Spring is just around the corner, and by goodness, it can’t get here soon enough: the weather is finally getting warmer, the shorts are getting shorter, and the little “friends” I’ve worked darn hard to keep from nesting in my garage have finally decided to make for the great outdoors. As well they should! It’s going to be gorgeous out there, and I can’t wait to start absorbing some long-overdue sunlight. Before I can truly get to enjoy the outdoors, though, I’ve got to get things organized, settled, and cleaned up indoors. During the winter, like twenty percent of the population, I usually suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. In fact, since women are four times more likely to experience SAD than men, the chances are you may have suffered from its effects as well. The depression I feel while under Jack Frost’s thumb typically leaves me depleted of energy and inner light, which manifests itself in unfinished chores around the house, garage, and storage facilities. The single best way to banish the discomfort and doubt of the cold, dark, and endearingly long winter is to dust off both the literal and figurative cobwebs that it’s tried to leave behind. Winter is leaving, and it’s time to get active again and take control of my life by taking back control of my environment.
Spring Into Action
After a long, seemingly interminable season of wet and dank weather, one of the hardest parts of spring cleaning for me is just getting started. I’ve found the best strategy is to make a list of projects to get done, and to just bite off what I can chew at the time. If you have a busy schedule already, and you aren’t sure how to out the time to get your hands dirty, here’s a simple trick I use for when I’ve got to get moving: simply set your alarm for thirty minutes before you normally would, climb into your cleaning clothes (just a set of comfy sweats, picked out the night before and right beside your bed), and start with a small project from this list. It doesn’t even have to be one that you can finish in thirty minutes: just one that you can start. A little work at a time goes a long way if you pick at it every day, and soon this whole list will be checked off.
Classic Cleaning Checklist
- Get clear: Clean your windows inside and out. Use a squeegee in long strokes to dry them. Replace storm windows with screens and polish windows and door hardware.
- Look what’s underfoot: Vacuum the entire house, including baseboards, moldings, ceilings, and walls. Launder your area rugs and shampoo your carpets. You can rent a carpet cleaner from a hardware store or grocery store.
- Shine it up: Wax wood furniture and floors. Try an all-purpose cleaner diluted ¼ cup to 1 gallon for that “slide across the floor in your socks and underwear when no one else is in the house” sheen.
- Be safe, not sorry: Make sure batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working. Check your fire extinguishers to make sure they work, too.
- Be friendly to your furniture: Wipe down upholstery and steam-clean anything that’s deeply soiled.
- Take a curtain call: Hang your drapes and blankets outside to air them out.
- Give appliances some TLC: Clean the inside of the fridge and freezer. Vacuum the grates, vents, and coils on your fridge, stove, air conditioner, and furnace. Wipe down the stovetop and dissolve cooked-on foods. Dilute a typical dishwashing liquid with some hot water to clean shelves and drawers in the fridge. Use vinegar to wipe down the outsides of small appliances, refrigerators, and anywhere you want to sparkle.
- Be like “Elsa,” and just “let it go”: Toss expired food, medications, and makeup. Go through your closets and toss anything that’s stained or tattered, give away stuff you haven’t worn all season, and store winter clothing to make room for spring and summer goods.
- Clear out the closets: As long you are turning over your closets, slip a dryer sheet on a shelf or two of the linen closet or down in the corner of the shoe space for freshening.
- Conquer the great outdoors: Scrub outdoor furniture and hose down lighting fixtures, walkways, porch and deck floors, and the driveway. Clean the gutters. Try an all-purpose cleaner for outdoor cleaning needs.
- Shoe Maintenance: Clean up those tennis shoes before spring and summer outdoor activities. Any boots that might have some salt build-up from the winter, before packing them away for next year, take a couple of swipes with a vinegar cleaner.
- Car Cleaning: Use a multi-surface, everyday cleaner for the inside of the car, especially the door base area that has taken on winter soils.
With Every Season, Turn
I know firsthand what it feels like to try and pull yourself up by your cleaning bootstraps when you’d rather do anything but. But after I work from the above list, and just pick a project to get done every couple of days, soon I start to feel like I really can accomplish all of them with just a little time. As the days get longer, brighter, and warmer, pretty soon I’m swept away by the infectious positivity of spring, with a place that’s clean enough to stop the infectious spread of anything else.