(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.)
Ahhh, spring — a time of warming temperatures, blossoming greenery and the guilt-ridden realization that it’s been five months since you’ve dusted. Yikes.
Don’t panic. Instead of going spring cleaning crazy, follow this handy room-by-room guide to neatening your house, replete with pointers from Maeve Richmond, founder and head coach of home organizing company Maeve’s Method. “Spring cleaning is a time to restore and rejuvenate the home from top to bottom,” she says, “and peel back the layers of dirt and clutter that accumulate over long winter months.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Let’s get to tidying.
Spring cleaning is really more about smaller projects — light projects you can take on now.
— Maeve Richmond, founder of Maeve's Method
First Things First: Create a Donate Box
From that extra potato masher to those sandals you wore one time in 2013, odds are your home is full of forgotten items that someone else could find useful. So, before you begin spring cleaning, make a plan to get rid of extra stuff. “Place a donation bin under your entryway table or hang a giveaway bag on an easy-to-access coat hook,” suggests Richmond. “As you clean, drop items into these containers so they’re one step closer to making their way out of your home.” Once your box is full, load it up and head to a reputable donation site like Salvation Army or Goodwill.
You can use your donate station as a motivator, too: “The simple act of starting an outbox almost always kick starts spring cleaning fever. So give it a whirl,” says Richmond.
Now onto five room-by-room tips:
1. The Kitchen
For that so-fresh feeling, mopping the floor and scrubbing the sink are always good starts. “[But] the most rewarding spring cleaning fix is to toss old or expired items from your refrigerator, pantry, junk drawer and any countertop space that collects clutter,” says Richmond. Grab a garbage bag and go hunting for trash. “Look for half-used condiments, old juices or sodas, ripped menus, almost-empty snacks and multiples of takeout containers and grocery store bags.”
Once you’ve chucked the detritus, stash heavy, winter-time cookery in the back of your cabinets and move melamine plates and glass pitchers — a.k.a. summertime serving gear — to the front, you might even discover a few items for your donate box.
2. The Bathroom
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty of scouring the restroom, go through the medicine cabinet and scrap expired medications. Not only will you avoid ingesting a past-its-date prescription, but you’ll most likely free up a good chunk of space.
Then, it’s time to get scrubbing. “The best quick fix for a bathroom in spring is to clear the air,” says Richmond. “Take 10 minutes to wipe all surfaces with soapy water or a disinfectant of your choice. Then use an old toothbrush to dig in between tiles, around the sink faucet, and even tiny crevices around the toilet, light switches and light fixtures. Use a cleaner with a smell that you like. The smell will permeate your bathroom, invigorate your senses and mostly importantly, freshen the air.”
Finally, to add life to your lav, bring in a houseplant: “Look for a plant that likes low light and doesn’t mind humidity,” like philodendron, spider plants and peace lilies.
3. The Bedroom
Your bedroom is your haven, so start with something fun, like turning your bedside table into a sanctuary. First, clean out the drawer. Then, “place favorite photos, treasured memorabilia, perhaps a scented candle, meditation helpers or a funny book — all things that make you both laugh and smile at the end of the day,” proposes Richmond.
Once you have your mini-refuge finished, move on to your closet and rotate your clothes for the season. “[It’s] an ideal time to review what you own, sort items and make choices about what stays in your life, and what goes,” says Richmond. Begin by removing five to 10 of your heaviest winter items. “Then do another five, and another five, until you’ve removed the bulk of your winter clothes,” Richmond advises. Bring your spring wardrobe to the front, store cold-weather garments and toss any pieces you’ve outgrown.
4. The Living Room
When it comes to spring cleaning, your main living area benefits most from a good surface cleansing. “Wipe down all surfaces including window sills, side tables, countertops and shelves,” says Richmond. “Pro-dusting tools like Swiffer pads or microfiber cloths are great too as they are collect dust, not spread it around.”
Even though you walk all over them every day, it’s easy to overlook your floors. Says Richmond:”Sweep, mop or vacuum your floors, and also take time shake out your rugs.” If you don’t have access to outdoor space, use your tub for shaking. “Make sure to close or protect the drain before you do so you don’t cause a clog,” Richmond adds.
5. The Office
Since it’s the most time-intensive task, tackle office papers towards the end of your spring cleaning jag, and start by splitting them into rough groupings. Says Richmond: “Try coming up with categories that reflect your life, like ‘my daughter’s summer camp papers’ or ‘important family medical documents.’ Once in ‘like’ piles, sort back through your categories and look for paper that can be consolidated or thrown away.”
After you’ve cleared some space, clean the electronics, which probably accumulated a ton of grime over the winter months. “Dirt collects in the tiniest places, so take five minutes to run a mild cleanser or rubbing alcohol-soaked Q-tip into the crevasses of your computer keyboard, phone keypad and electronic equipment power buttons,” Richmond says. One caveat: Before you wipe screens, do a little research — displays often require special cleansers.
When to Hire Someone
While the room-by-room method of spring cleaning is meant to be relatively effortless, some chores are undeniably bigger than others. If you find a task to be too physically taxing — or you just really hate doing it — it might be worth bringing in a pro. Take cleaning the windows, for example. “Hiring a professional window cleaning company can save you time, extend the life of your windows and help identify and resolve potentially dangerous problems, like wood rot or sashes that have been painted shut,” says Richmond
Long-ignored rooms are another good use of funds: “If you don’t have time or energy to deep clean a room, hire a cleaning service for one room only,” says Richmond. “It’s great for removing heavy layers of dust and dirt.”
Remember: Save Bigger Stuff for Later
During your spring spruce-up, you’ll inevitably stumble upon larger potential projects — an attic in desperate need of a remodel, a garage that could use more storage, etc. Ignore them for now. “Spring cleaning is really more about smaller projects — light projects you can take on now,” says Richmond. “The bigger ones can be pushed back to quieter summer months. Save labor and time-intensive projects for June and July.” That way, you’ll be able to concentrate on cleaning alone.
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