How To Clean Every Single Room In Your Home, After A Year Of Barely Leaving It
This spring, we’re bringing TFD readers The 6-Week Cleanse: a dedicated challenge to help you refresh your life and money in tangible increments. From creating a feeling of abundance in your home and money life, to breathing new life into well-loved items, to making your own “indulgence budget,” we’re covering everything you need to bring your ideal lifestyle to fruition on any budget. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter to receive our that week’s challenge (each doable in an afternoon) directly to your inbox.
The phrase “spring cleaning” has a new vigor to it this year. We’re not just wiping, mopping, and scouring away the remnants of a pedestrian winter. We’re power washing our way through a full year’s worth of pandemic hibernation.
Like many of us, I have permanently adopted a number of COVID-specific cleaning rituals: I wash my hands as soon as I enter the house, I never set my grocery bags directly on the counter anymore, and I launder things like gloves and hats much more frequently than before. But the most dramatic changes to my cleaning philosophy were brought on by the fact that I just spend so much more time at home. My house is subjected to a lot more wear and tear than it was in the days when I spent 40+ hours a week at my office and an additional 10-20 hours out and about. As a result, I’m cleaning things more, and not just the normal stuff.
Beyond The Basics
We all know how to scrub out a sink, sweep a floor, vacuum a rug, and wipe down a mirror, right? I certainly hope so; I wrote an ode to it last year and it’s one of my favorite TFD pieces I’ve ever written. If you want my take on cleaning ABCs and my #1 tip for cleaning your shower, head that way.
But now is the time to cast your eyes to the far corners and see what your normal cleaning routine has missed. Wipe down the baseboards, dust that little corner table, vacuum the dust from behind your bookshelf. Launder your curtains, your couch blankies, and your removable pillow covers. Mop under your entryway rugs and your shoe racks. Scrub that weird little strip of counter behind your kitchen sink.
Another way to think about this: look through the eyes of your future guests or your roommate. On the spectrum of neat freak to Oscar the Grouch’s dorm room, I am on the tidier side of things. However, between my boyfriend and me, I am definitely the more clutterblind half the relationship. So sometimes I have to remind myself that he may not see my piles of cookbooks, half-done craft projects, and omnipresent stack of random papers as part of the decor and that perhaps I should put them away. Given the fact that he quietly took up the task of cleaning my cat’s litter box without being asked and that he has never once left a confetti of beard hairs on our bathroom counter, it is the least I can do. I am far from perfect in this regard, but it’s worth mentioning that scanning a shared space for things your roommate(s) might deem as clutter is always a kind and respectful thing to do.
The Really Gross Stuff
Tragically, some parts of maintaining a home are just objectively repulsive. Just in the past few weeks, the normal accumulation of grime hit an “oh my god we have to deal with this” pinnacle in multiple wet, dark crevices of my own home. And because 1. it’s a pandemic and I don’t want a lot of extra people in my home and 2. I will always try to DIY it before giving up my hard-earned dollars, I watched a few YouTube videos, rolled up my sleeves, and kissed my dignity goodbye.
The first stop on this awful train is always the shower drain. I have been genetically blessed with a full head of thick, strong hair. But like many fairytale gifts, this one is accompanied by a terrible curse, and my shower drain pays the price. Nothing forces you to lock eyes with the bleakest depths of your own humanity like snaking a shower drain and extracting a seemingly infinite number of slimy, disturbingly solid clods of hair and God knows what else. It’s deeply disgusting and also absolutely necessary to maintain your plumbing. Pouring bottle after bottle of Drano down there will eventually damage your pipes, and even if that weren’t the case, there’s only so much hair a chemical can power past. And frankly, my own hair seems to see Drano as a personal challenge and laughs in its face. So gird your loins, get yourself one of those short drain snake grabber things, and get in there. I do this every 3-6 months or whenever I notice that our shower isn’t draining very well. The longer you put it off, the higher the risk that you’ll have to pay a plumber $250+ to do it, and Murphy’s Law dictates that the plumber will be super hot and you’ll have to live with the shame of your hot plumber interacting with your hair clumps.
On the plus side, once you’ve snaked a shower drain, it’s like leveling up your D&D character by a zillion and becoming invincible, because now you can truly do anything. You can clean out the grate under your utility sink. You can take apart your dishwasher filter and pull out all the crap that’s clogging it up. You can extract runaway non-food items from your garbage disposal. You are a grown-ass person, and you are ready to tackle the grossest cleaning tasks in your home.
Two pro tips here:
- If you don’t have a basic tool kit, you should get one. Hammer, screwdriver with a few different heads (or a few different screwdrivers), wrench, regular and needle-nose pliers, and a tape measure for starters. I’m also a firm believer that every woman should own and know how to use a cordless drill. However, sometimes you will need a weirdly specific tool for a one-time job (i.e. the star-shaped bits I needed when I took apart my own dishwasher last week). Usually you can find a friend, family member, or coworker to lend it to you. Also, a lot of hardware stores will rent all sorts of tools and small appliances for surprisingly cheap.
- I highly recommend listening to Megan Thee Stallion while doing these tasks. Every time she says “real hot girl shit,” it will remind you that being an independent woman who can do things like clean out a drain and take apart an appliance filter truly is real hot girl shit.
The Outdoor Stuff
You may recall from my last spring cleaning article that I harbor a special little hatred for cleaning out my fridge. The only thing I hate cleaning out as much as my fridge is my car. If you ask me, the best part about winter is a solid six months of using “it’s too cold!” as an excuse to avoid doing it. But now my ironclad alibi is melting away as swiftly as the final dregs of dirty snow, so it’s off to the races. I start with two bags: one for stuff to get rid of and one for stuff that needs to be put away. Then I just start taking stuff out. Umbrellas, running shoes, mildly important papers, and reusable water bottles go in the “put away” bag. Receipts, wrappers, tissues, empty bottles of hand sanitizer, single-use masks, and unimportant papers go in the other bag and eventually into the trash or recycling. Be sure to check the cup holders, the door pockets, and under the seats.
Sometimes just getting the excess stuff out of there is enough. But sometimes the car needs a deeper clean. You can use an all-purpose cleaner to wipe down the dashboard and center console and glass cleaner for the windows. Haul your vacuum cleaner out to the garage or take your car to one of those self-clean places and suck up all the dust, dirt, rocks, and other detritus in your floor mats, nooks, and crannies. One final tip: If April showers are a reality in your area, it’s worth investing in a bottle of Rain-X to treat your windshields.
If you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space, like a balcony, porch, or patio, now is a great time to clean it off. Sweep away the dust, hose away the grime (a watering can or pitcher also works great if you don’t have access to a hose), and wipe down the furniture. If your furniture has cushions, throw the cushion covers in the wash. Then when that first truly perfect balmy-weather day hits, you can spend it luxuriating on your squeaky clean porch with a cool beverage and the confidence that Vaccinated Hot Girl Summer is just around the corner.
Don’t forget to spruce up your other modes of transportation as well. Kayaks, bikes, SUPs, scooters, and the like get a lot more play once the weather warms up, and you’ll want to spend the first day of perfect pedal/paddle weather actually using these things rather than cleaning them off. Wipe off any dust and first from the months of storage, clear cobwebs out of handlebars and cockpits, throw away any residual wrappers and other trash from various compartments, see if any parts need oiled or replaced. Same goes for any accessories: paddles, life jackets, bike racks, helmets, etc. Lastly, check and make sure your watercraft license is up to date and get a new one if needed.
The Fun Stuff
While a lot of spring cleaning is pretty gross, it can also be just like spring: fresh, fun, light, and full of hope. If you have just a few minutes to invest in a little freshening, may I offer this menu of choices?
- Who among us did not turn to house plants as a coping mechanism for the pandemic blues? Grab a pair of scissors and pay a visit to your foliaged friends. Trim off limp and crispy leaves, check and see who needs a new pot, maybe rearrange everyone a little bit. I moved a slightly limp monstera to our bedroom on a whim, and she is now thriving. Plus our bedroom feels just that much more tropical.
- Open all your windows, turn on your ceiling fans, and circulate some fresh air. If your windows have extra glass panels for winter, swap them out for screens now that the weather is warm. Same goes for your storm door if you have one: replace the glass panel with a screen one. The first day when I get to leave my front door open and enjoy the breeze through the screen door is one of the best days of the year.
- Restyle a shelf or vignette. Try different groupings of decorative items, use a small stack of appropriately colored books to add a little height, or change out the photos in a few frames. A little mixing and matching can make a room feel brand new.
- Find a home for inherently transient items, such as library books. Even things that don’t have a permanent home in your space should have designated short-term housing so they don’t become clutter. I cleared out a shelf for my constant rotation of library books a while ago, and it was a game-changer.
- If you’re prepared to spend some money, then I recommend updating a piece of furniture or a decor item that has gotten a lot of use this year. My boyfriend and I upgraded our TV stand and our side tables in the living room, and the space feels brand new!
Listen, I get it: after an insane year, spring cleaning can feel like yet another thing we are expected to do when we can barely manage to eat a vegetable some days. But the way I see it, I am preparing my home for the blessed and fast-approaching moment when a friend can safely enter it, and I plan to honor the occasion by banishing dust, detritus, and despair in favor of hope and awkwardly long hugs.
Maggie Olson is a freelance writer/editor and marketing professional living in northeast Ohio. She is a voracious reader, ambitious DIYer, and runner/hiker/biker/kayaker/SUPer. She documents her cooking, baking, and crafty endeavors on Instagram @maggieolson.
Images via Unsplash (header)