"I'll clean the house when Sears comes out with a ride-on vacuum cleaner." -Roseanne Barr
Any holiday called Clean Monday is right up my alley and a perfect time to let the cleaning games begin. Among Eastern Orthodox Christian and Eastern Catholic religions, Clean Monday is the first day of Lent, falling the day before Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) and Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent for Western Christian faiths). Clean Monday (February 5 this year) occurs seven weeks before Easter Sunday and is when we're called upon to straighten out our acts, forgive and be forgiven, clean up our lives, tidy up our homes and find (literally and figuratively) our center. No small feat, right?
Sure...I know there's probably still a heap of snow on your driveway and that you wake to toss back your morning coffee in total darkness. But that's bound to change as each day gets longer...and when spring is finally here, I hope we'll all be slugging our cuppa-joe's in a sunny spot or outside in the garden. And as "the sun shines in," won't you be happy that everything's already clean?
Since Spring Cleaning can be a huge pain, this year get an early leg up on the heavy stuff - scrubbing the back stairs, washing windows, working up a sweat while Hoovering those overlooked cobwebs and dust-bunnies, etc.
I'm taking for granted that most folks already have a cleaning routine in place. You know...light dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and scrubbing the bathroom and kitchen.
Spring Cleaning is different...it's what people have done for millennia. (Remember Wilma Flintstone chasing her Wooly Mammoth vacuum around the house and dusting with the tail feathers of her live Pterodactyl?) I think of Spring Cleaning as the time of year to get into the nooks and crannies that have been ignored the rest of the year. It's a time of renewal, too - the shades and curtains get opened, the windows go up, the days get longer, the temperature climbs, and it feels like a natural time to freshen the nest. So, with that in mind, determine what you think is do-able, consider safe alternatives (e.g. baking soda, borax, lemon, salt and white vinegar) over any harmful commercial products you've used in the past, and whatever you do, don't kill yourself by over-doing it.
The easiest way to begin is by dusting. A dampened cotton cloth is best for this task, but for delicate surfaces (antiques, heirlooms, leather, gold-leaf and wood), a plain old dry cotton rag is swell. Dust everything in reach...your artwork, photos, knick-knacks, lamps, air vents, air conditioners and ceiling fans, and electronics (and behind the electronics!). This is also the time of year that I usually attack the walls, wallpapered surfaces, baseboards, trims and moldings. (You'll be shocked and amazed at how much oo-and-goo can build up where you least expect it -- or maybe you won't be amazed and have just been ignoring it all winter!)
Vacuum the things you usually overlook: upholstered furniture, toys, draperies, windowsills, dog beds, toy boxes, vertical blinds, shelving, and of course, rugs. My vacuum is a super-cheap-o machine with a bazillion attachments. (Spring Cleaning is the perfect time to finally use some of them!). It has a removable container to hold the nasty bits it captures, and I clean the filter and the bin regularly -- often several times during one vacuuming session. The cleaner the machine, the greater the suction; the vacuum is your friend so put it to work.
Next -- the "big wash-up" -- with a splash of white vinegar added to a pail of warm water. Using a soft cloth, rinse your medicine chest, swab your linen cabinets, clean your kitchen cupboards, wipe your bookshelves, dab your windowsills and door-jams and cleanse anything you wouldn't normally freshen up each time you spin through your house for a weekly quickie-clean. Now's the time to get into the dark and spooky corners you've ignored for 11 months.
Onwards to the beds! Launder your bedding and don't forget a single layer. And when each is sparkling clean, if it's at all possible, hang them in the sun to dry. It doesn't even matter if it's a bit chilly -- as long as it's above freezing and sunny, the sun will still do the job of drying your sheets, pillow cases, comforters, duvets, blankets, mattress pads and covers. And best of all, it will brighten them and make them smell naturally fresh.
Finally, wash your windows (inside and out), glass surfaces, and mirrors with a mixture of one tablespoon of white vinegar added to a recycled spray bottle filled with warm water. While paper towels work ok to wipe them all up, they're not the most eco-friendly, and also increase streaking. I prefer the added bonus of using recycled newspaper to do this job.
Now remember... your house didn't get dirty in a day, so don't expect to clean it in a day. I set the timer on the stove for an hour, and when the buzzer goes off, that's it -- and next week I pick up where I left off. The way I look at it, whatever gets done is reason enough for a Champagne party. It's amazing how accomplished you'll feel. By weekly tackling just a bit, by Easter (seven weeks away) you'll be back to "Fabu-losity."
So set the stage for success-have the perfect supplies on hand, the best company in tow (recruit your kids, partner, friends, etc.), the appropriate music filling the air and the right attitude to accomplish your chores.
When it comes to Spring Cleaning, I always say: "The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time." (It's a metaphor... nobody should eat elephants.)
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