I think I vaguely remember some sort of Spring cleaning ritual when I was a married, stay-at-home mom of one child. I had check-lists and a plan and it seems like sunbeams followed me around everywhere in that far less complicated and busy place. I have always loved lists and still use them, but now – being single and working full-time with 4 kids, well, things are different.
And that’s okay.
One of the first resources I turned to after things got a bit overwhelming in the household cleaning arena was the Flylady. She taught about putting a control journal together as sort of a household bible with all of the information and checklists you could ever need. She emphasized getting into good quick habits. Habits not all of us learn as we are growing up, so this is a wonderful learning tool. The other thing I loved about her is that she was really into doing things in very small amounts of time, which is all I really have, and constant de-cluttering. I’ve used these habits and lists to spread out chores among all of us so that we are getting everything done.
I seem to be obsessed with the idea of organization, which is a bit laughable, since I feel pretty far away from everything being all color coded and beautiful boxes and the like. I think part of it is that I feel more at ease and peaceful when things are neat and clean and there is no clutter. Marie Kondo talks about organization and de-cluttering by only keeping items that spark joy in you in her New York best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I liked the focus of the book on de-cluttering and making better choices about the things that surround you everyday, but I’m pretty sentimental about pictures and so on, so I had to take the middle road with this method, too. We still purge on a pretty continual basis.
And, Martha Stewart, well, ummm I’m going to try not to maniacally laugh here. I do like her pretty pictures in her magazine, but really, I’d rather spend more time with my kids than folding a fitted sheet perfectly. Besides, I figure, if I ever get married again, I could always marry someone with Martha Stewart abilities.
So how do I get Spring Cleaning done in my house? Well, really, it’s a year-round event and, let’s get real, it happens in the corners of my life when I have time. My biggest secret when I’m feeling really un-motivated? I set a timer for 15 minutes and go as fast as I can for those 15 minutes. Then I stop. If I’m feeling motivated by that point, I’ll take a break for 15 minutes and then set the timer for 15 minutes again and go back out. I’ve actually had entire days like this where I got an amazing amount of work done in this way. Here are some more handy tips:
- De-clutter as much as you can. Pick one room each week and spend at least 15 minutes a day. I ask myself something pretty similar to Marie Kondo. Do I really love this enough to clean this up a million times or can someone else be blessed by it? And I’m really practical (except for the photos and my kids drawings), so I ask myself, have I used this in the past year? If not, off it goes. I find that putting all giveaways in a cardboard box right away and then putting it in the trunk of my car right away helps to get stuff actually out the door and not waiting in the box in the corner forever.
- Print out a detailed cleaning list. Here’s one from Flylady – FlyLady Detailed Cleaning Lists. Again, pick out one room each week and spend at least 15 minutes a day on it.
- Delegate. Your kids need to help. They need to not only see the process, but be part of it. This is part of their education and how they are going to learn this for themselves. I’ve let my kids sell their stuff on Ebay, Facebook and garage sales and let them keep the proceeds as an added incentive. Be firm. This stuff is important.
- Use non-toxic cleaning supplies. Throw out the yuck that is poisoning your family as part of your de-cluttering and feel safe in the knowledge that your kids can easily help clean without worrying that you’ll have to call poison control. The toxins in cleaners, detergents and fabric softeners are challenging to those with asthma and other respiratory disease and those with skin sensitivities and the endocrine system, which makes parents even more tired from having to filter out the chemicals. I love Thieves and use it for cleaning everything – including my dishes and laundry.
- Have a party. Lol. No seriously. This will help you remain motivated and will help you celebrate all of your hard work. This is why we de-clutter and organize – to have more time and space to enjoy it.
Most of all, perfection is your enemy. Be gentle with yourself and kind. Ultimately, this is a form of self-care, so make it as fun and nourishing as you can. Put on your favorite music, sing, dance, put your favorite oil in your diffuser and create more room for joy and fun in your life.