Are you an overwhelmed mama with a house that is just completely disgusting and out of control? Look, life happens. Sometimes, it feels completely impossible to get a disgusting house under control and before you know it, you feel like your house is disgusting, there are dishes piled up on the counters, you’re smell testing laundry to see if you can get away with wearing it again, and you’re at serious risk of losing your kids under the tons of paper clutter.
I promise, you’re not the only one living in a disgusting house!
It IS POSSIBLE to get your completely messy, out of control house under control.
Please just put a little trust in me, follow these steps (that are going to sound ridiculous, but STAY WITH ME) and we will get through this together!
Where to Start Cleaning My House
First of all, if you feel like your house is a disgusting mess, we need to get you some quick wins to get started.
Here are some that work wonders in our house…
- Keep a basket at the bottom and top of your stairs for things that go to the other floor. We use cheap but still cute ones like this.
- Keep a vacuum on every floor. I know we’re worried about decluttering right now, but trust me when I tell you that keeping a cheap stick vacuum like this on my second floor gets my second floor vacuumed WAY more often!
- Get rid of all duplicates. The easiest place to do this is the kitchen. If you have two of something, pick the nicest quality one and get rid of the rest.
- Put away most of your dishes. Only keep out enough dishes for your entire family for one meal. This one has been absolutely essential in keeping our dishes under control. They are NEVER piled up in our sink anymore. Ever.
- Stop folding your kids’ laundry! We don’t hang ours either. Instead, we bought one of these cheap shelving units and we use two cubbies per kid. One for shirts and one for bottoms per kid. BONUS – Since we started using this clothes system, our kids put away their own clothes. Even the 2 year old.
How to Keep Your House Under Control With Kids
Listen, I’ve been where you are.
I have three kids ages 4 and under and another one on the way.
When we had our first son and I was pregnant with our second, I felt like we’d never figure out how to keep our house from being a completely disgusting mess.
Much less actually keep it organized!
I finally realized that what wasn’t working for me was trying to do “everything right.”
I did laundry and dishes the way I thought you had to. I filed our papers in a file system (that actually just meant keeping piles of paper everywhere because I never had any time to file it.
What mom of young kids has time to file their papers??
It was when I finally put lazy systems in place that worked for this particular chapter of life that everything started to change.
I describe exactly what I did, step-by-step to get our house in order here. Check it out if you’re an overwhelmed mama too!
Otherwise, let’s move on to speed cleaning and decluttering!
My House Is Messy Where Do I Start?
A lot of people would argue with me, but I think the reason we can’t keep our houses neat or organized is because there’s seriously just TOO. MUCH. STUFF. The book The Life-Changing Magic of Tiding Up by Marie Kondo is so popular right now, but I don’t expect everyone to become minimalists.
Instead, I want you to take it for a test drive.
One of my most popular posts is about how to try out minimalism without committing and that’s the method we’re going to use to restore your sanity and make your house into a home.
I want you to commit to taking drastic measures to get your home under control so you can stop stressing and finally start living.
The thing is:
If you’re overwhelmed with the state of your house, I can almost promise you that you just have too much stuff.
I’m not going to ask you to go through the stress of getting rid of all of it right now. Instead, I’m going to ask you to take a quick trip to the local grocery or warehouse store for boxes.
Call first, have them save some boxes for you the next time they get a truck. Every store I’ve ever called has been happy to do this for us.
The best part? It’s FREE.
How to Clean a Messy House In One Day
If you want to get your house clean as fast as possible, this is the absolute fastest method you’ll find.
It sounds crazy, but IT WORKS!
Now, I want you to grab a box, grab a marker, and pick a room.
Stick with me here: This is where it gets GOOD and you’ll notice an immediate difference!
Go into your most cluttered room, set a timer for 15 minutes, and start packing everything in that box that doesn’t get used on a daily or weekly basis. This includes sentimental items that you could never part with, but that add to the clutter.
Be sure to label the absolute crap out of that box so you can find everything later.
The purpose of doing this is to finally declutter.
You can dedicate yourself to going through each item you own, deciding whether to keep it or donate it, and then get discouraged at the lack of progress and give up 10% of the way through.
If I were a betting mama, I’d bet my life savings that you’ve tried this before…and more than once.
Instead, we’re going to take drastic action and actually see true progress.
Progress equals motivation. Motivation leads to lasting results.
Our goal here is to absolutely declutter your house from top to bottom.
Bonus points if you actually decide to get rid of some of the stuff, but that’s not at all what I’m asking you to do.
Speed Clean / Declutter!
Your goal here is to move through each room as quickly as you can, throwing everything into a box that you don’t use on a very regular basis.
Annually is not regular enough use to keep that item sitting out. Box it up!
Now I know what you’re thinking… You don’t have room in your house / garage / closet / attic for extra boxes.
Do you have room in your house for all of this extra stuff? Stuff you don’t even use on a regular basis?
If you’re overwhelmed by the mess in your house, then the answer is definitely not.
I’d rather you have a few boxes sitting in a corner somewhere than have that stuff scattered all over your house.
You see it, it literally causes you stress (there have been studies), and it quite seriously drops your ability to enjoy your time at home.
Your home should be a haven. Quit arguing with me and pack that crap in boxes!
When you reach your kitchen, pack up most of your dishware and silverware.
It’s just my husband, our 2 sons and I living in our house. We packed all but 4 bowls, plates, forks…you get the idea. Anything we didn’t use all the time, I packed in a box.
This was absolutely instrumental in overcoming dirty dishes and a constantly messy kitchen.
Okay, let’s assume you’ve packed all of that away and it’s sitting in beautifully labeled boxes in a corner somewhere.
Let’s move on.
Time to Clean!
Who wants to clean their house when you can work for hours or even days and not see a big difference? No one!
But after you’ve packed everything you don’t use in a box and put it away, your house is almost completely decluttered.
Then it just is a matter of de-grossing everything, as I call it.
With 2 toddlers, there’s a constant layer of sticky everywhere. The laundry never ends and I have spaghetti sauce in places I never thought possible. My point is, I feel you, but we can tackle this.
Here’s what works for me…
I started out by getting the right tools, but I’m on a budget. I had to find things CHEAP that would make cleaning with one hand easier while I had a baby on one hip.
This mop is the one thing you need if you have toddlers. I actually mop my floors now because I’m able to do it while I wear the baby.
Now that there’s way less stuff to clean around, I focus on priority tasks each day.
I aim for three priority things and then add 5-7 more to my list for the day. If I get to them, great. If not, there’s always tomorrow.
Stuff happens! There are play dates, doctor’s appointments… I’m not going to stay up til midnight just to check every item off of each list every day.
I just force myself to clean up anything that’s going to stain right away and I run a load in the dishwasher every day, a load in the washer every day.
When the laundry is done, I put it away – using no fold systems.
No, our house isn’t perfect all the time – but it’s company-ready every day.
If someone drops by unexpectedly, I don’t have a panic attack. The house is presentable with the exception of some toys laying around.
Let’s be honest, no one is coming to a house with this many kids and expecting perfection.
I spent SO many years living in a mess with tons of clutter because I was being kind of a perfectionist.
If I didn’t have time to fold all of the laundry, I wouldn’t even start.
In fact, if I knew I wouldn’t have time to fold it later, I wouldn’t even start to wash it and I had piles of laundry everywhere.
I didn’t wipe down the counters because they were piled high with dishes. Who is going to clean the counters and the floors in the kitchen if the dishes aren’t done?
Putting away half of our stuff in boxes seriously saved my sanity and helped me get control of our house. Now, I just have to work on my daily cleaning checklists and the house stays pretty neat.
If someone drops by, I’m not going to have a panic attack.
The point here is to give yourself lots of leniency.
A clean house isn’t a perfect house. Your house can be clean without everything being organized perfectly.
How to Clean a Messy House Step by Step
There are 3 items that once you tackle them, your house is almost guaranteed to be *almost* clean.
Dishes. Laundry. Paper.
Let’s tackle each of these:
You’re going to have all of this done (or pretty damn close) in the next hour and 15 minutes.
If you have a dishwasher, this is simple. Set that timer for 25 minutes and play beat the clock as you scrub off the worst of your dish crud and get those dishes loaded in the dishwasher.
If you don’t own a dishwasher (you can actually purchase a small, countertop dishwasher like this one) soak all of your dishes in the hottest water you possibly can while you tackle the next item on your list.
Come back in 10 to 15 minutes, set a timer for 25 minutes and scrub and rinse each of your dishes as quickly as you can, moving them to a large towel to try.
If you have tons of dirty dishes, my best tip is to start with the large ones to ramp up your motivation. Getting a huge stockpot cleaned and drying is going to make a big visual impact on the amount of dishes you are facing.
Just give me 25 minutes of good hard scrubbing and we can move on while those dishes dry.
I know I’m going to make some enemies here, but unless you have a brand new article of clothing, I think it’s pointless to wash clothes by color. I never do this anymore.
Instead, I wash our towels in one load, clothes in another, rags in another, sheets in a separate weekly load.
Still paranoid about colors bleeding? Pick up some Shout Color Catchers. I toss them in ever single load.
Gather up all of your dirty laundry – including kitchen towels, bath towels, car seat inserts that are begging to be washed, etc.
Throw a full load in, start the washer, and walk away.
My cleaning life revolves around playing beat the clock. It takes me about 3 minutes to gather and start a load of laundry. That’s NOTHING compared to the stress relief I get from having all of our laundry completely done.
Sometimes, I’d rather shave my head than put away laundry. If it’s 10 pm and I have a load of laundry to put away, I’ll start hanging what I absolutely have to. Folding sometimes doesn’t happen.
If I lay unfolded clothes in drawers sometimes, the laundry is technically put away. No fold systems are my friend. I don’t fold my boys clothes. I lay them neatly in drawers. We have a big decorative bin in the bathroom for towels and I just drop the towels in for the week – unfolded.
You’re aiming to conquer Laundry Mountain, not win a Good Housekeeping Award. Get that laundry done, put away, and out of sight.
Now we can move on to the easiest one.
Finally, tackle the paper clutter.
Set that timer for 25 minutes, but I doubt this will take you anywhere near that long.
Gather every single rogue piece of paper, put it in one place, and just pull out the absolute essentials. Bills that need to be paid are the only truly essential papers that come to mind.
Put them on your fridge and the rest of the paper clutter can go in a holding bin while we get the rest of the house in order.
This way, it’s contained, we know exactly where any item is that we might be looking for before we get around to tackling paper clutter once and for all, and we’re no longer staring at miscellaneous sheets of paper everywhere.
In just an hour and 15 minutes, you can have your house under control.
Now, we’re going to move on to de-grossing the house. No one wants to live in a gross house. In just another hour, we can have most of the nasty areas of the house tackled.
Cleaning Flat Surfaces
Next, we’re going to tackle all flat surfaces. Kitchen and bathroom counters, tables, coffee tables, etc.
With a mixture of one part water to one part vinegar (do NOT use vinegar on granite!), I want you to quickly wipe down every flat surface you’ve got. I use a spray bottle and microfiber cloth to tackle all of mine.
Maybe you’re noticing a pattern here, but I’d be setting a timer for each room. Trying to play beat the clock seriously revs my motivation up to 10 and helps me get sh*t done!
5-10 minutes per room should be plenty! Remember, we’re NOT aiming for perfection!
Next, we’re going to throw some baking soda down on the carpets and wait 30 minutes.
While that’s sitting, vacuum all of your linoleum, tile, and hardwood floors. Here is my favorite vacuum for under $50!
Then, quickly mop or Swiffer (if that’s how you roll) all of your solid surface floors.
Finally, back to those carpeted rooms to vacuum up that baking soda.
Easily the most disgusting part of the house and the one we want to avoid. If you spend just 15 minutes in this room, you can conquer the nasty once and for all.
Buy a toilet wand, you’ll thank me later.
Swish this thing around your entire toilet bowl, flush, then spray down the outside of you toilet with your 50/50 vinegar and water mixture.
Head over to the shower and spray it down with the same stuff.
Come back to the toilet and with a different color microfiber cloth (because we are trying to be way less gross and using the same rags in the kitchen and bathroom is just…gross) wipe down the outside of the toilet, the rim, and anywhere else that needs it.
Don’t forget the handle. Points of contact are always the “grossest”.
Now do the same thing in the shower (a dollar store squigee works wonders on glass doors) and you’re done.
The Amazing News
Once you do this process once, you’ll NEVER have to do it again.
From now on, we’ll be living in homes without clutter and will be much more motivated to keep on top of the daily tasks that will keep our houses under control once and for all.
Messy House Depression
No one can deny that there is a strong correlation between depression and having a messy home.
Our house was at its absolute messiest during my bout with postpartum depression.
If you feel that you’re dealing with depression and your world is falling apart around you – I’m here to tell you that it WILL GET BETTER!
You just have to do the leg work to get there.
For me, that meant making an emergency appointment with our doctor and getting on anti-depressants even though I favor the natural solution anytime I can find one. I knew this was bigger than me and any diet change or supplement change I could possibly make.
In the meantime, ask for support absolutely anywhere you can and don’t be shy about telling people your house is a complete mess. If a friend or family member is willing to come help you get your house back together – LET THEM!
Don’t let your home cause you more stress or plunge you deeper into depression. Get the help you need from a trained professional (remembering the entire time that a massive amount of people suffer from anxiety and depression – there is absolutely zero shame in it) and ask for help from those around you.
You’ve got this!
Have you ever lost control and then lost hope? What did you do to catch up? Be sure to share your best tips in the comments to help others in the same boat!