Spring is finally in the air! Chirping birds, spring rains and blooming flowers are all ahead of us. But so is the chance to shake off the winter dust with a little spring cleaning! It may not be anyone’s favorite task, but it sure is refreshing and rewarding if you follow through. Sometimes it’s tough to know where to start. From the outset, it certainly does seem like a daunting task. Let’s tackle this thing together, one piece at a time.
Make a Schedule
First thing’s first, make a cleaning schedule that fits you. In order to get all that cleaning done, be realistic about your goals. Some people might prefer to section off a weekend to blow through the house and get everything done at once. Others might consider that to be too much pressure and would just keep putting it off. Those folks may prefer to take a week and assign one room to each evening, for example. Whatever you decide on, be sure it’s something you know you’re going to stick with.
If you just wait until you’re in the mood to clean, you’ll probably never get around to it. On the day you’ve chosen to start, crack those windows open! I find that nothing helps bring you to life like a little fresh air. We’ve all been so cooped up through the long winter that we may not realize how stuffy and stale our homes have become. Open the doors and windows in your space to get a nice breeze coming through. Even if it’s a little chilly, you’ll soon be working up a sweat with all that activity. Plus, letting in all that natural light brightens your mood and helps you see what you’re doing!
If you’re still having trouble getting started, I can’t blame you. It’s a big job! Start small with everyday activities. Take out all the trash, clean the bathroom or kitchen, sweep the floors. Start with the easy stuff that you’ve probably already got a routine for. I find once I get started with that stuff I’m more likely to want to keep going. It feels really good to have a clean and organized space and that feeling can help motivate you!
Similarly, breaking up the work into manageable chunks can help you see where to start and make the tasks seem less daunting. You can break it up by room or by item or by type of task. For example, maybe you’d find it easier to tackle your clothes first. Or maybe you’d like to start by sweeping and vacuuming the whole house. Whatever works for you and gets you moving!
Try to make it as fun as possible. Light some springtime candles in fresh scents like clean linen, citrus or floral. Call up a friend or family member you haven’t caught up with in a while and have a chat. Throw on some favorite tunes that will keep you awake and energized (and maybe dancing with the broom). When I was a kid, we had dedicated cleaning CDs which included mostly Johnny Cash and Roger Miller with a little Bobby Darin sprinkled in. Make your own cleaning playlist!
The best and easiest spot to start with cleaning your bedroom is washing your sheets and either making your bed again or switching to a lighter summer fabric. A friend of mine who cleans homes professionally suggests mixing baking soda and lavender together and sprinkling it on your mattress for a nice fresh scent. Just vacuum the mixture up after it’s had a chance to sit and soak up any odor. Making your bed goes a long way towards making the room look tidy and will give you a good working space for sorting other items in your room, like clothing.
Now’s a great time to reorganize and make sure your seasonably appropriate clothing is accessible. A good way to start is by getting everything clean. Once all your clothes are in front of you, you’ll be sure you’re getting everything into its place or into storage. Fold up those heavy sweaters and get your dresses, skirts and shorts to the front of the closet or drawers. Take the extra time to iron and hang anything that needs to be pressed. You’re far more likely to wear something if it’s already ready to go!
If you have limited closet space and will be packing away winter clothes to make room, invest in some clear plastic bins, under-bed boxes or vacuum bags. Not only will this be a more durable way to store your off-season clothing, but it will help to protect your pieces from bugs and other unwanted intruders. Supposing you get some unexpected cooler weather, you’ll be able to see right where that heavier sweater is and pull it out. The vacuum bags can really help with saving space, if that’s an issue for you, too. When fall rolls around, it’s easy to swap out the stored sweaters for your summer clothing.
That might lead you to reorganizing shoes and outerwear in the same way. Trade the parkas and peacoats for the light spring jackets and raincoats. Put away boots and heavier winter shoes and get out the sandals and flip-flops (keep rain boots out for a little longer).
If you’re like me, you have roughly one billion tank tops. They seem pretty small, but if you fold them up, they can take up a ton of space! Last year, I started storing my tank tops using a hanger and shower curtain ring system that I’d seen on Pinterest before. What a space saver! They’re so much easier to grab and they now take up way less room than folding or hanging each one individually. Simply hang a group of lightweight shower curtain rings from the bottom of a sturdy hanger and loop the straps of your tank tops through each ring. Hang the whole thing in your closet or on the back of a door for easy access to all your basics.
Clothing that you find you no longer wear can be sold either online or to a used clothing shop near you. If you have clothing you’d like to donate, there are many worthy causes to support. Do some research into one that speaks to you. Disabled American Veteran and other organizations will pick up donation items right from your home in many cases. Your local homeless shelter is a great place to take items like outerwear or dress clothes you no longer use. There are many people in need of professional clothing for interviews. Be sure to check with them before donating as some shelters are unable to accept any or certain clothing items due to hygiene issues. If you happen to live in the Minneapolis area, I urge you to check out the homeless shelter I like to volunteer with: People Serving People.
No matter how much jewelry you own, keeping it all organized and tangle free can be tough. Necklaces are the most prone to tangles, so store them hanging somewhere. You can purchase little hooks to screw into the wall, the side of a dresser, or into a block of painted wood. I’ve also seen the same done with the inside edge of an empty picture frame that gets hung up on the wall, making a nice display. I even hang my oft-used and delicate necklaces from pushpins at the base of my bulletin board. Bracelets are easy for me; I just keep the chunky ones in a bowl and hang the more delicate ones with my necklaces. But there are many creative ways to display bracelets, if you are so inclined. I just find that’s the most accessible for me. I don’t wear many earrings, so I just keep my trusty few studs in a small, flat-bottomed bowl and hang the hooked ones from the edges. You can buy or DIY a small frame with a screen in it to hang them from if earring storage is an issue for you. For more fun ways to keep organized take a look at this collection of DIY jewelry storage ideas.
In my room, clothing storage and laundry tends to be my biggest issue. I’ve addressed clothing in its own section, but laundry is sometimes the real issue in that department. What I’ve found to be most helpful is purchasing a hamper or laundry basket that does the sorting ahead of time. It helps me save time and see when I have enough to run a load. I use mine to sort my delicates into dark, light and white. And I use my regular laundry basket to gather jeans, socks and other non-delicate items. For those with limited space or on a budget, get the sorted hamper I got from Amazon. If you’ve got more space, this hamper has hanging bags that detach and can be brought right to the laundry room.
We don’t need to get into the nitty gritty of cleaning the bathroom. Odds are you’ve done enough of it to know what you’re doing. And if you haven’t done much of it, it’s about time you learn. If you need an overview or refresher of the basics, this guide from Real Simple will help you deep-clean your bathroom. But there are plenty of other ways to get cleaned up and organized!
Having your makeup organized and easily accessed can go a long way to shortening up that morning routine and upping your makeup game. If you don’t have much or any counter space, you’ll need to get a little creative with your storage. There are all sorts of fancy Lucite dividers and organizers available for purchase, which I’d recommend if you’ve got a particularly large collection. But if you don’t use much makeup, you may just want to keep your daily items in a makeup bag. I like keeping my essentials that way so if I’m ever running late or need a quick overnight bag all I need to do is grab it and go. A coffee mug makes great storage for makeup brushes, lip gloss tubes and eyeliners. As long as you’re going through it all, this is a good time to get rid of makeup that it old, broken or unused. If you have makeup that’s old, just throw it away. Bacteria can build up in makeup after a while and it’s best to just get rid of it and buy a fresh one. Mascara is the worst offender in that department, so if you’ve had a tube for more than three months, it’s time to pitch it. If you find you’re wasting product that way, start buying the travel size instead. And never EVER share mascara with someone else. It’s incredibly easy to transfer bacteria to your eyes by doing so. Pressed powder makeup that has broken can often be repaired. If you’ve still got a lot of product left, use this guide to fix pressed powder makeup from The Beauty Department to make it like new again. Unused makeup that you no longer want can be given to a friend or, in some cases, returned or exchanged at the store you purchased it.
If you couldn’t tell, nail polish is a large part of my life. I need my polishes to be at AND on my fingertips at all times. I like to keep my collection in a little wooden basket. I can dig through there to find whatever color I’m looking for pretty easily and when the basket starts to overflow I know it’s time to go through and give away colors I don’t wear to make room for new colors. That system works well for me, but others like to store them in a clear plastic bin so they can see them more easily. If you’ve got any polishes that are beginning to get too thick, try dropping a bit of remover in the bottle and shaking it up. That usually helps thin it out and extends the life of your polish!
Other Bathroom Storage
Mason jars of all shapes are a great tool for bathroom storage. Cotton balls, pads and swabs all fit nicely. I use smaller ones for my moisturizer, coconut oil and baking soda. (I’ll post the reasons you should have those last two in your bathroom soon.) It’s a nice way to get products out of their tacky packaging and keep them accessible.
Odds are you’ve collected several makeup bags over time. These serve as great organizers for smaller items in the bathroom. I use mine to collect replacement razor heads, false eyelashes, hot roller clips, other things I don’t use often and to store first-aid items and feminine products.
The kitchen is another great place to start if you’re having trouble getting going as it’s a place you spend a lot of time and probably clean semi-regularly. Hand wash whatever’s in the sink and get it dried or get a load running in the dishwasher, for a start. While that’s going you can work your way around the kitchen scrubbing the table and counters down, leaving the oven for last. Before you get scrubbing, spray down your stove top to give it a chance to soak and loosen up the grease and oil.
Spring is the perfect time to clean up the fridge. Empty all the contents, throwing out anything that’s expired. Remove the drawers and anything else that can be taken out and give them a good washing in the sink. Wipe down all the surfaces to make sure any sticky area is cleaned up. Don’t forget the door or the freezer! Once everything is clean, replace all your items, taking time to reorganize if need be.
Your sink drain and garbage disposal can be very dirty places. Let’s get that cleaned up and sanitized. Apartment Therapy has step-by-step instructions for how to clean and sanitize your drains and garbage disposal. Use the baking soda and vinegar trick in your bathroom drains as well to prevent buildup and clogging!
Clutter. That stuff that gathers on any horizontal surface in the house. It’s everywhere and it’s overwhelming and here’s what to do with some of it.
Books, Movies, Music
We’ve all got a shelf of DVDs and CDs we hardly ever use because the internet exists. You might consider selling some, but if you’re not willing to part with those for good you can at least store them more effectively! Get yourself a CD binder like this one from Amazon and load up all those disks into one spot. Just dispose of those plastic covers. Another great way to save a lot of space! For me, that’d free up shelf space for more books! While it’d be unthinkable for me to actually encourage people to get rid of books, they do take up a lot of space and are very heavy (if you move semi-frequently, you know what I’m talking about). If you need to lighten the load, consider keeping your favorites and either selling the rest on Amazon or donating them to your local library.
If you stacked up every random piece of paper you’re storing in your house, would the pile be taller than you? I know the feeling. Getting control of mail, important documents and every flyer, movie ticket and receipt can be just as tough as any other task. It’s boring, tedious and we often don’t know what to get rid of and what to keep. But you’re not doing yourself any favors hanging onto all of it instead.
Gather up all the paper you can see or remember having. Likely you’ve got some boxes of it you set aside to deal with later. This is later. Break ’em out and let’s organize it all at once. Any paper you’ve been storing for a while and haven’t needed to look at will be easier to get rid of.
Important documents like tax returns, birth certificates and home purchase papers need to be stored. You may need a filing cabinet if you have a lot to store or you may be able to get away with a binder or small box of hanging files. There are also a fair amount of documents it’s okay to scan and keep an electronic copy of. For an in-depth breakdown of what documents to keep and for how long check out this handy document storage guide from Lifehacker. If you keep receipts for any length of time, store them in a small folder or coupon organizer so you can find them easily when you need them.
If you’re fairly sentimental, start a scrapbook. It doesn’t even have to be that fancy, if you’re not creatively inclined. It can be a simple binder where you glue or clip in keepsake items. Same goes for any childhood artwork you’d like to keep, from either yourself or your child. Use a three-hole punch and stick them into a dedicated binder. If you don’t want to punch holes in something, those plastic page protectors are also available. Greeting cards are another sentimental item that piles up quickly. I like to display the ones I get for a little while on a shelf or bulletin board. I keep the ones that are particularly special to me, save others for various craft projects and recycle the rest.
Paper shredders aren’t just for corporations sweeping accounting practices under the rug. If you’re worried about privacy or identity theft, you may want to purchase or borrow a paper shredder to run your personal documents through before tossing them in the recycling bin.
Mail is just plain awful. It’s great when it’s something you care about, but the other 95% of the time it’s unwanted bills or junk. I’ve got a few tips to help make it a little easier to deal with. First, start getting your mail from the mailbox more frequently. Aim for bringing in the mail every day or two. Next, get a basket you can set somewhere to collect the mail until you’re ready to deal with it. On your way in the house, right when you get the mail, sort out the junk and advertisements that you know you don’t want or need and recycle it immediately. That’s going to cut down a huge portion of what you’ll need to go through later. Make it part of your routine to go through and open the rest of your mail on a designated day during the week. Recycle anything you discover is more junk masquerading as something important. File the rest if it’s something you need to hang onto. Check out this resource to learn how to limit the amount of junk mail that comes to your door in the first place!
Pro tip: Since you’re probably already paying most of your bills online anyway, hop online and switch your mailing preferences to online billing for all the bills you normally pay. It reduces clutter, wastes less paper and some companies will even give you a small credit on your account for switching!
Happy cleaning, cleaning haters!
Got some cleaning or organizing tips of your own? Share them with us!