The 1 Reason Your Home Is Always Messy, Even Though You're Always Cleaning

It's both incredibly simple and really, really complicated.
Iuliia Bondar via Getty Images

It feels like I always need to tidy my home, even hours after giving it the most thorough clean I can. Whether I stay in my room all day or disappear for hours at work, somehow the mess and stress manage to pile up ― and no amount of wiping, scrubbing, and vacuuming makes it disappear.

If this feels familiar, I can tell you as an ex-cleaner that you’re very much not alone. In fact, by far the most common problem I saw when I was dealing with clients had nothing to do with how ‘clean’ they were, how often they wiped down their counters, or the state of their loos.

The cardinal, and most common, cleaning sin is clutter. So, I thought I’d share how destructive clutter can be, and what to do to get rid of yours.

Why does clutter make cleaning so hard?

There are multiple reasons.

First of all, the more stuff you have, the harder it is to clean around it. Dust settles in your stacked books and unused serving bowls (don’t even get me started on piles of unworn clothes), so if you feel like no amount of dusting gets the job done, your excess stuff could be why. Even after you’ve cleaned, the dust on your rarely-used objects will likely be disturbed and simply settle on your freshly-cleansed surfaces.

And that’s not to speak about the surfaces underneath your stuff that you likely haven’t gotten to in months.

Secondly, clutter breeds more clutter. Not only can you not see what you have to hand (so you accidentally buy a third pair of black jeans or a third bag of flour), but from my experience, we sort of ‘write off’ the spaces that are already bursting at the seams.

For instance, if you know that drawer (or wardrobe, or garage...) is jam-packed with junk, you tend not to use it for its intended purpose. Instead of using your Cabinet of Shame to properly store your clothes, for instance, you feel forced to find another space to put them in.

“If the drawers and closets and garage and storage areas of your home are busting at the seams, your stuff has nowhere to go but everywhere,” The Secret Slob writes.

In fact, as a cleaner, I often felt frustrated when clients would ask me to ‘clean’ their clutter. Because, as I’ve learned from my accidental accumulations since, you can’t clean clutter. You can only hide it for a couple of hours until inevitably, you need to change your outfit or use some sugar.

OK, but... how?

Decluttering can feel very overwhelming, so start small; an all-or-nothing organisation binge could leave you with rooms full of mid-cleanse objects which are much, much more stressful to look at than they were to begin with.

“As hard as it may be, try not to think of every task that needs to be completed to organise your house from top to bottom. You’ll lose any enthusiasm you may have had,” The Washington Post shared. So, start small but satisfying.

I like to begin with the fridge. Not only is it a space you use really often (so are more likely to enjoy the results of), but it’s deeply pleasing, too.

After that, pick one project every week or so. I like to theme it by items: maybe one week you tackle food, the next clothes, the next paperwork, etc.. And asThe Washington Post advises, it’s a good idea to set a deadline.

Don’t bother buying fancy organisation baskets, labels, and acrylic tubs until you’re done with the declutter, either. I speak from experience: an over-confident organisation haul can, ironically, become part of the chaotic landscape itself.

The most important thing, after all, is to clear your junk as quickly as possible.

And on that note, I’m off to find some black bags...