Posted on February 12, 2015 at 6:00 am
When I first moved away from home, I came to the realization that young adults everywhere eventually have—living away from your parents means there’s no one to clean up after you. I was never that messy a person, but it meant there was no one there to help load the dishwasher, fold clothes, or clean out the refrigerator. What’s more, about a year in I knew exactly why spring cleaning existed. Despite my best efforts (or at least my moderate ones), there was a long list of things that needed cleaning, sorting, and organizing.
That first year was the year I also decided that I hated spring cleaning. Don’t get me wrong, I actually have nothing against cleaning. I’ve just never understood waiting until the first nice days of the year to do it. Why would I want to lock myself inside to clean when I could be out enjoying what I call “Three Bears” weather: not too hot, not too cold, but just right!
Winter, I decided is the perfect time to get all of those often forgotten tasks done and out of the way. If you think about it, you’re likely hunkering down inside for most of the cold weather anyway and, if you’re anything like me, you may even have a few things that got sidelined or left over from the holidays, too. I also enjoy the fantastic bonus to cleaning in cold weather in that I can open the windows, get a nice cool breeze going, and avoid ending up completely overheated and gross.
Over the years, I’ve tweaked my process a little, but have found the same general steps work each time to get my place back where I want it:
When it comes to winter cleaning, I like to divide and conquer! Some people tackle their normal cleaning in a couple of hours one day a week while others like to do a couple of small tasks each day. Depending on the week, I may do one or the other to ensure I’ve got clean laundry and the dishes have been done. With a deeper clean however, it’s less about speed and more about coverage. By focusing your attention onto one section, you can more efficiently clean your space than if you bounced from room to room. As you look at your home, divide it up based on the layout and how you use each room. Because I live in a relatively small apartment, I divide my space just about by the room (four sections), but you may need a 1-2 additional sections if you have more rooms.
Make a list! Make a list! Make a list! I can’t stress that enough—I’ll admit that I do love making lists, but I would be completely lost without one for this type of cleaning. Because I’m working on tasks that maybe get done once a year, it’s far too easy to forget something without one. I generally don’t include tasks I complete each week, but go section by section looking for overlooked chores that I want to get done. This is the place to include things like wiping down your walls and baseboards, washing your curtains (you’d be appalled at how much dust can collect there), and cleaning those hard to reach and awkward areas. There are a huge number of deep cleaning lists online, but I personally like the Ultimate Spring Cleaning Checklist available at the I Dream of Clean blog. While I’ve never even tried to tackle the entire thing, it gives me a great starting point for looking at my own space and deciding what’s important to me to get done.
As you’re making the list, don’t forget to take a look for any supplies you may need to complete your cleaning goals. I usually find that I’ve ran out of at least one or two different cleaners, have no rags to clean with, or may even need some boxes or totes to help organize some of the messier rooms. And if you prefer not to purchase cleaners, there are a number of home solutions that can also be effective. Take a look at the Household Cleaners and Alternatives guide from the US EPA for some information on making and using your own home cleaners.
The blank list I use is available to download here. This helps me keep track of each section, what needs to be done, and any supplies I will need.
After deciding the best way to divide up your space and noting what you’d like done, you’ll want to figure out when to work on each section. I like to take on one or two sections each week in addition to my normal weekly cleaning. For example, week one I work on my bedroom and closet, week two is the kitchen, and so on. For me this usually involves dedicating an extra hour or two to my weekly cleaning to really get into the detailed type cleaning I don’t do on a regular basis. By picking one or two sections each week, you’ll be able to make a pretty sizable dent in your cleaning schedule without having to take too much extra effort at any one time and help you keep from getting overwhelmed by the extensive list of tasks that need doing if you were to look at your home as a whole. There’s also something incredibly satisfying about getting to mark another room off my “to clean” list each week (preferably with a bright red pen!).
While you’re on a cleaning and organizing roll, this is a great time to take on some of those projects that have been hounding you since last year’s winter cleaning. I usually take one weekend, preferably a long weekend like the upcoming President’s Day weekend, and tackle a couple of things that are less intensive than say, painting the house, but more than cleaning out the junk drawer. These types of projects will be different for everyone depending on your needs, but for me it usually boils down to 2-3 things I think I can complete or make a good start on in a weekend.
In planning this, I usually find one project each that I could get done in two hours (small), four hours (medium), and one-two days (large). I don’t always finish them in one weekend, but like the cleaning, can usually make a pretty good start in this time, especially if I plan properly. This year I set my sights on three projects: the kitchen cart that had inadvertently become the horrible junk cart (small), the always messy bedroom closet (medium) and my overflowing craft closet/spare bedroom (large). Just writing the list inspired me enough to get the kitchen cart project done last weekend instead of waiting!
You don’t have to get everything done in your winter clean, but aim for what you can. I always start with what’s been tripping me up (sometimes literally) all year and work from there. What are your favorite tips and tricks for winter (or spring) cleaning?