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Spring Cleaning — Why, when, and how to spring clean your home

March 10, 2020

I love to spring clean! I love the fresh feeling of a room that’s sparkling and spruced from top to bottom. Some people never spring clean, and others would like to but don’t make the time. That’s okay. It’s just a different approach to tackling your home’s needs. For me, spring cleaning is an annual opportunity to give each room in my home a little extra care.

Why spring clean?

Well, when else would I take apart and clean the ceiling fan vent in the bathroom? When would I wash and iron the bed skirt on the guest bed, wash the oven racks, and repair the sticky door to the walk-in closet? It’s certainly possible to tackle these things as they come up, but I find that hard. I have limited time to clean each week, and these above-and-beyond tasks are just not going to get done without a designated season. For me, spring cleaning means I get to address little fixes, do big cleanings, and give each room a dose of TLC. 

When to spring clean?

Who says you have to “spring clean” in the spring or in one fell swoop?  Some other options:

• Another season. I used to spring clean in the fall. I’d finish up in early November, which meant the house was in tip-top shape for the winter holidays. It also meant that I didn’t spend prime outdoor weather indoors cleaning house. 

a person with long hair spring cleaning windows

• Year round. I’ve also tried spring cleaning throughout the year. I’d tackle one or two rooms or areas each month, and by the end of the year the first room was due for a “spring cleaning” again. The good thing about this approach is that it’s very manageable. You can work it into your regular cleaning schedule (though extra time does need to be scheduled) and concentrate on one room at a time. Of course, that can also be a disadvantage. If I give myself a whole month to do a room, then I’ll use it all. And the whole house is never clean at the same time, which really is the feeling I’m going for when it comes to spring cleaning.  

• Pre-spring season. These days, I spring clean in very early spring — when it’s still too early to be out getting my hands muddy but nice enough to open all the windows (and clean them, too!). Once spring has truly sprung, I often feel torn between inside and outside. I try to get the interior of the house in good shape before then, so I can give outdoor projects my full attention.

Many people from previous generations would spring clean their homes all at once — not a small task, given the need to remove soot and ashes often left by heating. I just can’t imagine spring cleaning an entire house at one time, though — unless maybe I had a week’s vacation that I could devote to it. (All of a sudden spring cleaning doesn’t sound so wonderful!) So I schedule two rooms/areas per week. Since we have about eight rooms/areas in our home, it takes one month to complete a spring cleaning. For me, March is spring clean month.

How and what to spring clean?

The what is easy —everything. Everything needs to be cleaned — behind, in, and under appliances, shelving, and furniture. Everything washable (curtains, bedding, pillow covers) should be washed, and dry cleanables (some drapes, for example) dry cleaned. Starting at the top, take apart and clean light fixtures, dust ceilings and walls, and wash baseboards. (No, you don’t want to be remembered for your clean baseboards, but neither do you want them collecting dirt and dust forever. We have white baseboards in our home, so I dust them weekly. For spring cleaning, though, they get a good scrubbing.)

Iron and replace linens, clean glass on mirrors and pictures (which you’ve removed from the walls so you can dust behind them), and sweep and polish your floors or clean your carpets. 

Repair anything that’s in your skillset. If you need a pro to help, jot it down in your household notebook (see below). 

You get the idea. If it can collect dust and dirt, get wrinkled or grimy, or needs repair, spring cleaning season is the time to address it. 

BTW, some ambitious people include basements, garages, and even vehicles in their spring cleaning routine. I tackle those separately (as “special projects”), but if you have the time and energy, tag ’em on!

A couple of tips:

• Keep a household notebook in hand.

two glass spray bottles sitting beside a cleaning brush and rags

I use a notebook to jot down things that need attention but that I need help with. An electrical socket that needs replacing and a broken chair leg that needs repairing would both go in the notebook under the “Pro Help Needed” section. During spring cleaning, I contact experts to help get these jobs done. 

The notebook also has a “Wish List” section. I don’t have to tell you what goes in there! (My wish list includes everything from glass doorknobs to a new washer and dryer.)

Jotting things not yet done and purchases not yet made in the notebook helps me feel that a room is actually “finished,” even if it’s not yet the ideal room. At least I’ve made plans to address the issue in the future!

• Spruce up each room up a bit without going overboard. 

It’s easy to purchase things unnecessarily when spring cleaning. Yes, new curtains might be a wonderful add to your newly cleaned bedroom, but when you get to the living room, you might also want a new accent table. Instead, jot down each room’s needs (and your wishes) in your household notebook. Then you can access your overall budget and priorities all at once when you’re finished. You’re likely to buy (and spend) less this way. 

In the meantime, though, I like to look for ways to improve each room without spending (or with very minimal spending). For example, when I spring cleaned the walk-in closet last week, I used leftover paint that we had in the basement to give the closet shelves a fresh coat. And I bought a shoe hanger to get the shoes off the floor (making it easier to clean during weekly cleaning sessions). Replacing the laminate floor went on the wish list, though, along with repainting the entire room. In the living room, I put a new light fixture on the wish list and bought new hand towels. 

You may have noticed that I include expenditure of time as well as money when I think about my wish lists. It wouldn’t cost much money to paint that walk-in closet, but it would take a good chunk of time. This is an especially important brake I need to use when I’m spring cleaning. Otherwise, I’d wind up doing major renovations in each room and never get through the whole house!

• Use tools and supplies you like.

I’m not big on having lots of equipment for cleaning (I could get by with a bucket, some washrags, and a couple of cleansers), but I appreciate some cleaning items — like my beautiful handmade broom and simple cotton cleaning cloths. Use items that you enjoy handling. For cleansers, I recommend purchasing sustainable products or making your own. Choose or make some with your favorite scent (I like citrus for cleaning), to enhance the experience!

a child holds a rainbow colored duster

• Enlist help.

While kids (and even partners) are sometimes reluctant to help with day-to-day chores, if you share your vision about spring cleaning as a project, you might just drum up some enthusiasm. It’s a good opportunity to teach kids some important skills, and they may especially enjoy making their own wish list or trying a new furniture arrangement as you help them put their room back together after cleaning. You might consider rewarding them with something from the list for pitching in. 

• Bask.

Take time to enjoy your work. When my son was grade school age, he helped me clean the garage. It was an old garage on a farm, separate from the house, and it was never going to look wonderful, but we did get it tidy and somewhat cleaned out. As soon as we finished, I said, great, now let’s go hang up the laundry! Zak said, “Wait, Mom, let’s look at what we did!” So we stepped back, garage door open, and took in our work, patting each other on the back. He was so right, and I often remind myself to stop and bask in each accomplishment! (With spring cleaning, there are many basking opportunities!)

Do you spring clean? When and how (all at once or a bit at a time)? 

You might also like: Wood floor TLC and When your home’s needs exceed your budget.

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