Where to Start Cleaning a Messy Home

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Cleaning a home that’s overwhelming requires a different approach.

A young mother reclines on a sofa surrounded by clutter while a toddler plays unsupervised nearby

Is your home so messy or cluttered that you don’t know where to start cleaning? Maybe you’ve been trying to do something about it, but aren’t seeing results? It’s not your fault, there is a reason for it. Cleaning a home that’s out of control requires a completely different approach if you want to see immediate results and keep your kids from messing things up as fast as you clean them.

The Mistake Most Parents Make

Where many parents go wrong when getting an overwhelming home under control is that they start with the kids’ rooms. We feel guilty when we aren’t modeling great behavior for our children. We want them to be happy, and if our own physical or mental health issues are behind the mess, we think cleaning our kids’ rooms can make up for it. But, as you know from experience, the instant you’ve cleaned their room, they’re already messing it up—and that leaves you feeling like you wasted your time and effort.

Where to Start Cleaning

The place to begin cleaning a very messy home is wherever you—the person doing the cleaning—likes to relax. It isn’t as selfish as it sounds. Airplane safety instructions urge parents to put on their own oxygen masks before helping their kids. It goes against our instincts, but on an airplane that’s losing oxygen, if you don’t fit your own mask first, you can’t finish helping your kids with theirs. The same thing goes for cleaning a messy home. Start with where you like to relax, so you can look around and see your efforts have paid off. That will keep you going.

Cleaning Shared Spaces

Next, move onto the common areas of your home. These are the spaces shared by all or most of the household: the living or family room, kitchen, entryway, and hallways. Start with the one that is bothering you the most. This is part of how you stay motivated to clean, because it allows you to enjoy the results of your work. Forcing yourself to clean rooms because you feel you owe it to your family will leave you resentful and feeling put upon—two things that guarantee cleaning burnout.

Clean These Rooms Last

The last places to clean are the private areas in your home, like bedrooms and bathrooms that aren’t used by the entire household. Start with your own rooms if you haven’t already cleaned them. If your kids are old enough, hand them a checklist to clean their bedrooms and let them do it.

Otherwise, leave the kids’ bedrooms and bathrooms to the end. That way, when you find their stuff lying around the house, you can toss it into their rooms without messing things up. Put their rooms first, and it’s like living in that movie Groundhog Day—you’ll clean them and the next day you’ll have to clean them again and again.

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  1. Marcie Fort says:

    I am so so looking forward to the series! I need help decluttering clothes and crafts and all the things!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That’s what I’ll cover next week on YouTube. See you there! ❤️