A spring cleaning strategy after a year of being home — a lot

Forget standard checklists. This is the year for expert help and a customized plan.

Forget standard checklists. This is the year for expert help and a customized plan

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

That fresh spring air is finally here — the scent of blooming flowers and trees, signalling new beginnings and sunnier days spent outside. The birds are singing, and you might have a bit more of a pep in your step, too. 

Except, wait — stop the music. After many months being at home in your bubble, a look around your abode might offer a less-than-fresh picture. You see all the winter gear that needs putting away, the windows need cleaning, and suddenly you're going through a checklist of home maintenance tasks that need to be done.

While there are some people who look forward to an annual spring clean, many dread it as a gigantic chore. Whichever camp you belong to, this year's job might have different requirements based on how much more time you've spent at home, how good at regular maintenance you've been, and what new needs you may have identified. To help you tackle the task as efficiently as possible, we spoke with experts who went beyond the standard checklists to give advice for getting the best results for your home and personal situation.

Step 1: Forget standard checklists — make a personalized plan

"You need to look at those checklists more as a guide and less prescriptive," says Clean My Space founder and YouTuber Melissa Maker. She recommends looking at your home and assessing what's right for you — that is, not everything needs to get done if some areas feel good enough. For example, if the window tracks look fine to you, go ahead and postpone cleaning them until the following year.

"Think about [spring cleaning] more like maintenance," says Maker — as separate from the kind of regular cleaning you do to make your home feel clean and fresh.

Brianne Simpson, CEO of Green Clean Red Deer Ltd, advises that you think about what tasks you'd like to get done in what order, and to start with the deepest darkest places, like your closets, before tackling the common areas. Otherwise when pulling things out, you may end up redistributing dirt to already clean areas. 

Step 2: Create a schedule with deadlines you'll stick to

Once you know what tasks need doing, come up with a schedule. That may mean planning a whole weekend around speedily getting through everything in one go, or it could mean tackling tasks over several weekends. 

Maker says it comes down to knowing yourself — as soon as you start feeling frustrated or that it's unpleasurable, then it's time to rethink how you're scheduling things. "Find that balance," says Maker, who personally prefers spreading tasks out over a longer period of time so as to make room for weekend pleasures, too.

Step 3: Assess the PTTs

With a plan and schedule set, it's time to get started — but don't make the mistake of diving in before knowing what Maker calls "the PTTs": products, tools, and techniques. Whether you're learning how to paint watercolour, cook up a stir-fry, or clean efficiently, "you still need to understand the product, tools and techniques," she says. "If I can understand the PTTs before I ever walk into the room that needs to be cleaned, I'm going to get the job done much faster and I'm going to get better results."

Doing your research on the PTTs, as well as possible hacks, will ultimately save you time and on-the-job frustration. Here are a few insider tricks for tackling certain areas and items that might inspire how you approach your own tasks:

Light fixtures and vent covers. Forget washing them one by one; Simpson says it's easier to take them off and throw them into the dishwasher.

Around the toilet base on tiled floors. Use shaving cream, says Simpson — let it sit, then clean with a scrub brush; it will bring out the colour and remove lingering odours.

High dusting. Maker recommends affixing a microfibre cloth to the end of a mop pole for high dusting (think ceiling corners and nooks, lighting, and air vents). "It takes next to no time," she says.

Mattress and carpets. Infuse baking soda with a bit of essential oil, says Simpson, then sprinkle over mattresses and carpets. Let the baking soda sit, before vacuuming up.

Window blinds. Take the blinds off the windows and soak them in the bathtub with water and some gentle cleaning product, before rinsing them off. (But Simpson cautions: check first to ensure your blind material is safe to soak.)

Cleaning products. "Go to a local janitorial store and buy the product in concentrate. You will save so much money," says Simpson.

Step 4: Declutter first

Decluttering should be job number one before getting started with the deep cleaning because the less clutter there is, the more efficient you can be. Maker recommends going room by room using a timer. She suggested setting an amount of time (for example, 30 minutes per room) to get rid of as much stuff as possible. This will help prevent the task of decluttering from going overtime. 

"If you don't have a lot of time, you don't have a lot of time to deliberate and hem and haw over, 'What I should keep?' or, 'What I should get rid of?'" she says.

Step 5: Work top down — and on a timer

As you tackle each room of the home for the deeper cleans, focus on working from top to bottom. For example, start with high dusting then move your way downward with tasks like cleaning windows and wall washing, if that's needed, and eventually the floors.

That's the approach of Green Clean Red Deer cleaners: "They start in one corner of the room," says Simpson, and at the top because the debris will fall down and they'll finish with the floor and baseboards. She recommends working around the room and to end where you started, otherwise you may "ping pong around the place" and be less efficient.

It may also be helpful to set a timer for each of your room-by-room deep cleans, Maker suggests. "You can say, 'Well, I'm going to give myself one hour to get my spring cleaning tasks done in my bedroom,' and see how you do" — if your bedroom is looking significantly better and you feel good about it, then perhaps the job is complete, she says. If it's not feeling good enough, then you can schedule another block of time to finish what needs to be done.

Janet Ho is a writer and hobby artist. You can follow her at @janetonpaper.

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