When spring is on the doorstep, many people start on the big spring clean. There are excellent reasons for this: dust-generating fires are normally out, the Christmas tree has shed every possible pine needle, the dogs start to shed. But on the plus side, the doors can be flung wide, things can air and be beaten out on the line and – importantly – the newly returning sun seems to highlight every particle of dust in the air and every smeary window. Small wonder then we rush round in a manic, thorough clean.
Many people also see this time as a great opportunity to declutter. Again, this is a seasonal ritual. The new year means a new start, with lots of realising they want to cleanse their homes and lives of all that has unnecessarily accumulated. Unwanted Christmas presents and outgrown clothes included. So this is where to start, as moving out the clutter – to a garage or jumble sale, car boot or charity shop – creates a mess in the process, but leaves behind more room to clean.
Don’t clean around the junk: get rid of it, by hook or by crook. One good tip for deciding whether to sell or giveaway items is, if you haven’t used it, worn it, played with it or thought about it in the last year, it really can go. As you work through cupboards and wardrobes, put everything tidy and dust the insides as you go.
Next, get all the linens, duvets, curtains and rugs out in the fresh air and sunshine. You could wash some in the machine, or take heavy items to a laundrette or dry cleaner. Beating them out with something like a strong pole or tennis racket to really shake the dust out is also great exercise and a good way to work out some aggression! Once they are out of the house, they won't be shedding dust on your newly cleaned surfaces and floors every time you brush against them.
Big and dirty jobs that get messy should come next. This includes cleaning chimneys, fireplaces and ranges. The oven and the fridge. If you leave this till the end, your floors won't be sparkling for long and a newer layer of dust can settle over everything. It’s wide to get the rugs and drapes out before any soot or water goes flying.
Now, start working from the top down. In each room, get a traditional feather duster and get all those cobwebs which can build up in ceiling corners and light shades down. Clean behind pictures or at least run a duster over the tops. You’re getting all the dust down onto the floor, so hoovering that comes last of all. Try and always work vertically downwards, so you don’t knock dirt down onto shelves or mantels you’ve already cleaned. Workaround shelves and what’s on them, furniture … whatever is at your current height level.
Then, when you get to a picture, mirror and window level, you can start with the glass. It’s time-consuming but worth it. It’s a good idea to do them inside and out and, in a larger house, this is a lot of work. You could ask a window cleaner to do it all, or just the outside. When doing it yourself, white vinegar and newspaper leave a really good shine without smears. Also shine up sinks, appliances and cupboard fronts, finishing with a soft, dry and clean cloth so they really sparkle.
Finally, hoover or sweep everything. Vacuuming is best as it doesn’t stir dust-up, where it can stick on furniture, shelves and skirting boards. Work in all directions, so the pile of the carpet isn’t just rubbed one way. Wash down floors, clean the skirts and kickboards. Then, relax. Go listen to the birds singing, watch the flowers budding and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
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