Spring Cleaning Week

Wrapping Things Up

After last week’s “deep dive” into spring cleaning, it’s time to get going. 

Yep. It's time to …

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. . . with a spring cleaning wrap-up post full of (what else?) a few more tips to motivate you and possibly make your spring cleaning life easier.

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First, just as I was putting the finishing touches on last Friday’s post, The Atlantic came up with a special spring cleaning playlist! You can read all about it here, or jump right to Spotify to start listening.

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Next, many of you shared terrific spring cleaning tips and suggestions last week. As promised, here’s a summary of blog-reader tips for you to try:

  • Kat suggests doing a two-for-one when it comes to spring cleaning chores (although I won't say she enjoys doing it. . . ). She takes her curtains down for a good washing in the spring, and while she’s at it, she tackles the blinds. 
  • Vicki likes to bring the spring sunshine in by washing her windows - and especially the kitchen window. 
  • Carole swaps out her curtains and changes up the décor on her shelves and mantle, and she opens all the windows to air everything out.
  • Carolyn opens the doors and windows for fresh air, too. She adds that she does a good porch-scrubbing several times a season. (She also mentions that hosting parties and guests is a good motivator for her to clean her house, but that hasn’t happened in a while . . . ) (Same here!)
  • Mary tells us that having your house’s interior painted is a great way to organize and deep clean, no matter the time of year. She also suggested a @gocleanco (Instagram) for great cleaning tips and hacks. (I see that @gocleanco will be hosting a 6-week spring cleaning challenge beginning . . . now. Check it out.) (FYI - I printed out the free download. This is a 6-week cleaning challenge with each week focusing on a different area of the house. It is far less intimidating than some of the lists I shared last week.)
  • Sarah and her daughter do a seasonal closet switch-over in the spring. Sarah says it’s a great time to figure out what still fits her growing daughter, and helps them figure out what new clothes she’s going to need for the season ahead.
  • Margene offers some great advice: Do the best you can!
  • Dee mentions turning on some music!
  • Jane likes to approach her cleaning a little bit at a time all year long. She also hires outside help to clean her windows (because none of us need to be up on ladders anymore) (and neither do our "helpers;" leave this one to the professionals).
  • I included a tip last week about keeping track of the expiry dates on your makeup and skin care products. Kat added that it’s also a great time to clean your makeup brushes (here’s a link to makeup brush/sponge cleaning how-tos from Good Housekeeping), and Mary told me that she sets up a reminder on her phone whenever she opens a new mascara so she knows when to replace it with a new one. (Wondering how often you should switch out your mascara? At least every three months! Here’s a great list of replacement dates for all kinds of personal products and makeup from Everyday Health.)
  • And, lastly, Carolyn sent me an email that included some great housekeeping advice: "If I don't like to clean it, or clean around it, I get rid of it." Carolyn followed this up by explaining how she switched out her glass shower door (fussy to keep clean) with a shower curtain (easier to keep clean). I think this is great advice -- if something is too hard or too maddening to deal with . . . get rid of it! 

"Housekeeping is like being caught in a revolving door."
   — Marcelene Cox

Thanks for coming along on my spring cleaning adventure last week. I hope you’re motivated -- at least a little bit -- to tackle your own home projects this spring.

Here’s to a good (and productive!) week for all of us.

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Links to other posts in my Spring Cleaning series:

An Introduction and Some History of Spring Cleaning

Rolling Up Your Sleeves and Coming Up With Your Strategy

Finding Your Organizational Style

Taking Care of Closet Business

Spring Cleaning in the Garden


Spring Cleaning in the Garden

Welcome to the Friday edition of . . . 

Spring Cleaning Week

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.”
  --- Kate Morton

There is one very big reason I’m not so good at Spring Cleaning.

My Garden.

When the weather starts to warm up, and the snow melts away, my garden calls me. Often . . . and loudly. And taking care of chores in my garden will ALWAYS win out over taking care of chores in my house! And there is so much to DO in the garden in the spring -- even in the earliest part of spring. In fact, the earlier I can get out there and start working on my spring clean-up chores in the garden, the better off I’ll be when things really start exploding in May.

I know many of you are happy gardeners, too . . . so I decided to focus one day of Spring Cleaning Week on garden chores. Join me today as I bring you some tips to help you tackle your “spring cleaning” . . . in the garden.

Let’s begin with some advice from Martha Stewart, maven of all garden chore lists.

“Even with a winter chill still in the air, there are plenty of tasks to start handling now if you want to get your garden in shape by the time the temperatures rise. A few words to the wise: Walking on or digging in soil when it is still too frozen and wet may compact it, and plant roots need soil to live their best lives. So, if the ground is still too hard or fully saturated with water, be patient.”
  --- from MarthaStewart.com|Garden

Martha’s tips for garden “spring cleaning” (with some of my own tips thrown in) include:

  • Survey your yard and garden. 
    • Check out your trees to assess limb damage from the winter. You can also do some judicious tree pruning -- it’s much easier to prune before they’re leafed out for the season. (NOTE: If you have a spring-blooming tree, don’t prune it in the spring.) (And if you live somewhere with Oak Wilt -- like here in Michigan -- do NOT prune your oak trees at all between April and November.)
    • Cut back any of last season’s perennial foliage (if you left it for winter-interest). Be sure to add these cuttings to your compost pile if you have one. (And if you don’t, maybe you want to start one??? See below!)
    • You can rake mulch from garden areas with bulbs. It’s much easier to spruce things up before the foliage - and blooms - get really going.
    • Check your hardscape: fences, paths, patios, structures, etc. for any winter damage. Make plans for any repairs that need to happen.
  • Give your garden tools a tune up.
    • Gather your garden tools and check them out before the season gets going. Make sure you know where everything is, and make notes of any tools that need to be replaced. Maybe oil your pruners. Make sure you have enough garden gloves. That kind of thing.
  • Note the gaps in your garden and do some planning.
    • Spring is a great time to plan ahead. What new perennials, shrubs, or trees might you want to add to your landscape this season?
    • Alternatively, are there any things you’d like to dig out to transplant (or even pass along to a gardening friend)? It’s easy to dig out shrubs or larger plants in the spring -- before everything leafs out and your garden fills in.
    • Make lists of plants you’re looking for this season, so you can be ready when it’s time to hit the nurseries again.
  • Think about your lawn.
    • If you mow your lawn, make sure your lawn mower and related lawn equipment is all ready to go for another season. Get the blade sharpened, if needed. Make sure everything starts up again.
    • If you hire a service to mow for you, make sure you’ve contracted with them well before the mowing season begins. (Same with arborists, fertilizing services, and irrigation systems.)
    • Make plans for fertilizing your lawn. Purchase necessary products or contract with a lawn service. Mark your calendar for the recommended treatment dates in your area if you do it yourself. (Here’s a quick-and-dirty fertilizer schedule for northern lawns.) (Timing is important.)
    • Check out your hoses and sprinklers so they’ll be ready when you need them.
  • Prune shrubs.
    • Spring is a great time to do some pruning. It’s so much easier to see what you’re doing before there are leaves on the shrubs. Go ahead and take out dead, damaged, or diseased branches. But before you go much further . . . make sure you know the right pruning time for your shrub. (This is tricky - and one of the things I get asked most often as a Master Gardener. I’m including some handy shrub-pruning links below, but basically . . . don’t prune a spring-flowering shrub - forsythia, lilac, weigela, or quince, for exampleuntil AFTER it blooms.)
  • Prepare new garden beds.
    • Once the soil is warm enough to work, you can start prepping new beds for planting this year. Here’s Martha’s advice: “Clear the planting area as soon as soil can be worked, removing sod or weeds and debris. Spread a 4-inch layer of compost or well-rotted manure and any amendments over soil, and cultivate it to a depth of 10 to 12 inches with a spading fork. Rake it smooth before planting.”
  • Fertilize your existing garden beds.
    • As your garden wakes up, it’ll appreciate a little fuel. You can apply a balanced fertilizer (the numbers on the container should be 6-6-6 or 8-8-8) around trees and shrubs when new growth appears. You can spread high-acid fertilizer or pine-needle mulch around acid-loving shrubs like azaleas and rhododendrons. Start fertilizing your perennials when active growth starts.
  • Tend to your compost pile. (Or start one.)
    • I usually poke around a lot in my compost pile in the spring -- just to get things "cooking" again. Tom “harvests” compost from the bin for me, and then we start throwing things back in again, ready for another season of garden waste. (We use compost all over in the garden. We add a healthy serving of compost to every plant we put in the ground, and we spread it in our beds in the spring. We supplement our own supply of compost with bags of composted cow manure - it doesn't smell, by the way - that we stock up on each spring. Compost . . . is my biggest "garden secret.")
    • If you’re interested in starting a compost pile of your own, there is lots of helpful information online. You can start with this informative article if you want to learn more.
  • Clean Your Bird Feeders and Bird Baths
    • If you’ve already established yourself as a bird-friendly location, now is a great time to give your feeders a refresh. You can disinfect the feeders by scrubbing them with a weak bleach solution (¼ cup bleach: 2 gallons warm water). Rinse and let the feeders dry thoroughly before refilling them.
    • Scrub your birdbaths with the same bleach solution, then rinse them thoroughly and refill, changing the water weekly. 
    • Clean your bird baths and feeders regularly throughout the season. (I’ve never paid much attention to cleaning my feeders . . . until my daughter had to stop feeding her birds altogether this spring, as California is battling a bird-salmonella disease that is killing songbirds. I’ll be taking much better care of my birds this summer . . . )

No wonder I never feel like cleaning the INSIDE of my house . . . when there’s so much to do OUTSIDE in my garden! (And even though chores are chores, they just feel so much more like FUN out in the garden.)

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And now, those pruning tips I promised:

  1. Check out the excellent Pruning Demystified guide from Proven Winners.
  2. Here’s some other good general shrub-pruning advice.
  3. And here is some pruning advice specifically about hydrangeas.
  4. And here is advice specifically about pruning your clematis.

How about you? Do you prefer spring gardening chores . . . or spring in-the-house chores more?

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Spring Cleaning Gardening Tip of the Day

Be ready to take cover if freezing temperatures are in the forecast. If you garden in an area where late spring frosts and freezes are a possibility, be prepared to cover up plants that have tender emerging buds or foliage if freezing temps are in the forecast. If the buds haven’t begun to open yet, there’s no need to cover them. Old sheets and towels that have been relegated to the rag pile are a good option, and professional row cover is available for purchase, too. DO NOT cover tender plants with plastic sheeting or tarps. The effect of the plastic touching the newly emerging buds and foliage will magnify the cold’s effect, rather than mitigate it.   (Today's tip is from Proven Winners.)

Have a good spring cleaning - inside OR outside - tip of your own, or some spring cleaning advice you'd like to share? Please pass it along in the comments -- and I'll share in my post on Friday Monday! (I know I said I'd do this on Friday - today. But it's gonna be Monday.)

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Links to other posts in my Spring Cleaning series:

An Introduction and Some History of Spring Cleaning

Rolling Up Your Sleeves and Coming Up With Your Strategy

Finding Your Organizational Style

Taking Care of Closet Business



 


Taking Care of Closet Business

Welcome to Day 4 of . . . 

Spring Cleaning Week

“We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.”
   --- Marie Kondo

Let’s spend some time today talking about . . . our clothes closets, shall we?

By now, I’m sure that most of you - like me - have climbed aboard the KonMari train and gone through your closets, carefully checking out the clothes in your wardrobe to see if they “spark joy.” And maybe a few of you have even followed Courtney Carver down the Project 333 path (that Courtney Carver is surely not a knitter, is she?) (“33” is such an arbitrary, gimmicky number) (oh don’t get me started). Or some other multi-step, closet re-org project that begins with the words, “First, empty everything out of your closet . . ."

Uh-huh.
Been there, done that.

In fact, I’m going to say when it comes to “seasonal household chores,” one of the things I do best is Manage My Closet. A major motivator for me is . . . my climate. I live in a place that has seasonal extremes. I need clothes to keep me super warm in the winter, and clothes to keep me super cool in the summer. And since my closet isn’t big enough to hold them all at one time, I need to do a seasonal “closet switch-over” twice a year.

About 5 or 6 years ago, I did a very thorough “KonMari” of everything in my closet. I got rid of an embarrassingly large number of bags filled with clothes, jewelry, and accessories that didn’t “spark joy.” It was hard and humbling and I felt kind of terrible about the waste. Until . . . I didn’t . My pared down closet made me feel great! 

I’m no minimalist, though. I still like playing around with my clothes. (Besides, I knit. And sew. And I love fun earrings. And I actually need coats that cover a broad spectrum of weather and outdoor activities. I’m never going to limit myself to 33 items. . . ) But I am more thoughtful about what I ADD to my closet. And each season, I do a mini-version of KonMari . . . just to keep everything in balance.

So . . . here we are. It’s spring. And my closet could use a good going-over.
Again.

I think I’m struggling a bit more with my closet re-org than usual this spring. Because of the pandemic, of course. Usually. . . usually . . . when it’s time for my “seasonal closet switch” . . . I automatically discard anything I haven’t worn in the last year. I always know that if I didn’t wear it this year, I surely won’t wear it next year. But . . . in this pandemic year, I didn’t wear so many of the items in my closet. Because I didn’t go anywhere. And Tom - almost the only person who even sees me anymore - doesn’t care at all if I wear the exact same thing every single day. I think I’m going to have to give everything an automatic PASS this year . . . a pandemic skip-year for everything in my closet.

Anyway. Because I’m sure that most of us are in the very same boat (or at least similar boats) when it comes to our closets, I thought it might be helpful to just pass along a few of the more helpful tips I’ve come across in my closet cleaning quest over the years.

  • Each time you try something on from your closet, ask yourself these questions:
    • Do I love it? (As in . . . would I buy this today if I were in a store and trying it on?)
    • Do I wear it? (I think it’s just fine to substitute “would I wear this if not for the pandemic” instead this year.)
    • Does it project the image I want? (I know this seems trite, but it’s a serious question you ought consider.)
    • Does it itch or scratch? Does it pinch my toes? Feel too tight in the shoulders? Do I hate to sit down in it? (Really. Your clothes should feel good.)
    • Is it stained? Is it missing a button? Does it need mending? (And am I willing to fix it?)
    • Does it fit? (Right now. Today. Not after I lose 20 pounds.)

And if the answer to ANY of those questions is NO . . . well . . . it’s time to bid adieu to that particular item and move on.

  • Have a plan for what you want to DO with the items you decide to discard:
    • Try not to toss anything into the trash . . . unless it’s old, worn out underwear, moldy shoes, or something you wouldn’t even use for a cleaning rag.
    • You can ask friends or relatives if they’re interested in any of your cast-offs, although I find that as I get older, more of my friends are doing the same thing with their unwanted clothes and I have very few takers anymore. But your mileage may vary.
    • Know where your nearest Goodwill or other thrift stores are located, as well as their drop-off hours and any special donation requirements. Also pay attention to other organizations in your community that may be accepting donations. (Our local senior center, for example, runs a Used Handbag Sale every year. I’m always sure to donate my used bags to the cause.) (I'm also careful not to GO to the Used Handbag Sale. . . )
    • If you have particularly nice or higher-end stuff to donate, check out your local consignment shops, or send a box to ThredUp (they’ll send you a shipping label so you can ship your items to them for free -- and will send you your share of proceeds if the items sell online).
  • Donate unwanted items all year long. Don’t just clear out your pinch-y, itch-y, confining clothes once a year, when you’re flipping your closet for the season. Identify a spot in your closet for “stuff-to-donate” and add to it whenever you try something on  . . . and say, “Nope! Not sparking joy!” You can donate your unworn clothes all year long.
  • Cut the emotional ties. If you are holding onto “sentimental clothing” (outfits that were special at one time, but that you are unlikely to wear again) or “bad purchasing decisions” (that fill you with guilt), just . . . go ahead and let them go. It feels hard at first, but it’s so freeing when they’re gone. (And the money you spent on that “bad purchasing decision?” You won’t get it back just because the item is still hanging in your closet. The money is gone. You’re still not going to wear it.)
  • Prepare for next season. Before you pack your out-of-season clothes away, be sure to wash them, inspect them for any required mending,  and then carefully store them so they’ll be all ready for you when it’s time for the “seasonal switch” again.
  • Don’t forget your accessories. Be sure to go through your handbags, shoes, scarves, jewelry, and the back of your underwear drawer, too!

How about you? What are your closet organizing strategies?

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Spring Cleaning Tip of the Day

In Your Makeup Cabinet Getting rid of expired makeup, skincare, and hair products is a quick way to declutter. Not all products note an expiration date, but many say how many months the product will last after opening. "To stay on top of their expiration date, use a thin-tipped permanent marker to write on the date you opened it."  (Today’s tip is from Good Housekeeping.)

My note regarding this tip: You have to really look for the expiry information on skin care products and makeup, but it's there! Here's what to look for (and the number indicates the number of months the product "lasts" once it's opened) . . .

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Have a good spring cleaning - or closet organizing - tip of your own, or some spring cleaning advice you'd like to share? Please pass it along in the comments -- and I'll share in my post on Friday!

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Links to other posts in my Spring Cleaning series:

An Introduction and Some History of Spring Cleaning

Rolling Up Your Sleeves and Coming Up With Your Strategy

Finding Your Organizational Style



 


Off In A Different Direction

Welcome to Day 3 of . . . 

Spring Cleaning Week

“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.” 
   -- A.A. Milne

Today we’re going to veer off in another “spring cleaning” direction and talk about . . . paperwork management and maintaining a tidy home office. (It may not involve sudsy water or citrus-smelling spray bottles, but clearing the clutter of paperwork is very much part of spring cleaning.)

Now, I’m an organized person. I always know where my stuff IS, and I can find whatever I need without any problem. But . . . I’m not your typical “organized person.” (I don’t use a fancy filing system, for example. It’s more of a completely functional . . . piling system.) I’ve always known this about myself. But now, I understand why! I discovered organizational management consultant Cassandra (Cas) Aarssen of Clutterbug - and she tells me something I’ve known all along . . . that “Organization is not one-size-fits-all.” 

Cas explains that what works for some people organization-wise doesn’t necessarily work for others. She has discovered that there are four distinct organizing styles, and only one of these matches up with “traditional” office organization structures. Which means . . . if you happen to be in one of the other three groups, and you don’t organize in the “traditional” way, it will be especially challenging to design a work space for yourself that stays tidy in the long term.

“Almost all organizing products and systems are designed with the traditional organizing style in mind, and if your brain doesn’t work that way, then the system is never going to work for you! This is especially true when attempting to organize and maintain paperwork, which is why so many people struggle to organize a home office effectively.
   --- Cassandra Aarssen

According to Cas, there are four different organizing styles, and it’s pretty simple to self-identify which style you relate to. (Her website does include a quiz, in case you're having a hard time with the self-identification thing.)

First, there are two types of organizers -- visual and hidden.

  • Visual organizers love to see their important and everyday used items, and often suffer from “out of sight, out of mind.”
  • Hidden organizers, on the other hand, crave visual simplicity. They prefer to store their everyday items out of sight, such as in closets or cabinets.

Then, there are two ways your brain naturally processes information.

  • Micro organizers tend to be detail-oriented people who crave order and are natural planners. They prefer lots of categories and like to be able to find their items quickly. They tend to take a few extra seconds to put things away properly.
  • Macro organizers tend to be big-picture thinkers who like to focus on end results and are natural dreamers. They like to put things away quickly, and would prefer to spend their “extra seconds” finding an item when they need it.

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Cas has identified the four organizing styles (with catchy little “bug” names to go along with her “clutterbug” theme) (it took me way too long to figure out that connection).

  • Hidden, micro organizers are Crickets.
  • Visual, micro organizers are Bees.
  • Hidden, macro organizers are Ladybugs.
  • Visual, macro organizers are Butterflies.

Once you figure out your natural organizing tendencies, you can set up organizing systems in your home that complement your style and finally help you get organized . . . for good. (Or, at least, in a way that has a greater potential to work better for you.)

Turns out that so many people struggle with paper-organization because . . . most paper-organization systems are designed with Crickets in mind. Traditional paper filing systems with multiple categories just don’t work for macro-thinking Ladybugs and Butterflies. A macro organizer is rarely going to take the time to stop and file paper into different folders, so the paper gets stacked up (Butterflies) or shoved and hidden away (Ladybugs). And filing systems stored out of sight will not work for visual organizers like Butterflies or Bees. Visual organizers need to see their paper, so filing cabinets and file folders rarely work for these organizing styles.

Learning this . . . has been so helpful and affirming for me. Yep. I’m a Butterfly when it comes to organizing paper (and other stuff, generally). I’m not scattered. I’m not messy. I just like to . . . keep things where I can see them! (Once I file things away in my filing cabinet - which I DO have, by the way - it's like going into a vault. I can retrieve it, but I probably won't need to anytime soon.)

If you struggle with keeping your home office organized and tidy, you might want to check out Cas’ website. She offers information, advice, and suggestions (even that quiz) that can help you structure your own home organization system . . . one that will work for you!

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I know many of you probably feel heart palpitations or get an eye twitch when you see that photo of my home work desk. All that stuff . . . just everywhere. But after learning more about my own organizing style, I tucked my office into a little-used space in a guest room, got some open shelving for my desk, and a cart where I can keep all my paper stacks. It’s working. And, best of all, I don’t feel bad about it anymore.

How about YOU? Can you identify your organizing style? And does it match up with the way you organize your paperwork?

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Spring Cleaning Tip of the Day

Organize your most important papers in binders for easy grab-and-go in case of an emergency. For example, if there was a medical emergency, you could grab your medical binder and have all the information you need immediately. Here are some top binder categories:

Medical: This binder is where your family's medical records are kept. If you ever need to go to a new doctor or if you have a complex medical diagnosis, everything is organized in one spot.

Pet: This binder should contain your pets' medical records, shot records and medications.

Auto: This binder is designated for all car repairs, maintenance records and car insurance papers.

Manuals: Store your manuals in one place in this binder. You can even separate the binder by sub-categories, such as appliances, electronics, garden and house.

House: Store all house-related information here, such as maintenance, pest control, security system and contact numbers for handymen.

Personal: This binder can store anything else that doesn't fit in another category or file.

(Today's tip is from HGTV Lifestyle.)

Have a good spring cleaning - or home organizing - tip of your own - or some spring cleaning advice you'd like to share? Please pass it along in the comments -- and I'll share in my post on Friday!

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Links to other posts in my Spring Cleaning series:

An Introduction and Some History of Spring Cleaning

Rolling Up Your Sleeves and Coming Up With Your Strategy



 


Let's Get To Work

Welcome back to . . . 

Spring Cleaning Week

"I hate housework. You make the beds, you wash the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again."
— Joan Rivers

Today's the day we roll up our sleeves and get to work!

Okay. I know that there are some people out there who just love to clean -- and spring cleaning is a fun time of year for them. But . . . they are not me. Oh, I love the idea of a clean house - top to bottom - but I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. I take one look at the detailed “spring cleaning checklists” you can find online with a simple Google search . . . and I’m tired before I even begin! It seems so . . . Sisyphean. 

In days gone by, when I was working full time and had a busy family, I hired a cleaning person to help me stay on top of things around the house. Now that I’m not working, and it’s just Tom and I at home (and we’re pretty neat, generally, but dust still accumulates), I can’t really justify hiring someone to come in and clean for me anymore. So . . . I’m IT! I do love a clean and tidy space. It makes me feel lighter and happier. And I’m all in for sprucing up my house and doing some spring cleaning this year. So on I go.

I’m certain that spring cleaning . . . is one of those cases where it’s best to Know Thyself before beginning -- even before planning your strategy. Some people love having a very thorough, very thoughtful spring cleaning checklist to direct their efforts as they begin. And for you, I offer this: A few of the  best spring cleaning checklists I saw online as I was poking around for these blog posts:

  • Taste of Home’s Ultimate Room-by-Room Spring Cleaning Checklist is just that: a very thorough, very detailed (you might say . . .  the ultimate!) checklist of chores and tasks. It’s organized by room, and there is a printable version of the checklist on the website.
  • Imperfect Homemaking has slightly different (and perhaps even more detailed) Thorough Spring Cleaning Checklist, also organized by room. There is a link to a printable version of this list on the site, as well.
  • The Spruce offers a slightly different take on the spring cleaning list. Rather than organize tasks and chores by room, their strategy is to organize the chores by day -- 30 days, in fact. Their 30-Day Spring Cleaning Checklist has you moving all over the place, but focusing on one main type of chore each day.

If you like the idea of working from a checklist, or if you’re looking for a room-by-room strategy, one of these lists might be perfect for you. For me, though? Not so much. These lists are just . . . daunting to me. I want to do some spring cleaning. But not . . . All That.

So I am getting inspiration from a different source. I’m looking to advice from Melissa Maker, owner of Clean My Space and author Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster, and Loving Your Home Every Day. Melissa advocates a five-step plan to reduce spring-cleaning overwhelm.

  • Step 1: Choose Your MIAs (Most Important Areas)
    • Melissa explains that spring cleaning can be a choose-your-own-adventure type of job. She reminds us that there is no rule book on spring cleaning and that “the spring-cleaning authority isn’t coming by to inspect and leave a seal of approval on your door.” 
    • The key, according to Melissa, is flexibility. She encourages us to design our spring cleaning plan by first figuring out our MIAs (Most Important Areas) . . . the “hot spots” in your home that you dread looking at, the ones that make you grumpy . . . that cause you shame, frustration, or embarrassment. She says the first step should be to walk around your house with a notepad and see what really sticks out to you, what gives you that visceral reaction and makes your inner alarm bells go off. Maybe you’re fine with dusty floorboards . . . but you really are disgusted by your back hall closet, for example. That gives you a starting point - your own, personalized checklist -- and a place to focus your efforts.
    • Even with just the MIAs, our list may still be overwhelming. But Melissa assures us that having a plan makes it - at least - possible. “Even if you shoot for the moon and only see the stars, you’re way ahead of where you’d be otherwise,” she tells us.
  • Step 2: Get everyone involved
    • The key step here, according to Melissa, is to make sure that the tasks are assigned appropriate to age and ability (and I would add interest). 
    • This is a very nice idea. But . . . I don’t have a cadre of helpers anywhere in my house. (And I would argue that my kids were always less-than-enthusiastic helpers anyway.) AND . . . my primary helper (that would be Tom) has his own list of MIAs that don’t necessarily line up with mine. So this one? Not a real helpful or relevant piece of advice for me at this stage of my life. Instead of getting Tom involved in MY plan (and I do want to add . . . he does help me, and he does his own spring cleaning besides; I am not complaining one bit!), I look for where I can enlist the help of professionals. Carpet cleaning services, for example. (But not until after the pandemic settles a little bit more.) 
  • Step 3: Time block for success
    • Melissa makes an excellent point here: What gets scheduled gets done. She recommends putting chunks of time directly into your calendar for completing tasks. I have found this to be especially true -- if I don’t schedule the time, I don’t just “find” time just laying around in my schedule, and things don’t get done.
    • Melissa says . . . When you’ve drawn up your MIA list, look at your calendar and block in the time to accomplish your tasks. (And it doesn't have to be all in one day -- or weekend.) Also figure out what supplies and tools you’ll need to have ready -- so you can just dig right in when the time comes.
    • She also suggests removing all distractions during your time block -- getting your phone out of sight, not checking emails, turning off the TV. You need to focus on your mission. (I find it helpful to plug in a good audiobook, or some energizing music while I work.)
  • Step 4: Have your ducks in a row
    • Make sure you’re prepared for the task at hand before you begin. If you don’t have sponges or garbage bags, you’re not going to be able to complete your task! So, just like when you check your ingredients before cooking, check to make sure you have all your cleaning supplies and tools ready before you begin.
    • Also know how to dispose of things you’re purging before you begin: where to dispose of toxic materials (old paint, batteries, computer equipment, etc.), the hours of your nearest Goodwill drop-off center, organizations that will pick up big donations from your home, the date of your city’s “spring cleaning” pickup, etc. This is all good to know ahead of time because once you clear your “stuff” . . . you don’t want to have it sitting in your car trunk or garage for months.
  • Step 5: Celebrate
    • This one needs no explanation!
    • (And if you’re like me, you’ll keep opening up your freshly cleaned closet or refrigerator every now and then . . . just to look at your handiwork -- and to get that freshly-cleaned and organized feeling all over again.)

What do you think? Are you feeling more ready to tackle your spring cleaning chores?

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Spring Cleaning Tip of the Day

Use Old T-Shirts to Wipe Down Mirrors. When sorting clothes, set aside any old cotton T-shirts—they are excellent for giving mirrors a streak- and lint-free clean. For a chemical-free clean, mix white vinegar, distilled water, and a few drops of an essential oil. Shake, spritz, then wipe dry. (Today’s tip is from Oprah Magazine.)

Have a good spring cleaning tip of your own - or some spring cleaning advice you'd like to share? Please pass it along in the comments -- and I'll share in my post on Friday!

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If you haven't already, be sure to check out Monday's Spring Cleaning Week post to find out why I'm doing this series in the first place, and to learn a little bit about the history of spring cleaning.

 


Let's Take A Deep Dive

Welcome to . . . 

Spring Cleaning Week

“My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.”
-- Erma Bombeck

So . . . the idea of doing a "deep dive" into spring cleaning actually came to me last year, as a way to usher in spring here on my blog, and, perhaps, to motivate myself to get rolling on a spring cleaning plan of my own. I did a lot of research and reading and thinking -- and just as I was ready to begin writing my posts . . . the pandemic showed up instead! It just felt wrong to be writing about spring cleaning when I was in free-fall! Spring cleaning? Are you kidding me? SO not a priority for me last year. In fact, let’s just say . . . I didn’t do any spring cleaning (although I certainly had plenty of time).

Fast forward to . . . Now. A couple of weeks ago, spring started (slowly) unfolding, and my thoughts turned to spring cleaning again. I dug out all the handy information I'd stuffed away, and decided . . . heck. I'll do it now. It's spring again. I still need a spring cleaning plan. And, besides, I need all the motivation I can get! Although I love having a neat-and-tidy house (and I’m really not a slob at all), I always have a hard time choosing cleaning over the millions of other things I want to do. Spring cleaning just seems to be so overwhelmingly daunting - and not at all fun - to me. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

Maybe you, too?
Well. Join me. I've got a week of spring cleaning-related posts all tee'd up and ready to go!

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Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

What IS the big deal about spring cleaning anyway?
OR . . . A Very Small History of Spring Cleaning.

Spring cleaning, now, in our contemporary times, is an annual feel-good ritual that gives us a chance to catch up on chores, purge our closets, and welcome spring with fresh energy (and citrus scent!). But in the way-way-back-times, it was actually a necessity for health and well-being.

Before the advent of electric light and centralized heating, spring cleaning was essential in northern climates to restore indoor air quality after a long winter cooped up in a home heated and lit by coal, kerosene, wood, and whale oil -- which all left smoke in the air and soot on the windows - and every other surface in the house. Imagine the grime that would build up in a home after several months of winter!

“When you’re heating and lighting with open fires, the accumulation of grime,and the extent to which the house really got dirty from staying warm and well lit over the course of winter is beyond the comprehension of modern people.”
-- Susan Strasser, author of Never Done: A History of American Housework

So in the spring, houses were turned inside out as women (because you know it was women) hauled out rugs, curtains, and bedding outside to air -- while they scrubbed down every surface inside. And, back then, there was no indoor plumbing; no running water inside the house (it had to be carried in from elsewhere). No washing machines. No spray bottles of cleaning products. No places to “send things out” to be dealt with somewhere else . . . by someone else. No carpet cleaning services. Just a lot of back breaking work! And absolutely essential for improved air quality and a better standard of healthy living.

Here we are, more than a century later . . . still spring cleaning! Why? Why are we still doing this . . . now that we have electricity and central heating? Well. Part of it is due to our natural sleep-wake cycles. We DO sleep more in the winter months, and our energy levels drop. It's dark. It's cold. We just don’t have the emotional capacity or energy to deal with “keeping up” during the winter (and especially after the holiday crush). When spring - and longer days - return, we feel more energetic and ready to take on chores and household tasks again. Besides, our contemporary lives present their own hardships and impediments to cleaning. We may not have soot to deal with, but we do have jobs and commitments and children and, well . . . a pandemic.

So. How about YOU? Are you eager to get started with your spring cleaning chores? Or are you, like me, overwhelmed by the process (or . . . I should specify . . . overwhelmed by how much time the process takes)? Wherever you fall on the spring cleaning continuum, c'mon along this week for some tips, tricks, and strategies!

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Spring Cleaning Tip of the Day

Always work from top-to-bottom.When you think about how to spring clean your home, it’s important to start from the ceiling down. This will force debris downward and keep you from having to re-dust or re-clean your space. If you have a vacuum with an extension hose, use it to get cobwebs and dust from your ceilings and fans first. Then dust your furniture and other items before vacuuming all the dust and debris off your floors. It will save you time. (Today's tip is from Sylvane - Indoor Health Matters.)

Have a good spring cleaning tip of your own - or some spring cleaning advice you'd like to share? Please pass it along in the comments -- and I'll share in my post on Friday!