How to tackle a messy house — 6 steps to success from our cleaning experts

Don't know where to start? Here’s how to tackle a messy house and beat the chaos

If you're wondering how to tackle a messy house, this image is one to aspire to. The bright and naturally lit living room has a gray sofa, plenty of storage baskets and clean tables and surfaces
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If you’re wondering how to tackle a messy house and get the mayhem under control, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve all been there: one minute your space looks fresh, organized, and clean, and next it’s a total state. 

These six steps from our cleaning and organizing experts will guide you on the order to tackle tasks when your house feels like a mess and you don't know where to start.

Our expert-approved tips reveal how to tackle a messy house and clean your home  quickly and efficiently.

Here’s how to tackle a messy house

Shayne Jeramos, cleaning specialist at Bright Cleaning, says, “Start by making a list of all the areas that need attention. Identify the most critical areas or the ones that bother you the most." When you have your list, these steps will help you tick things off your house cleaning checklist. Ready to restore calm and order? Let's dive in.

Shayne Jeramos
Shayne Jeramos

Shayne is a cleaning specialist at Bright Cleaners and has extensive experience with residential and cleaning services.

1. Start with the trash

An image of a peach colored cleaning caddy shown on a wooden surface with a white wall behind it

(Image credit: Canva)

A basic but essential starting point for tackling the mess in your home is to start with grabbing a trash bag and being prepared to throw out anything that needs to go.

Grab two sacks (we like these reinforced and scented drawstring ones from Amazon with over 20,000 five-star reviews), one for general trash and one for recycling. Then, go around each room in your home and sweeping or placing any garbage you can see, be it on the floor, in bins, on surfaces, on window sills, into the bags. Leave no stone unturned.

A good trick to staying on task is to set a timer of 15 minutes solely for clearing the rubbish. As hard as it is to not start tidying things as you go, this first step is all about rounding up and removing trash. 

Once your trash bags are full, throw them in the outside bins,  grab fresh ones and repeat the process - and the timer if needed - until the entire house has been cleared of garbage.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand, Shayne advises, “Commit to cleaning for just 15 minutes. It’s less daunting and often leads to doing more."

2. Put on a load of laundry

Next up is the laundry. Janille Mangat, cleaning expert at VMAP Cleaning Services, says, “Gather all dirty laundry and start a load washing." No doubt there will be a few more, so make life easier on yourself and use the best laundry detergent for your load to avoid extra work later removing stains that haven't shifted.

One of Janille's best laundry hacks is using a laundry divider basket (like this foldout laundry hamper from Amazon that divides washing into three categories and comes with over 6000 five-star ratings from shoppers) that allows you to easily toss dirty laundry into different bins for colored items, dark items, and white items. 

When it comes to the best ways to do laundry, choose a shorter laundry cycle, such as a 20-minute refresh setting, for any items that are lightly soiled or just need freshen up. Set an alarm on your phone for when each laundry cycle finishes so that you can take the clean load out and put another dirty one into the washer, keeping the momentum going until you’ve washed every load. 

Janille Mangat
Janille Mangat

Janille is a cleaning specialist at VMAP Cleaning Services and has extensive experience with residential and commercial cleaning.

3. Remove unnecessary items from each room

An image of a wicker storage basket with a white cotton lining placed on a wooden floor with a white wall behind it

(Image credit: Canva)

The next step should be to focus on removing clutter from each room. Parveen Garg, cleaning expert from Ola Clean, says, “Return items that have migrated to wrong parts of the house and put them where they belong.”

Use a basket (like this handy one from Amazon) to help you move any clutter back to its rightful spot. Or, if you don’t have the time (or a dedicated space) to put the items back straight away, stash the clutter basket in a corner until you can carve an hour out of your schedule to take everything out and sort it thoroughly.

These sorts of handy baskets are one of the best tips for a clutter-free home, as they make the process of staying organized so much easier and less time-intensive.

Parveen Garg
Parveen Garg

Parveen Garg is a cleaning expert with years of experience as a professional cleaner, is a dab hand at clearing clutter and mess, and provides thorough end-of-lease cleans.

4. Get rid of paper clutter

If your surfaces are covered in paper clutter, spend some time reading through the documents and bin as much as possible. Parveen says, “Sort through mail, flyers, and papers; recycle or file them away.”

For getting rid of paper you no longer need but might contain confidential or sensitive information abou you, or those in your household, a good shredder (like such as this Amazon Basics paper and credit card shredder with over 160,000 five-star reviews) can be a super handy tool to have on hand. 

5. Wipe the surfaces in each room

An image of a person wearing blue gloves and holding a pink cleaning cloth in one hand and a bottle of cleaning spray in the other

(Image credit: Canva)

Once the surfaces in each room are clear, it'll be time to give them a much-needed clean. 

If you notice the counters or other surfaces are particularly dusty, you might find using a handheld mini vacuum (like this handheld cordless vacuum cleaner from Amazon that comes highly rated by shoppers) a good move. The last thing you need is to send a bunch of dust flying into the air and settling elsewhere instead.

Janille advises, “Wipe down counters, tables, and other surfaces,” and suggests using cleaning wipes (like these Lysol antibacterial cleaning wipes from Amazon) for a quicker, easier clean. 

6. Vacuum and mop the floors

The final step is to give your floors some TLC. Start by vacuuming the floors (both hard and carpeted areas can be vacuumed and most appliances have a dedicated suction setting for each), followed by mopping your hard floors. 

Janille says, “Quick floor cleaning can dramatically improve the look of a room.”

A great hack for how to vacuum the floors effectively is to make sure that you’re using the best vacuum cleaner you can afford, with plenty of suction power (like this agile bagless Miele vacuum cleaner from Amazon with adjustable suction power). 

And the same goes for mopping; it’s essential to make sure you’re using the best floor mop for your floor, and one that you find comfortable too. We like using the Swiffer PowerMop, as it's both a wet and dry mop.


How can you make tackling the mess less daunting?

Hashi says, “Break the cleaning process into small, manageable tasks. Create a checklist and tackle one item at a time. Set a timer for short intervals, like 15-20 minutes, and focus solely on the task at hand during that time. This approach can make the overwhelming task of cleaning feel more achievable.”

How can you make it easier to keep your home mess-free?

Hashi says, “Invest in multi-purpose furniture with built-in storage such as ottomans or coffee tables with hidden compartments. Use vertical space by installing wall shelves or hooks to keep clutter off surfaces. Consider the *One In, One Out* rule. For every new item you bring into your home, remove an old one. This helps maintain a balanced and clutter-free space.”

If you still don’t feel like your house is as clean as you’d like but you’re out of time, you can fake a clean and tidy home in just a few minutes. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.