Overwhelmed by Mess

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If you’re overwhelmed by the process of cleaning your home, quit worrying about finding the best option.

Stop trying to learn everything and start doing something.

We all know that in a perfect world we’d make our own ecologically sound cleaners—not all homemade cleaners are, you know—always reach for a rag to clean, and never use gas or electric-powered items when a manual would do.

Get over it.

If you came here searching for how to get started, how to clean a house, or overwhelmed by a messy home (I get a lot of those) the best advice I have for you is to quit worrying about finding the exact right way to do things.

Pick a room.

This is your starting point, you are not allowed to start any projects in any other space. Use baskets, boxes, or trash bags if you’re the distracted type and a lot of items need to be placed in a new home. Just don’t mix up a trash bag full of items with one that has actual garbage. Have a plan with a specified area for trash and another for sorting.

Top to bottom.

Pretty-self explanatory, clear shelves before floors, wipe counters before sweeping, dust fans before vacuuming.

Left to right.

This trick keeps you moving. Start in one corner and work toward another. When you hit a wall, turn and start again.

Dry to wet.

Dusting, vacuuming, and sweeping should all be done before washing windows, polishing, or mopping to prevent dirt smears or damage caused by scratching.

house cleaning help
Click the picture for more cleaning help!

Take frequent breaks.

Unless grandma—or the landlord—is on her way, there is no prize for getting it done in record time. You’ll get there, don’t kill yourself in the process.

Turn on some music, an audiobook, or your podcast and get moving.

If you want a weekly challenge sent to you every Saturday morning, join The Deep Clean Cycle, a free weekly email designed to get your house in order.

If you have questions, send them to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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16 thoughts on “Overwhelmed by Mess”

  1. Thank you so much! As a 'still trying to learn what a good housekeeping routine looks like' gal, this helps give me permission to go one step at a time. (God already tries to give me that permission when I pray, too, but I'm such a driven person!)

    I have found that for me, cleaning one room a day is much easier than trying to do all the dusting or vaccuming at one time. I am easily distracted and always see additional things to do in a room, so when I confine myself to a smaller space it works out much better!

  2. part of my problem is that i'll find something that needs putting away while cleaning, go put it away then realize that spot needs cleaning/tidying and start doing that. then something there needs to be put away somewhere else, and… i'm sure you can guess the pattern. it's like ADD cleaning or something.

    • I have the same problem. I have dealt with it by bringing a few empty boxes or baskets, a garbage bag, and the recycling boxes with me when I want to deep clean/tidy/organise a space. I used the boxes to sort or hold stuff that needs to be put away elsewhere. Then I am not “allowed” to leave the deep clean space to clean/put away somewhere else.

      • There used to be a kids book about how to clean (no clue of the titel and it's probably out of print anyway) and one of the recommendations for cleaning out a child's room was to get 3 bags/baskets/whatever and label them 'keep' 'trash' 'room'. Then trash went into one bag, everything that was belonged somewhere was went in the 'keep' bag, and everything that belonged in the room but was misplaced went in the 'room' bag. Then once the 'cleaning' was done, the room bags items were put away, trash bag thrown out, and keep bag's items distributed to the appropriate rooms. The problem was I always always real good about putting things in the bags, just not so good and doing something with them later (still have that problem – i'm looking at about 6 shopping bags full of 'stuff' that needs to be organized sitting in my living room right now.

        • If the stuff has been in bags for a few months and you aren't missing it in your day-to-day life, you can probably donate most of it. Obviously do a quick sort to reclaim any family treasures, but if you don't use it and you don't miss it, don't keep it.

    • It must be in our blood. My husband tells me I clean like I have ADD all the time. No wonder I never get anything completed!

  3. Our home has the make a list of that room's projects method. Then 30 minutes on and 30 minutes off. We set the timer and the kids take the assignment. (Sometimes we play "Pick a Card Any Card" where they randomly choose 3 cards or they just work out who is doing what.) We all work for 30 minutes and then go relax for 30 minutes and return to work if the jobs are not done.


    • i have a 3 year old girl who refuses to clean up her messes and becasue i dont like to punish her to heard i do it for her but latly my house is so clutterd with dirty loundery her toys and most of my husbands clean jeans that i feel like im going to scream becasue of the mess and then he comes home and ends up mad at me for not cleaning while hes at work or having dinner maid by the time he gets home i want to scream.

      • @KrystalBeightel

        For a 3 yr old- make it a game- learn the clean up song, play a search and find game (with stuff that needs to be picked up) clean up along side her and let her know what a good job she is doing- they love pretend play- put her at the sink filled with soapy water to wash plasticware- get an adult size brush and dustpan for her, help her fold washcloths and match socks

        Have fun and realize that you will need to do most of the cleaning-

        As for the husband- I have no solution (they just don’t get it!)

  4. I hate house cleaning more than just about anything but it's a reality of life. My husband and I have started doing a 10 minute dail pickup and that's helped alot. I try to focus on one room or one part of a room so it doesn't feel so overwhelming. I like to listen to books on my MP3 player while I clean. It makes it much less tedious.

  5. Thank you so much for this!! This week has been so hectic and the week (or two) previous I've been so unmotivated to clean. So my house has gotten pretty bad! I then became overwhelm with where to start! Thank you for the motivation and the tips! I need to try the music thing!


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