8 Tasks You Shouldn't Skip During Spring Cleaning

Photo: Dave Parker

I’m an absolute neat freak who demands that everything be in its proper place — that is, the place that I decide is the proper place (I’m a control freak too) — at all times.

Just because I’m neat, however, doesn’t mean I’m clean. I mean, I am — I’m not a skuzzball — but I’m more of a surface cleaner. I tend to live by the rule "what I can’t see won’t hurt me" — or you.

The truth is, I clean the house twice weekly out of necessity. We host tourists frequently, which I’ve written about previously on Wise Bread. Because of that circumstance, my home is always presentable. There are never dishes in the sink (unless they’re my husband’s; we’re still working on that), there are never clothes lying around (unless they’re my husband’s; we’re still working on that); and the papers on the desk are never unorganized (unless they’re my… well, you get the point).

Though I give my husband a lot of flack, I will give him credit where credit is due: He may not keep the house as tidy as I do from day-to-day, but when it comes time for a serious cleaning, he’s the king.

He moves everything from its position to get all the nooks and crannies spic and span. And though I’m not willing to climb behind the couch to suck up the dust balls with him, I watch dutifully, perhaps a little too satisfied that he’s so dedicated to the deep clean when he’s in the zone.

If you’re familiar with that zone, this post isn’t for you. You already know how to do it right. But if you’re not lucky enough to have a husband who will take time out of his busy schedule twice a year (does the sarcasm transfer?), here are a few pointers on how attention to detail can pay off in the end — both personally and financially. (See also: 6 Tips for Spring Cleaning on a Budget)

1. Look Under the Couch Cushions

You won’t believe the crud that falls between the cracks. Year-old Cheetos — check. A pound of dog hair — check. Loose change and dollar bills — enough to write someone a check. Aside from having a little more money in your pocket, removing the cushions and all that grime is important because when you take them off to extend the pullout for your guests, they can fall asleep without wondering if they’ll be eaten by it in the middle of the night.

2. Throw Out Expired Food

I know for a fact that there’s a pack of fryer chicken pieces that have been in the freezer for more than a year. I even transported them from our rental apartment to our new condo when we moved. They’re old, and I’m totally discarding them as soon as I’m finished writing this, along with a whole heap of other food whose lifespan has come and gone. Don’t forget to bleach-wash the fridge, too. You’ll feel better about eating dinner when your yummies come from a sparkling, sanitary space.

3. Get On Your Hands and Knees in the Bathroom

You have never been in a bathroom as clean as mine — guaranteed. And the only way to get it truly clean is to scrub away like Little Orphan Annie. Most gunk you can see, but it’s the sides of the toilet — especially the crevices near the bolts — that will likely evade you. Take a good look down there next time, especially on that one side you can’t readily see. No need to discuss what you've found; just remove it.

4. Rummage Through Your Closet

If there’s anything you haven’t worn in ages, donate it. Simple as that. But cleaning out your closet isn’t just about eliminating excess pants and shirts. What about all those belts, socks, underwear, shoes, accessories, etc.? Go through your stuff, put unworn items in a bag, and get rid of them. You’ll be amazed at how much more room you’ll have when you finally decide to say goodbye to all those Von Dutch trucker hats.

5. Take Inventory of Your Media Center

I stopped buying DVDs ages ago. I watch them once and never again, which is a huge waste of money. Now I go through my credenza every spring and remove any titles in which I’m not interested — movies that were gifted by friends, video games that we haven’t play in a while, books I’ll never read, CDs that have come in gift bags. Then I put them all on Amazon, so other people can clutter their houses up, and I can claim the cash.

6. Wash the Windows and Blinds

Just because your blinds are covering the windows doesn’t mean that they should stay filthy. A little Windex goes a long way. While you’re at it, lean into your blinds closely. What was once white is now off-white. Time for a wipe down.

7. Take a Rag to Your Walls

You don’t see the dirt because you live there day in and day out. But it’s there, and it ain’t pretty. Shine a light down your hallway, or better yet, your doors. They’re gross. Soak a rag in some warm water with soap and practice your Mr. Miyagi.

8. Turn Up the Stove

Cleaning your stove is as simple as turning it on the highest setting, usually called self-clean. It’ll take a few hours, but there’s really no work involved. It’ll be done by the time you’re ready to order in. Because a clean house calls for a hand-delivered dinner.

Have some other non-obvious areas that deserve attention during a deep spring cleaning? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

We aren't all rich enough to have a self cleaning stove!

Guest's picture

Good reminder tips or for anyone who never really had someone teach you how to clean decently. Seriously, make the time, even if it's "one-room-@-a-time." If you've an "entourage" DELEGATE! Then "inspect." Train your family "staff" in the way they should go
My Mom did. (Still have her words running through my brain!) "Dust before you run the sweeper!" She taught me how to wash dishes. Forget my brother ever "really" doing them! My guy's that way, too! But...he can cook with the best of 'em! His family learned how to feed an "army" of customers! Just have fun! Have a great day, too! --LJK :-)

Guest's picture

I use boiling water on my stove top (gas stove that has little depressions for the burners. Cheap, takes off 90% of the crud and leaves it sparkling with very little elbow grease. Bonus - it's greener than all those chemicals. It is disgusting sopping up the NASTY water, but I'd rather do that than scrub at something for 20 minutes to have it look crappy.

If there is anything left that is really on there, I use the Barkeeper's Friend scouring powder. It says it's safe for most surfaces and works beautifully for me on so many different tasks.

Oh, and I have tiny bathrooms, so cleaning floors and low surfaces on hands and knees is a must since the mops won't fit well in there.

Don't forget to wipe down your baseboards while you're doing the walls... they get pretty gross too. ;)

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for the good word on #2. We did that this weekend with our pantry and I was surprised at the number of things that were dated. We also went through another area of the kitchen with OTC medicines and tossed several things out. It's great to know that what is in the house is actually usable.

Guest's picture

Loved this, helpful hints for my next foray into cleaning so when she comes home next time, and i proudly announce, "I've been cleaning," she doesn't scoff and the go on to list the few things that I have forgotten.