What Causes Someone To Not Clean Their House?

When we see homes, whether in real life or on television, with sinks filled with dishes or floors that desperately need mopping, it’s easy to judge the people who live there and wonder why they don’t clean their homes. The truth is, keeping a tidy house can be challenging for some people.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common reasons people don’t clean their homes and the effect that a messy house can have on the people who live there.

What Causes Someone To Not Clean Their House

Common Reasons For Someone Not Cleaning Their House

For many of us, cleaning the house is a given thing in life, like death or taxes. We wash our dishes and sweep our floors every day, keep up with the laundry, and pick up after the kids and pets.

It’s such a mundane, everyday chore that we assume everyone can do it too. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. Let’s look at just a few of the reasons that someone may keep an untidy home.

1. Limited Mobility

We often think of limited mobility as a trait exclusive to the elderly. While we run into mobility issues as we age, young people can also have difficulty getting around due to physical disabilities or illness.

People with limited mobility often are too embarrassed by the state of their home or the extent of their disability to ask for help. Unfortunately, as time goes on, the dirt and clutter will build up, making them even sicker and adding other problems, like depression. 

2. Mental Illness

Depression and anxiety are two common reasons people don’t clean their houses. On top of the physical exhaustion, depression also makes people think that they can’t clean their homes right or that they don’t even deserve to live in a clean house.

Anxiety can cause insomnia, making a person so tired that it’s impossible to keep a tidy home. In the case of more severe mental illness, one may not notice the mess or be too consumed with their other problems to prioritize cleaning their house.

3. Too Much Stuff

People who form sentimental attachments to their belongings can have difficulty letting anything go.

Over the years, these items pile up into clutter. Sometimes keeping possessions can cross the line between sentimentality and hoarding.

Hoarders see every piece of mail they receive or each newspaper they purchase as essential and will feel unable to throw them away.

They start with just a pile or two here or there, and over time, every surface in their home will be covered with useless documents. These piles make it impossible to clean the surface underneath, leading to a buildup of dirt and germs.

4. No Time

There are only 24 hours in a day, and we need a minimum of six to eight of those hours to sleep.

There might not be enough time left to keep a tidy home for people with demanding jobs, children, or single-parent households. When people prioritize other things above cleaning, the cleaning gets done hurriedly, and sometimes it doesn’t get done at all.

The longer they go without cleaning, the longer it will take them to clean up the mess, so it just doesn’t happen.

5. Personality Traits

Some people don’t mind a messy house. In fact, some creative types even feel they need to have a bit of a mess to do their best work.

6. Don’t Know Where To Start

If a person has let their house go for a while due to limited mobility or mental illness, they may still live in a messy home after they recover.

At this point, the mess may be so built up that they don’t know where to begin cleaning. A mess of this magnitude can be intimidating, making them give up on the idea of a tidy home altogether.

7. Lack of Organizational Space

The first step to having a clean house is to have an organized space, so people who live in tiny homes or homes with limited storage space may not keep a tidy dwelling.

It’s understandable; if there’s nowhere to put your things, clutter will build up quickly. Combined with a hoarding tendency, a lack of organizational space is a recipe for disaster.

8. Housemates Who Don’t Help

Some people don’t clean their houses because they get tired of being the only one who straightens up.

This is common in a roommate setting because while most people will clean up after family members, if a bit grudgingly, no one wants to have to clean up after a person that you’ve only signed a lease agreement with.

9. Lack of Cleaning Supplies

Sometimes the reason for someone having a dirty house is as simple as not having any cleaning supplies or not having the right supplies for the job.

Maybe they have a clunky, old vacuum that’s difficult to drag up and down the stairs, or they have had the same mop for decades, and it’s finally falling apart.

Having the right supplies can reduce the time and effort spent keeping a tidy home.

10. Exhaustion

Sometimes the reason for a messy house is just downright exhaustion. If someone is suffering from a chronic illness or works a job with a lot of overtime, they may be so tired they feel they can’t physically get up off the couch to clean their house.

Over time, the dirt and clutter will build up to the point that catching up with the housework will become a full-time job itself.

Effects Of Living In An Untidy House

As you can see, there are legitimate reasons that some people have messy houses. Unfortunately, living in an untidy home can have numerous ill effects on a person’s well-being.

an untidy house

1. Unpleasant Odor

The first thing that can happen if someone doesn’t clean their home is that the buildup of filth will cause an unpleasant odor, particularly in the form of dirty dishes in the sink or a dirty bathroom.

This smell will permeate the entire house eventually, and although the person who lives there may not notice the smell after a while, guests will be hard-pressed to ignore it.

2. Exposure To Mold

If a person doesn’t clean their home, it won’t take long for mold to grow on the dirty dishes in the sink, toilets, showers, and even in the washing machine. Exposure to mold can have a debilitating effect on one’s health.

3. Buildup of Allergens

Like mold, allergens like dust and pet dander can build up quickly in an untidy home. This can lead to serious health problems, especially for the elderly or people with asthma.

4. Depression or Anxiety

We’ve already mentioned that depression or anxiety could be one of the reasons that a person doesn’t clean their home.

On the other hand, if the house is untidy for different reasons, like sudden illness or lack of mobility, it could actually cause a person to become depressed or anxious.

5. Impaired Social Life 

People with dirty homes are often embarrassed and refrain from having guests over. This can lead to strained relationships with friends and family members who want to spend more time around their loved ones.

6. Bugs

Dirty houses tend to draw more bugs than clean ones. Flies and ants love to eat the food particles stuck to dishes in the sink or scavenge the crumbs off the floor.

Where there are flies and ants, there are also spiders waiting to eat them. While most spiders are relatively harmless to humans, certain species are poisonous.

Keeping a clean home will reduce the risk of running afoul of one of the more deadly species of spiders.

7. Rodents

As if bugs weren’t bad enough, mice and rats are also attracted to dirty homes. They, too, enjoy eating crumbs from the floor and are happy to help themselves to dry goods like pasta after chewing through the cardboard containers.

Rodents carry diseases, like hantavirus and salmonella, which can be deadly to humans.

8. Bacteria

Dirty homes have an overgrowth of bacteria, particularly in the kitchen and bathrooms.

If a person doesn’t clean up after they are sick, the germs from that sickness will stay in the home for days or even weeks after they become healthy again, making it easy to spread illness from one household member to another.

9. Food Poisoning

Since a dirty home harbors many bacteria, it should be no surprise that it could also lead to food poisoning. If a person touches one of the dirty dishes in the sink when preparing food, the dish’s bacteria can contaminate their meal.

10. Accidents

Dirty houses are full of clutter, leading to unnecessary trips and falls, which can be especially debilitating for the elderly, people with chronic illness, or those with limited mobility. 

How Often Should You Clean Your House?

cleaning a house mopping

How often to clean your house depends on the size of your home, how often the rooms are used, and what types of furniture and flooring surfaces you have.

You should clean (and dust) some areas of your home daily and do a general cleaning weekly or biweekly. If you deep clean your home every few months, you can be confident that dirt won’t accumulate to an unsanitary level. 

To make the cleaning process easier on yourself, keep clutter to a minimum, remove your shoes when you enter your home, and clean up spills as soon as they occur.

How To Tell A Family Member They Need to Clean Their House

The simple answer is you don’t. Telling a family member, or anyone else, that they need to clean their house is disrespectful and downright rude.

If you can tell that the mess is distressing to them, you can offer to clean their home for them or hire a cleaning service for them if you feel confident that the offer would be seen as kind rather than offensive.

If the person living in the untidy home isn’t bothered by the mess, then it’s none of your business. It’s not unreasonable for you to be uncomfortable visiting a messy house, but you can simply invite that family member over to your home for a visit instead.

If you’re visiting from out of town, get a hotel room and plan activities like shopping or hiking that allow you to socialize away from their home.

What Does A Messy House Say About You?

couple in a messy living room

A messy house can mean all sorts of things. It could point to a mental health issue like depression or hoarding, or it could simply be that you’re too busy to keep up with your housework.

To the outside world, depending on how messy your home is, you may either appear lazy or laid back. If your house is just cluttery but not filthy, it can even have a carefree, lived-in vibe to those who visit.

When To Call In Professionals Cleaners For Help

If you try to keep a clean house, seeing clutter and dirt piling up around you can feel like a personal defeat.

professional house keepers

Here are a few signs that it might be time to hire a housekeeper.

  • You’ve recently experienced a dramatic life-changing event: Whether you’ve recently brought home a new baby or you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness, life-changing events are often a good time to hire a housekeeper. Even if the event only has a short-term effect on your ability to clean your home, it will take a massive weight off your shoulders to have someone come in and take care of the housework a few times while you adjust to the changes in your life.
  • You’re losing sleep: If you’re so busy with other important things in your life that cleaning your home or doing the laundry is cutting into your sleep schedule, it may be time to call in reinforcements. Let a housekeeper handle the chores while you take care of the other essential duties in your life that only you can do.
  • You’re having guests: If you plan to have important guests in your home soon, you may want to hire a professional cleaning service to get your home looking its best before they arrive. That way, you’ll be able to focus on the excitement of seeing your guests rather than worrying that they might judge you based on the cleanliness of your home.
  • You want to hire a housekeeper: There is no shame in hiring a housekeeper, so if you want to hire one, go for it. Some people enjoy cleaning and organizing their homes, while others see it as a mundane task they’d like to avoid at all costs. Professional cleaners won’t judge you for hiring them, and since cleaning your home will be their job, you can rest assured that it will always be clean and sparkling, leaving you to focus on the rest of your life.


There are many reasons people have messy homes, from struggles with depression and anxiety to limited mobility to lack of help. The bottom line is that we should never assume a person is lazy simply because they have an untidy house.

Unfortunately, messy homes can cause several issues, like a buildup of mold and bacteria or accidental falls caused by too much clutter. If your friend or family member struggles with their housekeeping, offer to lend a hand to help them get their home in a more manageable state.

Many people have difficulties keeping up with the housework after a life-changing. If you struggle with housekeeping, consider hiring a professional cleaning service so you can enjoy a clean home while focusing on the most important areas of your life.

Shauna Stone