spring and for some reason, the entire country gets
obsessed with cleaning out their entire house, from the
closets to the file cabinets to the shelves in the
is when it starts, when the sun starts to come out and
people are getting a grip on their holiday
spending," says Gea Bassett, founder of Green
Cleaning Seattle. "As the real-estate market tends
to come back alive in the spring, we get turnover
cleanings, and move-in/move-out cleanings. The end of
March through all of summer tends to be the busiest
cleaning is upon us, and apparently, we are all Doing It
Wrong. I asked Bassett and a couple of personal
organizers and professional house cleaners for the doís
and doníts of the Big Clean.
TRY TO DO IT ALL AT ONCE
biggest mistake is to try and do it all in one weekend
and try and do too much," says Jessica Higbee, who
oversees the training for new employees at April Laneís
people call me to go into their house, they say, ĎI
need to organize the whole house,í?" says Cindy
Jobs, the president of the National Association of
Personal Organizers and the owner of Organize to
Simplify. "We are not going to organize the house
in the next four hours," she says. Instead,
"Prioritize based on what bothers you the
TAKE ON ONE AREA OR TASK AT A TIME
you are cleaning or organizing, pick a small area and
focus on that alone. Choose the closet, or the kitchen,
or the bathroom, do not move, do not pass go, do not
should just organize two or three hours at a time. Do
what is obtainable," says Denise Allan, a certified
professional organizer, and the owner of Simplify
Experts. "Iím going to hit my lower cabinets on
this side of the kitchen today. Next time I come in, Iíll
do the lower trunk and four drawers."
agrees and even uses this tactic for her own life:
"This weekend all I did was clean every trash can
and every sink that had a trash can."
she adds: "I pick one project a weekend. And itís
only a couple of hours. Whatever I think will take an
hour, itís really two."
stay laser focused. It will make it easier to follow the
seven years a standard American family can fill a large
dumpster in their yard," Allan says. "We just
bring so much in." If you have children, that means
even more stuff, especially as younger kids grow so
quickly, shedding their clothes and outgrowing their
toys. She advises to clean or organize a couple of times
a year. Better still, do it throughout the year.
FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED
goes hand-in-hand with Donít Try to Do It All at Once,
says Allan. "Not going through stuff all the way,
and getting started and stopping" is one of the
biggest mistakes people make.
a practical method to the madness, she says. "For
your kitchen to function well, you have to have gone
through all the drawers and know where things are."
CLEAN WHENEVER YOU FEEL LIKE IT
never set a time for themselves," says Jobs.
"They donít actually put it in their calendar.
They say, ĎYeah Iíll do it maybe next weekend.í"
adds: "The first thing I tell them is, ĎPut it in
your calendar.í Once you make your appointment ó
even with yourself ó you tend to adhere to it."
heard the nice lady: Make an appointment for cleaning.
OVERLOOK THE SMALL THINGS
some easy-to-miss items can make a big difference.
big things are probably baseboards and spot cleaning on
the walls that really make a house look and feel a lot
cleaner but we all tend to overlook doing," says
Bassett. "On our checklist: We wash baseboards and
the wall, light switches, anywhere someone would put
their hands or a dog or boot would scuff up."
itís tedious, but thatís the difference between
truly deep cleaning and straightening up.
CLEAN FROM TOP TO BOTTOM
start with the toilet and the tub and then do the sink,
or youíll end up going over the same areas twice, says
most obvious is a simple thing: Go from top to bottom,
knocking down dirt clouds from counters, move from top
to bottom. Start with wiping off the top of windowsills
and door frames. Work your way down, spot clean all
upper cabinets, move down a layer, wipe all appliances,
pull them out. Wipe all counters off. Always work from
the top down," she says. "Floors are the last
thing we do. We go through the whole house and vacuum,
and then we go through the whole house and mop."
ASK FOR HELP
the task seems too large, call upon friends, family, or
ó if itís really overwhelming ó a professional.
you have someone to talk to while you are doing it, it
makes it more fun," Jobs says. "Especially
with cleaning. If you live with anybody, you didnít
make the entire mess yourself, so thereís no reason to
do it all yourself." Besides, she says, "Itíll
make you cranky."
no one wants to be cranky, even if it means a clean