A Slob’s Guide to the Panic Clean



Do you ever read those stories about how to quickly clean your entire house in half an hour and think, yeah… no. We’re going to need a more dramatic approach to deal with the level of slobbery I’m rocking here.

Gather round parents of all walks, there is something in this for everyone, even if it’s just a big cup of smug because wow, just wow. 

I have developed my house cleaning and tiding technique based on prioritising tasks from least to most socially acceptable levels of mess to have in a home. This priority based technique has three functions. Firstly, the presence of a system makes even the most hectic of tasks appear do-able. Secondly, dealing with the more shameful tasks first makes you feel steadily more functional, working as a cleaning cheerleader of sorts. And thirdly, the system can be applied for either a thorough clean (I have heard) or for the five-minute panic someone-is-coming-over-clean. For the latter, no matter what step you are at when they arrive, you have used your time well.

The steps go. 

1. Rubbish

2. Things that should be in the kitchen

3. Random paper and stationery

4. Dirty laundry and shoes

5. Clean laundry

6. Toys and books.

7. Clean 

The goal is to sweep every room* of the house during each step until completion. At every step you should be armed with a corresponding tool. But I’ll walk you through it.

A slobs guide to the panic clean

Deviations are allowed in the case of same-room tidying, ie. no matter what step you are at  you are permitted to pop a couch cushion in place while in the lounge room, but the shoes on the floor will have to wait until you are at step number five. Make sense? Okay, some people like to pump the music but I like to work to a strict soundtrack of myself angrily narrating my movements for the benefit of my family. Oh, and I also like to unload the dishwasher and light a smelly candle before I start.

*If you are doing a panic clean, all rooms with doors can be ignored. Except for the bathroom.

Step 1. Rubbish. Grab yourself a plastic bag and systematically sweep each room for anything that needs to go in the bin or recycling. As you enter each room you are going to need to dramatically throw open all blinds and windows while muttering to yourself about being the only person who can apparently do this. At completion of this step put the rubbish straight in the corresponding bins. Be prepared to repeat later after you have cleared the top layer of crap.

Step 2. Kitchen stuff. Now do the same for any kitchen stuff, crockery goes straight in the sink or dishwasher and everything else goes to its home. We are putting things away, not just moving them. At this stage a wet washcloth can be placed on any dried Weetbix or sauce stains. Let it work its magic as you move through the steps. 

Step 3. Paper and stationery. Pens, scissors and anything that looks like rubbish but is possibly important can go in a pile wherever that stuff lives in your house. There will be no sorting, do not get sidetracked. At this point you can also straighten throw rugs, put remotes away and close any cupboards and drawers that are hanging open.

Step 4. Dirty laundry and shoes. Fill a laundry basket with everything that needs to go in the wash, tea towels, clothing and any bedding that is due. The latter needs to be omitted if you are doing a panic clean, ain’t nobody got time for that. Now dump it all in the laundry and congratulate yourself because you are now officially ready for a ‘drop in’ visitor.

Step 5. Clean laundry. You should have an empty basket in your hands, now fill it with any clean washing that is waiting to be put away. You can leave that somewhere off the floor to be dealt with later. Presumably your table it is almost clear at this point? Pop it there. Now revisit step one if needed and move the wet washer to another Weetbix spill while bellowing, “if anyone wants to actually wear clothes this week come and get them”.

Step 6. Toys and books. You should be left with toys and books and other miscellaneous crap at this stage. You want to sweep this all into a basket to be dropped into its corresponding bedroom. Give yourself exactly two minutes per family member to do this, prioritising yourself first. (Outrageous right?) As you enter each room, make each bed then pile any crap on top of it that can’t be put away in the two minute time frame. Loudly threaten to take said pile to the op shop if it’s not away by bedtime. *There shouldn’t be anything on the floors at this point! Yayzers! 

*In the case of a panic clean where the person that is coming over is a bit of an ass, at this point it is permitted encouraged that you sprinkle some wooden toys and educational books that don’t feature cartoon TV characters on the floor.

Step 7. Clean. And now it’s time to clean. I usually give up at this point but in a perfect world you’re going to want to go; bathroom sink, toilet, flat surfaces in living areas, kitchen surfaces then vacuum. I hear mopping comes next but I can’t be sure. Showers, cupboards and windows can wait. For a surprisingly long time really.

Disclaimer, my children are expected to do all of these things for themselves on a daily basis but sometimes you need to take things into you own hands, you know?

Are you a neat freak or more… relaxed with your cleaning?

More cleaning tips for frazzled mums:

Image: Barbara O’Reilly