Notwithstanding a few lingering snowfalls, spring has arrived – and if you haven’t felt it just yet, rest assured that, very soon, you or someone in your household will succumb to an instinctive desire to turn the place inside out in a fit of scrubbing, dusting and reorganizing.
If this sounds more like your partner than you, all you can do is watch for the warning signs – a frenzied gleam in the eyes, restless indoor pacing and the arrival of strange new chemicals – and either make yourself scarce or prepare to receive your orders.
But if you’re the resident spring cleaner, there’s plenty more you can do to prepare yourself and ensure that the seasonal ritual goes smoothly, perhaps even while enjoying yourself in the process.
The first step is to take stock of how many hands you have at your disposal. As far as rallying the troops goes, it’s best to opt for all or nothing – either assign everyone in the household a few mandatory tasks or kick them all out and do it yourself the “right” way – you know your family well enough to decide what you can reasonably expect. Assign everyone age-appropriate chores and make sure they follow through. Just try to remember, the “cleaning high” you’re feeling – whether the result of lemony-fresh fumes or the thrill of the challenge – isn’t contagious, so you can’t reasonably expect the same level of commitment to the job from others.
Map out your plan of attack. This can involve a master to-do list that includes every task, or simply an order of priority for the rooms in your home. Consider the time frame you have available to dedicate to each task. If you only have two hours today, select a few small-scale chores to complete, rather than beginning a major project you’d have to finish at a later date. Nothing derails the motivation train quicker than taking on more than you can accomplish.
Dress the part. A fireman doesn’t enter a burning building in his jeans and a T-shirt – he dons protective full-body gear. Your uniform should include comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely, an apron that forms a barrier against both cleaning agents and messes, comfortable footwear and rubber gloves to save your hands. I like to tie a handkerchief around my head for an intimidating “Rosie the Riveter” look; wear whatever helps you get into character.
Use what you already have to save on expenses as well as protect the environment, both in your home and on a larger scale. My mother has taught me that leftover newspaper pages work well for cleaning windows and mirrors – they’re less wasteful than paper towels and don’t leave a residue. She also imparted the wisdom of saving old toothbrushes once they’ve outlived their original purpose – the tiny, bristled surface is perfect for cleaning all sorts of cracks and crevices. Search online to find recipes for chemical-free, homemade cleaning solutions. An equal parts white vinegar and warm water solution can be safely used on everything from windows to the inner workings of your coffeemaker.
Take advantage of this time – while you’re up close and personal with your home – as an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of your regular cleaning habits. Scott Braun, manager of Max Care Carpet Cleaning, points out that the battle for a tidy home should be year-round, not limited to seasonal efforts. “For keeping the carpet clean, homeowners need to vacuum regularly (and) watch for spotting carpets … do not use a soap based cleaning agent that will leave a residue after spot cleaning, most spots can be removed with just hot water. We recommend to professionally clean your carpets once a year to help the carpet last longer,” he explained, adding, “The dirtier the carpet gets, the shorter the life.”
While you’re fervently ticking items off your to-do list, try to remember that this isn’t the office – multitasking won’t earn you extra points. Although it’s perfectly fine to start a second task while waiting for something to emerge from the dryer, it’s generally best to focus on one chore at a time. Otherwise you may reach the end of the day with 10 messes of projects begun, and very little actually accomplished.
And keep in mind that there’s no rule that says you have to be miserable while you clean. Treat yourself to a glass of wine while you scrub the baseboards. Why not? Turn up the radio and practice your dancing and singing skills while you reorganize the closets. Treat spring cleaning as an opportunity to enjoy some quality alone time – don’t let it go to waste.