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How to spring clean like a pro

A cleaner house for the most time- and spatially-challenged.
Image: Green dining room with fowers
A deep clean and spray of flowers can do wonders for your home (and your mood). Halfdark / Getty Images/fStop
/ Source: NBC News

Not a big fan of cleaning? We're going to guess that even Marie Kondo would quiver if she saw how much junk and gunk you’ve let build up over the last few months. If it's time to cut through the clutter and do some deep cleaning, we've got a somewhat painless plan for even the laziest among us. While you can't banish the dust bunnies with a Jedi mind trick, you can make the process a whole lot easier with this two-step spring cleaning guide. First, you've got to get your head in the game by doing a little pre-cleaning prep, and then get straight on what to buy (and not), where to start first and how to get organized to spring clean in record time. Ready, set, go!

Step 1: Get Mentally Prepared to Clean

  • Visualize your ideal setup. Before dumping everything in your closet into a big pile on the floor, take a minute to visualize how you’d like your living space to look, says Clare Kumar, a professional organizer and productivity consultant in Toronto. “Getting clear on what that is a really important place to start,” she says. Once you know how you want to set up your space, you’ll more easily be able to decide what you need in terms of storage and tools, says Kumar.
  • Ban “clutter” from your vocabulary. Words like decluttering and purging have a negative connotation, which can devalue your stuff, says Kumar. “I’d rather think of editing or curating to get really excited about what you’re going to keep and feel comfortable with getting rid of what’s not going to serve you.” We call this step "Marie Kondo lite."
  • Believe in yourself (yes, seriously). “Staying organized boils down to learning new habits,” says Soreff. “The most challenging part for post people is when the old habit has been killed but the new habit is not locked in place.” Let’s say you’ve decided to file all of your papers away in a cabinet but then you start to get anxious that you’ll never be able to find anything. “Trust the new habit of being able to find it,” says Soreff.

Step 2: How to Deep Clean Your Home

Divide projects into small 15-minute blocks so you're less likely to stop and never restart.

  • Make sure you have the right cleaning tools. First, check the pantry to make sure you have the basics and give your vacuum a test drive. If you need to buy new cleaning tools, Leslie Reichert, the author of The Joy of Green Cleaning, is a big fan of high-quality microfiber cleaning supplies. “The cool thing about microfiber is that it picks up the germs and holds onto them until you throw the microfiber back into the wash,” she says. They make mops and cloths for specific surfaces like glass and stainless steel and everything is washable. She also likes using the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in the shower. “It uses the technology of friction,” she says. “It just melts the soap scum off.”
  • Resist the urge to buy giant bins. They’re not as practical as they seem. “A lot of clients make the mistake of buying really big bins,” says Ben Soreff of House to Home Organizing in Connecticut. “You want to put things where they belong, not where they fit.” Stashing brooms or sports equipment in a smaller bucket, for example, is a great way to store them since you won’t have to go rooting around for stuff when you need it, he says.
  • Store things based on how often you use them. Speaking of bins, be careful where you store them. Sure, you bust out those Christmas decorations every December — but why do they take up prime real estate in your closet? “You’re only going to be pulling those out and putting them away once a year, so they can be stored further away,” says Kumar. Think: in your basement, attic or garage, says Soreff.
  • Sanitize your sponges. The germiest item in your home is sitting right there in your kitchen sink. Yep, it’s your sponge, says Tierno. In a bowl, add one part bleach to nine parts water and let your sponge sit in it for a minute. Then, rinse the sponge and use it to wipe down your countertops, suggests Tierno. Unfortunately, this step isn't just for spring. He recommends cleaning your kitchen counters, along with your refrigerator, stove and cutting boards at least once a week to help keep your food space germ-free. Same goes for the bathroom sponges, too.
  • Start with your bedroom (your allergies will thank you). A good spring cleaning ritual should really start with where you snooze. When you get into bed, your sheets become home to constantly-shedding skin cells, hair, lotion and sweat — as well as anything you’ve picked up during the day, like pollen or pet dander, explains Philip Tierno, Ph.D., director of immunology and microbiology at NYU Langone Medical Center. And your dead skin cells are the perfect food for dust mites, allowing them to multiply like crazy. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, dust mites —and their poop — are a common cause of year-round allergies. All of these nasties can seep into your pillows and mattress, too, if you’re not diligent. That’s why Tierno recommends washing your sheets at least once a week and getting a mattress protector. “This will prevent the outside from going in and the inside from going out,” he says.
  • Follow the same formula in every room. Drake's “Started from the Bottom” might be your favorite cleaning jam, but Reichert suggests working top to bottom and back to front in each room. Chances are, you rarely, if ever, look at your ceiling — so start there, checking for cobwebs and dust, she says. Then, work your way down in a circle so you don’t redo your steps. Oh, and check areas that may have been overlooked for a long time — like ceiling fans and behind your toilet, both of which can quickly wiped down, says Reichert.
  • Use the washer and dishwasher as your secret cleaning weapon. A fast fix for dust or dirt? Toss your curtains, quilts, table clothes and throw pillows in the dryer for 10-15 minutes, says Reichart. “The heat will kill the dust mites and the dust will go out through the exhaust,” she says. Another lazy hack? Clean and sanitize everything from oven and dish drying racks to light switch covers in the dishwasher.
  • Clean your microwave by simply turning it on. Heat a cup of equal parts water and white vinegar in a glass measuring cup and microwave on high for 5 to 10 minutes. The caked-on crud will come up with a simple swipe of a sponge.
  • Set a timer to keep laziness at bay. “In terms of spring cleaning, a lot of people start little projects around the house — they take all these things out, and then they don’t finish anything,” says Soreff. Give yourself a limited amount of time to help focus your energies. Soreff suggests setting a timer on your phone for 15 minutes. “You can clean one area of your house in 15 minutes,” he says. Relieved when the time is up? Great, you can pick up on the cleaning again later. In the zone? Keep going!


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