Spring Cleaning 101

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I clean all the time. I constantly feel the need for organization, so I am often scrubbing my carpets or purging my closet. That being said, sometimes I look around and think to myself how in seven hells my house still looks overrun and unkempt.

Luckily, we’ve hit the time here in the South where windows can be thrust open and houses aired out. This usually brings an urge to sit outside drinking sweet tea in the sun, but if you’re abnormal like me, it means you can finally (and literally) shed some light on what’s making the house such a cluster of crap.

Naturally, you might be overwhelmed with how to start tackling your ominous messes, so I took some notes this year about what worked and what left me worse than where I started, and I think I’ve finally got a foolproof system worked out.

1. You cannot do it all in one day.

Even if it’s the sunniest day, even if you are at the top of your game, EVEN IF MARTHA STEWART HERSELF WERE THERE TO HELP… you cannot finish your spring cleaning in a day. If you want to do it right, you have to take your time deep cleaning and really purging all of your house’s orifices. You will feel like a failure at first, but in the long run, you will feel more satisfied with the results of your seasonal cleanse if you do it the right way, not the short way.

2. Clean from top to bottom.

I feel like this should be obvious, but even the best of us forget sometimes: if you spend 30 minutes cleaning something on the floor only to turn around and dust your top shelves, you’re going to find very quickly that you need to re-do everything you just did at ground level. There will be lots of “damn its” and other choice words involved.

3. Start with the basics.

Do what you would normally do on a day of cleaning your house: wash your dishes, do your laundry, dust, vacuum, clean all surfaces, mop, sweep, etc. and dig deeper than you ever have when doing those activities. Scrub harder. Get those hard to reach spots you normally ignore. Use a deodorizer or another cleaner where you normally only use one. Make it count, y’all.

4. Deep clean.

This is when you tackle each room with the hardcore stuff I normally never touch my house with. I’m an all-natural cleaner gal, but when it comes to deep cleaning, I bust out the bleach. Go room by room, starting with the two dirtiest places of the whole home: your bathroom and your kitchen. Make sure you sanitize everything. This might mean… GASP! … having to move an item or 20, but it’s worth it when you see your rooms ACTUALLY shine like they do on those ridiculous Mr. Clean commercials.

5. Purge first, organize later.

Don’t buy anything new for organizational purposes or rearrange your entire house before going through every. single. item. in your inventory. Chances are, by the time you go through the items at hand, you’ll have at least a quarter less than what you started with. Only then should you organize. Hell, you might even find that you don’t need any new containers or files since you have freed up the ones you already own!

6. Yes, I really said get rid of a quarter of your things.

As time has gone by, I’ve realized that most of the stuff I have in my house is just unnecessary; I keep a lot of things out of nostalgia. But my boyfriend’s sister taught me the best trick for getting rid of things that hold only a memory, not a purpose: spend some time with that shirt or that old birthday card, remembering the happiness it brought, then kiss it goodbye and send it off to the Goodwill bag or the trash. I know it seems silly and simple, but it’s really, really helpful if the only thing keeping you between a pig sty and a clean house is a pile of meaningless things. All of that said, the reason you should start paring down with this quarter of items is so you can live a life with less: less things = less mess and more psychological freedom.

7. Donating, consigning, and selling are your best friend.

Take all of that stuff you’re purging from your life and put it into someone else’s. Whether that is through donations or Ebay or a local consignment shop, get it out of your house ASAP. Even if it sits in your trunk for 3 months, the clutter is out of your house and unable to return to your drawers or tabletops. Think of the happiness your old things could bring someone else, and you’ll find letting go is the easiest thing you’ve ever done. {Personal tip: I like to mix all three of these things, selling the best pieces to used book stores or online, while donating everything else. Sometimes, it’s easiest to just donate it all at once, and bonus: tax write-off!}

8. Any DIYs or projects you need to get done? DO THEM ALL NOW!

While you’re cleaning, do any big projects you’ve been holding off on. It might actually help you organize while you’re cleaning, and half of the items you have stored around for DIYs are just taking up space, so CRAFT YOUR DAMN HEART OUT! It might make a bit of a mess, but that’s where the next coupla steps come in…

9. Give a light once-over of your whole house when you’re finally finished.

You may have to re-vacuum or re-dust after making a mess for a few weeks, especially if you had any projects that involved wood or paint. However, because of all the work you’ve put in, you’ll have significantly less trouble doing this. In fact, it might only take you 30 minutes. WHAAAAT?!!! Awesome.

10. Acknowledge and accept the fact that you will have to clean again, probably sooner rather than later.

Yes, you’ll follow steps 1-9 for some indeterminate amount of time and feel great! Free! LIGHTER THAN AIR! WALKING ON SUNSHINE! … but you must realize that it won’t last — it never does — and you have to be okay with this. For those of us on the OCD scale, this last step is a little harder to grasp than others, but it’s just not a possibility that items would never need cleansing again. Dogs shed. Shoes track dirt. Dust particles gather. That saying about death and taxes being the only sure things in life? It should definitely include cleaning, too!

I hope this helps. What are some of your cleaning and organizing tricks?

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