Nobody says you have to do spring cleaning, but if you want to, there are some ways to fit it into your schedule. I share a few in this episode, but I'd love to hear your ideas too. Comment below!
Making time for spring cleaning — if you want to
I am fortunate because I live in Texas and spring comes a little earlier than in some parts of the U.S. It still has been chilly at night, but we're enjoying sunny days and temperatures in the 70s and higher, so I get to open the windows and air out the house.
The bad news is the sunlight exposes all the dust and dirt and dinginess that comes from living in the country, so I get the urge to clean things up. I still have my client work to do, though. I’ve been thinking about how I can fit in the cleaning I need or want to do when I have other work that needs to get done.
Where does the idea of spring cleaning come from?
- Religious and cultural origins
Spring cleaning has a place in Jewish custom surrounding the Passover celebration, in Christian custom with respect to Holy Week and Lent, in Iran's holiday Nowruz, or Persian New Year, and in the preparation for the Chinese new year. (Read more on “Cleaning Up for Chinese New Year” and “How Spring Cleaning Became an Annual Tradition” on the Country Living website or in this article: “Why Do We Traditionally Clean Our Homes at the Beginning of Spring?”)
- The role in biology
During winter’s shorter, grayer days, when we're exposed to less sunlight, our bodies produce more melatonin, a hormone that causes sleepiness. The more sun we’re exposed to, the less melatonin, so as the spring days get longer and sunnier, we have more energy. (And the sunlight coming in through the windows exposes that dust that’s gathered over the winter!)
What is spring cleaning?
Traditionally, it's an all-day (or longer) blitz of deep cleaning. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica blog:
“In times past, when people kept their houses shut tight against the cold of winter, heated them with coal and oil and wood, and lighted them with candles, the coming of spring signaled a welcome opportunity to make a dingy habitation fresh again. On the first warm, dry day of the season, everybody in the family—that is, everyone in the family who had survived the ravages of the cold season—would pitch in to pull every stick of furniture and scrap of cloth outside. Then, armed with brooms and washrags, one squad of housecleaners would return to the house, sweeping and scrubbing every corner and washing down the walls, while another would air out linens, remove soot and ash from couches and chairs, dust books and paintings, and mend a few items on the run.”
This kind of all-day group activity seldom an option now, but we will talk more about that later.
One article titled “A Spring Cleaning Checklist for People Too Busy to Spring Clean” cited survey results noting that 24% of Americans say they do their spring cleaning in less than a day, but most–54%– say they spend more than a day; the average American spends all or part of 4 days to get the spring cleaning done. This article offers lists of spring cleaning tasks based on how much time you have–only 1 day, 1-2 days, 3-6 days, a week or more.
The Encyclopædia Britannica blog proposes an old-fashioned spring cleaning, where everything that can be is removed from the rooms and taken outside for airing in the sunlight–even mattresses, to be laid across sawhorses: “You will be slaughtering dust mites by the millions, and a jolly massacre it will be.” It also recommends moving appliances like the refrigerator, stove, washer, and dryer and cleaning underneath them.
Why is spring a good time to do deep cleaning?
- During the winter, the house is more closed up, there are fires in the fireplace, and the furnace is running, generating dust and grime.
- Winter messes get brought in to the house – wet coats and boots bring in a residue of snow or mud.
- Modern airtight homes are full of chemicals and artificial fibers that can build up during colder months while the house is closed up. The sunlight and fresh air can help dissipate this.
- Sunny weather motivates us since our bodies produce less melatonin and we have more energy.
- Warmer weather allows for windows to be opened and fresh air let in.
- It's a good time to prep the house for spring/summer events such as barbecue parties, graduations, baby/wedding showers. (Of course, holiday company/events makes pre-holidays a good time to do deep cleaning, too.)
What if you can’t devote a full day to cleaning?
If you work full time, run a business, care for small children or elderly & sick family, you might not be able to devote full days to cleaning, so if you want to do some spring cleaning, you'll need to find ways to do it in small increments.
Note: The last thing I want to do is add to your to-do list with this post. Remember that depending on the stage of life you’re in, spring cleaning is not a requirement! You are not a bad person if you don’t!
If budget allows, consider hiring help for some of the big jobs.
- Deep cleaning (e.g., windows, moving furniture to clean behind, ceiling fans, baseboards, etc.)
- Professional organizer (Past guest Lisa Woodruff has a page on her site with a Directory of Organize 365 Licensed Providers)
- National Association of Professional Organizers
- Angie’s List
Ideas for making spring cleaning easier
1. Get the right tools
- Instead of crummy rags or old wilted sponges, some nice microfiber cloths (can find at Walmart or on Amazon)
- Get a decent broom, mop, scrub brush and/or detail brush, and a good vacuum cleaner
- Have a sturdy stepstool and/or ladder handy
- Cleaners – you don’t need a ton of them, but pick effective ones with scents you like
- Glass & surface cleaner
- Multi-surface cleaner
- Antibacterial/disinfectant cleaner
- Floor cleaner (depending on the type of flooring you have–stone, wood, tile)
- Specialty cleaners as applicable (stainless steel, wood, granite)
- I like the tools and all natural cleaning products I’ve ordered from Grove Collaborative. (Affiliate link)
- Assemble them in a bucket or caddy, easy to get to when you have time for a cleaning session
- If you have a big project you want to do (e.g., reorganizing/cleaning a big closet or your pantry) but can’t complete it in one session, have big boxes or laundry baskets available to put all the stuff in so you can tuck it out of sight in between sessions instead of leaving a big mess of stuff piled all over.
2. Declutter first – It’s easier to clean if you have less stuff!
- Declutter the small stuff, but also furniture, etc. What do you have in your house that you don’t love and use every day?
- Put away winter coats, boots, etc. – have them washed/repaired first so they’re ready to go next winter. Get rid of old/outgrown/damaged ones, and make note of what will need to be replaced
- Keep boxes handy in rooms like the kitchen, bathroom, and closet, and spend 10 minutes every day pulling things out to fill the boxes. Try to find at least a couple things every day to put in the box
- While the pasta or tea water boils, go through one drawer or cupboard or shelf, pulling out things to toss or donate
- While you’re brushing your teeth or waiting for the bathtub to fill, go through one bathroom drawer or your medicine cabinet
- When getting dressed, pull a couple clothing items off the rack or out of a drawer; while folding washed clothes, set aside some items to donate to a shelter or charity
3. Make a plan
What do you want to give attention to in your spring cleaning? Some ideas:
- Thorough cleaning and airing areas that we normally just spot and surface clean
- Fixtures that don’t get regular attention, like:
- Ceiling fans (use an old pillowcase)
- Light fixtures
- Doormats/entry rugs
- Wash curtains
- Furnace filters
- Outlet covers/switch plates
- Move furniture to clean under/behind
- Cupboards (under sinks, etc.)
Decide whether to tackle cleaning by room or by “type” or surface (e.g., do all the ceiling cobwebs in one go, clean all the doors or woodwork or baseboards)
Decide how much time you want to spend on this: 15/30 minutes a day until it’s done? 2 hours over a few Saturdays? Devote one whole day?
Make sure you break the jobs down into the time increments you have available. For example, what can you do in 20 minutes?
If it helps, feel free to download a free printable of my own Spring Cleaning Master List.
4. Get the family involved
- If you plan to work on spring cleaning on a Saturday morning, what tasks can each child and/or your partner do?
- Make it a game–set timers, let kids take turns choosing tasks from a list you've prepared
- Come up with rewards such as “prizes” for completing tasks, or a fun family activity when it’s all done
5. Work efficiently
Do tasks in an order that avoids having to re-do any of it
- Work from top to bottom (e.g., clear cobwebs and dust higher surfaces before sweeping/vacuuming the floor)
- Work dry to wet. For instance, remove dust before wet cleaning, or the cleaner will turn it to mud and take longer to clean
6. Save time elsewhere to make time for cleaning
- Simple meals – crockpot, takeout, going out to eat
- Trade carpool duty with a friend
7. Use small bits of time to tackle tasks, and race against the clock
What can you get done while the pasta water boils or during the commercial breaks when you’re watching TV movie or even the news?
8. Motivate yourself
- Start with a task that gives you a lot of bang for your buck- something very visible and very dirty
- Clean dirty entry door and/or windows
- Clean kitchen cupboard doors
- Declutter/clean/reorganize the pantry or bookshelves
- YouTube “clean with me” videos can be very motivating! Search for “clean with me” in YouTube, and you'll find dozens of options. Some of my favorites are:
- Create a playlist of songs that energize you
- Plan a treat/reward for yourself when it’s done – how about planning a spa day?
- Take before and after photos. Maybe post them on social media, or just keep them on your phone to remind yourself of your progress
- Pair up with a friend who’s also doing her spring cleaning. For example, schedule a one-hour cleaning blitz–you at your house and her at hers–and text each other when you start and finish.
What do you think?
Do you do spring cleaning? What tips can you share for getting your house cleaned up and ready for spring and summer? Please share your questions or your best tips in the comments section at the bottom of this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- Cleaning Up for Chinese New Year
- Nowruz: Persian New Year's Table Celebrates Spring Deliciously
- How Spring Cleaning Became an Annual Tradition
- Why Do We Traditionally Clean Our Homes at the Beginning of Spring?
- A Quick History of Spring Cleaning
- Encyclopedia Britannica – Spring Cleaning: Its History and Importance
- Directory of Organize 365 Licensed Providers
- National Association of Professional Organizers
- Angie’s List
- Grove Collaborative (Affiliate link)
- My Spring Cleaning Master List
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