If you don’t have time for the big, top-to-bottom seasonal ritual we call spring cleaning, you can still get the job done by tackling tasks that, when completed, send cleanliness vibes reverberating throughout the whole house. We spoke with trusted cleaning experts to find out which items on your to-do list will have the most effect on the overall appearance of your home. Read on for their time-saving suggestions.
Living Room: Media Center
As the focal point of the living room, the media center easily becomes the catchall for stray magazines, books, video games, remote controls, etc. If not contained, the pileup can spread throughout the house—not to mention become a huge eyesore. Solve the problem by introducing like-colored boxes and baskets to contain the clutter, recommends cleaning blogger Beth Alcazar at The Neat Get Neater. “A box of old DVDs is much neater than a random pile,” she says. Plus, stylish baskets will add texture and depth to your living room decor, says Angelo Surmelis, cohost of TLC’s Clean Sweep.
Hair, toothpaste, styling gels, perfume, dust, makeup—thanks to gravity, all these products find their way to the floor, so focus your cleaning efforts there, Alcazar says. Not only will scrubbing the tiles and shaking out (or replacing) the rugs prevent you and your family from dragging grime throughout the house, it will instantly freshen the air. In other words, a clean floor allows you to both feel (on your feet!) and smell the cleanliness. That’s one cleaning job that does double duty!
When your fridge, the hub of the kitchen, is out of order, it becomes much more difficult to find things, plan meals and figure out what you need to replace, which creates unnecessary chaos and clutter—not to mention waste! Alcazar suggests emptying the fridge, using antibacterial spray to wipe down the shelves, trays and borders (Surmelis likes to use white vinegar to zap odors, too), and restocking in an organized fashion that makes sense for you. For an even shorter shortcut, Maeve Richmond, founder of OrganizeMyHouse.com, suggests simply tossing half-used condiments, old juices or soda jugs, and takeout containers to make the difference.
“Organizing your closet is an indirect way of organizing your bedroom,” says Alcazar. “If items have a specific place to live, they're much less likely to end up on your bed, floor or flung over furniture." Shoes crowding the floor space? Try a hanging organizer or under-the-bed bin. Dirty gym clothes piling up faster than you can keep up with? Get as many hampers as you need. Taking a systematic approach to storing each type of item keeps your closet in line, which will help the rest of your room reap the rewards. When you’re done, “follow the rule of one-thing-in, one-thing-out to maintain some balance,” says Surmelis.
Basement, Attic and Garage: Clutter
Household storage spaces are inevitably where the extra furniture, sports equipment, clothes and other miscellany end up when they’ve been replaced by newer items, which makes clutter buildup the biggest setback to keeping them clean. “Attack those zones with these goals in mind: regift, give away, donate, throw out,” says Richmond. For everything else, line up see-through bins or crates and begin sorting, suggests Alcazar. The transparency will prevent you from having to unstack and dig through storage containers every time you’re looking for something specific, which will help keep the space tidy longer.
Because it’s an outdoor space, you may be able to get away with leaving the ground alone. But you’re less likely to achieve a clean look if you don't wipe down tables, seats and upholstery. Besides, nothing deters people from spending time on the patio like furnishings caked with grime. Alcazar recommends tackling iron or plastic pieces with a damp paper towel; glass surfaces with window cleaner; wood pieces with furniture cleaner and an old rag; and upholstery with a heavy-duty upholstery cleaner, like Turtle Wax's Power Out, which comes with a brush on the spray end. “But you don’t need to scrub very hard—just let the foam penetrate and leave in the sun to dry,” she says.
Laundry Room: Dirty Clothes
The biggest setback to keeping your laundry room organized is the mounds of clothes that need washing, especially if you have a big family. “Typically, it’s pretty easy to store detergent, fabric softener and other laundry needs in cabinets—but those dirty clothes can take up so much space,” says Alcazar. Solution? A sorting hamper or several stackable laundry baskets. “Train yourself and your family to drop darks, whites, linens and other separates in their respective baskets, which keeps the room navigable and the task at hand (washing) less intimidating. I also like to use over-the-door hooks and wall-mounted hooks to hang-dry delicate things or clean items,” says Alcazar.
Dining Room: Dust
Since the dining room is often the least-used room in the house, it tends to collect the most dust. If you have the time, take everything off your tables, shelves and collection hutches and clear out debris using a traditional feather duster or furniture polish. If you don’t have time, do what Alcazar does: “Leave everything in place, get out the hair dryer and blow everything clean. With a little patience and some good aim, it does the trick,” she says. And remember to always start from the top of the room (don’t forget the top side of ceiling fan blades) and work your way down.