber cloth.

Doesn’t that look and feel better?

Clear the rubbish

Grab a trash bag and go round the room chucking in anything that is quite literally rubbish. Empty packets, old scraps of paper, food waste… none of it belongs on your kitchen surfaces.

Clear the dishes

Dirty dishes are one of those ongoing things that we just have to accept as part of running a home. If you have a dishwasher, load it up and get it running. If not, fill the sink with soapy suds and get those dishes soaking while you move on to the next thing.

Come back to them later when the dried food has softened, get the dishes clean, dried and put away.

Wipe down the surfaces

This means all of the kitchen counters and any window sills. Hopefully they are mostly clear after dealing with the trash and dishes, but anything else that is in the way needs moving while you give everything a good wipe down.

Wipe kitchen cupboard fronts

Grease and grime can accumulate on cupboard fronts, so grab your cleaner and a cloth and give them a wipe down. It’s a great job to give to the kids (the lower units anyway) and gets them used to being involved with keeping the home clean.

Clean the hob & oven

A gruesome job if it has been a while. I use The Pink Stuff to clean my hob and it dissolves grease and baked on food easily. Squirt some onto the hob and use a cloth to spread it over the whole surface. Leave it for 5-10 minutes to do its job and then wipe it away.

I use a Scrub Daddy sponge to get those stubborn bits off and it doesn’t scratch the metal at all – job done!

Clear out the fridge

How long has that been in there? Take everything out, throw away anything starting to stink the place out and give the whole unit a wipe down. If your fridge has a stink even after you’ve cleared it out then you can pop a small dish with bicarbonate of soda at the back of the bottom shelf to absorb any lingering odours.

Empty the bin

Take out any rubbish, recycling and food waste – bad smells will often waft out of the bin every time you open the lid, so make sure you don’t leave it full for too long. Pay particular attention to food waste in the hot months in case you get any maggots making their home there!

Vacuum & Mop

The sides are clear, the units are clean, now all you need to do is vacuum up any dropped crumbs and fluff before giving the whole area a good mop. If your floor is tiled or has lino then you can use a traditional mop and bucket.

However, if you have laminate flooring you need to avoid getting the floor too wet – which also includes using a steam mop. Otherwise you risk the boards starting to lift up and warp. I use a Moppy which distributes the steam onto the mop rather than the mop producing it itself and it works great.

Clean kitchen – completed! Now it’s time to move on to the rest of the house…

Living Room

The sofa

Remove anything that doesn’t belong first of all – any toys tucked under cushions etc. Remove any cushion covers and put them in the washing machine along with any blankets. If the covers aren’t removable then you can do some spot cleaning using a damp cloth and some white vinegar & water – use a 50:50 mix.

Pick up anything on the floor

I don’t want to focus too heavily on the tidying, but to be able to vacuum the floor you need to be able to see it. So either enlist the help of the the kids to put everything away or simply shove it all in a basket or box for now. Once the floor is clear you’ll be able to give it a thorough vacuum (and mop if you have hard floors).

Clear any surfaces

This includes tv units, coffee tables, window sills and bookcases. Again, either put excess things where you know they belong or put them aside. Once the surfaces are clear you can grab your cleaner and a cloth and give everywhere a wipe down.

At first you may find yourself replacing the clutter, but as time goes on and you begin to get rid of things here and there, you’ll begin to appreciate the clear surfaces and want to remove more and more clutter from your life – it is quite addictive!

NOTE: Don’t forget to wipe your TV screen while you’re there. However, you must not use your usual cleaning solution or any kind of abrasive cloth. The best way to clean a tv screen is to use a clean and dry microfiber cloth and use circular motions to remove any fingerprints. If you find this doesn’t work (and it didn’t for me) then you can buy special screen solution that will gently remove anything that a dry cloth doesn’t pick up.


Everywhere always looks and feels so much better once you’ve vacuumed. And even if the mess goes straight back onto the floor afterwards, at least you know you’ve sucked up all of the grime.

NOTE: Making a pile for each child helps them to join in with the process and makes it easier for them to know exactly what is expected of them. So instead of simply asking them to ‘tidy up’, make them a specific pile to work through. Pop on some music to make it more fun for them or give them an incentive such as extra tv time etc… and it’ll soon get done.

Dining room

The dining room table is a clutter magnet and if you don’t keep on top of it then you’ll find that grime (think dried on food spills) will soon get hidden and forgotten. Again, getting into a good routine will help with this.

Clear the table

Doesn’t matter whether you swipe it all into a box or spend time putting it all where it belongs, but clear the surface so you can get on with cleaning it.

Clean and polish

Using your chosen multipurpose cleaner (make sure it is safe for wood if using a store-bought product and have a wooden table) give the table a thorough wipe down. If you have a glass table you can then use white vinegar to get it gleaming or if you have wood then a nourishing polish will give it a natural shine once again.


I have to vacuum underneath our dining room table every single day because the amount of food that the children drop on the floor is ridiculous. If you have hard floors then a mop is a good job to tack on here to get up any spills.


Muddy footprints and all of the dirt that enters the house when we walk through the door. Not the best first impression for anyone coming to visit.

Clear the floor

Coats, bags and shoes everywhere? Move them out of the way or get their owners to put them where they belong.

Vacuum and mop

Give everywhere a good going over with the vacuum and mop if you have hard floors.

Finishing touches

If you have any other furniture in your hallway (tables, shoe units etc…) then be sure to clear the surfaces so you can give them a wipe down.


A room meant for cleaning is no good if it is dirty itself. As a well-used room in the house it can quite quickly become disgusting. Let’s break it down so it isn’t so overwhelming…

Clear the clutter

Grab a box or a basket and clear any surfaces so you can get to everything with ease. If you can, chuck out anything that won’t get used in the next 3 months – there is no sense hoarding stuff that won’t get used.


Some stains need a little more time spent on them. So, if you have a filthy toilet or dirty grout, here are some tips:

  • Pour flat cola down the toilet or use a couple of scoops of Citric Acid to lift away stubborn limescale in the bowl.
  • Use a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water on your grout, spreading it between the tiles before giving it all a misting of vinegar from a spray bottle. The vinegar will cause the bicarb to fizz, lifting out the stains. Leave for a while and rinse off with water.

Wipe surfaces

Note: “Blue for the loo, pink for the sink”. To avoid any cross contamination from your toilet, always use a separate cloth to the rest of the bathroom.

Starting with the sink, use your multi-purpose cleaner to wipe away any dried on toothpaste and settled dust. Work around the room, wiping the window sills, bath, tiles and then switch cloths to finish with the toilet.

Stainless steel

If you live in a hard water area then the limescale will really dull your taps. The only thing I’ve found to work is Viakal – it melts limescale away and leaves everything shining once again.

Clean the toilet

Flush away the cola or citric acid, hopefully flushing away a good lot of grime too. Use a toilet brush to work at any remaining stains and flush to rinse. I do like to use a bleach and limescale product to make sure I kill off any lingering bacteria inside the toilet bowl.

Refresh the room

Replace any towels with clean, double check toothbrushes to see if they need replacing along with any sponges / flannels etc.. that may be long overdue replacing. Simple tasks that get overlooked a lot of the time, but who wants to clean themselves with a mouldy sponge?

I have written a post on how to clean a bathroom top to bottom if you would like to get a thorough breakdown.


Different bedrooms have different issues, for example the kids’ rooms will have toys and untidy areas that never seem to be clear, whereas the master bedroom often becomes a dumping ground or make-shift launderette. Right? Whatever the issues faced, they all have the same requirements for cleaning…

Strip the beds

Remove all of the bedding from the bed and put duvet covers, pillow cases and any blankets in the wash.

Vacuum the mattress

You do not want to know what lies hidden in your mattress, it will turn your stomach. All you need to know is that a vacuum of the mattress is necessary and will do the trick. You can also sprinkle on some bicarbonate of soda to absorb any musty smells before vacuuming.

Leave the mattress to air before replacing the bedding – always good to let it breathe for a while.

Clear the surfaces and the floor

Bedside tables, chest of drawers, dressing tables, they all gather dust and grime and need a wipe down. Either shove everything into a box or tidy it away, but either way you need to get the surfaces clear. Same goes for the floor, pick up the clothes, the toys and random objects lying around.

Wipe surfaces

Give everywhere a dust (or a vacuum if necessary) before using your multi-purpose cleaner to wipe down all of the surfaces in the room.


Bedrooms get very dusty and so you want to get into all of the nooks and crannies with the hose attachment if you can. If you can vacuum under the bed then all the better – you’ll be surprised how much dust gathers there.

Refresh the room

Put new bedding on and make the bed, arranging any cushions or throws you have.

woman holding bucket of cleaning supplies

Additional extras around the home


Washing is the most unrelenting task in a home. It literally never ends. Once you accept that as a fact, you can get over it and set about trying to manage it. Dealing with dirty laundry should be part of the daily routine. One load of laundry a day keeps the wash pile at bay!

The best way to handle it is to have a system in place – one that works for you and your family.

The way I deal with it is to have just one laundry basket. When that is full I put a load in the washing machine. Simple. I tried having a basket for lights, a basket for darks but it didn’t work for me and took up too much space.

I also tried having a basket for each person (in their own room) but I would forget to check whether they were full etc… and so it just wasn’t for us.

However you manage gathering the dirty clothes, you need to have at least one load going in the machine a day so that you don’t end up with a huge pile needing washing, drying and putting away all in one go.

Windows & mirrors

Often forgotten but can make a big difference to the feel of a room. Use white vinegar or some Mr Miuscle glass cleaner with a microfiber cloth to clean off finger prints and residue that builds up over time.

Light switches & door handles

As well as dirty fingerprints, germs will go unnoticed here but will contribute to family illness if not cleaned regularly. Use white vinegar or a disinfectant spray on a cloth to wipe over the surface of light switch plates and door handles, keeping your family safe from any germs.

Electronic devices

Grubby screens harbour germs from fingers too but you need to be careful how you clean them so as not to damage the screen. If you are just removing fingerprints etc… then gently wiping with a microfiber cloth will buff them away. However, to sanitise them properly you need to use a safe cleaning solution. I personally use EcoMoist screen cleaner which comes with a cloth too so you know your device screens are in safe hands.


Small children seem to attract more dirt and grime than older kids and so you will always find that your toddler’s favourite things will be covered in a layer of slime compared to the carefully constructed LEGO models that appear as they get older.

When dealing with toys, all you need is a cloth and some cleaning solution to gently wipe away anything that has built up on the surface. That will sort out anything that gets handled a lot such as cars, dolls and any larger items.

When it comes to the more intricate toys for older children, you may just need to run a feather duster over them to avoid any build up.

Helpful tips

  • Cleaning the home is a team effort. Get everyone involved and it will lighten the load for everyone.
  • Make cleaning part of your daily routine. Little and often really does do the trick.
  • Celebrate small wins. Don’t focus on the whole house, instead focus on the fact you have put a load of washing on every day for a week. You’re doing great!
  • Declutter as you go. You will honestly thank yourself in the future as the amount of mess reduces and cleaning becomes easier. Create a home for everything. And if it has no home, get rid of it.
  • Group similar tasks together. Clean all of the mirrors in one go, dust the house top to bottom, vacuum the downstairs in one go etc etc…

In summary

When you work long hours or you spend your days looking after young kids, it is easy for the housework to slide and to then find yourself surrounded by an unmanageable task. I’ve been there, so I know what it is like.

Mess is not good for your mental health, it is a proven fact that it increases anxiety and stress levels. But mess is completely separate to dirt, and dirt means germs and too much can be bad for your physical health. And nobody wants to get sick, do they?

One isn’t necessarily more important than the other, but when you are preparing food or have a toddler licking their fingers every five minutes, the most important thing is to make sure the environment is clean and safe. So, focus on the cleaning as a priority and you will find that eventually you feel able to do something about the tidying too. Small steps.

Keeping up with housework is hard work, but making sure that all family members contribute on a daily basis is key to managing it all. The best way to keep on track is to have a cleaning schedule of what needs doing, and tick it off as you go along.

Take a deep breath, you’ve got this!

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