How to tackle an OVERWHELMING mess!

A few Friday nights ago, we were blessed to keep our 4 grandsons. They are 16, 13, almost 19 months and 5 months. Did I mention they are all boys?!

Needless to say, my son and his wife need a date night once in a while.

The kids are great, and we had fun but Saturday morning after they left I looked a round and thought, WOW what a mess. Where do I even begin to tackle this?

The kitchen was especially a wreck. Dishes from the night before, (which I try really hard not to have), remnants of baby bottles, and a cheerio trail on my floor. I did a food photo shoot in my kitchen earlier in the week, and there were a few things that had been washed but not put away. I made dirt cups to take to the office one day and the dishes I had used to carry them needed washed.   Suddenly the week of maybe not putting everything away had caught up with me.

I don’t know about you, but I am sure that I have a little bit of some crazy condition that makes cleaning up hard. Not hard in the sense that its heavy or difficult work, but hard in the sense that I can get easily distracted. I might take shoes from the living room to the closet to put away and then spend the next 15 minutes in the closet  rearranging shoes, only to see some papers in the closet  that goes in the office and get I the office and get distracted again, and an hour later make my way back to the kitchen and think, “now what was I doing?” And then feel deflated, because I feel like the day has gotten away from me and I haven’t “gotten anything accomplished”.

Over the years I think this condition gets worse, because of what I like to refer to as the “doorway syndrome”….you leave one room on your way to another to do something…as you walk through the doorway, something happens to your train of thought as you pass through the doorway, and now you find yourself standing in the next room going..”why did I come in here?”

But I regress, as you can tell I have quite a bit of experience in this condition, BUT I have developed a 2-step system to help combat it.

  1. Pick a room to start in and start in the corner and work your way out. Or start at the kitchen sink and work your way around the kitchen. This way there is clear progress that you can see, so you feel like you are accomplishing something, it also keeps you from bouncing from one project to another and the potential of not getting ANYTHING completed.

So, on that Saturday morning I started with the kitchen table and then the built-in buffet. From there I moved on to the kitchen sink and the dishwasher. Cleaned the crusties off the refrigerator front, wiped off the counter between it and the ovens and then cleaned the stainless steel on the microwaves and ovens. I was then able to tackle the center island before moving on to the wall where the stove top is.

  1. As your working your “way through the room”, and you find something in the wrong place, put it in the right place, or in the general area of where it goes, and as you work your way out of your corner, it will get put up when you get to that area, if it is in the room you are working on. If it belongs in another room, just take it there and leave it. Don’t let that room distract you from your purpose. When our kids were younger, I used a laundry basket. As I was cleaning a room, I put anything in it that didn’t belong. Then when I moved into the next room, I just took the basket with me and dropped things off where they went as I moved through the house.

The cereal on the kitchen table, got put back in the pantry where it goes. Dirty dishes went in the dishwasher. Toys back in the family room. Random trash got thrown away. There were some dishes that belonged in the dining room, I just set them on the dining room table, because there were a few things in there that needed to be put up. I didn’t want it to distract me from finishing the kitchen. Several things went back into the pantry from the photo shoot (that’s where I keep most of my props) and that place was a disaster too. But again, I just dropped stuff off in there and then back to the kitchen.


Before I knew it, my breakfast nook and kitchen area were all put back together. And I had such a sense of accomplishment. There is something about a tidy room that just makes me happy! I wish I had taken some pics before I started, but I didn’t think of it at the time. So, enjoy the “after”. I did take pictures of the before and after of the pantry. Again, I did the same thing. I started with the built-ins on the left. And literally just worked my way around the room until I had tidied up the desk area on the opposite wall.

clean kitchen island and stove

After, clean kitchen island and stove

clean kitchen sink area

After, clean kitchen sink area


This technique has many applications, like unpacking (or packing): focus on one room at a time. Work applications: we own restaurants, so during slow times, or at the end of night cleaning, so you don’t forget to do something, I always start in the corner or at one end and work the opposite direction. My Desk at work: start with the pile on the right and once it is gone, then the pile on the left.

Happy “Mess Taming”


messy pantry left

Before, messy pantry

This the the pantry before and after.

You can see how “cluttered” it was. Most of that was me justmessy pantry right

Before pantry right

“setting” things on the counter in here while I was cleaning the kitchen.


Pantry left, after

After: Pantry Left



It really is a “pretty Pantry” once I have everything cleaned up and put awayPantry right, after

After: Pantry right


messy dining room table

Before, dining room

I did the same thing in the Dining room. I just set dishes on the table until I was done cleaning the kitchen and pantry. Dishes went back where they belong. Baby stuff back in the guest bedroom.dining room after

After: dining room


Don’t let that “daunting” mess hinder you from “cleaning it up”. Start “in a corner” and work your way out. It will be AMAZING how good you feel when its done. 🙂

One thought on “How to tackle an OVERWHELMING mess!

  1. Lu68 says:

    I find that my house looks like the before all too often!! As it is right now!! But, I put off mowing because of the overnight rain Sunday. And we spent time with out of town friends all weekend. So I have much catching up to do!! Starting with mowing when I get home from work and picking up kids, then laundry, and grilling out for dinner and the week. All on a Monday!! We’ll see how much pick up I can get done as well!. Thanks for the tips!

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