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How to Get Your House Cleaned Up in Five Minutes

by | Mar 3, 2011 | Domesticity, Organization

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How to Get Your House Cleaned Up in Five Minutes

This photo is not staged.

Do you ever feel like your house can spiral out of control faster than you can pick it back up again? You look away for a moment and everything is suddenly a disaster? Yeah. Me too.

But many years ago we stumbled upon a trick that works like a charm to get the house cleaned up in just five minutes. Not spotless, not perfect, not free of clutter, not ready for a white glove test or a magazine photo shoot. But  it does look cleaner and tidier in just five minutes. And sometimes, that is all I hope for. A cleaner looking house in five minutes. Before I have a breakdown.

When our kids were younger, we had to come up with a very simple system to get our house in order in a hurry. We were overwhelmed by cleaning days, we failed on chore charts, and it was a constant battle to keep the house tidy. While we weren’t aiming for perfection, we did want the house to feel like there was some sense of reasonable and attainable order and cleanliness.

When all of our attempts failed, my husband came up with one simple cleaning rule, our “plan of attack” — nothing could be left on the floor that didn’t belong there. Every night, he gave the “floor check” warning and everyone scurried around for five minutes picking things up off the floor.

Clean floors = cleaner house

I had NO IDEA what a difference that would make in how our house felt.

You assume that cleaning off the tables will make a difference, but if your floor is still covered in clothes, toys, backpacks, paper and junk, it didn’t really matter if our other surfaces were clear. The messy floor cluttered with stuff made the whole room look and feel out of control.

And the side benefit of this simple system? Once the floor was picked up, the idea of cleaning the rest of the room was no longer as overwhelming.

For us, the floor was the easiest and most manageable place to start.

It didn’t even matter if our girls piled everything up on a desk or chair.  If that bothered us, then we could take another few minutes to do a “cleaning frenzy” and put everything away that was on the chair. Breaking the room up into those smaller zones, with the floor being the priority, is what worked for us!

Even today, if I’m ever overwhelmed by the mess, it helps me to start by picking stuff up off the floors. It really helps to have a place to start!

Do you keep your floor free of clutter?

related post: How I Keep My Home Clean Enough


  1. Jess

    Fantastic idea. I am trying to make sure all flat surfaces are tidied up before I go to bed. I think the floor counts as a flat surface! :)

  2. laxsupermom

    I try to keep the floors clear, but it’s a constant struggle, because half the time, it’s my project spread out on the great room floor that’s messing things up. Thanks for the push to renew the effort.

  3. Lynn from For Love or Funny

    Now that the kids are older, we have expanded this rule to “keep the floor AND SURFACES clear.” Desks and bureaus and tables are huge clutter depositories in my house.

  4. S

    My kids are now in their teens and past, so the only floors that are cluttered are in their rooms, and I can live with that. I do have them help with a 20 minute blitz where we set the timer and everyone picks up stuff and puts it away in the main rooms. We do that less often, and it rarely takes the full 20 minutes anymore.

  5. Tara G.

    Yes! When it’s time to pick up the playroom, my husband shoots baskets; if he gets ten in a row without missing before they’re done, he gets to tickle them- and if they finish before he can accomplis that, he gets tickled. It makes it a little more fun!

    • Gina

      I love this idea! It makes it a family event and not mom We’re gonna do this!

  6. FairfieldHouse

    Great advise! My floors are usually free and clear, occasionally there are stacked boxes from a recent delivery. If things get out of control, cluttered, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed breaking it into small tasks and zones works best –
    anyone can do something for 15 minutes!

    Your Friend,

  7. Lisa

    Love this post (I always say that here don’t I?) and am enjoying everyone’s comments. I just discovered a great trick last week! I sang the old Barney Clean-Up song to my 12, 10 and 8 year old kids and they were like, “MOM, we’ll clean up, just PLEASE STOP SINGING THAT SONG!” Yes – torture my kids with my singing – I will be using this in the future.

    • Sylvia

      Lisa, your idea brought back memories. When my now adult son was little, I would threaten him with having to listen to the Bee Gees. He couldn’t stand their music. I only had to say “I’m looking for the Bee Gees” once to put him in overdrive every time.

  8. Stacey Kindt

    In my house we have a similar “5 minute clean up”. What I do is look up some version of Flight of the Bumblebee on You Tube. And then everyone has to rush around the house putting away as many misplaced items as they can before the song ends. It’s fun and gets us laughing, but effective too. At any point in the day (sometimes several times a day) the song will come on and everyone stops what they are doing and gets to “buzzing”! Also fun is all of the versions available on YouTube – piano, trumpet, flute, kazoo!

    • Jaclyn

      GREAT idea Stacey!! Thinkin’ I might put on music as well!!

    • Spring

      OO! I LOVE this idea, too! We are a family of musicians- but never thought to use it in this way! Thanks!

  9. Faith

    Genius idea, Melissa! I’d never thought of it but it makes sense. My table surfaces are usually what I attack first but I’m going to try your method. Thanks for the hint!

  10. Vikki

    We have a similar system. I actually have a nice large basket for each room. Throughout the day or for sure at the end of the day I go through the entire house and put anything that belongs in that room in its basket. Everything off of the floor, countertops, laundry room, wrong room, etc.
    It works like a charm! I do not have to put it all away if I do not have the time. I just place the basket in the correct room and do it the next day.


  11. domestosgoddess

    Vikki, I know what you mean about the baskets but here’s something I did with my husband (would keep everything and the envelope it came in for ever) whose “storage” methods are so at odds with my “slash and burn” routines some years ago. I used a laundry basket to clear his desk of teetering piles of post, and then put a post-it note with a date 28 days hence on top. I warned him that everything would be put out for recycling on that date. He complained and said there were important items in there so I pointed out he had time to sort those. 28 days later I threw away EVERYTHING – he removed precisely nothing. Try it!

  12. Jen

    Yup. Once or twice a day we do a quick tidy of the floors. I can’t stand tripping over stuff.

  13. Lila Ferraro

    I’m lucky that my 4 year old picks up after herself regularly. My one year old, on the other hand, is going to need a floor check instruction daily! I love that idea!
    Lila Ferraro

  14. Heather

    I can’t believe I’m about to admit this but sometimes, when we’re desperate and the house is in really bad shape (we have a 20 month old and a 3 year old so the house is often in bad shape) I hurl everything into clothes baskets, which I hide in the basement and throw everything else in the bathtub. Then I pray REALLY HARD that no one would be rude enough to pull back the shower curtain and see the madness back there….

    • Heather

      LOL!!! I love this! We totally had to do this when we were showing our house, except we would stuff everything in the car. Thanks for the laugh. :)

  15. Sandy

    It usually starts on my countertops. That’s where I have the hardest time!

    Love you!

  16. AlexisAnne

    I agree! Even if I can’t “find the floor” as I like to call it, in the entire house, I try to get our entryway and living room picked up in the early evening so that when my husband walks in the door from work he isn’t tripping over everything. It only takes a few minutes but makes a huge difference

  17. Marixa-Life on Purpose

    Absolutely! I can’t stand to have too much stuff on the floor, I guess it’s a pet peeve of mine. We have a toddler and he definately loves to dump stuff on the floor! But, it’s amazing that a room looks like a tornado hit it but when the floor is clean the room is clean!

  18. Sue Bartels

    This sounds very familiar! I’m a mom on wheels(wheelchair) with 3 busy little ones at home. They learned at an early age that we need to keep the floor picked up so I don’t have extra ‘speed bumps’ (toys, clothes, etc). Also, thank you for the ‘cleaning frenzy’ tip. The whole family is enjoying the ‘blitz cleaning’!!
    Thanks for sharing!


    I hear you! We do not have kids. My husband is a computer geek so every possible surface of the house is likely to fall under the spell of cables, connectors, CDs, DVDs, remote controls, the like … and his bills, mailing, magazines, comic books and envelopes which I try to stuff in boxes until I get him to sort them out. Guess kids’ clutter might be easier to control? Loved the idea posted above of getting everything back in order to the tune of the Bumble Bee.

  20. Diane M

    Love it!! For me…it’s the fam room coffee table. When that’s clean and clear….I have sanity.

    P.S. It’s hard to keep the coffee table cute…my husband takes it over as his portable office station….complete with pillow. The good thing…it makes me laugh to write this. :-)

  21. karen

    Wow. In all my years, I’m floored.Pun intended. I’ve never thought to keep it as simple as floors-only.

    I’m going to try this tonight. Thanks for the great tip!

    p.s. I’m thinking ahead here, but I’m wondering if alternating Floors vs. Surfaces as an evening routine…

  22. Jamie

    That’s exactly how I like to start when I “tackle” the mess in our house.

    And, I was humored by how you said you can look away for a moment, and then turn back to find everything a disaster!! I can SOOOOOO relate! :)

    Thanks for the advice…it’s always so helpful!

  23. Angela

    The floors definitely make a difference for us! I too keep just one basket on a shelf in my foyer for anything that needs to go upstairs. Not one for each person but it does help. We also use the “just put away 10 things” trick. Between my husband, 3 kids and me, that is 50 things and sometimes only takes about 2 minutes so no one complains but it makes all the difference to my sanity!

  24. Linda

    Floors and sinks! But…to get the floor clean,all the stuff has to be gone! Thank goodness for dishwashers. Catch 22. Right now I am awash in lovely sunshine that shows every speck of dust and dried snow drip sreaks on the windows. Time for spring cleaning??

  25. Jo

    Brilliant idea! That’s basically what I try to do at some point every evening. Most of the time it’s just me (and just the main floor). But if the floors are tidy and swept, I feel like I can relax, even if we have 50 other hot spots around the house.

  26. shannon

    What a fabulous idea. I have always been amazed at how much you can actually do in just 5 minutes. If you set a timer, 5 minutes is really a good amount of time to do a quick cleaning. :-)

  27. shannon

    What a fabulous idea. I have always been amazed at how much you can actually do in just 5 minutes. If you set a timer, 5 minutes is really a good amount of time to do a quick cleaning. :-)

  28. Fiona's Mosaic

    Honestly I never have even thought about it, but that IS something that I do. I don’t ever have stuff on my floor.

    Not now! Different story when the kids were little.

    But now they are always picked up, which is great, because when I have an extra few minutes to vacuum (which is a lot because I have two dogs) I can vacuum or mop right away because it’s picked up.

    Wish I had known about this though when the kids were little. What a great tip!!

  29. Heather

    I must admit, my bedroom gets very clutterd with clothes as “nothing fits” when I get dressed EVERY morning. :) This weekend, I cleaned it all up and have caught myself TWICE getting everything off of the floor in the morning before I leave for work…even if I am running 2 mintues late. Hey, it works!!! Thank you!

  30. Sally

    Amen, and Amen. I totally agree w/ you on the floor clean-up Melissa! When your floor is free of random stuff – it opens up the space & makes it feel so much tidier! — counters too! AND, as tempting as it is to hang everyone’s pictures, and reminders, etc. on the refrigerator, a BARE refrigerator front can make an amazing difference! Especially in a small kitchen! Thanks for all your great tips. ~Sally

  31. Gina

    I love this! So many better ideas than me just yelling at everyone to clean up.

  32. MommaHen

    We’re the opposite. If there is a surface in our house it gets piled high in seconds! Our floors are usually kept clean but watch out for disappearing surfaces !!


    My kids are going to hate you.. I am starting “FLOOR CHECK” tonight… where’s my whistle??

  34. erin

    I don’t have a strategy… just attack. I think I need to try the floor strategy on my ten year old’s room. That is the room that scares me the most! Your new design looks fab by the way, and I love recognizing all of your fab. commenters (they are some of my fav people online).

  35. Katie

    I totally agree. With 4 kids 6 and under, my kids know a clean floor makes mommy happy.

  36. josephinep

    How the heck did you get into my house to take a picture?! ha. That looks so familiar. I am having anxiety just looking at it. It is so true that if you just pick up stuff off the floor your house will feel instantly cleaner.

  37. Courtney

    we converted one of the 1st floor bedrooms into a playroom so that my living room and dining room and entry can be clear from kids toys… even though they migrate out there throughout the course of the day.. when its time to clean up or company is coming over, all the toys can go to the playroom in the back bedroom and I have “adult” space.
    great post!

  38. Sharon

    I so needed to read this today. Thank you! I will try to start there. ‘Cause my house is looking a lot like that photo!

  39. Sandra

    We used a system like this when I had little ones at home too…we called it the 5 minute cleanup. Everyone in the family had their own laundry basket that they used to put everything in that belonged to them…toys, clothes, school stuff. The kids use to scurry like crazy to get all their belongings picked up and the basket in their bedroom within 5 minutes…especially favorite toys. We found after a while that the stuff left on the floor after a clean up was often times the unimportant clutter that needed to be thrown away or donated.

  40. Annie

    I am crazy about the floors, not mopping them or even using a vacume, I can always get to that. I have two baskets that I throw everything into at the end of the day and clean it out when it gets full. It is most often toys. Make a huge mental difference.

  41. teresa

    Sadly I must say…our floors are usually free of stuff now….no kids running around here, sad :(
    Miss that time…..when my kids were little I had what I called the black bag attack….at any given time I could come out with a big black bag….anything I collected stay there until they paid to get it out.
    It’s amazing how fast the house can get clean when they see Mom with a big black bag.

  42. Amanda

    Completely brilliant! One of those “why didn’t I think of that before” moments when I read this. It is so hard to keep floors clear when little ones run around trashing everything. :s Thanks for the encouragement. :)

  43. Courtney

    Having everything off the floor is a huge helper for us too. I usually just pile stuff on the stairs and then the kids (6 and 4) take everything on the stairs up to the playroom. Sometimes the stairs stay full for a few days, lol, but at least the stuff isn’t on the floor where we’re tripping over it all.

  44. Leanne

    Floors clear! Except the play area during the day. I also have to have my own bed made, and the kitchen table clear. That’s about it. My house always feels so clean to everyone that walks in. It’s not, but don’t tell them!

  45. jimi ann path of life

    I see a camp in the making — some nights when we get ready to go to bed, we find all the pillows missing — yep, another camp or hideaway the children built. Thank you for this simple obvious tip that I never realized! A tip I appreciate also is that a made bed makes the whole bedroom look neater.

  46. Kim

    Love this! I always start by cleaning my room by making my bed first – then throwing everything on top of it. Job isn’t done until the whole thing is cleared off – especially since I can’t sleep there unless I do that! Thanks for sharing – that is a great tip for other rooms as well!

  47. Dana

    It’s so true!

    We had some boxes on the floor in a corner – sorta under a table after Christmas. By husband took ALL the recycling out – including those boxes.

    Everything looked so much better.
    The room looked 3 feet wider.

  48. {darlene}

    a great place to start and a perfect tip! thanks.

  49. Glenda Childers

    We used to call this “playing vacuum cleaner” which made it more fun.

    Great practical post.


  50. Melissa

    I love your rule! Short, sweet, and doable!

  51. se7en

    I don’t want to state the obvious but their appears to be a large giraffe tripping down the stairs in your home… the very funny things that happen to parents I guess!!!

    • Melissa

      LOL! You are so right!

  52. Daisy

    First, that picture makes me feel better. To know that I’m not the only one that battles that sort of thing is oddly comforting :-)

    We did a floor pickup today even before I read this post and it really does make a difference. Some things are still overwhelming but the floor being more or less clear of debris does seem to have a major, positive, impact on our attitudes toward all sorts of things, including each other.

  53. charlotte

    Loved the giraffe on its head. We have a horse that we find in that position quite regularly – about the same size too. Loved the photo.

  54. Rebecca

    My dad used to say to us kids growing up that even if your room is a bit messy, having a clean floor would make a big difference(he was the vacuum-er in our family). He also said that the kitchen would look cleaner (and of course be cleaner, but we’re talking appearance here) if the counters were wiped clean of crumbs even if the counters are a little cluttered.

    • LibbyP

      I know lots of people who insist on making the bed each morning – but my mom insisted on a clean bedroom floor. She was fine if we kids just threw the bedcover over the rumpled sheets instead of actually making the bed – but she wanted those floors clean.

      I think it was a “pick your battles” thing.

  55. jessica

    that is a great tip! I’ll be linking!

  56. Judy B.

    You are so right on! When my children were young that was one of our “house rules”. I also read a book once, 401 Ways To Get You Kids To Work At Home, that had lots of good tips to get kids to do chores. The kids didn’t always know what was happening, like the time the “House Fairy” visited their rooms. The gist is the house fairy pay a visit and if their room is messy she leaves a note (I made mine a little poem) on the bed saying she came by and the room needed a little pick me up and that she would be back. If the room was clean she would leave a little surprise, somes times a snack size candy bar or crayons and one time a sticker book. You get the idea. I have to say that they always wanted to be neat to see what the surprise would be. Another tip was wind them up like a little robot and set the stove timer and do as much as they can until the timer goes off. They loved it. My kids are 26 and 28 but we still talk about those times. It was a long time before they figured out that I was the “House Fairy”. The thing is it was fun but we still created some good cleaning habits.

    • Tracey

      I LOVE this! what a great idea:) and i love that is has become a special memory for you and your children to share. Im thinking my “please go clean your room!” will NOT!!!

    • SawyersMommy

      GREAT idea…I am most definitely going to “borrow” this from you!!

  57. Willo

    I do keep them clutter free! For this exact reason! Although with two little boys and a dog (and a husband)it isn’t easy.

  58. Karena

    Melissa, Perfect advice as I look around at my floors, especially the office/den and my bedroom! Wow!

    Art by Karena

  59. Mary Jean

    I so agree with you on the floors. I’m obsessed with vacuuming or sweeping at least every other day!

  60. Kenna

    I’ve read that if you clean the largest open space in the room (which may be the floors in many rooms), that this makes the whole room look cleaner. For example, the beds are typically the largest horizontal space in bedrooms, so making the bed makes the whole room look cleaner.

    Do you think this is true?

  61. KimH

    I totally agree with keeping clean floors and the difference it makes.. This is my one biggie rule in the main rooms of the house. When my kids were growing up, I dont care what their bedroom floor looked like.. it was theirs as long as it didnt find its way coming out the door or smelling bad.. but the rest of the house was MINE and it was going to stay straight & tidy.. period! And it did. :D
    I also used to threaten them after they were older teens that someday I was gonna come to their house someday and do to them what they did in my house if they were being slobbish. LOL That scared em cuz I think they believe me. ;)

  62. Natasha

    This is great! Many years ago I devised a similar plan, Vacuum, this created the same effect. Once I got the vacuum out I had to pick the floor as I went or have one of my kids do it. Great idea!

  63. A.

    So helpful. I’m a new wife and I always feel like I’m not getting things as perfectly as I want. Thanks for breaking it down.

  64. Carrie

    I just found your blog and really like this idea! It definitely is something that works at my house. I’ve been calling it the “ten minute tidy-up” but the gist is that I don’t want to sit down after the kids are in bed and see a bunch of toys all over the floor (I also cannot stand to have extra stuff all over the counters/flat surfaces).

  65. Sabrina

    This is refreshing totally looks like my house after the Christmas rush. I now have tons of toys and just stuff all over the floors. I really have to say laundry baskets or just boxes I keep for just getting the stuff off the floors and picking up.

  66. Tracey

    I love love love this advice!! I have found that having baskets (at the bottom of the stairs for toys that need to go back to rooms, under the end table for books/magazines, next to the front door for hats/mittens/shoes) helps with places to put all the items scooped up during those floor sweeps. your tips are always so practical and make those tasks that seem unmanageable so much for Doable!! Thank you!

    • Tracey

      ooops should say so much MORE doable!!!

      and love the giraffe too!

  67. Mandy Vigil

    I LOVE this idea. I usually go around at night after everyone else is in bed and tidy up a bit, I can’t stand waking up to a messy house. I think I will try this idea so that everyone can get involved and I’ll have more time at night to unwind. Thanks!

  68. JoAnna

    This is so very smart! I’ve never thought of the floors as a starting place. I don’t have a clutter problem being a neat freak without kids but this would be really good for some of my friends & clients. I will be sharing this post on my facebook wall!

  69. SawyersMommy

    Love this idea and will definitely implement it immediately. I have some anxiety issues and easily get overwhelmed. It’s not easy for me to figure out a starting place when there is so much to do. Having everyone “help” by doing a 5 minute floor tidy will help tremendously. Thanks for the tip!!

  70. Diliana Imandieva

    thinking about it – this is the first thing to start with as well – hoover and mop, whatever the mess above! alike thinking feels good! thanks Melissa!

  71. M

    My dad used to get big garbage bags and warn us (my sis and me) he was coming up to clean our rooms. He would put anything on the floor into the bags and put them in the garage in case we needed anything. I think we actually looked in them once in about five years. Just showed how much stuff we had that we didn’t even need!

  72. Amanda

    I love this it is sooo true!

  73. Lynette

    What a fantastic idea. I love the idea of a “floor warning.” My son is two, so the floor is obviously where everything ends up by evening. We are working with him to put things up at the end of the day—because I’m simply tired to do it all, and if he can get them out he can put them away! :)

  74. Margaret L

    Since my husband passed, my house has become clutter central, as I try to pull out some of his “junque” and sell/give or get rid of it! The floors are always messy! I notice it as I walk through the house. But it seems too cumbersome to clean the entire house right now… But I will try the “pick up the floors” method today! Thanks!

  75. Dianna

    You’re so freaking right! But in my case I was raised by a Marine who had the eyes of a hawk for ANYTHING out of order. A piece (A SPECK) of dirt or paper on the floor and she’d go berserk about getting it picked up.
    So now in my house, I have to have it perfect and manageable. With 2 kids under 3 (and BOYS at that), it’s almost impossible. And add a puppy to that, then I’m screwed. I like the idea of a clean floor, but I won’t be able to stand the counters, tables and bar not being orderly. And who can forget the TV stand. The little bugger gets dusty every 20 minutes. And then the bathroom…if the floors clean it doesn’t matter if there’s stuff on the sink counter. The sinks and mirrors can be spit and toothpaste on all day long and I wouldn’t blink an eye. It’s the REST! lol

  76. Evie

    Omg, thank goodness I found this site. I thought I was the only “nagging mother” who’s pet hate was things being left on the floor…it drives me nuts! Lol…I have 3 kids aged eight , thirteen and seventeen , who love hanging everything from wet towels to painting full of glue and glitter on the FLOOR….I love all these ideas. The problem I have I just moan at the kids or shout about how messy the house is and. They just grunt lol…now I will be setting the timer on the cooker and getting them involved with the five minute pick up. I really love the “house fairy” too.. Will definitely be trying that with my eight year old..?. Thanks so much for making me feel I’m not alone in the chaos lol x


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