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How to clean a messy house step-by-step

How to clean a messy house step by step

Dirty, messy home driving you crazy? You need this ultimate guide showing you how to clean a messy house in just one day. 

So right up front I need to confess, I am a total clean-freak. I love having a clean and tidy house. 

But I also love to enjoy my house, and to see my children enjoying their house!

For that reason, keeping my house sparkling clean and clutter-free at all times is totally impossible. I clean, the mess it up within an hour, I leave it a few days because I can’t clean every 60 minutes (even though I want to) and then I clean again.

But it’s not just the kids I have to blame for my messy house! We’re all busy with work and play, so the dust, dirt and clutter builds, the laundry pile gets bigger and muddy footprints trail through the house. 

Some weeks if we have been busy I won’t do a thorough clean for several days, or more than a week. 

So even though I am a neat freak, there are days when I step back and look at my house and despair at the state of it. There are toys everywhere, all over the floor, in every room. 

There’s a stack of dirty laundry to be cleaned, an even bigger pile of clean clothes to be put away, unmade beds, glasses and bowls next to the sink that need washing and shoes strewn about in the hallway. And don’t get me started on the bathrooms, those seem to suffer most of all when I don’t have time to clean. 

But even in the face of all that mess, I can get my entire house sparkling in a matter of hours, and normally even less than that. How do I clean my house in just one day?

The trick is to focus first on tidying room-by-room, picking up the toys and dirty clothes, tidying away the clutter, organising your stuff, and then cleaning the whole house one job at a time.

So you don your rubber gloves in the kitchen and get the surfaces wipes. Then you dust every room in the house. Then you get out your mop and clean all the hard flooring in the house. Next your vacuum comes out and you clean your carpets. Finally tackle the bathrooms. Focusing on one cleaning task at a time means you swoop through the house as a whole, rather than one room at a time.

This guide is going to show you how to clean a messy house step by step in less than one day. 

If you’re interested in decluttering, you may want to check out my post about using the KonMari method to declutter. 

This article will touch on decluttering, but is really focused on tidying and cleaning your house on a regular basis, or if you are struggling to know where to start with cleaning your messy home. 

How to clean a messy house in less than a day

How to keep a clean house

Before we get started it’s extremely important to have a system that sets you up to win when it comes to cleaning your home. 

If everything has a place, then tidying can be a breeze. If you have stuff with no home, then tidying becomes almost impossible. 

One of the best things you can do is have your possessions in every room of your house organised by category, including toys. 

When I talk about categories I don’t mean that all of the dolls’ hats have to go in one place, then all the dolls’ shoes in another. You need broader categories than that.

When coming up with your categories for organising your home think about how yours kids play with the toys (so which toys can be grouped together) and how you use your things. For example with cleaning supplies try to group them together by room (bathroom) or task (car cleaning).

My kids’ toys are organised by these categories:

  • Painting (this is kept separately in a box as I only get the paints out when I can supervise)
  • Drawing, colouring and crafts (includes pens, crayons, blank paper, colouring books, scissors, glue and stickers)
  • Action figures
  • LEGO
  • Play food
  • Dressing up clothes
  • Soft toys
  • Board games and puzzles

By doing it this way you know exactly where things go when it comes to tidying them up. 

how to clean a messy house fast

In order to make this work, decluttering needs to be a kind of ongoing job in your home. I always have a box at the top of the stairs where I put clothes the kids have outgrown, toys they don’t play with and books they don’t read any more so it’s ready to be donated when the box is full. This frees up valuable space in my storage. 

Next up you need the right kit for keeping your home clean. 

First and foremost you need a very good vacuum cleaner. We have a Dyson ball and it’s worth its weight in gold. It really does make all the difference to have a vacuum that actually picks up all the bits of dust. 

Next you need a mop. I’ve used simple cloth mops but recently got a steam mop and it really is an absolute lifesaver. I can’t recommend it enough. It can be used on hard floors including real wood and laminate as well as bathroom tiles. 

Those are your big ticket items that you need! The other cleaning essentials are: 

  • Microfibre cleaning cloth
  • Sponge
  • Window cleaning cloth
  • Multi-purpose spray
  • Cif cream cleaner
  • Zoflora
  • Viyakal 

So you see the list is not huge, nothing like Mrs Hinch’s list of must-have cleaning products! But these things will help you to keep your house dirt-free!

Where to start cleaning my house when it’s a total disaster

You’ve got the motivation to start cleaning your house, but not you’re looking at every room and wondering where on earth to get started. 

This is the point where you could just give up and walk away, leaving the mess to continue building. 

Or you could roll up your sleeves, get some music on, and just start!

As to where you should start, I suggest the kitchen is a good place to begin. 

It tends to be one of the busiest spots in the entire house and if you get the kitchen sorted, that’s a great start to your cleaning mission!

Once the kitchen is clean, with the surfaces cleared, dishes cleaned or put in the dishwasher, and the counters wiped, you can then move on to the rest of the house. 

I suggest saving the kitchen floor until you are ready to do the rest of the floors in the whole house, so that you can do them all in one go. 

The second job on your list should be picking up all the toys, stuff, laundry and paperwork scattered around the house. Get them to the places where they are supposed to be!

Depending on how messy your house is, the tidying up phase may take an hour or two. This is where it can help to enlist your kids to help with picking up their toys. 

Next you can actually clean the surfaces and floors. 

I suggest working by task, rather than by room. So get all of the dusting done first, then clean the floors. 

If your windows are really grimy then give those a clean too, and don’t forget if you have window blinds to give those a dust too. 

It can help to put all of these step-by-step cleaning tasks down on a list so that you don’t run room to room wondering where to start. The most important thing is to just get started!

Cleaning a messy house step-by-step

Time is a luxury that very few of us actually have. So when it comes to getting your messy house clean, you may often need to do it in zero time, or at least a couple of hours. 

It is totally possible to transform a house that leaves you completely horrified to even look at to one that actually looks clean in a couple of hours. 

cleaning a messy house fast

You will need to be totally focused for those two hours, but you can totally clean your messy house fast if you roll your sleeves up and get going. 

Here’s what you need to do to get your messy house clean fast!

Group jobs together

I work fastest when I can work from room to room doing the same job in each space. I tend to work in the following order:

  • Tidy every room
  • Wipe down the kitchen
  • Dust every room
  • Vacuum all carpets
  • Clean hard floors
  • Clean bathrooms

I find this way more efficient than doing every cleaning job on one room before moving to the next. It means I deal with the house as a whole, and I’m much more likely to be motivated to see the entire cleaning job through to the end!

Clean your kitchen first

Get the kitchen done first. This is bound to be the messiest area of the house, plus its the area you may use the most and so you’ll feel the benefit far more when it’s clean!

Remember to put away and clean all dishes, wipe the surfaces and hob and give the sink and draining board a clean. You can use Cif to get stainless steel sinks looking really shiny. 

When it comes to the floor, do the sweeping and cleaning last when you’re cleaning the floors in the rest of the house so you can do it all in one go. 

Pick up all the stuff

Before getting to the cleaning, collect up the bits that are not where they should be and just tidy.

This part in itself can take more than an hour if your house is chaotic.

It often helps to start in one corner of the room and work clockwise. This can be particularly good in a really messy room, as that way you can look back at the area where you’ve tidied and see the progress. 

Tidy every single room in the house, starting with the downstairs areas including your living room and any play spaces your child uses as these are bound to be worse. 

Don’t just shove piles of stuff from one room to another 

Sometimes when we tidy, we put the stuff into a neat pile, move it to another room and leave it there until another day. 

The thing is, another day can be today! Sort the stuff out right now. 

In order to make this easier, have your storage set up so that you can just shift stuff into the right place quickly and efficiently. 

Create a stairs pile 

Instead of running stuff upstairs and downstairs every time you want to return something to its right place, make a pile on the stairs. 

As you clean downstairs, put the stuff you need to move up in a pile then when you’re ready to head upstairs take it all up in one go. 

Use a sorting box

Have a box or use the laundry basket to chuck all the stuff that’s in the wrong place. Now you can move around the house with it all putting it in its rightful home!

Get started on that laundry pile

Do not put it off! Get a load of laundry on as soon as possible in the morning. If you have tons of laundry to put away, do it right now. 

How well you are able to keep on top of your laundry is also very dependent on your storage. Are you able to quickly put your clothes away in the right drawers without having to stuff them in because they’re full?

You may have to empty out your wardrobe a little if you are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of clothes. 

Use the right products 

Once you have done the tidying, it’s time to get cleaning.

In order to lift grime and limescale you need to use the right cleaning products, especially if you are limited on time. 

It’s also important to give any cleaning product a little dwell time on the surface you are cleaning. This gives it time to work its magic. 

For limescale, you can’t get better than Viyakal which is fab in bathrooms and kitchens. 

For grease and grime use a multi-purpose surface cleaner. For really tough marks on walls and furniture you can try The Pink Stuff. I have a whole blog post on uses for this wonderful cleaning paste. 

When you’re vacuuming, your time can be saved if you have a cordless vacuum as it makes getting up and down the stairs much faster. Be sure to keep it charged so you can always grab it for use when you need to.

Remember to dust everywhere

If you are in a hurry stick to the surfaces you can see. This includes window sills, furniture and shelves. Don’t worry about the tops of door frames. 

You will be amazed how much tidier and cleaner your house looks when you have cleared the surfaces and dusted! Don’t forget you television too, which is a magnet for dust. 

Mop the floors

I recommend this steam mop for hard floors. If you are using a cloth mop then get an appropriate cleaning product for the type of surface you are cleaning and remember to wash your mop head regularly to kill germs and get rid of dirt. 

Clean a messy house checklist 


  • Wash dishes or load dishwasher 
  • Put away clean dishes 
  • Tidy surfaces, putting away food, cans and making sure everything is in its right place
  • Wipe surfaces with damp cloth and multi-surface cleaner
  • Clean sink – Use soapy water and scrub or try Cif original cream cleaner with a damp cloth then rinse and buff with a dry cloth
  • For smelly plugholes, put a cup of Soda Crystals down the plughole, add a capful of Zoflora then pour an entire kettle of boiled water down afterwards
  • Empty the bin
  • Wash floor

Living room

  • Tidy away toys, papers, and anything else that doesn’t belong in the room
  • Straighten cushions on the sofa 
  • Dust all surfaces
  • Wipe leather couch with a damp cloth
  • Fabric sofas can be cleaned by running a squeegee all over to pick up any pet hairs or dust
  • Vacuum floor

Dining room

  • Tidy up – put away any stray items back where they belong
  • Wipe table with multi-purpose cleaning spray and damp cloth
  • Clean/vacuum floor


  • Tidy shoes and coats
  • Clear away items that don’t belong
  • Dust
  • Vacuum 
  • Clean front door mat – some are machine washable or you may need a bucket of soapy water and a brush to scrub


  • Pick up towels
  • Tidy away items that don’t belong
  • Clean sinks – clear away stuff from around sink and then spray with bathroom cleaner and wipe with a sponge
  • Clean mirror – Use glass spray and a window cleaning cloth
  • Clean shower/bath
  • Clean glass walls/doors with Viyakal – spray on then scrub with a sponge and wipe away with a squeegee
  • Clean floors 
  • Put bleach down toilet
  • Wipe toilet seat with a anti-bacterial wipe or spray with bathroom cleaner and wipe

Play room

  • Tidy away toys
  • Dust
  • Vacuum/clean floor


  • Make beds
  • Tidy away clothes
  • Tidy and organise bedside tables
  • Dust
  • Vacuum/clean floors


  • Tidy desk and floors
  • File paperwork
  • Dust desk and other surfaces 
  • Wipes keyboard and monitor
  • Vacuum/clean floor
How to clean a messy house step by step
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