If you’re still breathing and not overly traumatized after cleaning your kitchen and living room, you can move on to the rest of the house to keep tidying things up. Just pace yourself, go slowly, be thorough, and take water/crying breaks as needed.
Bedroom(s) and Closets
Chances are that most of your clothes are stored in your bedroom, while things like outerwear and winter gear are in hall closets and the like. The Great Spring Clean is a perfect time to sort through all of your stuff to determine what stays, and what should go.
1. Lay a sheet or large towels on your bed, and then pull everything from your closet and dresser out and flop it all on top of the sheet. This will give you the opportunity to see everything in one go.
2. Ensure that you have a large bag handy for anything you choose to give away, and another bag for items you might be able to sell via consignment stores or Ebay.
3. Pick up one item of clothing at a time, and think carefully about why you have it. Do you love this item? Do you wear it often? If you haven’t worn something for over 2 years, why are you holding onto it? If it’s of high quality and value and you’d feel guilty not keeping it, then sell it. If you’re holding onto something you love because you hope you’ll fit back into it one day, get rid of it—you can find a new piece that you’ll love even more.
4. While your dresser drawers and closet are empty, take the opportunity to freshen them up a bit: you can put paper liners in the drawers, vacuum the closet, and even fill that empty spray bottle with water and essential oil to spritz the closet walls for a light, fresh scent.
5. Fold each drawer-bound item and put it away, and hang each piece of clothing neatly in the closet. This is a chance for you to organise your closet in a new way, so consider hanging things by colour instead of clothing type, or pairing items together into favourite outfits.
6. Do laundry as needed: if, as you’re putting things away, you notice that a few items smell a bit musty, toss them into the laundry. You’ll also want to wash the clothes that you’ll be donating or selling, because that’s the nice thing to do. Moth-eaten, stained, torn, or chewed-on pieces should be thrown out.
7. Wash and put away your warm winter bedding, then wash your lighter spring/summer linens before making your bed with them. Remember to flip your mattress before putting new sheets on the bed! Duvets and blankets should be washed as well, as should curtains, throw blankets, and any other bits of fabric lying around. Spritz pillows with freshener and plump them up a bit too.
8. Wipe down blinds with a wet cloth, and change filters in humidifiers or air conditioners.
If you have kids, tackle their rooms in a very similar manner, only enlist their help to determine what stays and what goes. They can try on clothes to see which have been outgrown, and they can also decide which toys they no longer play with and can bear to part with.
*Note: if those used toys and books are in good condition, they can be donated to charity organizations and your local children’s hospital.
This one really isn’t as scary as you might have thought, unless you haven’t cleaned your bathroom for a decade and there’s a small family of rats living under your toilet. You’ll tackle this room in the same way you did the bedroom; one step at a time.
1. Empty it out. Take every last loose bit of anything out of the bathroom, and lay it out on your kitchen/dining room table or floor. Imagine that you’re moving out and you’re clearing out everything you own.
2. Call in an old priest and a young priest. No, no… all you really need is a solid cleaning here: begin at the top and work your way down. Get up on a chair and wash the ceiling with spray cleaner, and then wash the walls from the top down to the bottom. Try not to scream when you realise how much crud is on the cloths. Do the same with bathtub/shower enclosures.
3. Pour a few cupfuls of white vinegar into the toilet and close the lid. Leave that to soak while you tackle the rest of the room.
4. Wash the porcelain around the toilet, sink, and tub, and then scrub the insides of the tub and sink with baking soda and cleaner to scour out any soap scum. Rinse with water.
5. Clean all glass and metal fixtures with glass cleaner or full-strength vinegar, and dry with a clean cloth.
6. Now you’re allowed to open the toilet so you can discover the sparkling wonderland that the vinegar has taken care of for you. Flush it, then pour more vinegar in and slosh it around with the toilet brush, scrubbing out every cranny. Flush again.
7. Go through all the stuff you removed from the bathroom and determine whether you need to put it back in there. If you do, wipe it down with a clean, damp cloth, and give it a proper home. Personal care items that you use daily (toothbrush, moisturizer, contact solution, razor, deodorant, medication) can go in the medicine cabinet. Other items can be tucked away under the sink, or in other cupboards in the room.
8. Throw stuff out. There’s no need to hold onto a toothpaste tube that still has 1/900th of an ounce of gel in it that you’ll never get out, and makeup that expired in 2005 isn’t something you want to put on your face. Cull all the things you don’t use, check expiry dates, and dispose of old medication safely.
9. If you don’t have enough storage for all your stuff, make some. It’s easy to put up some basic shelves, and then you can organize things like makeup, brushes, etc. into storage boxes on those shelves to keep everything nice and tidy. If you’re broke, screw milk crates into the wall for storage. I have a $2 stainless steel bucket hanging from a hook in my bathroom for curling and straightening irons, so there’s proof that you don’t have to break the bank to keep things tidy.
10. Wash bathmats, bathrobes, and any other fabric items that are normally kept in the bathroom. Prolonged exposure to damp spaces can make things smell musty and funky, so be sure to launder these fairly regularly.
These areas tend to function as “dumping grounds” when we don’t know exactly what to do with an item, but aren’t quite ready to toss it out. Miscellaneous stuff can accumulate over the years, and not only does it take up a lot of space that could otherwise be put to better use, but it can also create a nesting-ground for creatures like mice, rats, spiders, and other creepy weirdos you don’t want to share your living space with.
1. Grab a few garbage/recycling bags and go inch by inch, discarding everything that isn’t vital. Newspapers from 5 years ago? Recycle. Lidless containers? Garbage.
2. Items like paint, solvents, etc. need to be disposed of properly. Do some research on the proper disposal methods in your area, and adhere to the laws; the last thing you want to do is poison someone.
3. If extra storage is needed, scour Craigslist etc. for bins, shelving units, and boxes that can keep all your stuff stored tidily away. Sort your tools and keep them in a handy place for the next time you need them.
4. Wear protective gloves when cleaning dark little nooks just in case there’s something bite-y hiding in them—you don’t want to have to contend with an ugly bite from a spider, rat, snake, or house badger. Err on the side of caution. If there are large cracks and gaps that may be ideal homes for icky things, caulk them up.
5. Vacuum or sweep the floor thoroughly. If you’re dealing with a hardwood basement floor, wash it with a 50/50 vinegar/water solution, and dry with an old towel before a second wash with a pine-based cleaner like Murphy’s Oil Soap. A sealed cement floor can be washed the same way, just without the Murphy’s. For a cement garage floor, use a push-broom to scrub the floor with diluted eco-friendly dish soap after sweeping, and then use your hose to wash it away.
Part 1 of the Ultimate Spring Cleaning Guide: How to Tackle Spring Cleaning, Part 1Featured photo credit: Pile of autumn leaves on backyard patio and sweeping brush via Shutterstock