Cleaning your home with a top-to-bottom approach has always been a good rule of thumb. We know to dust the furniture before vacuuming and clean the kitchen counters and table before mopping the floor, but taking the top-to-bottom approach for your entire spring cleaning project can be a good way for do-it-yourselfers to make the whole process a bit less overwhelming.
Our attics are usually the repository for all the things we've collected over the years - things we don't necessarily wish to live with but items with which we cannot seem to part. Springtime - nature's time of renewal - is an excellent time to rethink these items and clear the space for newer memories or just to cleanse the soul of the burden of clutter. A productive approach to deciding on what to keep and what to toss is to consider how you feel the moment you come upon a particular item. Does it being back happy memories? Did it make you smile? Or, maybe it's something you've always kept out of nostalgia, but ultimately reminds you of something unpleasant? Heirloom items are obviously things that will be kept from generation to generation, but if there are items you see no value in passing on, it may be time to find them a new home. Fortunately there are such sites as Ebay and Craigslist where you can turn those unwanted items into quick cash or you can donate items to a favored charity. Of course, there are always good, old-fashioned yard sales, and they are great for getting things done in one fell swoop.
Once the attic is cleaned of unwanted items, use a good shop vac to reduce dust, cobwebs and even those pesky cluster flies. And, if cluster flies are a problem in your home or attic and you are opposed to insecticides, there are eco-friendly electronic devises that can be hooked up in the attic to keep them under control.
The Main Part of the Home
Cleaning this part of the home will no doubt be the most time-consuming, but using the top-to-bottom approach and taking it step-by-step will make it more manageable. Take a day to do the crown molding, ceiling fans, light fixtures and cobwebbed corners. Take another day to do shelving, artwork, mirrors and any wainscoting you may have.
You will then be left with your usual furniture, flooring, bed, bath and kitchen but take these too, one step at a time. The floors always come last and since you may be doing a lot of personal washing-up during the spring-cleaning process, leave the bathrooms until the end. In addition to cleaning, take the opportunity to free your living spaces and closets of clutter and unwanted items as well. The kids are gone, do you really need 14 sets of sheets and 40 towels?
Spring cleaning is also a great time to check and replace batteries in smoke detectors and change the baking soda in your ice box. Finally, while we know you are a do-it-yourselfer, a professional cleaning for your carpets, tiled surfaces and upholstered furniture can greatly increase the health and beauty of your home. And, with modern steam-cleaning processes, you need not worry about harmful chemicals or long drying times.
Finally, installing or replacing the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors is also an important spring cleaning task. And, while most people think that carbon monoxide alarms are only necessary in the main living quarters, they really should be installed on all floors of the house. They are most effective in detecting an imminent threat in the main living spaces and, in particular, to be sure that they are within 15-20 feet of sleeping areas.
Basements also fall victim to harboring items that are no longer used or wanted, so just add those items to the outgoing pile. What most people find themselves burdened with, however, are basements littered with old paint cans, computers and florescent bulbs that they aren't sure of the proper methods of disposal.
Paint Cans: The first thing to do with paint cans is to separate the oil-based (sometimes labeled as "Alkyd") from latex or water-based paints. The ones to most concern yourself with are the oil-based paint cans as they are deemed Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) by the Environmental Protection Agency. They also do not have a long shelf life, so if you suspect that they been sitting around for longer than 6 months, they need to go. Oil-based paints must be brought to an official disposal facility, and these can easily be found by going to your state's Department of Environmental Protection website. Latex and water-based paints have a much longer shelf life and are not considered HHW so they can be used for several years after opening and be disposed of with your weekly garbage pick-up. However, it is very important to know that they cannot be sent in their liquid form because they have components that can be harmful to the ground and water supply. When sent in solid form they are properly incinerated so simply leave the lid off for as long as it takes and bag them up when fully dried. Old Computers: The federal government recently passed laws mandating that computer or electronic companies have recycling facilities and/or instructions on how consumers can responsibly and properly recycle their computers. Checking with the manufacturer of whichever computer you are looking to recycle is the best place to start. You can also look online for places to donate your computer and give someone less fortunate the opportunity to be connected. If you do not wish to donate and you have no luck with the manufacturers, your state's Department of Environmental Protection will guide you to a local facility.
Florescent Bulbs: All florescent bulbs contain mercury, so it is important not to put burnt-out bulbs into the regular trash. Most states have recycle facilities for these as well and some even offer pick-up. They may be as infrequent as once per-year and may sometimes charge a small fee, but it is well worth it to rid your home of them and to protect the environment.
Now that you have cleaned all of the floors in your home, placing air cleaners on each floor for just a few days does a world of good. Your house has not only gathered a multitude of allergens and indoor pollutants throughout the fall and winter, but your rigorous cleaning stirred them all up.
While springtime cleaning may seem too much to bear, if you take it in small increments and stop along the way to enjoy the beautiful weather, it will be done before you know it and provide a sense of satisfaction like few other tasks. Be sure to take the earnings you make from your online sales or yard sale and treat yourself to an expensive dinner or a day at the spa for a job well done!