The Ultimate Sloppy Person's Cleaning Guide

Bethany Roach

I’m a disaster. Seriously, I’m a complete and total mess. I recently had coffee with my friend E. Tempesta. It had been a few weeks since our last coffee date, and as usual, I was scrambling to get out of the door on time. “Let’s see, what else do I need?” I asked myself as I crammed a few diapers into my purse. I say “my purse” but you should really read it as “my mobile trash can,” because right after I put the diapers in, I pulled out—ugh, I don’t even want to but for CANDOR I will—the coffee cup from our last coffee date.


The reality is that I’ve just never been that domestic. It’s not something that comes naturally to me like it does to my mom. I’ve spent more than one therapy session crying over why I can’t just see messes like my mom does. (Don’t worry, I put the tissues into my purse for safekeeping.) I’ve also spent countless hours reading about cleaning, and twice as much searching on Pinterest for the perfect cleaning schedule/guide. (Spoiler alert: there are no cleaning guides on Pinterest that involve the house just cleaning itself, which is a real letdown.) It’s taken a lot of practice and I still do dumpy stuff like put my paper coffee cup in my purse, but I’m well on the road to recovery and I want to share some tips about how to make this easier.

  1. Stop trying to be someone you’re not. For me this means: stop trying to be my mom. My mom cares a lot about separating whites and darks. My mom has dedicated pie plates. My mom has serving platters. My mom has file folders. My mom has mostly completed wall decor. None of these are things that even occupy my brain space at all—until my mom is coming over. That’s Part 1a. Part 1b is that you have to accept yourself for who you are. I’m less of a tiny details persons, and I’m definitely not very sentimental. That’s okay, though! I am a big ideas person and I can get a group of people going in one direction like nobody’s business. Not helpful for cleaning, but definitely helpful for the shame that comes with not cleaning.

  2. Follow the A Slob Comes Clean Rules. I was introduced to a podcast called A Slob Comes Clean and it was like I finally found my person. I have barely delved into her podcast because I hate cleaning, so I definitely don’t want to listen hours of podcasts about it, but she’s cool. She recommends two practices that I think everyone needs to try. First, make sure you do a specific set tasks every single day, no matter what. These tasks will cover the things that feel the dirtiest. Two loads of laundry, load your dishwasher, wipe the counters/floors, and declutter for 10 minutes. That’s it. Second, when you declutter, make sure you’re decluttering areas that people actually see. Don’t spend your decluttering time in your junk drawer until your bathroom counters are decluttered.

  3. Clean the things that make you feel amazing. So let’s say you’ve done your daily chores. What next? The house is a war zone. Where should you start? My advice is to pick a place that could offer you a serene, organized escape and start there. If your safe place is the bath then it’s time to tackle the bathroom. If you need a peaceful place to read, then clear out a corner and make a reading nook. For me, this place is my bed. Fresh sheets, a clutter-free bedside table, a lit candle, and a true crime podcast ignite good vibes and inspiration in my soul. It’s easier to clean other things when I have a good place to rest.

  4. Wherever you go in your house, find stuff to clean. When you get a snack, throw away a few things from your fridge that need to go. When you go to the bathroom, empty the bathroom trash. When you get out of your car, pick up a few pieces of junk mail you threw on the floor. If it’s really at crisis level, tie a trash bag to your wrist like a balloon and walk through your house till you fill it.

  5. Bribe and/or reward yourself. Listen, I think cleaning is probably the worst activity on the planet. I have to bribe myself to clean. A few good rewards/bribes for have been: getting to watch a show I’ve been wanting to watch but PLOT TWIST, I’ve got to pause it every twenty minutes to pick up twenty things. Listen to a podcast or a special playlist while I clean. My all-time favorite personal reward is getting to order carry-out. If I’ve cleaned a crap ton that day then I’m OBVIOUSLY TOO TIRED to cook. I’ll call my husband and ask him to bring home phở. You’ll have to pick the things you love, because I’m not sure how much you love phở and I don’t know if that will make you clean as hard as it makes me clean.

The bottom line is that your place isn’t going to clean itself. It’s a bummer, I know, and you can totally spend some time wallowing in it. You also may not ever be as clean as your mom or you partner or your siblings or whoever, and that’s okay. However, you’ll probably just feel better if you know you have a clean space to hang out, and there is some serious satisfaction that comes with know you’ve put a dent into the mess that’s overcrowding your life. Let’s go clean up ten things right now, and then make ourselves a big bowl of ice cream. We’ve freakin’ earned it.