Spring cleaning is not my favorite activity. In fact, I don’t like to clean during spring or any other time of the year. The best way to simplify cleaning is to stay clutter-free. Lack of clutter creates the appearance of clean. Lack of clutter makes cleaning easier when you finally do get to it. I wish I could make cleaning fun. Some people enjoy it, but I usually don’t. There are too many other things competing for our energy and attention.
My formula for spring cleaning success consists of four ingredients–motivation, proper cleaning products, professional cleaning techniques, and a helpful home–good cleaning tips for any season. When these ingredients are present, the rest is simple.
Motivation. Having company over once in a while forces me to tackle cleaning projects I put off. It sounds weird, but sometimes I even pretend company is coming over or I pretend I am having an open house. The side benefit of getting these postponed jobs done is how great I feel afterwards. The sad thought is, why do I need company to be motivated to clean? Couldn’t I be happy to clean for us? For my family and myself? That ought to be sufficient motivation.
Proper cleaning products. Check out products around the house that you have kept for years. There may be products you tried but didn’t work for you, or products that just didn’t become part of your cleaning routine. Even though you “paid good money for them," you are not using them. Rather than letting them continue to age and fill up storage space in your home, toss them by taking them to a recycling center if possible. Instead of feeling bad every time you see unused products sitting under your sink, feel bad once as you properly and safely dispose of them.
Most cleaning experts agree you only need a few basics for household cleaning–a glass cleaner, a general cleaner, and an anti-bacterial cleaner. Own decent microfiber cleaning cloths that are large enough to fold and use. Have quality dusters that grab the dust instead of just push it around. Look into electrostatic cloths or wool dusters. Decent cleaning rags won’t leave their own lint behind while you clean.
It is also time to make friends with your vacuum cleaner. Pull the threads off the beater bar regularly and change the bag frequently (before it is overflowing). Know how to replace the belts. Should you dust or vacuum first? See Don Aslett’s book Do I Dust Or Vacuum First?: Answers to the 100 Toughest, Most Frequently Asked Questions about Housecleaning (Marsh Creek Press, 2005). Don Aslett is one of my favorite house cleaning and clutter authors. Remember, gravity works: Dust first, knocking the dirt to the floor and then vacuum it up. If you have an air filter on your furnace, run your furnace fan while you vacuum to catch the dust that vacuuming may stir up.
Design a helpful home. Consider working toward a self-cleaning house (you can read about Don Aslett’s in one of his books). Anyone can work toward this. A self-cleaning house begins with this basic rule: "Shoes off at the door. No exceptions." Experts agree that ninety percent or more of the dirt in our homes comes right in the door. If you stop it at the door, you have won more than half of the battle. Another part of a self-cleaning house is commercial grade indoor and outdoor entry mats. If not a commercial grade indoor mat, at least make sure it is washable when it becomes saturated with dirt and grime.
A self-cleaning home also has low or easy maintenance flooring and window treatments. Consider low height, neutral, dirt-hiding, 100 percent nylon carpet. If the fibers are short, wear and crushing are less evident. Carpet that has flecking, like a cut Berber, hides dirt too. Nylon carpet wears longer than some of the others. Also, fibers with a tight twist won’t loosen as quickly or pill as fast. When comparing carpeting, look at the number of twists per inch.
Window treatments that don’t cover up too much of the window and block light are a favorite of mine. Try no valences or short valences that are easy to dust and easy to slide off and throw in the washing machine. I combine valences with pleated shades or mini blinds. The easy way to wash plastic blinds is to swish them in the bathtub.
A final element of a helping home is furnishings–sturdy fabrics, neutral dirt-hiding colors, and patterns and designs that hide minor stains or spots. When I put a solid hunter green tablecloth on my dining room table, every speck of lint, dust, and dog hair in my house seems to land on it. When I put a lighter multi-colored floral tablecloth there, it usually looks clean for weeks.
Cleaning is easier if I regularly pick up and perform minimal weekly cleaning. I vacuum my carpet without moving furniture, dust lightly, and swipe sinks and toilets every few days. I also try to make it a habit to quickly straighten a room every time I leave it. When I keep to a schedule (think of it as a less frequent habit) for tougher jobs, I am happier. Tasks may not get done as often as they “should” be, but at least they get done. Frankly, I have found less frequent cleaning won’t hurt most things–less frequently changing bedding or towels, or deep cleaning the bathroom, or edging with the vacuum cleaner…No one has noticed a difference, and I have freed up some of my time. Now you can free up your time too!
Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs.
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