Spring Cleaning 101: Turn out the Cupboards, Sweep out the Cobwebs

In autumn the spiders seem to migrate indoors. The light is so low all through the winter that they happily spin away in the dark ceiling’s corners.

Natural Cleaning Supplies from Lehman'sBy February 1st here in Ireland we begin to notice an appreciable increase in daylight. On crisp, cold mornings the sun bursts forth. The snowdrops pop out. The daffodils are beginning to shoulder their way towards the light.

And those cobwebs start showing up in the glare of spring sunshine.

Spring cleaning is a tribal response, one that I am sure is etched in our DNA, linked to the increase in light that brings the grime and dust of the winter months to our notice. Just as winter is the time to rest, spring is the call to action. Time to clean up our acts; short of a life laundry list we can start with the house, garage, and garden shed.

Others of my clan are much tidier, cleaner and better organised than I. When I compare my abode to relatives I feel like a changeling. How did such a clutter bug get deposited in such a tidy nest?

In the 1990s what used to be thought of as a good tidy up began to take on mystical proportions as the first step in ‘feng shuing’ your living or work space. But really what they are advocating is a good thorough Spring Clean, where you open the windows and let the sunshine and fresh air zip around the space after you have had a really thorough clean up.

Cleaning the natural way has to start with dealing with the clutter.
At some point it will begin to feel squalid even to the most hardened hoarders. You can’t clean a space if you can’t see the space.

We, who sometimes masquerade as Green Warriors, are often in thrall to the illusion that we will recycle that bit of detritus someday. Into something useful, just that we can’t imagine what that’s going to be just yet. Ten years later… But this is where the ‘Bring Centre’ or Recycling areas of the Council Dump have helped. I also love that we have a real fire where I can routinely burn the paper we acquire. There are limits even to the large New Zealand compost bin to the amount of ‘brown’ (i.e. paper) waste that this household can accumulate.

My husband prefers to put on loud music with a brisk beat to tidy up and declutter.  I prefer that moment of silent respect as I cull various items.

It can be an overwhelming task. So here are my tips for reluctant de-clutterers.

  1. Choose just one room.
  2. Choose one item of furniture, e.g. the chest of drawers.
  3. Open a single drawer. Empty the contents.
  4. Vacuum or dust the drawer.
  5. Line it with some paper – it can be off cuts of wallpaper or pretty scented and lined paper if you need that as an incentive to do the job.  Plain or just for pretty – choose what will be the motivating spirit to get the job done.
  6. Examine the contents of the drawer. Is that underwear gray and is the elastic droopy? That is a dust cloth, not respectable underwear.
    Use this test: if you were in an accident and taken to hospital by ambulance would you embarrass the staff to see such tatty ‘smalls?’ Yes?  Create a pile of new dust cloths. You’ll need a lot of them for the second part of this exercise. Neatly fold and replace the respectable items into the drawer.
  7. Note that there are ‘best’, i.e. relatively new items and league 2 items. How proportional is one to the other?
  8. Have a notepad handy. Note down if you need to restock should you have very few socks without holes that can be decently darned left.
  9. Make a pile for the stuff that can be decently mended.
  10. Mend immediately. Replace into the drawer. Now shut the drawer!

Yay! Move on to the second drawer.

In this way each day you nibble away at the Spring Clean.  It’s thorough.

Observant orthodox Jewish women use this method to clean out their homes before Passover. Their aim is to sweep every crumb of leavened bread out of their house. That means getting biscuit crumbs out of the corners of children’s plastic toys as well as taking a toothbrush to the toaster. But when they finish a room they declare is ‘Pesachtig.’ It has been thoroughly, even ritualistically cleaned.

And the Clean Up is every householder’s Rite of Spring.

The declutter and tidy phase is the preamble to the Clean part of the Spring Clean. But you will need a little rest, a lie down, or a cup of tea and a biscuit to tackle that part on another day.

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