Spring cleaning is a concept that seems to have gone the way of the girdle. It's certainly useful and improves appearances, but as women increasingly spent less of their intellectual energy on ascertaining the best furniture polish and more on professional pursuits, it's just something that has fallen out of favor.
Unfortunately, the area behind your refrigerator still gets dusty and a modern lady still needs to take care of her home. The advice from many traditional housekeeping guides is a bit overwhelming. For a more practical take, I spoke to Jolie Kerr, author of the Ask a Clean Person column formerly of The Hairpin now on Jezebel, and the book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha.
"You have a life and you don’t want to spend all this time taking cleaning so seriously," Kerr posits. "If you want to get things done fairly quickly and you don’t want to give up your whole life to spring cleaning, start with making a list of what needs to get done."
A basic list of tasks that should be done every year in an apartment or small home includes the following:
- Dust hard to reach areas like ceiling fans, the tops of cabinets and shelves with books or electronics. (Take everything off and dust the shelf and items that live there.)
- Launder curtains and clean blinds.
- Clean upholstery and vacuum under cushions.
- Clean out refrigerator and freezer. If you're ambitious, dust refrigerator coils.
- Flip your mattress and clean duvet covers and mattress pads, clean pillows and covers.
- Shampoo carpets.
- If you rent, call the landlord with that list of repairs you've been sitting on.
- Take this list as a guide and add whatever else you're hoping to accomplish.
"Your list can be way more comprehensive than what you actually accomplish, it should be because the next part is to sit down and think about how long you think each of these things is going to take. Budget a little more time than you think," Kerr said. "Once you’ve seen 'oh my God, I’m looking down the barrel of 50 hours of cleaning and I don’t want to do that' you think, 'What do I want to really get clean and what can I let go?'"
The list above should be doable in a small home in 15-20 hours, about what you'd want to budget for two full days of work. Sure, there are more hours in the day but if you exhaust yourself on day one, you'll get a late start on day two.
This will sound like procrastination, but create a playlist of upbeat songs. You'll be more productive and motivated throughout. Use your task list to come up with a shopping list of any cleaning supplies you need. Research any tasks you need how-tos on before the weekend you plan to do your cleaning. Also, tidy up throughout the week. It might be tempting to leave everything pile up for the Big Clean, but starting with clutter already put away will help you get straight to it.
"Generally speaking, you want to work from the top down. Say one of your items is cleaning the top of kitchen cabinets, they’re probably filthy," Kerry said. "If you had mopped your kitchen floor and then gotten up to clean the top of the cabinet. You’re going to have to go back and mop that floor again because all that stuff is going to land on the floor."
The aim is to "think about the order in which you’re doing things" and overlap tasks when possible. "Like, if you’re lucky enough to have your own washer and dryer, start a load of wash, and go take on another task. Staggering tasks to maximize your time is a very good thing to do."
Spring cleaning isn't something we all think about, especially if we don't have a large home. But everyone has chores that build up.
"One reason that spring cleaning is important is it tends to be the time we take on cleaning chores that are not regular things that we do," Kerr said. "A good example is laundering curtains, or heavy duty bedding like mattress pads and pillows, things we’re not doing on our weekly or monthly chore list but should get done."