Spring cleaning for disastrously messy homes

retrochick.JPGIvy says:

Recently, I ran into a friend who asked me when I was going to write about spring cleaning here on Home-Ec 101. Well, normally I do my spring cleaning right after Easter so I can find any rogue Easter eggs running around my house. (Because it always rains here on Easter, always.)

Then my friend said  she didn’t normally do spring cleaning because her house was so “disastrously messy” that it could take months. Haha, I understand the feeling of “it could take months to clean my house, so why bother?” I’ve had that kind of mess on my hands before when I had been on bed rest for 6 weeks and my husband who is apparently allergic to cleaning was in charge of the cooking and cleaning and kid-raising. When I finally came off bed rest with a new baby and a horribly messy house, I got depressed about it all and just thought, “why bother?”

spring cleaning a messy house


But having a clean house is beneficial on so many levels. First, it makes you feel better in general. My mom always would harangue me about my messy house contributing to my depression. I thought, “Right, mom, a clean house would totally fix my depression.” But I found she was right- having a clean house really does make me feel better.

Add that to being able to find things easily, thereby saving you money (how many times have you had to buy something you couldn’t find, only to find it again later and be mad that you wasted the money?), time, and energy. Once your house is clean, it is far easier to maintain.

So how can you get that super-messy house under control? First, you have to be completely determined that you are going to get your house under control once and for all. It might take you months, but I doubt it. Check your supplies and make sure you have enough cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, and trash bags. Once you’ve done that, you need to set goals and just get started.

A completely messy house is overwhelming, so let me tell you where to start. Start with the laundry. Picking up those clothes that are strewn everywhere will make an immediate difference in how your house looks, plus it’s a task that you can do while you’re doing lots of other things. As you’re doing laundry, put a plastic bag by the dryer for clothes you are going to give away. Now, I always fold the clothes right in the laundry room, and when I have everything folded I call the kids in who have clothes in that particular load and ask them about each item of clothing. If it doesn’t fit, or they just don’t like the item of clothing, out it goes. Same goes for me and my stuff. My husband, well, I just get rid of stuff that’s unusually holey and hope he doesn’t notice.

Once the laundry’s rolling, go clean the smallest room in your house. Usually, that’s a bathroom. Or sometimes it’s your laundry room, which is handy since you’re doing all this laundry anyway- might as well have a sparkly clean laundry room to do all that laundry in. Bag up trash, get rid of stuff you won’t use, and wash the floors. Dust the walls and wash the woodwork. Clean it as if your mother-in-law was coming to inspect it with white gloves.

Once you have the smallest room in your house cleaned, enjoy the nice feeling of a completely clean room, and then move on to your hardest room to clean. For some, this might be the kitchen, for others, it might be a kid bedroom. Whatever it is, you are going to have to tackle it sometime and it might as well be sooner rather than later. Whatever it is, buckle down and get to work on it.

guide to spring cleaning

Click the picture to learn more!

Once you have the worst room tackled, the rest can’t be all that bad. Just work room by room until you have it all finished. Then enjoy your clean house!

Tomorrow, I’ll give you step by step room specific cleaning tips.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.


  1. Jennifer on June 21, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Thank you so much for your tips. I honestly feel so trapped. My parents are probably hoarders, I am so sick of living my 21 years in a messy cluttered disgusting house. Everyday I need to clean my house to make it look decent. I love cleaning but I hate cleaning my house because I can no longer put things where they should because they just don’t fit. Ive always envied other kids who didnt have to worry about the appearance of their hosue, being embarassed by their place inside and out and also dont have to spend hours everyday “cleaning” their house. Ive always tried to throw things out but it somehow keeps coming back in or the hours Ive spent sorting things out just go to waste when my parents take everything out of the donate or trash pile and bring it back into the house. In August my parents are going to a trip back home and that is the time when I will put an end to it all. I will be hopefully renting a dumpster bin and throw absolutely everything I see into it. I dont care if they resent me after it, I know this will make my familys life better. My mom is currently always stressed about the mess but doesnt seem to find the motivation or will to do anything. My dad seems to notice a problem but doesnt change his habits of buying things we dont need, he is really resilient to change. My older brother too, lazy at home, not working who sees a problem and wants to change it but also shows tendencies of hoarding, he isnt full committed to throwing a lot of things because he finds them sentimental or whatnot. I feeel so alone like Im the only one going through this. I just hope I can throw everything out without my brother finding out and before my parents come back home,

    (Sorry this is so long, I really wanted to just tell someone and let it out)

  2. Kelly on August 12, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Thank you for these tips. I have read millions of posts about cleaning bc I have been feeling depressed about my house and I have the same husband you do (allergic to cleaning). Your post really helped me get motivated to get my house clean. I don’t know if you have or not but can you make a post about how to maintain a clean house when one person has to do it. Thanks so much!!

  3. Catharine Mitchell on October 3, 2016 at 11:41 am

    I am 52 and going through the Menopause, while bringing my children up I was OCD when it came to my home now since they are all finding their own way in the world and the youngest whos 20 is at uni and lives their during term time he also bought me 2 cats and although I like animals I feel overwhelmed the cats are indoor cats they are so hairy its getting to the point they are wrecking my whole house and with the Menopause I have no energy I have took on board what you have said and will give it a go but the thing is even when I do this these cats still have hair every where and Im absolutely stick of cleaning up poo and sick Xx

    • Suzy on December 25, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Try the furminator… It’s a special brush that seriously reduces cat hair. It’s kind of expensive, about thirty bucks I think, but totally worth it. I give my cat twenty Stokes a day while she’s eating! Their excess fur is contributing to the vomiting because they are removing it with their tongues and then puking it up…

      I’m sorry you’re struggling with menopause as well…I know it’s been awhile since this post but if you’re still reading this, I hope you talked to your doctor or counselor about it… There are things out there that can help you. Also know that it is temporary, things do get better eventually…

  4. Adarlington on August 19, 2016 at 11:33 am

    I have 2 kids. 5 and 2 1/2 and for some reason once I have the house cleaned, it will be simply demolished by the time my husband gets home from work. ( I’m sure he’s wondering what I’ve done all day) for it to look like a clothing and toy store has thrown up in seriously EVERY room! I be Leone it or not, their bedrooms aren’t messy, they would rather play in the living room and the basement in the playroom , and the toys somehow never manage to stay in the playroom! Eeek! I’m great at cleaning, and I prefer a clean and tidy home, however once the pandemonium has ensued, I get paralyzed by the weight of the mess. Thanks for the tips on where to start!

  5. Kale on March 25, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I just wanted to chime in and say that we found the best way to keep things clean is do start with the little things. Don’t skip over them! In other words for instance, I clean my wifes car out every night (takes maybe 2 mins) because I can grab any cups, food wrappers, shoes, clothes, trash, dishes, etc. I then immediately put all those things up, or in trash, or in dishwasher. I used to wait and do this ONE time a month and it took forever! Now, just 2 minutes a day makes my life and wifes mornings so much less stressful. She never has to worry about getting into a dirty car again. And you can take this same principle and apply it to anything… such as the kitchen.

    Most people enter into the house from the same entrance all the time. The natural thing is to lay all of your stuff on a table or something that is convenient. So if this is the case, move the table. Make sure you put things AWAY and not just dump them. For instance, when I come in from a hard day of cleaning carpets in my business, I want to take my shoes off and dump my keys, papers, and everything else on our dresser in our room. It’s easy for me to be lazy and just kick my shoes off. BUT, if I take 2 minutes and put away my shoes in the closet, and then hang my keys on the peg, and then go through the things in my pockets and hand before dumping them I would find it SO MUCH easier to keep a clean dresser. And we do this every month.

    Remember, its the small details that we leave out that eventually build on us and overtake our lives. Focus on doing the small things right.

  6. JD on January 10, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    My house is on the verge of hoarders!! No lie!! Every room is a total mess!! I need to get started on cleaning and organizing. I just do not know where to start as it is over whelming. I have my reasons as to why I let it go. I do keep certain things VERY clean. There is just clutter every where. I keep my bathroom clean, but I can’t find the counter as it is so full of stuff. I have a full-time job which I hate! It causes so much stress that it has taken over my life. My laundry is always done. So there are certain things that I do, do.

  7. Lotte on January 7, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Wow… i was always watching those OCD/hoarding TV shows for motivation but those didn’t really provide tips for normal people who are just terribly behind on their household. I too felt like a freak and somehow i myself never seem to smell clean, because of the lack of hygienic surroundings. Now I started with the laundry and dishes. Laundry is halfway, dishes are done and by tomorrow I hope to have cleaned that laundry room. And that still is workable, even with a disabled husband, studies and a f.t. job! All the time the secret seems to have been a good planning and priorities. Thanks, after this post your blog is in my fav’s!!

  8. Heather on April 6, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    I really thought that something was terribly wrong with me. I have been trying to be a neat person for years and no matter how hard I tried I never have been neat. Ty so much you have given me hope that I don’t have to be messy anymore.

  9. Pamela Graham on March 12, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    I am an utterly horrible terrible mess…me and my home and I have no kids left to blame it on. I seriously need some help. Tomorrow I will focus on the clothes….focus focus focus….Thank you, Pamie

  10. Debbie Davis on December 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Okay…having triplets and a clean house doesn’t mix. My house is YUCKY! I’ve gotten so far behind, that I don’t know where to start, but I’m going to start with the laundry. And, my kids are going to have several new chores to complete!

  11. Natkukljica on August 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    I don’t mind to clean. My problem is one minut I’m in kitchen next minut I’m in bedroom.I never finish one room completely. Thank you for this wonderful tips!

    • Kelly on August 12, 2017 at 11:52 am

      I have the same problem when I clean my house. I go to another room to put something away and I start cleaning that room when the room I was just in isn’t done yet.

  12. rstahl on August 17, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    As I sat here looking at the utter chaos and mess around me, I decided to stop ‘sitting here looking at it’ and find something that would get me up and working on it! I am easily overwhelmed and that is the number 1 reason our home is such a mess!!!  I did a search for ‘where to start when cleaning a very messy house’ and this was the very first, top of the list, link! I am soooo pleased that it was! Our laundry room is small and dark, my least favorite room in our home and I avoid it completely, so to see that you state ‘start with the laundry’, and knowing that the laundry mountain takes up the entire room, most of which no one will ever use or wear, I decided to make a place to haul that mountain so that I can do a load at a time and not overwhelm myself in that dark dark room!!!! MY office/dining room is NOW CLEAN CLEAN!!! I am so very thankful for this article! THANK YOU for stating it so simply but also with a ‘voice’ that brooked no argument! 🙂 IT WORKED!!!! I think my husband was in shock watching me move from room to room and going through the pile of ‘junk’ that has built up in there!!! OK, on to the next battle! Tomorrow I start the laundry mountain!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!

  13. speth on May 29, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I start by making a VERY specific list. Instead of bathroom my list will say; mirror, hair basket, make up basket, vanity, sink, closet, toilet, bath tub, shower walls, sweep floor, swiffer floor, mop floor, light switches, door knobs. It helps me because when I lack motivation I can start with, ok I will just make the list, Ok I will cross one thing off the list and before I realize it the bathroom is clean and i get to mark 10 things off my list at once which is an awesome feeling. I also put my list on the whiteboard so my husband can see it and do the things that need to be done instead of redoing what I have already done.

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  15. Brent Patton on July 28, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Very intresting article thanks for sharing keep em coming

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  17. Melinda on March 14, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    For me, I invite people over for dinner about every two weeks. That inspires me to stay on top of my cleaning and keeping it clean. 🙂 As much as I hate cleaning, I would hate people seeing my “messy” even more. (Just don’t open my closets. I have a few I’m still working on.)

  18. Badbadivy on March 13, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    I H-A-T-E cleaning. And that’s not too strong a word. I’d rather do an-y-thing else!

    That’s why I imagine I’m doing something else or listen to music- it’s a lot more interesting that way.

  19. Mrs.W on March 13, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    I don’t even HAVE kids and my house is a constant mess. I just have so many other things that are more important to do… plus I H-A-T-E cleaning. And that’s not too strong a word. I’d rather do an-y-thing else!

    That said, I’ve found that it’s easier to keep things tidy than to clean from the brink of disaster. And, from a laziness standpoint, is actually more efficient.

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  21. ricepuddin on March 13, 2008 at 10:45 am

    And I thought it was just me! Thank you so much for this (and the comments above!). I’m getting off my behind now and I’m going to put the laundry away…next it’s off to the bathroom. I WILL begin the playroom but am sure the kids will demolish it before dark. But I WILL do it.
    Thank you!

  22. CanadianCarrie on March 13, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Oh, did I EVER need this right now! This week, I’ve started my list of everything that needs to be done, and this helps guide me in the right direction. Usually, I just walk from room to room going WHERE DO I START!!?? I’m wondering if the mess gets more managable when the kids are all in school all day? ANYONE?? Does it? 🙂

    • mary on March 3, 2011 at 2:22 pm

      Nope! Mine are 13 and 10 and now crazy but lucky me has one on the way! I just am so overwhelmed that I never know where to start. I have a starting place now. Thanks!

  23. Angela on March 12, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    I always have the problem of once it is clean the kids think that is the best room to play in…therefore not lasting very long:)

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