And besides, the days are longer, the birds are busy, the first buds and leaves have appeared. Everything is energized and ready to begin, and I've noticed a heavy, tired, even slightly grubby atmosphere in my house. I'm ready to spring clean!
Unlike our ancestors, the majority of us don't heat our homes with open fires or light our rooms with candles or kerosene lamps. We aren't forced to use either an icy privy at the back of the yard or a stinky chamber pot stored under the bed. We have washing machines, dishwashers, and other mechanical servants to help with the housework. As long as we don't completely ignore cleaning and let roaches or mildew invade, our homes may never reach the level of dirt and disorder that a Victorian homeowner had to contend with by the end of winter.
But we may share another problem with those Victorians that makes cleaning house a burdensome job.
Clutter makes every job harder.
Susan Strasser, professor of history at the University of Delaware, and author of Never Done: A History of American Housework (a library book, now out of print), reminds us that Victorian interior design embraced a "more is more" aesthetic. Intricately patterned wallpapers, heavy draperies, thick carpets, ornate furniture, tapestries, collections of porcelain, exotic souvenirs, hunting trophies and more filled the typical home. "It made spring cleaning much more difficult than it would've been in a home without tchotchkes," writes Strasser.
So you can clean and reorganize everything like your grandmother and great-grandmother did, or you can use this opportunity to accomplish several things by decluttering first:
- Learn about yourself. Cleaning may require you to handle your possessions, but it doesn't require you to evaluate them, especially if you just shuffle some of them into closets or the spare room. In contrast, actually removing items from your home forces you to decide what's truly important to you.
- Control your urge to shop. Do you really need to greet the season with new spring décor? Maybe paring down will provide the fresh look you crave.
- Benefit others. The possessions you rarely use sit and gather dust. Before you make another trip to the container store, consider donating your excess.
- Inspire gratitude. Cleaning and organizing do improve your mood, but they rarely lead to a new outlook on life. You may still feel your house is too small and your income too little. But clutter is evidence that you have more than you need. When you start to remove excess possessions, you realize how prosperous you actually are.
1. Remove the trash.
2. Donate duplicates.
4. Clean most-touched surfaces and all of the corners.
- door knobs and drawer pulls
- appliance fronts and handles
- light switches
- staircase railings
- telephones, tablets, and computer keyboards
- remotes and game controllers
5. Wash and fluff soft goods.
- Fluff throw pillows and lap blankets in the dryer on high heat, or remove covers, wash on gentle, and line dry. Are these items really useful, or do they simply clutter the couch? Vacuum upholstered furniture before replacing what you want to keep.
- Wash and dry bathroom rugs and cloth shower curtains according to manufacturers' instructions.
- Fluff bed pillows in the dryer on high, or launder according to instructions. Wash blankets, quilts, and duvet covers before storing, and replace with lighter-weight bedding.
6. Clear flat surfaces.
7. Clear the floor.
8. Clean the windows.