Flowers are in bloom and birds are chirping, but your home is still stuck in the doldrums of a long winter. Now that longer days are here, it’s a great time to do some spring cleaning tasks!
With roots that trail through neurochemistry, religion, spirituality, and healthy living, spring cleaning is a popular practice that, given its prevalence, could even be considered a global rite.
Some researchers trace the origin of spring cleaning to the Iranian Nowruz, the Persian new year, which falls on the first day of spring. Iranians continue the practice of “shaking the house” just before the Persian new year.
In Jewish custom, spring cleaning is linked to Passover in March or April, which marks the liberation of Jews from slavery in Egypt. Before the start of the holiday, a general cleaning takes place in order to remove any yeast bread, or chametz, from the home.
In Christian custom, the Catholics clean the church altar the day before Good Friday, also normally in March or April. Members of the Greek Orthodox church clean house for a week leading up to Lent.
The preparation for Chinese New Year custom of Xiaonian, designed to rid the house of any negativity and lingering spirits.
The Japanese practice of ōsōji (big cleanup) dates back to the Edo Period (1603 to 1868) if not before. In this December ritual, people clean their homes to welcome the deities of the new year. Today, many continue the practice during Japan’s Golden Week, a period of seven days from late April to early May that contains four national holidays.
Biology may even play a role in the human urge to spring clean. During darker winter months, the body produces more melatonin, a hormone that increases sleepiness. As days lengthen, this natural lethargy lessens and we literally feel “lighter.” With greater energy, we’re more likely to want to clean our homes.
Take your cultural pick, but spring cleaning is a global phenomenon.
But what’s the best way of going about doing a thorough spring cleaning?
Not to worry, A Life of Balance is here to help keep this from being a daunting task.
From understanding the scope of the cleaning you want to do, to verifying everything got done, here’s your step-by-step guide to how to spring-clean your house. Be sure to go all the way to the bottom to get our spring cleaning checklist. Our checklist is great if you don’t know where to start cleaning. It will help you do one project a day to get your home clean in 30 days time.
Understand the scope
The first step is to figure out exactly what “spring cleaning” means to you.
The Cambridge dictionary says that spring cleaning is “the act of cleaning all of a place, especially your house, very well, including parts you do not often clean.” But that really doesn’t give you the specifics of what you will do.
Will you wash all the laundry but not clean the inside of the washing machine and dryer? Wipe down the baseboards but not the electrical outlets? Dust the ceiling fans but not the light bulbs?
There’s no wrong answer here. It all comes down to what you want cleaned and how much effort you’re willing to put in to get those things cleaned. If you want everything immaculate, but you’re only willing to put in an hour a day for two weeks, you may have to readjust either your expectations or your time commitment.
Define and sequence project activities
What does “clean the light switches” mean to you? Are you dusting the light switch and plate? Wiping them down with a disinfectant wipe? Scrubbing with soap and warm water? Whatever you decide, that’s your definition of “clean the light switches.” It may not be the same as mine, but that’s okay. You’re cleaning to YOUR standards, not mine.
Sequencing the project activities means putting them in the proper order. For example, you’d want to wash down the walls before washing the baseboards. Clean the bathroom counter before you wash the bathroom sinks. Scrub the shower surround before scouring the bathtub. Dust the ceiling fan before vacuuming the floor below.
Ensure the correct tools and supplies are on hand
You wouldn’t want to try and chop down a tree with a steak knife; you’d want a heavy axe or a chainsaw. You wouldn’t want to fish for Chinook salmon with a string tied to a stick; you’d use a professional rod and reel. When it comes to giving your home a good cleaning, you similarly need the right tools and cleaning supplies.
Glass cleaner and paper towels or chamois clothes to wash your windows and mirrors. Pillowcases to dust the blades of your ceiling fans. Your preferred floor cleaner and type of mop for your hardwoods and bathroom floors. Your preferred all-purpose cleaner. You get the picture.
Declutter before any cleaning begins
You wouldn’t want to cook dinner with the kids’ homework scattered across the stovetop. You don’t back your car out of the garage without making sure the driveway is clear of bikes and toys.
Now is a great time to declutter as much as possible before you lift so much as a wash rag. Walk through the house with a trash bag and a donate box pulling everything that can possibly go into them. Remember, the less things you have, the easier it will be to not only spring clean but keep clean.
Once the donate box is full, schedule a pick-up or drop-off as soon as possible so things don’t wander back into your home. If you have a lot of things to donate you might want to consider boxing them up and scheduling a yard sale. A good idea for getting the kids involved is to use the proceeds for a fun outing for the family.
Tidy up your closet, donating clothes you don’t wear to the local charity of your choice before you go through and dust clothing that’s been hanging a while. Put all your makeup away before scrubbing your bathroom counter. Have the kids pick up all their toys before they vacuum their carpets.
Know who’s helping you
In Amish country, when a man needs a barn built, the entire community comes together to take care of the entire process, from foundation to finish, in less than a week. There’s a strong community belief in helping each other. The Amish know that many hands make light work.
The more people you have helping you with your spring cleaning, the easier it will be for everyone involved. It’s almost impossible for one person to deep clean the whole house in a weekend. Enlist the whole family and as many friends as possible. Then you can return the favor for your friends when they do their spring scrubbing.
One caveat, if you are an absolute perfectionist, you might be better off finding additional time for your spring cleaning project rather than risking upsetting friends because they didn’t clean to your standards. If you have others help, you must be willing to accept their methods and results within reason.
Once you know who will be helping you, create a complete spring cleaning list and then assign tasks to each individual on your crew.
Prioritize and document tasks
You’ve just finished your first day of spring cleaning. On your way to bed, you stop by the kitchen for a glass of warm milk. But instead of getting your milk, you wind up slipping on the wet floor and break your arm. You’re done cleaning for the next 3 months. What do you want to have cleaned in that one day you did have?
Do you want to have surface-level cleaned the entire house? Deep cleaned one room? Vacuumed and mopped your whole apartment? Now what do you want to get done if you have just two days? Three? That’s how you prioritize your cleaning list.
Documenting your cleaning list can be as simple as writing your prioritized list down in a notebook and crossing things off as you go, or as complicated as creating a spreadsheet with color coding and checkboxes. Make sure you have prioritized the things on your list that are most important to you so that they’re the first things that get finished.
Verify everything got done
You’re all done! Or are you…? Santa Claus makes his list and checks it twice; it’s time for you to do the same. You don’t want to stop short of the finish line, do you?
This is where using a checklist comes in handy. Every task is listed, and you can easily see if every task was completed or not. If not, you’ve got just a tad more work to do. If so, it’s time for a more celebratory drink than a glass of warm milk.
Whether you’re kashering your home, shaking the house for Nowruz, getting rid of any negative energy and lingering spirits in Xiaonian, or just plain spring cleaning, this seven- step method to cleaning your home will get the fresh start you’re looking for.
It’s time to create your plan
Use our 30-day Checklist to get started on your spring cleaning task list.
You can either use it as is or use it as inspiration to create your own list of tasks you want to accomplish. And remember, just because we called it a 30-day plan doesn’t mean you have to do it over 30 days. You could choose to do everything in a weekend or two, or to spread it out even further. Use our checklist as a starting point to create the perfect plan for you.
Let me know how your spring cleaning went by commenting below or dropping me an email. Are there things that need to be added to our checklist? Let me know at email@example.com.