Spring cleaning season is here again. Hurray! (Or groan.) Whether you love doing away with winter cobwebs or you cringe at the sight of a feather duster, now is a great time to freshen up your home.
While many people know they should be giving their houses a deep clean during this time of year, most don't know where to start. Here are some great tips from cleaning experts on how to prioritize and manage the big spring clean.
Take it Slow
Mary Baker, who has been cleaning houses for more than 20 years in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, suggests spreading the job out. "A lot of people make the mistake of trying to get everything done in one long session, only to end up exhausted and quitting before the job is finished," she says.
Instead, spread the job over a week or a couple of weekends. Look at your schedule and figure out when you can devote time to this project. Breaking things up into small chunks of time will make it much more manageable. Hire a babysitter to get the kids out of the house for an afternoon, so you'll be more productive.
Make a Room-by-Room List
Jen Murphy started cleaning houses in college and now runs a cleaning business near Portland, Ore. She believes that the most important step is to make a list. "Go around the entire house and make a list of jobs for each room. Once the list is made, mark each item with a 1, 2 or 3, with 1 being the most urgent." Murphy suggests. "That way you know what to conquer first when you enter the room."
Tasks you do regularly, like straightening up and doing the laundry, shouldn't be your focus. Think about the more intense jobs that you usually avoid or only do once a year (or before your mother-in-law comes to visit) -- those are the things that should be given a 1 on your list.
Prioritize Your Tasks
When it comes to spring cleaning, everyone's prioritizes are different. Some people focus on cleaning every inch of their house, while others try to organize and purge.
"After the basics, people's needs differ," Baker says. "Many people want to give the bathrooms a good scrubbing, cleaning the fixtures and putting up a new shower curtain, while others may prefer to tackle the laundry room or start organizing shelves."
Here are some common deep cleaning tasks that you may want to put at the top of your checklist.
- Pull out all appliances and clean behind and under them
- Clean the fridge, including dusting the coils, defrosting the freezer and scrubbing all shelves and compartments
- Clean inside the oven
- Vacuum and flip mattresses
- Clean pillows and comforters
- Wash all windows and clean windowsills and hardware
- Clean drapes and blinds
- Wipe and dust walls and ceilings
- Organize closets
- Vacuum behind and under furniture and flip all cushions
- Deep clean your child's playroom
- Empty, clean and reorganize shelves and bookcases
- Change the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
- Clean outdoor furniture
- Wash off patio, deck, driveway and any outside areas
Inventory Cleaning Supplies
Now that you know what needs to get done, make sure you have the right tools. Go through your to-do list and your cleaning products and see if you have everything you'll need. Do you need a new vacuum, duster or toilet bowl brush? How is your supply of sponges? Make a trip to store to replenish expired or almost empty products.
"Having all your supplies gathered beforehand will save on both time and frustration" Murphy says.
Ever thought about switching to green cleaning products? Since you're re-stocking your cleaning supply cabinet anyway, now is a perfect time to turn over an environmentally friendly leaf. As you go through your to-do list, think about how you can clean without using chemicals.
Here are some options to get you started: Green Cleaning: 12 Natural Solutions that Really Work »
Give Away What You Don't Use
In additional to actual cleaning, spring cleaning is the perfect time to sort through toys, DVDs, clothing, household items and sporting goods. If you haven't used it in the past year, do you really need to keep it? Donate items to local groups or organizations. (Check out this list of national charities that accept donations.)
"As you clean a room, take the time to remove and box up products you no longer use," says Baker. Then put the boxes directly into your car as soon as they're filled. "Getting the items into the box is the first step, but getting them into the car is necessary for getting them out of the house," she suggests. This extra step also creates less to have to clean next year!
"I always tell people to make the list, but don't expect to finish everything; it's just too much pressure," Murphy says. Focus on getting the 1s on your list checked off. Then move on to 2s and 3s when you have time. Post the list on the fridge so it's harder to ignore.
Bring in Professional Help
Is your list more than you think you can handle? Do you have a busy schedule or finicky baby that makes finding time to clean difficult? Instead of putting off your spring cleaning, hire some help. It's okay to admit you can't do it alone.
Find a housekeeper through a site like Care.com. Mention you're looking for someone to help out for a few hours (or days, depending on your list) with spring cleaning chores.
Yes, spring cleaning sounds scary and overwhelming, but if you go in with a step-by-step plan, your home will soon be squeaky clean in no time, and you'll be outside enjoying the spring weather. Take that feather duster!
And in the comments section below, share your tricks for getting through the spring cleaning chaos.
Kristy Stevens-Young is a freelance writer in Seattle.