A Dirty Guide to a Clean Home

Housekeeping Hacks You Can't Live Without

About the Book

Everything you need to know about laundry, cleaning, and basic home repairs—from the TikTok star who made bluing a thing, showed you how to fold a fitted sheet, and taught you to properly use your (caulk) gun.

“[Melissa Pateras] makes chores enjoyable in her bawdy debut. . . . Doing laundry has never sounded so fun.”—Publishers Weekly

Melissa Dilkes Pateras is the most competent housekeeper, DIY-project master, and home repair genius that you’ve ever fantasized about becoming. When she followed her kids on to TikTok, she discovered a community hungry for her approachable, tongue-in-cheek advice on everything from balls—dryer balls, that is—to why color-coded closets are a spiritual experience. She doesn’t expect you to know what you were never taught, and she doesn’t care about transforming your home into a minimal, beige Instagram post; she simply wants to help make your life easier.

Can housekeeping be fun? Whether you’re terrified of your laundry pile or have an inner handyperson who’s been longing for their moment, A Dirty Guide to a Clean Home is a joyful all-purpose guide to organizing, cleaning, laundry, repairs, and beyond. As Melissa says, “Your home shouldn’t be your adversary.”
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Praise for A Dirty Guide to a Clean Home

“Pateras, who dispenses housekeeping tips on TikTok, makes chores enjoyable in her bawdy debut. . . . The plentiful tips are often surprising. . . . Other ‘hacks’ are simple yet clever. . . . Throughout, Pateras’s ribald humor animates the advice (‘I love balls . . . in my dryer,’ she writes on preferring dryer balls to dryer sheets). Doing laundry has never sounded so fun.”—Publishers Weekly
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A Dirty Guide to a Clean Home

This Is Where You Organize Your Mind and All of the Shit You Have Accumulated

I know what you’re thinking: Shouldn’t organizing come after cleaning? (It’s totally OK if you weren’t thinking that. But now that I’ve mentioned it, you’re thinking it, right?) Here’s the thing: The more organized you are, the easier it will be to clean and keep things clean. For anyone not naturally inclined toward neatness, the idea of getting organized, let alone staying organized, is overwhelming enough. But it’s the key to getting a truly clean house, and I have a feeling you might already be more organizationally inclined than you think.

Let’s start in your kitchen. If I asked you to think about where you would find your cutlery, I’m willing to bet that it’s in an organizer, separated into forks, knives, and spoons. This is the perfect example of a simple organization system that you are already using, and you don’t even know you’re doing it. What I’m getting at is that you already do have areas in your house that have a sense of order to them, where you have a system of what goes where, and that means you have the capacity to extend that organizational skill set elsewhere—even everywhere! It might feel like a lot to think about getting everything into its right place, but even if the only place you’re organized is where you keep your forks, you’re already doing it a little bit. I bet you have proof of your abilities all around you.

If I asked you to locate any item in your home, wouldn’t it be great if you could you find it with ease? Imagine having a home for all those pens you “didn’t steal” from work or being able to find a safety pin when you need one last minute. Imagine being able to find the spare batteries you’re sure you have somewhere instead of borrowing them from your remote or digging through the junk drawer. You know the one, we all have one: It’s where you have to push past the old takeout menus, past all the electronic cords you have no idea what they’re for but you can’t throw them away ’cause one day you might find out what mystery device they charge, past the spare piece of paper with someone’s number on it and you can’t remember who it is but you might need it someday, the free toothbrush you got from the dentist, a three year old ChapStick, to maybe, just maybe, find a battery, but it’s a AA when you needed a AAA. All that work and now you’ve disturbed the ecosystem of the drawer—so much that now you can’t get the damn thing closed.

I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t she just say that if I know where to find something, it’s organized, at least a little? It’s true, I did. But here’s the thing about that drawer: When you find a battery, does it always work? Or is it an old one that’s out of juice that for some reason you chucked back in there instead of the trash? There is a fine line between having an organizational system that works for you and having a messy dumpster fire of a drawer. Beware of that line.

When it comes to tools to get organized, the list of things you absolutely need is pretty short:


•Garbage bags


•Labels (optional)

•A gallon of determination

•A shit-ton of focus

•Some time

This Is How We Do It

(I hope you’re singing this, not just reading it.)

Start Small and Live Large

I’ll tell you what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to organize your entire home all at once. That’s unrealistic, overwhelming, and definitely not how I roll. We are going to start small. Our first goal is to pick a section: one room, one cupboard, one shelf, or even one tiny little drawer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, start small. My aim is to set you up to succeed. As we’re just starting out on this organizational journey, I don’t want to overwhelm you.

Once you conquer your first small goal, it will give you a sense of accomplishment that will prove to you that you can do this. It will also allow you to move at a pace that works for you. If I asked you to organize one drawer in your kitchen, that would seem like a doable task; but if I asked you to reorganize your entire kitchen, you’d probably get an overwhelming tightness in your chest. If we break it down, section by section, one drawer turns into two, then three, then a shelf, then a cupboard, and before you know it, the kitchen is done, no need for the overwhelming tight feeling in your chest.

When setting a goal, you want to make it SMART! You’re a smart cookie, so make your goal SMART, too.

S—Specific: What do I want to accomplish? Target a particular area for improvement.

M—Measurable: How will I know when it is accomplished?

A—Achievable: How will the goal be accomplished? Is it actually possible to achieve it?

R—Realistic: Can you feasibly achieve your goals using the available resources?

T—Timebound: When do you want to achieve this by?

Let’s break down SMART goals so they’re not so boring-presentation-at-a-work-conference:

•Specific: Pick one section of your home to organize. Start with a small drawer, a small shelf, that top cupboard, or perhaps, if you’re feeling adventurous, your entire closet. Whatever the section, be detailed and clear about what you want to accomplish and stick to it.

•Measurable: Let’s stick with the drawer example: It’s a small space, so it’ll be easy to know when you’re finished. Once everything in it is easy to access and find, meaning no more shuffling the mess around just to get the damn thing closed, stay on track.

•Achievable: Make sure the space you choose to organize is achievable. If the thought of cleaning out your closet all at once makes you feel overwhelmed, then pick something smaller, perhaps just your T-shirts. That’s more achievable. Make sure you are in the right mood to tackle the section you have picked. The more you achieve, the more motivation you’ll have to keep the ball rolling (and you know I love balls).

•Realistic: Ask yourself, Do I have all the tools I need to complete this project? If it’s a drawer, maybe you need a drawer organizer; if it’s a closet, maybe you need shoe boxes; if it’s the dreaded Christmas decorations in the basement, maybe you need storage bins. Whatever the section, make sure you have the necessary tools needed on hand and ready to go before you start. You don’t want to have to stop halfway through to go to the store to get the items you need, run into Brenda while you’re there, end up having a thirty-minute catch-up about how the kids are doing and then suddenly realize you need to get home and make dinner and no longer have time to finish the task at hand.

•Timebound: This is the big one, the real cause of our anxiety, because it’s something we never feel we have enough of. Make sure you set aside the time to start and finish the task. This means, be strict and give yourself a deadline. If anyone knows distraction it’s me, so if you only have an hour, perhaps today is not the day to do the entirety of your closet. You don’t want to have to stop halfway through because you have to pick your kid up from basketball practice and then come home and help your other kid with their science project that you just found out is due tomorrow. So perhaps an hour is best set aside for a drawer, or if you’re feeling courageous, perhaps two drawers. Make the time that fits the space you want to tackle, pop on some tunes, and get it done.

About the Author

Melissa Dilkes Pateras
In addition to creating viral videos with housecleaning tips and tricks, Melissa Dilkes Pateras has worked in social services for over twenty years, specializing in behavior and relationship management. She lives in Ontario, Canada, with her wife and three children. More by Melissa Dilkes Pateras
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About the Author

Carla Sosenko
Carla Sosenko is a journalist and author whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Time Out New York Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, and other publications. She also co-wrote TikTok star Melissa Dilkes Pateras’s first book, A Dirty Guide to a Clean Home. Carla graduated from Boston University with a BA in English and a BS in journalism, and she has an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. More by Carla Sosenko
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Random House Publishing Group