I spend a lot of time running around my apartment frantically re-organizing and decluttering in the hope that, if I throw away enough things, I’ll eventually reveal a much nicer apartment. But in reality, what I really need to be doing is cleaning. And not my regular, once-weekly scrub of the toilet and sink — a real, full-day (or two-day) extravaganza of deep cleaning.
I like to tell myself that the reason I don’t keep up with cleaning my apartment as much as I know I should is because I am renting, so I don’t feel like I need to be fully responsible for the upkeep of the place. But to be honest, the fact that someone is graciously letting me live in the apartment that they own and purchased with their very own real money is even more reason why I should be treating it well and taking excellent care of it. I’m not a slob by any means, but I definitely let the sink go a few days too long without spraying and wiping it down, and I don’t vacuum quite as much as I should. (In my defense, my dog is terrified by the vacuum, so I feel like I’m being a good dog-mom by letting my hair turn into legitimate tumbleweeds on my floor.)
But in reality, when I do take a day and deep-clean, my home looks so much nicer — decluttering and organizing is definitely good, but it is almost like a band-aid fix to the real problem, which is that I have an old, often dirty apartment that had been accumulating dust and stains and mildew spots for many years before I took residence there, and requires more upkeep and maintenance than I’ve been giving it.
So, more recently, I’ve been trying to put the effort in to really deep clean it, and keep up with all bits of maintenance — even the small ones — to make sure I don’t start to feel like I’m living in squalor just because I was too lazy to mop the kitchen floor that week.
In all of this, I’ve found something interesting: keeping a clean home really does make you feel a lot happier and more comfortable (and less likely to compulsively declutter — or compulsively spend — to try and make the place look nicer).
Here are the eight tiny cleaning tasks I’ve tackled recently that made a huge difference in the way my home looked.
1. Clean out your hair tools and appliances.
And when I say clean, I mean really clean, not just “declutter.” Remove all of the hair that is stuck in your hairbrush. Clean the lint and dust out of your blow dryer. Wipe the goopy hair product remnants off of your comb, curling iron, and straighteners. These aren’t dirty things that are necessarily always visible to you, but opening your bathroom closet or pulling out your basket of hair tools and seeing them look shiny and clean instead of gunky and dusty is an awesome feeling, and makes your cluttered collection of tools look neater and less stressful.
2. Clean your cleaning products/tools.
This is an oft-forgotten tip, but when you really think about all of the nasty, filthy places you are putting your mop, bottles of cleaning products, the bucket that stores them all, etc., you’ll realize that you should probably be cleaning your cleaning supplies almost as often as you’re using them to clean other things. Empty the bucket that holds your cleaning products, spray it down, fill it with soapy water, and wipe it up. Take a disinfectant wipe to your cleaning bottles and brushes. Wipe down the handle of your mop and vacuum, and make sure they aren’t collecting germs/gunk/dust. If you want your cleaning tools to really be good for cleaning all the parts of your home, they really shouldn’t be dirty themselves — and chances are, they’re already a little dirty.
3. Run your shower curtain/liner in the laundry.
Maybe this is an extremely common tip that people do all the time, but personally, I always forget that my shower curtain and liner are made of fabric, and spend all of their time in a moist, humid environment where they are almost certainly growing mold. If you have a plastic shower-liner, you can just spray and wipe it down, but mine is fabric, so I run it through the washing machine with my shower curtain every few weeks just to keep it looking — and smelling — its best. (Hot, wet fabric never smells great.)
4. Scrub down all of your knobs/handles/pulls.
I always clean tile, sinks, windows, countertops, and other surfaces in my home, but somehow often forget about doorknobs and handles. Considering the fact that their one purpose is to be held in a hand, they really should be washed often — possibly more often than anything else in your house. When I think about the number of things my hands touch every day — and the amount of things the hands of all other people in my house touching my doorknobs touch every day — it is actually kind of disgusting that they’re not wiped down at least once every day or two, especially during flu season (or if you, like me, live with a man who spends 100% of his day with very sick people).
5. Shampoo carpets/rugs.
We make it a point to vacuum weekly in our home (although we probably should more), but what we do a lot less often is deep-clean the carpets. We happen to rent a place that is almost entirely carpeted (ugh) and past tenants seem to have really neglected the upkeep. We borrowed my grandpa’s big, bulky carpet cleaner and used it approximately one time since moving in, but honestly, it made the biggest difference in the way our apartment looked and smelled. From now on, we’ll make it a point to fully shampoo the carpets at least every few months to keep them genuinely clean, and not just appearing clean on the surface.
6. Get really into all the grout/bathtub mildew/anything that has made your white tile look black.
Like I said, I do the once-over in the bathroom once a week, usually just cleaning the toilet bowl and spraying/wiping down all surfaces with bathroom cleaner. But since I live in a rental that has been occupied by many before me, there are spots, stains, and build-up living in a lot of the grout — and it is stuff that I know I can remove with the right cleaning products and a little more effort than “spraying and gently wiping.” Full disclosure: I ordered a new grout-scrubbing brush and some new bathroom cleaning products to try (my Walmart junk wasn’t cutting it) and I’m going to go hard this weekend to make that gross bathtub sparkle. Will report back on how it goes.
7. Pay special attention to corners.
You don’t really have to look too deeply into the corners of your rooms often, so they accumulate a lot of crap that you simply might miss. I realized mine are full of cobwebs, dust, and hair — in almost every room, and in spite of the fact that we regularly vacuum. Having a sparkling clean corner might be the difference between your room looking dingy and looking ~fabulous~.
8. Wipe the inside of your half-used candle jars out.
I try to be the type of person who actually trims the wick of my candles to 1/4 inch each time, but the reality here is that I don’t always actually do it. (I’m a lot better about it than I used to be — I actually never used to trim them at all — so I’m getting closer.) The thing is, trimming your candle wicks before each use is pretty much the only way to prevent that ugly, black, smoky residue. So, while some of my jarred candles look pretty at all times because I actually remembered to trim the wick before burning them, the rest are left with the thick black rim around the top half of the jar — and it really looks heinous. I’ve found that a total game-changer in how my décor looks is making sure that I wipe that ashy crap off of my candles jars every time it appears. It is such a tiny, seemingly insignificant thing, but it makes a huge difference in the overall appearance of my home. Let’s be real: a coffee table with a bunch of black, smoke-stained candle jars looks pretty awful, but one with pretty, clean candles looks inviting and cozy.
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