I’ve just flipped the calendar page. Now spring is staring me in the face. There’s still snow on the ground and It’s still cold, but the lengthening days tell me that winter is on the wane.
But while the days are getting longer, the time for spring cleaning is getting shorter. Once the snow melts I’ll want to be outside, getting the gardens ready for the growing season and enjoying the mild temperatures before the annual mosquito invasion.
I never used to bother with spring cleaning. I’d convinced myself that I kept the house clean enough that nothing needed to be done specially in the spring. Maybe that was true at some point in my life but It’s increasingly become domestic fiction.
Between work and school and life in general, weekly cleaning has become perfunctory. The essentials get done but bigger tasks get put off until another day, which never comes. Dust builds up on ceiling fans, baseboards, cupboard tops. Window frames are grunged up with mildew and dead bugs, and window blinds are sticky with dust. It’s too much for a Saturday morning’s quick clean.
When I finally acknowledged that spring cleaning was necessary, I realized that spring was too late to get started. Unless, that is, I wanted to put my life on hold for a week or two and do nothing except clean from sunup to sundown (and That’s never going to happen, believe me.)
Now I spring clean in winter, so that it will be done?or at least substantially done?by the time spring lures me outdoors. Here’s my method:
Start with a list. Based on the principle that what gets listed gets done, I create a list with every cleaning task I’d (ideally) like to accomplish. I set up the list on my computer (I use OneNote but several programs would be suitable for a list) so that I don’t have to re-invent it each year.
Keep it manageable. I break down big tasks (“clean bedroom”) into specific, manageable elements (light fixtures, furniture, windows, window coverings, walls, closet, etc.)
Do it daily. Beginning early in the year, I try to complete one cleaning task each day. On busy days, I’ll do a quick job like cleaning one light fixture or washing the baseboards in one room. On days when I have more time (and energy) I’ll tackle big jobs like cleaning window blinds or liberating the dust bunnies from behind the fridge.
Make it a contest. I make note of the date I complete each task. This serves as motivation for the following year, as I try to beat?or at least match?my “best time”.
Reward effort. I always reward myself after completing a task, even if It’s just self-permission to sit and do nothing for five minutes. However, since spring cleaning season coincides with a certain coffee chain’s annual prize campaign, my reward often involves rolling up a rim.
Spring fever hits early. By the time the good weather arrives, I don’t want to be stuck in the dusty indoors. Even if I don’t get every cleaning task done, starting spring-cleaning early and breaking it down into manageable tasks gives my house a hope of being clean come spring.
Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario.