overwhelmed mom picking up toys and organizing her messy house

How to Start Organizing a Messy House in 5 Easy Steps

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“My house is messy! Where do I start?”

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the state of your house? Wondering exactly HOW to start organizing a messy house when it’s, well, overwhelming?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret….

My house is usually-almost-always a mess. Yes, I’ll absolutely admit it! I do have three small children, after all.

But while it’s almost NEVER completely tidy during the day, we can usually clean it up before bedtime. If we set our minds to it, we could probably even get it done in ten minutes.

Not including the kitchen, of course. The cleaning fairy takes care of that… Oh, wait — I am the cleaning fairy. Never mind.

Personally, I’ve had to put a lot of systems into play to get to this point, and honestly, it’s a journey. I’m still working on getting organized. I’m still figuring out systems to help keep things running smoothly.

I totally understand what it’s like when your house is a complete mess. When you don’t have systems in place to keep it organized. Which is why I’m here today, writing this post…

I’m going to help you figure out WHERE to start when cleaning a messy house. I’m going to share a step-by-step process to get it organized. I’ll also share a cleaning checklist that breaks everything down room by room.

The first order of business is to grab a cup of coffee, crank up the tunes, grab a pen and paper. Do that one thing that energizes and motivates you.

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

woman picking up toys; text that reads: overwhelmed by a messy house? start here!

Where to Start When Cleaning a Messy House

“My house is a mess! Where do I start?!”

Go for the “quick win”. That’s the best place to start when cleaning a messy house. In other words, declutter and clean the one area that will make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time. 

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. What can I get done in five minutes or less? 
  2. Where can I clean to make the biggest impact?

The answer might look a little different for each of us. For me, it’s clearing the table and wiping it clean.

Our dining table is in the middle of our open layout kitchen and living room area. So when it’s cluttered, it makes the whole house feel messy.

For you, it might be picking up trash around the house. Picking up toys in one small area of the house. Sorting that pile of mail on the kitchen counter.

You get the idea!

I recommend starting with a small task, or going for a “quick win”, because it usually gets the ball rolling.

It’s just the first step when you need to start organizing a messy house. The sense of accomplishment will hopefully ramp up your motivation to do more.

Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process to cleaning up a messy house.

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How to Clean a Messy House Step-by-Step

It’s important to note that the length of time needed to complete this step-by-step process will vary. It all depends on the level of mess and how much time (and energy) you have available. 

For some, it’s a matter of picking things up, putting them away, and scrubbing surfaces clean. But others will need to declutter and put organizational systems in place. Which brings us to the first step….

Step #1 – Set Realistic Goals

First of all, consider the extent of the messiness in your home and set specific, but realistic, goals. Ask yourself:

  • How much clutter do I really have?
  • Which rooms need the most attention?
  • Approximately how long will the process take to complete?
  • How much time can I commit each day?

You might be able to get it all done in a day… Or you might need more time (possibly even months) to get your home in order. 

Does your entire house needs to be cleaned, decluttered, and organized? Break it down into manageable chunks. This is the BEST way to avoid getting overwhelmed and giving up part way through!

Step #2 – Create a Plan

Depending on your unique organizational goals, you could choose from various methods. Two ideas include:

  • Working on one room at a time
  • Working through categories (via the KonMari Method)

If you want to work through one room at a time, stick with me! I’ll include a room-by-room cleaning checklist shortly. 

The KonMari Method involves decluttering and organizing your home in categories. Here are the categories in the order you should complete them: 

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (miscellaneous items)
  5. Sentimental items

The KonMari Method is Marie Kondo’s process of tidying up the entire house. She is best known for her Netflix series and books, including The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I absolutely recommend watching the show and/or reading her books – I’ve implemented a few of her ideas in my own life!

Step #3 – Declutter

Once you’ve decided on a plan of attack, the first step is to start decluttering. This might be an entire room, a category (like “clothing”), or a smaller area in a room (like the pantry or linen closet). 

When you first start organizing a messy house, it’s crucial to discard anything that no longer serves a purpose. I donate almost everything to a local thrift store, although some things end up in the trash.

To be honest, “sell” items tend to become clutter in the storage closet unless they’re sold immediately. In other words, we’re simply moving the clutter from one place to another.

Once you have finished the discarding process for your FIRST area, you can continue on to the next step.

Step #4 – Clean

This is probably the least “fun” step in this process. However, the best time to clean is once you’ve removed as much clutter as possible. Sweep, vacuum, scrub, and move on to the next step!

Step #5 – Organize

After you’ve finished cleaning each area, it’s time to put everything back in its place. Ensure that everything has a place to “live”, making the daily tidying process a cinch. 

A few organizing tips:

  • Once the clutter is gone, assess the need for storage solutions. Only purchase storage containers or furniture AFTER decluttering. This ensures they fit the space and purpose.
  • Consider using storage solutions that are easy to access and maintain. Clear bins, drawer dividers, and labeled containers are great options.
  • Establish daily and weekly routines to prevent clutter from accumulating again.
  • Recruit your spouse/children to routinely put things back in their new “homes”.
  • Be flexible and open to adjusting the organization plan. After all, life’s seasons are constantly changing, especially when you have young children.

Keep in mind that organizing a messy house is a journey. Be patient and compassionate with yourself throughout the process.

The ultimate goal is to create a comfortable, organized, and joyful living space. And, of course, come up with processes that free you up to enjoy more time with your family.

Clean a Messy House Checklist

Get your messy house clean room by room using the below checklist.


  • Clear and wipe down countertops.
  • Clean appliances (oven, microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher).
  • Wash dishes and put them away.
  • Empty and clean the sink.
  • Wipe down cabinets and cupboard doors.
  • Organize pantry and discard expired items.
  • Sweep and mop the floor.

Living Room

  • Declutter and remove items that don’t belong.
  • Dust all surfaces, including shelves and electronics.
  • Vacuum or clean upholstery.
  • Vacuum or sweep the floor.
  • Clean and organize entertainment center.
  • Wipe down remote controls and other frequently touched surfaces.
  • Launder or fluff cushions and pillows.


  • Make beds.
  • Declutter and tidy up surfaces.
  • Organize closets and drawers.
  • Donate or discard clothing and items no longer needed.
  • Dust all surfaces.
  • Vacuum or clean carpets or rugs.
  • Change bed linens.
  • Clean mirrors and windows.


  • Scrub and disinfect toilet, shower, and bathtub.
  • Clean sink and countertop.
  • Wipe down mirrors and glass surfaces.
  • Replace or launder shower curtains and bath mats.
  • Organize and declutter cabinets and drawers.
  • Empty the trash.
  • Sweep and mop the floor.

Home Office/Study

  • Declutter and organize paperwork.
  • Dust and clean all surfaces, including electronics.
  • Organize cords and cables.
  • Empty and organize desk drawers.
  • Vacuum or sweep the floor.

Kids’ Rooms

  • Declutter and organize toys and belongings.
  • Dust all surfaces.
  • Vacuum or clean carpets or rugs.
  • Change bed linens.
  • Organize closets and drawers.

Hallways and Entryway

  • Declutter and remove items that don’t belong.
  • Dust all surfaces, including baseboards.
  • Clean mirrors and glass surfaces.
  • Vacuum or clean flooring.

Laundry Room

  • Organize and declutter shelves and cabinets.
  • Clean the washing machine and dryer.
  • Empty the lint trap.
  • Sweep and mop the floor.


  • Dust all ceiling fans and light fixtures.
  • Clean windows and window sills.
  • Wipe down light switches and doorknobs.
  • Vacuum or sweep and mop all common areas.
  • Empty trash cans and replace liners.
  • Check for any necessary repairs or maintenance tasks.
  • Donate or discard items you no longer need or use.
  • Develop a system to maintain cleanliness and organization going forward.

How to Maintain a Cleaning Routine

Your house is clean – now what?!

Well, you should probably come up with a cleaning routine that works for YOU, or you’ll just end up in the same place.

I used to have a very disorganized approach to cleaning. I’ve always wanted to come up with some sort of cleaning schedule, but it seemed kind of daunting.

Well, I finally made a list of all the housework and determined how often I wanted to do each of the tasks. I knew I didn’t want to spend my weekends cleaning the entire house! So I assigned a task to each day of the week and entered each as a recurring task in my Google Calendar. 

Each day, it sends a reminder to my phone. This way, I know exactly what needs to be done and I can mark each task as complete as soon as I finish it. 

I consider these smaller tasks “quick wins” toward the ultimate goal of keeping the house clean. And I get to avoid spending my entire Saturday cleaning. (Which is a huge win!)

>>>STEP UP Your Cleaning GAME<<<

Need something more, I dunno… in-your-face… to serve as a reminder of what needs to be done each day? 

*Enter Skylight Calendar*

Skylight Calendar is a digital calendar. It helps the whole family easily manage day-to-day life.

Place it in your home’s command center, or wherever it will be most useful. Then you can sync it up with your calendar app. This way, EVERYONE in the house can see exactly what’s going on each day — and it doesn’t all fall upon one person.

(You can see the color and size options, along with user reviews, when you click on the image or button below.)

skylight calendar

How to Start Organizing a Messy House

Tackling a messy house requires a clear plan and realistic goals. Not to mention the motivation to make positive changes.

It’s absolutely normal for houses to get cluttered – especially if you have a busy household with kids! But with a step-by-step approach, you can regain control and create a more organized home.

Remember to start with those “quick wins” to build momentum. Then follow the step-by-step process, decluttering, cleaning, and organizing each area systematically. Involve your family and be adaptable in your approach as life’s seasons change.

Are you ready to get started? Take the first small step TODAY, and you’ll be well on your way to a cleaner, more organized, home.

Read more from the Writer Mom:

21 Handy Gadgets to Make the Busy Mom’s Life Easier

How to Store Kids’ Artwork When It’s Time to Declutter

10 Summer Camp Packing Hacks for Ultimate Organization

How to Label School Supplies the Easy Way

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