Four Steps to a Clean House

It is simple, really.

This has been my go-to method for cleaning ever since I had children:

how to clean a house

If you have extra energy you might want to make sure that the room you throw the item into is where the item actually belongs. It isn’t necessary, but it is a nice touch.

Please note, this method excludes fragile items. Fragile items cannot be thrown.

This is my four-step method for handlingย fragile items ever since I had children:


You are welcome. I hope this was educational.

Stay tuned for more crappy cleaning tips!


This entry was posted in crappy pictures, housekeeping, life, messy stuff, parenting. Bookmark the permalink.

163 Responses to Four Steps to a Clean House

  1. Patricia says:

    I have long maintained that ALL housework basically consists of moving things from one place to another – think about it… ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Alexis says:

    Have you been watching me clean? Are you stalking me?!?!

    My “room to throw crap” room is my office. Which probably explains why I don’t get much done here. I had to step over a box of legos and brush the cat toys off my chair just to sit down and read your blog post.

    • Nicole says:

      She must be watching me clean too! I literally pick toys up off the living or dining room floor, take them to the play room, open the door and Chuck the toys in. And close the door of course lol

      • Robyn says:

        You close the door? Is this so the toys don’t rise up and protest about the abuse and come back out to the living room or dining room?

    • Me too! The office is one of the few rooms not open to public display, so I don’t mind throwing crap in there. That said, it’s usually the adults’ clutter, not the kids’. I actually manage to clean up the kid stuff on a regular basis!

  3. Can we include “since getting married”? Because I have used your easy cleaning method for fragile items ever since I got married – and we have no kids…

    • Sam says:

      And “since getting a dog/cat!”

      • Fenny says:

        Single. No kids, no pets. No need to clean unless the neighbour comes round and I need to locate a chair for her. As long as there’s room for me on the sofa, I don’t care!

    • Lacey S says:

      I agree.. although I cleaned up several of my most precious fragile items in advance by loaning them to friends who have more careful spouses and no kids or cats…

  4. Julia K says:

    love this!

  5. Salt says:

    Yep. Our office is most frequently used as the random item depository. It’s like an episode of Hoarders in there right now.

  6. kjlutz says:

    Wait I’m confused, you have kids and you clean?

    I gave up a long time ago…

  7. Lisa Lutes says:

    I also use this method for dealing with all the %@$% crap my husband leaves on our kitchen table, especially his opened mail. I open the basement door and throw it down the stairs!

    • Sara S says:

      This made me LOL. So funny!

    • Shelley says:

      LOL! Love it! My husband leaves random items of clothing all over the house. I typically pile it up on his side of the bed, or throw it on the floor where I know he’s going to walk. I wish I could do the same with his random piles of dishes.

      • Linda says:

        I wish I had thought of this years ago – I love it!

      • Courtney says:

        I tried that and my husband just sleeps in the pile.

        • Erin says:

          Exactly same here.. either sleeps on it or just steps on it/over it as if it’s not even there! Ugh. As much as I say I am going to raise our boys to do differently, something tells me I have my work cut out for me.

      • Jessiejack says:

        LOL I do the same but throw the clothing piles into his closet and shut the door

    • kirsten says:

      My husband leaves snotty wads of toilet paper all over, so I carefully gather them up and place them in a pile on his pillow.

    • Darbi says:

      My husband will create a new pile on his side of the bed if I put his clothes/other crap on his side for him to deal with. He does notice dishes and other things and does them, but he doesn’t *see* clutter. The kitchen table is constantly piled in stuff that he doesn’t even seem to notice is there. You know, until I move it.

      • Murphy says:

        Does he then stomp around and ask how he will ever find it now? That’s the next step for my husband, especially if I moved a mutual fund quarterly report from 4 years ago. Good grief!

      • Lacey S says:

        My husband SEES the clutter and says it stresses him out… but won’t do anything about it, even if it’s his own. I have told him that if he did his own dishes and picked up his own clothes/socks/bits of hardware, I would have more time to clean up after myself and our son! I USED to follow the 4-step method for myself… now I have to clean up after myself* and use the 4-step for my son. His room is the Great Hole because he never uses it… (*although I usually solve this by rarely doing anything that makes a mess anymore because I’m too busy cleaning up/entertaining after the men-folk. One day I’ll be able to pull out my knitting and needlework again, my oils and my canvases…)

    • neal says:

      I’m not the messy one in my house. Always trying to de-clutter. I try to convince my wife that if we get rid of enough stuff, we could live in tents! It would be awesome. She doesn’t appreciate the cheery way that I say it, but I’m really very enthusiastic about minimalist living. Also, about making my problems my neighbor’s problems instead.

      Here’s my three-step process:

      1. See something.

      2. Throw it out the front or back door or window, whichever is closer.

      3. On a nice day, as part of an exercise routine, perhaps, make a circuit around the house and throw all the crap over the fences into other people’s yards. If it’s REALLY throwable, you can also try to get the stuff into other people’s windows.

    • J. Haven says:

      Hah! I need to do this with my guy’s stuff – he brings the mail in, looks it over (including -every- ad) and leaves it wherever. Finds a project, spends days on project because it entails several trips to the store, leaves tools and newly purchased bits and pieces wherever. Takes off jacket/sweatshirt/socks, leaves them… wherever!

      He has his own spin on the basket method, though: if he has to clean a common area for a project or something, he puts everything in a big lidded tub, and never puts it back. Everything. Like almost-empty mouthwash bottles and filled trash cans.
      Our Safety Officer (youngest daughter) has declared that he is no longer allowed to use lidded tubs. Ever.

  8. My go-to method for all unpleasant house-related things is to let my spouse handle it. Sometimes this backfires, like when he “cleaned” *my* closet or when he triggers unnecessary drama from the kids. But overall, this works for me!

  9. Kristina says:

    Haha! This is why we introduced baskets to our living room, all toy related junk goes in the baskets, kitchen stuff in kitchen, etc. Much easier!

    • Tara says:

      I love baskets – the stuff is still unorganized within the basket but at least it’s contained rather than SPREAD ALL OVER. My husband doesn’t understand this and hates it when I bring home another basket. I don’t understand how HE doesn’t understand how wonderful baskets are!

      • Sasha says:

        I love the basket organisation system too. And yeah, my husband mocks me mercilessly whenever I bring home another one. Although I admit I might have a basket addiction. And jars. Can’t have too many jars, they’re so handy.

        • Jessica Van Vleet says:

          Oh dear. I never thought I would see the day…….

          My name is Jessica and I’m a basketholic.

          At least I’m not alone.

          • Jenna Claver says:

            OMG… YES… I am “basket oriented” also
            and my “pile oriented” husband does not understand why one needs baskets to put piles into. All of us “basket-holics” must be from the same tribe! ๐Ÿ™‚

          • amber says:

            Basketholic & basket oriented! LOL

      • Beth says:

        Tara your line

        “I love baskets โ€“ the stuff is still unorganized within the basket but at least itโ€™s contained rather than SPREAD ALL OVER.”

        Should be on someecard… and I will do it! ๐Ÿ™‚ collecting quotes from moms who remind me of my misadventures working from home

    • Lisa Lutes says:

      I would love baskets but my husband cleans up by throwing everything into the same basket so it’s a big mess of toys, bills, christmas bulbs and kitchen gadgets… it’s exhausting.

      • Woolies says:

        Yes, same issue. We used to have baskets. When you couldn’t find something, you just looked in the basket. Then there were numerous baskets. All over. On the stairs. One day I had a yard sale and just dumped all the baskets out. Made a fortune.

    • Alison says:

      I’m a basketaholic too. But now all the floor space in my kids’ room is taken up by baskets full of crap. At least I can, when my aim is good, toss stuff into baskets from the doorway of their room.

    • Lacey S says:

      Yup – downstairs we have baskets… all the toys go in the baskets at the end of the night. Makes it easier for B to dump everything out again the next day too! *sighs*

    • Jen Roberts says:

      Do you have trugs in the US? They’re large plastic buckets with handles which come in loads of lovely bright colours. They’re great for holding all sorts of rubbish including the really small annoying stuff that falls through the holes in a basket. Admittedly they’re not very glamorous!

  10. Kim says:

    This is amazing… I’m glad I’m not alone ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Jodi DeMay says:

    lol my husband gets so frusterated when i dont put things in the right place. He says our home is cluttered but we have 3 kids who dont seem to understand the word ‘clean’ even though i tell them constantly to clean up after themselves.
    My husband will eventually learn its a losing battle he will NEVER win until the kids are gone away to college.

    • Robert B says:

      Haha! I have two toddlers and our place is full of toys and mess. My wife is always asking me to, “Pick up after the kids.” One day I cleaned the whole house and when my wife came home from work her first words were, “Who cleaned up?”

  12. Robert B says:

    Love it. In my house we have lots of spills. Either my sock sticks to the floor, (Old Spill) or gets wet, (New Spill) Etiher way it’s paper towel and a rinse off. I don’t bother with new socks.

    • Reche says:

      I usually just use my sock to wipe up the spill (if it’s a new spill) and carry on. Unfortunately, I noticed the other day that my four year old daughter now also does this…

    • JessicaC says:

      I bought slippers exactly for the reason of not having to recognize spills and crumbs stuck to my bare feet or socks. As I am typing this I wonder if I sound have instead bought a broom and mop….. no…. slippers are good.

  13. Mary says:

    Yes!! Also into closets, drawers, anything that shuts, really.

    When we have people over to the house, though, I do give the bathroom and extra thorough cleaning. Because that’s the only place they’ll be alone with nothing else to do but scrutinize the filth around them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. CJ says:

    You forgot 2 vital steps of “How to Clean a House.”
    Step 5. Wait for Crappy Child in room to throw item(s) back out the door.
    Step 6. Repeat steps 1-5 as needed until item is secure. (Note: May take hours, plan accordingly.)

  15. Carolyn says:

    From another blog long ago I got the phrase “sin” room (Stash It Now). So applicable…

  16. In our house “Bonus Room” means “Shameful Pile Room”. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Sarah says:

    Sometimes I don’t even do step 1, unless it’s fragile! haha My husband doesn’t understand my method of “I’ll clean the house when the kids move out.”

  18. You are so very wise.

    Also, I need a house with more doors.

  19. Mascha Feldman says:

    i actually just leave the room that is messy, shut the door and go to one that is less messy…

  20. Sukie says:

    Yeah, I usually use our office room to deposit everything. Ands once in a while I go in there, clean up one or two items and then run out again because it starts to frustrate me ๐Ÿ˜‰

  21. Liz says:

    Wait, you have fragile things in your house?

    You forgot to mention that your cleaning method (#1) cannot be performed if children are awake in the home. ๐Ÿ˜›

  22. Jessica says:

    I think I might need to print this one out and hang on my fridge as a reminder, lol

  23. Teresa says:

    That’s definitely a good go-to method.

  24. Jean Russell says:

    I use the cardboard box method..items can be contained & transported together.

  25. Celia says:

    Mine is a 3 step process

    1. Pick up item

    2. Get distracted by small child (or possibly grabbed and dragged somewhere)

    3. Set object down on nearest flat surface.

  26. Laurie says:

    I have followed this method since I had kids. However, my favorite is when they leave a ball in the living room, and I punt it down the hall into their room. Then, I do the touchdown/extra point celebration dance. Except for that one time, when the ball hit the doorway and ricocheted back to hit me in the face, bloodying my nose. lol

  27. The linen closet is an excellent place to throw things. Even if they are fragile because the linens that are on the floor instead of on the shelf where they should be cushion the fall. I am brilliant, no?

  28. rachel b says:

    My 4 step method is a) kick out kids and husband, b) rush around throwing items into various buckets in the toyroom, c) get wine d) drink wine in a silent clean household. There is also a mathematical bonus in which the quicker you clean, the more time for silent wine drinking and maybe the bonus round of a shower or chapter of a book.

  29. sarah says:

    hahaha, so true! my hubs always makes fun of my “piles” – one room per stair, excluding the “dirty clothes pile”, which takes up 2-3 stairs. he interrogates me, asking, “why do you put this stuff in piles when it just sits there forever?” “i’m getting to it,” i answer confidently, knowing he’s right… i will never make it to the 4-step method until something horrible happens, like having company over for dinner D:

    • Carrie F says:

      I thought I was the only one that did the “one room per stair” and the dirty clothes stair(s). Geez, I LOVE coming here to find my “sisters in lack of organization!”

      • amber says:

        “Sisters in Lack of Organization” I’d join. Too bad none of us are organized enough to start this awesome club.

  30. JessicaC says:

    our tried and true method… keep every cardboard box we ever get (easy in a house with two kids in diapers. Grab a box, go through house filling box with random stuff from floors and tables… usually while loudly proclaiming you will sort the box “in a minute”, place box in other room or better yet, in back of closet. Find said boxes years later while moving.

  31. elisa says:

    Excellent method. We live in a tiny 2 bedroom house, so we actually have to put stuff away or there’s no where to walk ๐Ÿ™‚ Also a fan of the basket.

    • islajmom says:

      this is the good and the bad about living in a tiny 2 bedroom. it gets dirty really fast but super house cleaning can get done by me and my hubs in the span of an episode of “max and ruby”

  32. Elizabeth says:

    I was just cleaning our master bath upstairs (frittering away precious quiet time during little one’s nap) and then I came downstairs, all out of breath from my vigorous cleaning episode, and took in the toys all over the living room floor, the crumbs, dirt, decomposing banana slices, and dog hair all over the kitchen floor, and the laundry piled high in the laundry room, and I was just ruminating on the point of cleaning at all when I read your post. I feel a little better now.

    • brianna says:

      Ahahahaha, you just described my house in detail! I always feel better when I realize I’m not the only one with decomposing banana slices on my living room floor! ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. neo says:

    Blergh. This was my exact same day the other day when I cleaned up. Threw everything in the baby’s room or in her toy chest in the living room. Cleaned up broken wine glass in kitchen. And done.

  34. RL Mom says:

    I have a two step method, and the steps can be done at the same time!
    1. Turn on Hoarders.
    2. Drink a glass of wine.
    By the time the show is over my house looks amazing!

  35. Laken says:

    We have a bathroom off of our room adjoining to our “closet” aka the third bedroom that we throw all of our unsightly shit in, including the mountains of laundry (out of sight, out of mind ๐Ÿ˜‰ Sometimes I think, “I should clean this room,” but I don’t think it very hard. There are days where I’m feeling frisky and actually move the dirty clothes to the hampers, though. And sometimes, just sometimes, I even clear off the top of the dresser.

  36. Megan says:

    Love it! Here is my tip to make end of day mess disappear, once the kids are in bed. Step 1: turn off lights. Step 2. Relax, apply wine as necessary.

  37. Robert B says:

    FYI. This method does not work with los,t and recently found old sippy cup half filled with milk under the couch.

    • Carrie F says:

      My solution would be to TOSS those right in the garbage, unopened. I would rather pay any amount than open thoses babies!

  38. Bethany says:

    Right there with you! Even before I had kids must my cleaning consisted if moving the mess from one room to another (or just another part if the same room). Although I usually manage to set things on a random desk, bookshelf or table…usually.

    • Bethany says:

      Oops, I meant most not must (stupid autocorrect). Also, my dogs take care of all the food mess, although I’m not sure it’s a fair trade off for all the hair and other gross stuff they leave everywhere.

  39. Jenny says:

    I’m a mean mom. Any toys that are left out at night get put away for at least a week.

    • Emma says:

      You call it mean. I call it motivating. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Jenny says:

        I use the term “mean mom” in a completely positive way. I use a calm yet firm voice to remind them of expectations. No yelling or nagging involved. At this point, my 4 and 5 YOs just know that if they leave toys out at night, they’ll be gone in the morning. Has there been crying involved? Absolutely. Is that okay? Absolutely. There very rarely is crying now. Actually, there very rarely are toys left out now.

    • Janelle says:

      I’m taking that one!!! Yes!

  40. Ella says:

    My kids call this kind of tidying “Boxinating” because it usually involves first putting things into a box and then tipping the box full of stuff out into a room! – we must have way more stuff on the floor than you do!

  41. Cassi says:

    What does it say, I wonder, Carolyn, that the “sin” room in our house is my bedroom? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  42. Jennifer in VT says:

    For me it is pick it up turn around and find it back on the floor. Not sure how but every time I pick something up it is back on the floor.

  43. Ashley says:

    That sounds like way too much work. My method is simply to push it all into one corner and cover it all with a blanket. Out of sight, out of mind.

  44. Trena says:

    Insanity = repeatedly doing same thing over and over and expecting different results….
    Cleaning house = repeatedly putting things is “proper place” over and over again expecting them to stay there (which they don’t).

    Conclusion: Cleaning house = Insanity

  45. Christel says:

    My room to throw crap in is my bedroom. I can barely see the floor in there, but it has a baby gate in the doorway so once something gets in there it is lost to the household, but at least the toddler cannot eat it or jam it down one of the heat ducts.

    • Tanja says:

      Been there. Am still doing that. Baby gates, crap piles room (got two!) “will deal with this later!” Is my cleaning motto! You can’t win against 2,5 year old twins and a husband. So why not eat some chocolate instead?

  46. Yes! This is so wise. And can we add that it helps to kick things into rooms when your hands are full of items to throw? If I need something to get moved downstairs I also just throw it over the baby gate and hope it finds its way.

  47. Sandra says:

    The only place In my house that is clean is the kitchen living room and bathroom because those are the places people will see thier is a mound of junk mail and stuff that the kids put their and if people come by it all get put in the junk drawer the only problem with that is I now have three drawers that I will clean out one day

  48. Ha ha ha. I totally clean that way with my kids stuff.
    Here is a question for you-
    How do you clean fragile things in the dishwasher? The other day I heard said crash. A small glass had fallen through the top rack and crashed among the bottom. Fun, huh?

  49. Nickol says:

    Extreme cleaning:
    1. Get garden rake (not leaf rake, those are too flimsy)
    2. Rake items into pile
    3.gather trash bag and dust pan
    4. Yell for people to come and get their crap before you throw it out (if toys sell them on ebay. this is how we obtained roughly 12 lb. of legos) It helps to use the ‘I’m going insane’ decibel level.
    5. Toss out remaining garbage.

    • Jennifer J says:

      I used this a lot when my kids were younger. Except we had wood floors, so I could just use a broom. It was a once-a-week, or whenever mom had had enough, exercise. Now I have nine kids in my daycare, and the house is clean at least three times a day. Everything has a place, and if you don’t put it there, it will disappear for, perhaps, months. Thankfully, I have a basement for things to disappear to. And when I haul them down there, it reminds me to move a load of laundry.

      • Nickol says:

        If only our brooms weren’t so flimsy, this would work… Wait, do you have one off those industrial push brooms? Hmmm….

    • Lisa says:

      This is how I clean our loungeroom (except I use a very large broom). It ALWAYS causes my 4 year old to panic ๐Ÿ™‚

  50. Sara says:

    I have a two step method:
    Invite inlaws over.
    Wait for hubby to clean.

    • amber says:

      That works?! Impressive.

    • Fenny says:

      In my final year in college, I lived in a shared house with 8 other people. We came home one day to find one guy had taped a 4 page letter to the housemates across the 2 bathroom doors. To paraphrase, it said “My parents are coming to stay at the weekend, don’t you think we should clean the house?” The rest of us read the letter, looked at each other and went to the pub. When we came back, the house was spotless. Although during the parental visit, the plastic dog turd that one housemate had bought as a Secret Santa gift made more regular appearances around the place!

  51. Katia says:

    Thanks so much for the tutorial! I had no idea about step #4 in Cleaning your House. I’ve learned a lot. Look forward to the next instalment.

  52. Larissa says:

    Yep, this is how we clean too….one room cops it all. We call it the ROOM of DOOM! It’s a right bog when MIL comes to stay and we have to clear a path through the debris to the bed, then clear the bed itself.

  53. Courtney Sanderson says:

    I thought I was alone in this cleaning method. Apparently not! Then there is the twice a month I choose a room, go in and actually put the stuff where it belongs… not that it stays that way for long!

  54. Lisa says:

    3 step method – guaranteed to keep the house tidy for as long as you can hold out:
    1. Send husband and kids out.
    2. Tidy house.
    3. Don’t let them back in.

  55. Rachael says:

    My house, add one step (5 kids and a husband is a lot of misc. junk)
    – throw items in big laundry basket, stop at each person’s room and throw junk into it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  56. Laura says:

    5. Leave house.

    6. Buy new house (and possibly even upgrade your children too if you’re in a frivolous mood).

    Repeat as necessary.

    • Fenny says:

      I did this! I bought a new house, easily 3 times the size of the first one, kept the old house and filled the new one with junk. Then sold the old house and moved all the junk into the new one.

      My current plan is to set fire to the place and claim on the insurance!

  57. Aimee says:

    You know what they say: Trying to clean with kids in the house is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos.

  58. Sad but true – any other method is just asking for disappointment!

  59. Lisa says:

    Oh, I love it! I too would think that you were stalking me, but your stick figure is a little trimmer than myself. And sometimes I can’t even be bothered to toss something into a room if I’m passing the stairs to the basement. Oops! Love your tips!

  60. marcy says:

    I have small baskets on the steps. Items arfe put into the baskets until the basket reaches a world level record for capacity and the basket is put into a room. I tell myself i will put the items in the appropiate room on the weekend. Glad to know thats only extra.

  61. Krazy Mom says:

    I laughed so hard at this one that I almost spit out my precious wine!

  62. Kara says:

    Interesting take on cleaning. My five year old is a firm believer in the “throw it under the bed” method of cleaning. When I once cleaned her room, she peered under her bed (clean) and looked up, shocked, and said, “niiiiiiice.”

  63. Tracy says:

    Hahaha! Seeing as I just had SIL and my niece over today for a play date I have to say this is soooo true. I’m always frantically rushing around to make the main area of the house look presentable before someone comes over. I mean she is family, but I don’t think anyone besides DH and myself need to see the real state of the house usually. Well, we don’t want to either, but you know I only have so much energy.

  64. Tina says:

    My boyfriend, my kids and I moved in together this past thanksgiving week. Within 2 weeks all but 2 or 3 boxes were unpacked and had homes…. I am not the most tidy person in the world and my old apartment was just BAD….his condo except for the light dusting of ash and dog hair everywhere was spotless most of the time….mesh that together and what most here (including me) would think is spotless is a “disaster” to him…..he compulsivly cleans counters sweeps ect. He is down with a badly sprained ankle and the percocet they gave him are making him irritable…tonight is big bottle of wine time and try and convince the kids to help me clean their playroom….pray for me.

  65. Liz says:

    Remember – Amber’s Cleaning Fragile Items method also works for those who have cats.

  66. Jennie says:

    This is both hilarious and validating.

  67. Nickol says:

    I see a new product for the store. A duo of how to refrigerator magnets. Let me know when they come out, I will buy about 4 sets (friends need gifts!)

  68. Awesome! I don’t even get that far though. I throw things toward the doorway of the room I’m in. If I’m lucky, it gets out of the doorway into the hall. Then if I pass by it, I throw it near the doorway it goes in. And so on!! Just moving things around….

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