If only life were a Disney movie. With one trilling note, we could summon a team of forest animals to help us tidy up in under three minutes for nothing more than a literal song and dance. Alas, Snow White never shared her cleaning secrets and the woodland critters aren’t talking either. If you find yourself without a staff of animals to help you with this year’s spring cleaning, fear not. Between our room-by-room guide and tips on better storage, we’ll make this year’s clean sweep as painless as possible.
The Deep Clean
Spring has sprung, and that means it’s time to show last year’s dirt the door. Here are some general tips to get the dreaded deep cleaning started:
Organize cleaning supplies in a tote to carry with you. Walking back and forth for sprays and sponges just wastes time.
Clean a room from the top to bottom so no dust falls on an already clean surface. Then work left to right, front to back, whatever way ensures you don’t miss a spot!
Minimize distractions by turning off the reruns and leaving your phone in another room.
Pre-clean by picking up loose objects and making beds.
Now that you’re ready to transform your home into Clean Central Station, take our room-by-room checklist along for the spring cleaning spree.
Ceilings: Dust fan blades using a pillowcase to catch falling dust and swab dust out of ceiling corners, vents and off light fixtures. Finish these items before vacuuming.
Bathroom: Scrub showers, tubs, toilets and sinks. Wipe mirrors, counters and cabinets. Wash small area rugs and bathmats as well as towels. Change shower curtain liner.
Kitchen: Wipe inside and outside of refrigerator and cabinets; then replace shelf liners. Clean out junk drawer. Wipe stovetop and burners, and clean inside the oven. Sanitize the dishwasher by running it on its hottest cycle with two cups of vinegar inside.
Living Room: Vacuum upholstery, clean and condition leather, and polish wood. Vacuum between cushions. Move large furniture to clean underneath. Give lamps and shades a thorough dusting. Toss pet beds in the washing machine as well.
Bedroom: Strip sheets from the bed, vacuum the mattress for dust and mites and make the bed with clean sheets. Launder mattress pads and pillows. Dust any headboard, shelving, bookcase and small décor.
Floors: Wipe baseboards once with damp rag; then go over them with a dryer sheet to repel future dirt. Sprinkle baking soda on carpets to absorb musty odors. Vacuum after one hour. Vacuum and mop hard floors, waxing if they’re wood.
Windows: Vacuum curtains and dust the blinds. Wipe windowsills, and wash the windows and window tracks inside and out.
Keeping Up the Clean
No one has time for a daily deep clean of the entire house, but a good rotation will keep your house guest-worthy year round.
First things first, make your bed in the morning. A crisp bed will make any room look better. Sort your mail as soon as you take it in. Wipe down the counters while the microwave or toaster is doing its thing. Wash your dishes after every meal. Clean out the lint trap after each load. Spend five minutes each morning cleaning the bathroom; pick laundry up off the floor, put bottles and brushes in their place, wipe down the sink and surfaces, and rotate cleaning the toilet, mopping the floor, wiping down the shower and taking out the trash. Every evening, spend a few minutes cleaning the kitchen to wind down your day; clean any final dishes, wipe down the sink and countertops, give the floor a sweep, clear dust from under decorative items and appliances, and tie up your trash and replace the bag. When you come home, instead of settling right into the couch, put three items in their proper places. Get the whole family involved in your clean-as-you go method for a united front.
In The Zone
If you’re the type of person who likes to eat all your sides separately, then you might also want to separate your house into zones. However long you have to clean each day—15 or 20 minutes can be enough—set a timer and focus on one zone, and in a day or two, switch to the next zone. Remember, cleanup doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough.
When For What & What For When
Luckily, not everything needs to be cleaned every day; some items can be left for a week, others for months.
Laundry: This can be a weekly chore but will depend on the size of your family.
Vacuum:Vacuum weekly, though pet owners or those prone to allergies might want to do this a little more often. Annually or biannually, steam clean those carpets.
Dusting: Dust weekly to avoid bunny buildup.
Duvets and Comforters: Sheets get washed every week, but duvets and comforters are often forgotten. Clean these at least twice a year according to individual instructions.
Windows: Your windows bring light into your home; show them love by washing every other week.
Showers and Bathtubs:Clean these no less than every third week to prevent mildew.
Mattresses: Flip and rotate your mattress every two to six months.
Sweeping: Let’s be honest; daily.
Mopping: Every couple of days.
All-Natural or Store-Bought? That is the Question
Everything is going natural these days, from food to makeup and now to household cleaners. Take a look at this list and decide if a greener cleaner is right for you.
Pros: When used properly, store-bought cleaners are harmless, but adding pets and small children to the mix can be cause for concern. Eco-friendly cleaners are made from all-natural ingredients like vinegar and citric acid instead of ammonia and NPEs, so they’re safer and more biodegradable. The chemicals in brand-name cleaners are usually rinsed down the drain and wind up in water runoff, which is detrimental to the environment over time.
Cons: Buying the eco-friendly version of a brand-name cleaning product is almost always more expensive because they aren’t mass-produced like chemical cleaners. Making natural cleaners at home can prevent excess spending with just a little invested time. The biggest problem with homemade cleaners is their effectiveness, as they’re not as harsh as their chemical counterparts. If you’re not averse to putting out a little more elbow grease, they should still get the job done.
Make Your Own
Blogger Ruth Soukup of Living Well, Spending Less created this all-purpose cleaner recipe but also whipped up nine custom cleaners for every area of the house. You can check out her blog for the rest, but here is her dirt-n-grime cure-all, which uses vinegar for a true clean.
1 Tbsp borax
1 Tbsp washing soda 1 tsp dishwashing soap
1 cup vinegar
4 cups hot water
25-30 drops essential oil
Whisk all ingredients together well in large bowl; then pour into spray bottle.
Spray on; then wipe surface clean with a damp cloth.
Recipe courtesy of Ruth Soukup, livingwellspendingless.com
No clean home is worthy of the name if overrun with clutter. Daily tidying is not nearly so exasperating when you know exactly where each misplaced object belongs. Convenient containers that match your style will make the process all the more enjoyable, but before you run out and stock up on buckets and baskets, do your cleaning and de-cluttering. Strip down to what you want before adding anything new to the mass. Once you know what items you need new spaces for and how much room you have, you can stock up on storage. Better yet, take advantage of this DIY opportunity.
The back of your door is… Organized
It’s time to boldly utilize what you’ve never utilized before: the backs of your cabinets. You heard right, a simple modification to the back of your pantry, medicine cabinet or kitchen cabinet doors can create a better solution to the junk drawer. Don’t like the look of a bulletin board but like the convenience of pinning coupons? Attach cork to the back of the door. If you’re up for some hammering, attach a magazine rack to store flat lids or cutting boards or even thin boxes of aluminum foil and plastic wrap. To keep curling and flat irons untangled and out of the way, mount portions of PVC pipe to the bathroom cabinet door. The iron itself fits into one portion of pipe, the looped cord into another. For the medicine cabinet, add a magnetic strip for bobby pins, tweezers, nail clippers and manicure scissors.
Not enough shelves in the world
Your home doesn’t have enough storage space? No problem. Rather than rummage through cabinets for that fondue set you swear is back there, place all your items in a tub that can easily slide out when you need it. Along the same lines, use canvas totes or baskets to slide out so kid’s toys are out of the way yet easily accessible. For jewelry or other small items that can’t seem to stay together, up-cycle ice cube trays, paint palettes or old china for neat containers. You can find a huge variety of organizational tips on sites like Pinterest.
Organize The Clean
Cleaning is made a whole lot easier when you can quickly find your products. Most of us already keep our supplies under the kitchen sink, so why not maximize the convenience? Put up a tension rod for hanging spray bottles. Add hooks for dishrags and plastic tubs or baskets for sponges and gloves. Over-the-door shoe organizers are perfect for cleaning supplies in the laundry room.
In An Orderly Fashion
Ocala’s professional organizer Cathy Johnson offers her tricks of the trade and makes it easy to pare down belongings and give them all a home.
How do you efficiently clean out and organize space?
Let’s say we’re talking about a pantry. Take everything out. The first thing you have to do is sort. Throw out the expired items. Put all like things together so you can see what you have. The next step is deciding what you use most and placing those at eye level. I get rid of packaging—it takes up tons of space. Clear bins work great in pantries so you can see everything and keep the groups together.
How do you maintain the organization?
Everything has to have its own place. If you don’t create a space for everything, that creates clutter. In the closet, we’ll buy new clothes or shoes and bring them in, but we don’t take anything out. Everything is where it should be, but if you bring something in and take nothing out, you’ve created clutter. If you don’t have a place to put it, don’t buy it.
How can we keep paperwork from piling up?
One of the best tricks is to pay everything online and save the confirmations. To get rid of paper clutter, set up a scanner and scan in paid bills and other documents. Create folders to keep it all organized. If scanning won’t work for you, remember, the next best thing to a filing cabinet, if you don’t have one, is a plastic file box.
And those pesky receipts?
People always tell me they lose receipts. Take a Ziploc bag, hang it inside a cabinet door somewhere convenient and put receipts there every time you come in. Every month, take the bag down, seal and date it, and put it in a container. Put a new one up. After a year, you throw them away.
How do you remedy a chaotic Tupperware cabinet?
Use a drawer for your plastic storage containers. Go through them and unless you use multiple containers a day, you really only need five or six. Nest them from large to small; don’t store them with the lids on. Office desk organizers and letter sorters work well for lids, and the best thing is a basket that the lids can fit inside.
What are your day-to-day rules of thumb for staying organized?
Don’t have a miscellaneous area. If it’s worth having, it’s worth having a place. I often use a clear, over-the-door shoe rack for things like batteries, bug spray, flashlights, tape, scissors and things like that. They’re easily found because you can see them, and they’re convenient. Anything like that that gets used often can be put on the back of the door and everyone will know where it is. When organizing, touch it once. If you pick it up, put it where it belongs.
How can parents get kids involved in organizing?
For families with children, about every three months set up 30 minutes for everyone to gather trash and donate-able items from their areas. You can trash the excess and then right away drop off the donations. Then, go do something fun with the family, like go to lunch or a movie. It keeps the home from getting cluttered and keeps everyone in the mood for organizing.