Every post-holiday brings with it a desire to clear the decks and start fresh.
They generate so much clutter. The front hall is piled in bags of old wrapping paper and suitcases, the living room is half consumed by decorations and the dust is piling up, and the laundry is overflowing.
Holidays, both winter & summer, generate so much rushing around that we tend to miss out on our usual maintenance and cleaning schedules. All of our best habits fall by the wayside to make room for revelry.
We’ve over-eaten for weeks, fallen behind on our correspondence and rushed back to the office before everything is caught up.
So the day comes when it all becomes too much.
A new tradition must be born
The roots of this system came to be during my paralysis. The holidays were over, I still wasn’t walking and there was no way I could tidy up my house very well. But after a full year of surgeries and rehab, it felt like we were behind on everything. So I started using a basket system that allowed me to organize everything from my chair, using just a little help. In my case, my housekeeper followed me around and put things wherever I asked her to. Even my 2-year-old was good at the tidy up step this way.
When I went back to work, it really paid off, because it allowed me to do a lot with very little time.
Step 1: Make Your List
As soon as the holidays are over, it’s time to pull out your seasonal cleaning lists and pick up the phone. Take stock of your situation. How bad is your backlog? Use the seasonal maintenance and checklists to figure out what needs doing around the house.
Now do a walkabout; what else do you need to get caught up on? Make a quick list.
You need two lists; what only you or your family can do, and what you can outsource. Pick a week and plan to get it all done at once.
Step 2: Schedule Time
Schedule the handyman and maintenance contractors first, as they often leave behind a little mess of their own. Then the carpet and mattress cleaners and garbage removal. And finally the cleaners. Block two back-to-back weekends for you and your spouse, make sure the kids can pitch in or are busy, depending on their age.
If you are fortunate, then someone can be at your home and the professionals can do their work through the week while you work and the kids are at school. Otherwise you are going to have to figure out how to get your stuff done while they are underfoot.
Once you have all of the appointments on your calendar, it’s time to schedule your time and your family’s time.
- If you are having duct cleaning done, you will need to schedule time to move all of the furniture away from the ducts, so they are accessible.
- If you are having the rugs cleaned, it is easiest to have them pulled out before the cleaners come and put back after they leave. It usually takes about a week, so that typically lines up pretty well.
- If you are having your furniture and/or mattresses steam cleaned, make sure you do it as early as possible. It takes 4-6 hours for it to dry, so you will want time before bed. Don’t forget, you will need to strip beds and remake them.
Step 2: Clean Fabrics/Change Filters
If you want a fresh start, then this is a great time to do all of the annual and semi-annual maintenance and cleaning tasks. Especially if you might need help to put everything back afterwards.
- This is a great time to strip the curtains, and have them washed or dry-cleaned.
- Pull up your throw rugs and take them in for cleaning, if you haven’t already hired someone to come and get them.
- Wash the pillow and mattress protectors and flip the mattresses (after they are cleaned). Fluff up and refresh your pillows.
- Change all of your filters – furnace, humidifiers, purifiers, fans, etc… This becomes especially if you are having your ducts cleaned as it stirs up a lot of dust.
Step 3: Tidy Up
This does not mean perfection. You are not cleaning your house or even putting everything away. You are just getting it out from under foot.
If your schedule requires you to book outsourcers on the first weekend, this step can be done while the handyman and maintenance people are coming in and out.
- First, put all of the paper in a basket or bag to go through later. Put these aside for next weekend.
- Go around with a laundry basket and pick up all of the dirty clothes. You might as well do as much laundry as you can today.
- Grab a garbage bag and pick up all of the garbage.
- Create a box for projects. Clothes that need altering, decorations and toys that need repair should all go in the box.
- Label a bunch of large baskets, bins or boxes with post-its for each room in your house. Don’t forget ones for the storage room or forgotten decorations.
- Have each member of your family grab the bin for their room and go through the house and pick up the stuff that doesn’t belong. When they are done, they should put the box in their room and then come back for another.
Once you’ve done all of these steps, your house should be tidy and streamlined. You will still have a box or two of “stuff” in each room to deal with. If your home is as big a disaster as mine after the holidays, this will likely take most of the morning. Whether you are done or not, this is a great time to take a break.
Step 4: Put Everything Away
- Now it is time to tidy up every room. Fluff the pillows, fold the blankets and put the books back on the shelf. Put away all of the stuff from the boxes.
- Reuse the bins and boxes; filling them with anything that you are ready to donate or sell.
- Create a space for a work area, fill it with the donations, projects and papers.
Now the house should look great, if still a little dirty. Your work area may be full and the laundry room is likely still overflowing, but the house is livable.
Step 5: Cleaning Day
Cleaning Day is the culmination of all of your hard work. Make sure you contract for enough hours. You want to have someone or a team of someones. My slightly less than average sized 3 bedroom bungalow takes about 16 person hours at the most, 8 hours when I am having my house professionally cleaned every week, as they do some of this while they are here. This is when you are best to contract a team who know how to work together. Many companies have a spring cleaning package, and know what to expect.
While the cleaners are busy, make a run to the donation center, the dry cleaner and the food bank. Sort through the projects and paperwork. Catch up on your bill paying. The trick is to ask the cleaners to do a small room first, so that you can use it as your work center for the rest of the day.
Make sure you give yourself time to hang the curtains back up, and roll our the clean rugs.
Step 6: Relax
You gave up two weekends and your house is decluttered, tidy and clean. Now when spring actually comes, you will be ready to hang around outside instead of being stuck inside cleaning.
And you should be good for at least another year on most of these, a few years on some.