Conquer Your Messy Home with These 8 Easy Habits

The answer to tackling your messy home might be all in your head! Shift your mindset and form these simple habits so you'll never have to be discouraged by clutter and chaos again.
Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #620

Housekeeping doesn't have to be a chore if you don't allow it to be!

Go ahead and roll your eyes. That's precisely what I did when one of my best friends lovingly shared that thought with me. I remember how tired and frustrated I was because I could never get my housekeeping act together. She replied, "And you never will with that attitude!"

I'd been looking for someone to share my housekeeping misery ... because after all, misery loves company! Instead, my friend kindly suggested I change my way of thinking. That simple shift in mindset helped change my outlook on housekeeping. It reminds me of a quote:

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.

Wayne Dyer

That quote became my mantra when it came to mundane home duties. I realized my friend was right. Our family was fortunate to have a nice home with a beautiful yard. How I cared for it was up to me, so why not make it a pleasant experience?

These eight tips have streamlined my busy home's upkeep and helped me spend less time frustrated with a messy house and more time enjoying my family.

1. Start the day off on a positive note by making your bed

The Problem

I used to poo-poo the bed-making concept because I thought it was a waste of time. I was only going to crawl back into it (exhausted!) at the end of the day. No one sees my bedroom except for me, so who would know or care if I left my bed unmade? It was easier to shut the bedroom door and forget about my disheveled quarters than to spend the time to make it look tidy. 

The Smart Habit

It turns out there are dozens of good reasons to start your day on the right foot by making your bed. U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McRaven believes so strongly in the power of making your bed that he even wrote a New York Times bestselling book about it: Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life... And Maybe the World.

The book is based on an inspiring graduation speech Admiral McRaven gave that encouraged graduates to change the world ... starting with making their beds. Why does making your bed matter? The admiral says, "[Making your bed] will give you a small sense of pride and encourage you to do another task and another until you've completed many tasks throughout the day. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter." 

The reality is that although making your bed each morning may seem like a menial task. But once youv'e accomplished it, you'll build on this success throughout the rest of your day. When you walk in and out of your room, you'll have a sense of completion. When everything's put together, you can enjoy your space instead of fretting over the chaos. As the admiral says, even if you have a miserable day, you'll at least get to come home to a freshly made bed, and that symbolizes that tomorrow is a new day with fresh possibilities.

2. Live by the five-minute rule

The Problem

My home got out of control because I never wanted to tackle a project if I didn't have hours to complete it. So instead of sweeping the kitchen floor of extra cheerios in the morning, I left it thinking there was no point in sweeping if I didn't have the time to mop the floor, too. I was striving for perfection rather than "good enough." 

The Smart Habit

Enter the five-minute rule! Whenever you have a pocket of five minutes, and you see a small task that you can easily complete, don't put it off until you have a more time—seize the moment and do it. 

Grab those wet towels off the bathroom floor and put them in the hamper. Unload the dishwasher before dinner while the pasta is boiling rather than leaving it until after the meal, adding one more chore to the clean-up.

Better yet, make the five-minute rule into a fun game with the kids. Give everyone a job—vacuuming, dusting, wiping off fingerprints from windows, and so on. Then, set a timer and race against the clock for a helpful speed-cleaning session. Who can get the most tasks done in five minutes? You can even give a little reward, like giving the winner a free pass on an assigned chore.

3. Use a catch-all basket

The Problem

One of the biggest reasons our homes get messy fast is because we take things from room-to-room without putting the items back where they belong. Multi-story homes, in particular, suffer from this phenomenon.

The Smart Habit

Find a pretty basket or container to leave in key areas of your home like the stairway or your family room. Place items that don't belong in that area of your home in your catch-all basket. Then, when you're heading toward upstairs or to whatever area the items belong, grab the basket and put things back in their proper place.

4. Save your sanity with a little laundry discipline

The Problem

My least favorite part of laundry is folding it and, worse, putting it away. (I'd rather clean the toilet!) I disliked this chore so much my solution was to throw everything in various laundry baskets and let it sit there until somebody needed it. At that point, we'd resort to digging through baskets to find what we needed, and most of the clean laundry would end up on the floor. With eight kids, it was an endless cycle.

The Smart Habit

The best laundry tip I've ever learned in all my years of doing laundry for a large family does require discipline, but it is a gamechanger. Are you ready?

Never put a load of clothes into the dryer until you've folded the laundry you just removed from it. Ever! Get yourself and your family into the habit of folding the clothes right when you take them out of the dryer and putting them away. Then, and only then, throw the next load in.

One of the reasons I procrastinated folding laundry was because I wasn't good at it. Home organizational guru, Marie Kondo, changed that. If you're not familiar with her trademark, brilliant way to neatly fold and store clothes, take a look at this video on the KonMari fold.

5. Store plastic containers the right way

The Problem

How often have you opened your kitchen cabinets only to have an avalanche of mismatched plastic containers and lids fall out? If you're like I was, there were never matching sets with lids that fit. Plus, there are so many containers and lids you can barely shut the cabinet drawer? Am I right?

The Smart Habit

The solution to this problem is so simple most of us overlook it. Don't store your containers and lids in the cupboard without the cover on it. This takes practice, but you'll never have mismatched containers again once you get into the habit. Yes, nesting the containers saves space. But I'm willing to bet you don't need all the containers you have, and that you're taking up more cabinet space by hanging onto containers you'll never find lids for.

6. Use your dishwasher for more than just dishes

The Problem

Your home has plenty of items that are difficult or just plain icky to clean, so they sit around and get grungier. Eventually, you either toss them or lose your mind looking at how gross they are.

The Smart Habit

Say hello to one of the best appliances ever invented—the dishwasher. This fantastic household unit is not just for dishes. Items like sponges and cleaning utensils, fan blades, pet toys, sports equipment, and even sweaty baseball caps can safely be cleaned in your dishwasher.

Before you clean any object in the dishwasher, do your research to be sure it's safe. This article, 40 Surprising Things You Can Clean in Your Dishwasher, has some helpful information.

7. Rescue your bathroom with white vinegar

The Problem

Raising eight kids in a home with two and a half bathrooms had its challenges, especially during the teenage years! But hands-down, keeping the shower and tiled areas clean and scum-free was the most difficult. Let's face it, family traffic can make a bathroom grungy fast.

The Smart Habit

Years ago, I found a website that featured bleach-free housekeeping remedies. I tried a few of them, but the one that rocked my world is known as the "miracle cleaner" for bathrooms. This unbelievable combination of 2/3 cup white vinegar and 1/3 cup of Dawn blue dish detergent removed soap scum, mildew, and even grease from my shower, glass doors, and grout.

If you loathe the smell of vinegar, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to mask the odor. Mix the solution, and place it in a plastic spray bottle. Voila, that's it! Spray on soiled areas, let it sit for 30 minutes, and then wipe down with a cleaning cloth or sponge. It's like no other product I've ever used in my home.

This solution makes a great kitchen cleanser, too! Mix up a couple of batches so you can keep one under the bathroom sink and another in the kitchen.

8. Don't go to bed if there are dishes in the sink

The Problem

You're exhausted after your long day. Dinner took longer than expected to prepare and serve, and now it's time to oversee homework and then start the bedtime routine. The last thing you have the energy for is the stack of dirty dishes waiting in the sink.

The Smart Habit

Now we've come full circle! Just as making your bed every morning sets the tone for the rest of your day, this final tip can help you end your night on a positive note. Don't go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink!

Although you may be tired and ready to collapse, give yourself a quick pep talk. You've got this! And if you tackle it now, you won't have to wake up discouraged by the site of dirty dishes in the morning. So, turn on some relaxing music and go for it. The dishwasher will be loaded in no time. There's nothing like waking to a clean kitchen, and once you and your family get into the groove each night, you'll have a fresh start every day from here on out.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.