It’s that time of year! The last frost is finally passed us after an unusually long winter. You’re sick of seeing the same four walls, possibly with remnants of winter décor, but likely with dirty baseboards, dusty curtains, and disorganized drawers. Yes, with the passing of the last frost comes the start of spring cleaning. If you have any sort of property or live in a community where you have an HOA or condo association, many times this list includes outdoor maintenance as well. It can all be a little overwhelming when you’re just anxious to get outside for a little sun. While this guide won’t be exhaustive, it should definitely help you get started on many of the tasks that have been put away for the winter or that you’ve been putting off. Regular house maintenance not only makes you feel good, but keeps your home in tip-top shape. Whether you’re thinking about selling your home or not, cleaning, throwing away junk, and other home-improvement projects keep little problems from becoming big problems later on down the road.
Let’s start inside because once your home is clean, you feel like you can concur the world. If it helps you to divide your home by floor or by room, that would be best. I have a four level townhome, so I start at the top and work my way to the bottom.
First, bundle the tasks that can be done together like washing curtains and small rugs (but not together). On a perfectly beautiful day, one when you can have all your windows open for a nice breeze, take all of your curtains down and wash them. This was no small task in my family growing up, as my mom has fancy white curtains that required ironing. I hope that isn’t the case for you. Taking the curtains down will also give you a chance to wipe down the rods that so seldomly get our attention.
While the curtains are in the washer, start at the very top of your house and wipe down baseboards. This should definitely be done before vacuuming, but you may choose to dust your furniture first. A nifty trick I’ve learned to clean baseboards really well and to detract dust, at least for a time, is to clean them with a dryer sheet. It’ll attract the dust like you can’t believe and leave your home smelling like fresh linens. Work your way all the way to the bottom floor, leaving individual rooms to be done on their specific days. Yes, it’s back-breaking work, so you might want to task your much shorter, much more flexible child with this task.
For me, I just focus on a floor/ room per day. Does this drag out the cleaning? Yes. Am I less exhausted by the end of the day? Yes. You may choose to just get it all done as quickly as possible. Kudos to you. My top floor is one big room with a bathroom that we have set up as a guest room, so I pull all of the furniture out (actually, this step should come before the baseboards because you’ll need to pull it all out to get to the baseboards behind it), strip everything from the tops and shelves, and give a good dusting with my Swiffer duster. That thing is a must-have. Don’t forget about vents and the ceiling fan. Those blades may spin quickly, but dust has an amazing ability to cling on for dear life. You’ll also want a few Magic Erasers around for any random marks on the walls. For beds, I strip and wash the bedding and flip the mattress. Clean out bedside table drawers, as they tend to become catch-alls. Then clean the bathrooms. Really clean the bathrooms. Pour Drano down the drains, empty shelves, drawers, and cabinets, throw stuff away, get a good bleach spray, and really scrub. Make sure you have the fan on for this part. That bleach can do funny things to your mind. Make sure to take down shower curtains and wash them. You may also choose to bleach the liners. This can be done in your washer by using the gentle cycle and the hottest water and bleach. Any trace of mold or mildew will be gone. If you keep shampoos or soaps in the shower for guests, make sure they are sufficiently full. I also wash the towels that are sitting out for guests. Depending on the last time you had a guest, there’s a chance they’ve collected a little dust as well.
Washing the windows is next. Do the outsides before you do the insides, if that’s possible. My windows have a neat little lever that flips the bottom part inwards so I can reach the outside top part. I hope you’re as lucky.
There is a large closet in this space where we keep our Christmas decorations, off season clothes (we’ll get to those), sports equipment, and whatever else doesn’t have a permanent home. Empty the closet, and be honest with yourself. Leave the clothes, as we’ll dedicate one day to switching over wardrobes, though you may want take them all out to make sure the closet is completely empty of all junk. Open boxes, go trough decorations. Haven’t used that porcelain angel that your aunt gave you 10 years ago because it kind of creeps you out? Chances are you won’t suddenly take a liking to it next year. Throw it away. Remember to not get sentimental. Your closet hasn’t been cherishing the time spent with your junk and you don’t have it proudly displayed in your home, so it’s doing no good taking up space. Broken hockey sticks, old flip phones and chargers, files kept from three jobs ago, all prime candidates for the trash. The Smithsonian will never call and say, “Our records indicate that you’re the last person who may still be in possession of a flip phone. We’re doing an ancient cell phone display and will pay you a million dollars for yours.” Let that dream go. I sound a bit heartless at this point, I’m sure. I get it honestly from my mother, whom we joke is the Anti-Hoarder. The woman throws stuff away before the first speck of dust falls on it. When you’ve gone through everything, wash down shelves and put what you have left back in the closet, but do it sensibly. Put winter decorations in the back, then fall, then summer, since those are the ones you’ll use first. Is there still stuff you couldn’t bear to part with? We all have those items. It’s ok. Get a good, hefty plastic box and label it. Chances are you’ll want that at the very back of the closet for safe keeping.
Now that everything smells fresh, it’s time to put your room back together. Make sure to vacuum behind the furniture before you put it back. While you’re at it, you may decide to rearrange the room. It’s always fun to give a space a little updating. Another neat little trick I’ve learned is to put ice cubes on furniture indentation marks on the carpet and leave them until they melt. They’ll bring the carpet back to it’s normal state more quickly. And now my top floor is done; three more to go.
My office is pretty easy to clean, but still requires the same level of attention that I give to the other rooms. I spend the majority of my days in there, and I cannot work in a messy and cluttered space, so it’s fairly clean for the most part. I still pull out furniture, wash baseboards, clean out drawers, empty shelves, dust furniture and the ceiling fan, vacuum, and wash windows. I clean out the closet and throw stuff away. We learned a lot of lessons from my big top floor that are applicable here. All the same principles apply, except there is no bed in this room. I also clean my guest bathroom on this floor, with the same vigor as the first.
Next are bedrooms and closets. This is my most dreaded spring cleaning task. It’s time to bring down your spring/summer clothes from the upstairs closet and switch over wardrobes. I love clothes, like, seriously love them, and I really hate parting with them. Luckily for me, my husband does not have that same affliction, so his closet houses all seasons of clothing, and there is almost nothing that he doesn’t wear. Bless that man. I, on the other hand, have fluctuated in weight by 30 pounds in the last year. I have clothes that are far too big, far too small, clothes that still have tags on them, clothes I’ve never liked, clothes, clothes, clothes. This year I’m being honest with myself. Will I ever wear those corduroys that were such a good deal, but are too long? Probably not. I could hem them, but where will I find the time? Like I challenged you, I challenge myself to be honest. Haven’t worn that shirt in the last year? It’s out. If you have some gently used name brands that you’ll never wear again, set them aside and take them somewhere like Plato’s Closet, where you can get some cash back. If you have a bunch of t-shirts from high school, take them to Goodwill. If you have some stuff that is just barely hanging on by threads, throw it away. You may find stuff that you had completely forgotten about. You may find that by the end of this painful excursion you have more room to do more shopping; my poor husband.
While your closets are empty from switching clothes, clean them. Organize and throw away all your random junk that has made its way into your closet. Clean shelves, wash walls, wipe down baseboards. When you’re ready to put your clothes back in, organize them sensibly. I love to wear dresses, so I’ll bundle them together and color coat them (I used to work at Gap, don’t judge me). I put dresses in front, then skirt, then tank tops, short sleeve shirts, and long sleeve shirts and cardigans at the back. Our summers are pretty warm, so except for the occasional chilly night, I won’t be wearing those until fall. Then I take the final step in switching out wardrobes, putting my fall and winter clothes back upstairs. But not before I separate out what I actually wear from what I don’t. There is no sense in going through this whole process again next season.
The rest of the bedroom and master suite is pretty easy. You should have the hang of it by now. Move out furniture, wash the bedding, flip the mattress, wash baseboards, dust furniture and the ceiling fan, wash windows, vacuum, and bleach the bathroom. When dusting, don’t forget decorations like picture frames and decorative shelving. Since we don’t really see the tops of these things, it’s easy to forget that they collect dust.
My main level is one big open space, so I do it all at the same time. I start the same way I start every room, by pulling out furniture, washing baseboards, emptying decorations from shelves, clean out the entertainment unit, dust, vacuum, and wash windows and vents. The living area is the most bare-bones, so it’s pretty simple. Aside from switching closets, I probably spend the most time in the kitchen. I clean out all of the cabinets, match up plastic containers with lids, empty out the refrigerator and pantry, and really scrub down everything. I pride myself in keeping a very clean kitchen as my husband is a little OCD about food cleanliness, but even I find things hidden in the back of the refrigerator and panty that should have been thrown away weeks ago. I have granite countertops, so once those are emptied off, I seal the granite. I clean chairs, the top of the refrigerator, the inside of the refrigerator, pantry shelves, and the tops of the cabinetry. My dining area is the easiest space. It’s just a couple decorations and our table. All of which get dusted and cleaned. Before I put the furniture back in these three spaces, I mop the floors. Once in a while, when the mood strikes me, I’ll get on my hands and knees with a bucket and really scrub the floor. Other times I use my Swiffer mop. Spring cleaning definitely warrants a hands-and-knees job. When everything is done, I put the furniture back and light a candle.
My final floor is my entryway. We have a front and back door, so dirt gets tracked in both ways and throughout the hallway. I also have a coat/storage closet on this level, which gets the same treatment as all my other closets. I empty it out and clean it. I throw stuff away. I organize. The whole floor gets a hands-and-knees mop job, decorations get dusted, and the cabinets I keep my dog supplies in gets cleaned out.
Outside maintenance is a Saturday morning job for which, I’ll admit, my husband does the majority of the work. Hose bibs need to be turned back on, mulch needs to be laid, flowers need to be planted, fertilizer needs to be put down. Depending on your neighborhood situation, you may have more or less to do. We have both a condo association and an HOA, so we do very little to the outside of the home. People without these associations may have to level their yard, weed gardens, plant vegetables, power wash the deck and the siding, patch the roof, or probably a million other things I can’t even fathom. But just like cleaning, this outside maintenance is so important because of the long-term benefits it brings. Catching small problems early keep them from becoming negotiating points for potential buyers down the road.
There is something magical about spring cleaning. It feels fresh and clean, of course, but it also begs for friends to come over. It’s also good home maintenance. When you clean out closets and pull furniture away from walls and really give your bathroom a good scrubbing, you’re likely to find a thing or two that needs fixing. Catching these little things early can prevent a big problem down the road. And whether or not you’re considering selling your home in the next year, routine cleaning and maintenance will make your job a lot easier when you do decide to sell. Prospective buyers will see that your home has been well maintained and will give them a picture of the pristine lifestyle for which they are likely looking. Getting rid of junk periodically also makes moving a much easier task.