The weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer, spring is almost here. There is no better way to welcome the new season and shed the heavy weight of winter, then with a spring clean. A two-fold approach with first a de-cluttering followed by a deep clean will make your home feel shiny and new.
Where do you start? Winter leaves our homes bursting at the seams with new gifts and piles of items ready for retirement. You can clean room by room or by category – think clothing or books. Regardless of where you start, a systematic approach will help you carve out the necessary time and conquer the clutter most effectively.
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The kitchen is the most used room in the house. Considered by many as the control room, it is where we store our food and equipment, prepare our meals and often base our clean-up activities.
But when was the last time you used that fondue pot, waffle maker or slow cooker? According to Chef Jamie Oliver, there are less than 30 essential kitchen equipment pieces that you need. Of those, the tools worth investing in include good knives, wooden chopping boards, and a food processor.
All those other gadgets we pull out once a year, take up valuable real estate and should be sold or donated. Can’t live without your annual fondue night? Message friends to see about borrowing one or connect with your local cheese shop about renting one. Let someone else store the large kitchen equipment and instead, focus on kitchen essentials.
Let’s face it: cleaning the oven and refrigerator are tasks no one enjoys. Why not get them out of the way first so you can move on to other, more pleasant tasks? Turn on some upbeat music and dive in.
Ovens are magnets for grime but never fear: some elbow grease, good cleaning implements, and a reliable cleanser will help you turn it from a black hole to a sparkling space. There’s no need for industrial strength chemicals; instead, try an eco-friendly mixture.
Mix equal parts bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and salt with enough vinegar to create a spreadable paste; add a few squeezes of lemon and voilà! You are ready to scrub away the grease and grunge with the aid of wire wool, a toothbrush, a sponge and a metal scraper.
Baking soda is alkaline and doesn’t scratch, so it is also suitable for cleaning chrome. Your stovetop and the exterior of your fridge are excellent targets. Remove the burners from your stove to clean up any grit that has escaped from cooked food and give the entire surface a once over.
Cleaning your refrigerator means first removing and reviewing its contents. Fridges are known repositories for miscellaneous bottles, jars of condiments and containers of leftover who-knows-what. Check the expiry dates on each product and discard those that are too old. Don’t mix two jars of the same item, because they may not expire on the same date.
Once you’ve sorted through your items, it’s time to wipe down the shelves and replace everything you’ve decided to keep.
Next, tackle the freezer. Emptying it and reviewing its contents allows you to discard those cartons with two spoonfuls of ice cream remaining or any items that have lingered long past their usefulness. Also, empty your ice cube trays and wash them with soap and water before refilling. Ice cubes left too long in the freezer absorb freezer smells – not the most appetizing addition to a cold drink!
Once again, emptying the food cupboards is your first order of business. Review all the cans, jars and packages and discard those that have expired. Even packaged goods have expiration dates, so check those, too.
Set aside unwanted items to donate to the local food bank. Wipe down jars and large containers, especially those containing oils, syrups and vinegars, since they are likely to have drips along the sides. Also wipe the shelves, of course!
Next, cast a critical eye over your herb and spice collection to see if their contents are still fresh and flavourful. The folks at McCormick, the herb and spice manufacturers, say dried herbs last for one to three years and spices remain fresh for two to four years. Are their colors faded? Crush a bit in your hand to see if they give off an aroma, or taste them. If not, it’s time to shop for replacements.
Staples such as rice, pasta and tea bags are also subject to loss of flavor; they taste best within two years of manufacture, so toss those that are too old. If you store them – or other dry goods – in mason jars or containers other than their packages, it’s useful to label them with an expiry date. A piece of masking tape and a pen are all you’ll need to stay on top of freshness.
While you are appraising and weeding out items, it’s also the perfect time to create a shopping list of the goods you’ll need to replace.
With your cupboards bare like those of Old Mother Hubbard of nursery rhyme fame, this is also a perfect time to think about organization. Consider your cooking habits and place items in the cupboard accordingly, with the rarely used items on higher shelves or at the back of cupboards.
Keep your frequently used ingredients close at hand. Use your kitchen storage space to the maximum, because it always seems to be at a premium. You can buy dividers for deep drawers or put airtight bins atop cupboards, for example.
Our living rooms are where we relax, entertain and often the place we reflect our interests with displays of books, music, and movies. These shelves can become easily overwhelmed. Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method from her bestselling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” recommends tackling items by category.
With books, you take every book off the shelf and then go through each one asking if it “sparks joy” and if you will ever read or re-read it. If the answer is no, you thank it for its service and donate it. The same process applies to music and movies. Forcing yourself to go through every item, although tedious, will leave you with a space filled with items that you truly love.
The KonMari Method can also be used for clothing, and the bedroom closet is usually one of our most daunting spaces. The goal should be to pair down to a foundation of timeless pieces that can be paired with anything in your closet.
And while you are cleaning out, you should create a series of go-to outfits that will eliminate “What will I wear?” from ever being asked again. Need some motivation? Plan a clothing swap with friends and over a glass of wine, exchange your cast-offs for something new-to-you. At the end of the night, send all the leftover clothing to a local women’s shelter.
On the topic of swaps, the Spring is a great time to plan for a swap meet. Kid swaps are popular fundraisers with community centers and local schools. For a small table rental fee, you can offload unused toys and kids gear while someone else advertises and organizes the event. Just promise yourself to donate whatever you don’t sell by planning to drop off unsold items to a thrift shop immediately following the event.
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When the conversation turns to spring cleaning, the subject is usually the interior of the home: washing windows, cleaning drapes and packing away winter clothes, for example. However, if you’re eager to get outside in the fresh air, take heart. It’s not only your living room and kitchen that benefit from being spruced up in preparation for warmer weather; the exterior needs some tender, loving care, too.
Exterior maintenance isn’t all cosmetic. There are tasks that help preserve the structure and ensure that your home is a safe place to live. Consider the following tasks as you prepare to enjoy your property to the fullest in the coming months:
If the exterior of your home is looking a bit grimy, make it shine with the help of a pressure wash. A local tool rental store is a good place to obtain a pressure washer.
Use pressure washing equipment with care, since extreme pressure can damage wood and soft materials. Add a detergent to the washer’s reservoir to remove resistant dirt, but be sure the product is made for use in a pressure washer.
If there is mold on the exterior, mix a solution of one part bleach to four parts water to spray on the surface. Leave it on for 10-5 minutes before using a pressure washer to remove it. Cover nearby plants with drop cloths and wear rubber gloves when working with bleach.
Your driveway is undoubtedly feeling the effects of the winters freeze and thaw cycles. It’s time for a bit of maintenance and repair. Remove weeds that have settled into the cracks and grass that is encroaching. Use a pressure washer to get rid of dirt. Patch cracks and holes in concrete with a concrete resurfacer. Asphalt driveways may need latex asphalt resealer to refresh the surface. Replenish gravel, as needed.
Check your roof to see if there are torn or missing shingles that require repair or replacement. Use roofing cement to patch any gaps, especially around vulnerable areas such as chimneys and plumbing vents. No leaks allowed!
The checklist for interior spring cleaning usually includes washing windows, but the exteriors need a cleaning, too, or the job is only half finished. You want a clear view of the garden and the sunny days. Do your washing when the windows are shaded. Use a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar and water for a sparkling finish. Dry the windows with newspaper, rather than paper towels, to avoid bits of paper clinging to the surface.
Ready your deck for long days of grilling and dining outdoors. Apply deck cleaner and let it dry before washing the deck with a pressure washer or a scrub brush. Rinse it and let it dry; then consider whether you need to apply stain or sealer. Let them dry thoroughly before using the deck.
Get your patio furniture ready for months of use. Wash or clean away last season’s accumulation of grime, along with the dust and cobwebs that may have accumulated during storage. If you have a front porch, its accessories and furniture will also need some cleaning to look their spring best.
Barbecue season is coming, so don’t be caught unprepared. There’s nothing like the smell of grilling meat, fish or veggies. A degreasing detergent and a wire brush will take care of grimy racks and the inside of the grill. If your grill is gas, check the burners for rust and make sure the holes aren’t clogged. A small piece of wire works wonders in clearing them.
If the exterior of the grill requires painting, sand it first and wash it to remove grease. Paint it with barbecue and stove enamel, which withstands high heat.
Although it’s undoubtedly still too cold to plant new flowers and vegetation, take time to clean up any leftovers from last year. Any plants that have died over the winter are blemish on your lovely landscaping, so remove them. Give trees and bushes a trim if they’re looking shaggy.
If you have window screens to install, now’s the time to check them for damage and clean them. Dunk them in a children’s wading pool filled with soapy water, lay them on a flat surface and clean them with a soft scrub brush before rinsing. If there are small tears, you can flatten the fibers and add a few coats of clear nail polish to repair them. Larger holes will need patches.
One last thing to keep in mind; get the most comprehensive insurance available for your house and contents.
There’s no set time to do spring cleaning. The best time is as soon as you’re able to devote the time needed; if you have a lot to clean, try to clear out a whole weekend to get it all done in one shot.
For a typical family home, you should probably budget at least a weekend (1-2 full days) for a proper spring cleaning. Of course, if your home is small or uncommonly tidy, you may be able to get it finished much faster.
If you wish to hire professional cleaners for your home’s annual spring clean, you should budget between $400 and $500 for a 3-bedroom house.
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