September 30, 2013

I have often lamented the fact that I did not grow up in a household that had a weekly/monthly/yearly cleaning routine. Perhaps my parents did have a routine and I just did not notice.  But, with 8 kids running around in the house, I think cleaning became less of a routine and more of an impossibility.  Oh I don't blame my parents at all.  But I feel as if I am one of a 'lost generation'.  When I got out on my own I was clueless as to the finer (yet unarguably important) details of living.  Like, for example, how do I remove the grass stain from my favourite jeans?  How often should I dust, if at all?  When the dust is so thick I sneeze when I walk in a room?  How often do I wash sheets if they don't look dirty?  What about clothes for that matter?  How often do I have to wash pants - especially if they still look and smell clean?

The questions filled volumes when I moved into our first house.  My older (and wiser) co-workers used to take entire days and weeks off of work in order to do things like "spring cleaning" or hire help to do daily/weekly cleaning and I was struck by the fact that my mind never ever went to those places.  What did they do?  Why would they take time off work   I never considered that I might have to clean my house from the literal top to bottom.  It doesn't look dirty.  Smells fine.  Dishes are done.  All is as it should be, right?

Maybe not.  I came to understand that there was an art (and a science) to keeping a house in good repair, not just doing what pops up, but also doing things in anticipation of the inevitable.  Like instead of putting all dirty dishes in the sink as I use them and spending hours scrubbing caked and dried food off them them, rinsing or soaking them in the moment inevitably saves a whole lot of time and energy.   And that's just dishes.  I have learned since that everything in your home, rented or owned, brick or cardboard, should be cleaned at a minimum of once per year.

Now, as the seasons change my mind drifts into 'housecleaning mode' and so it came to pass the other day that I pulled out my trusty book, "Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Cleaning House" by Cheryl Mendelson.  This book has been invaluable in it's help - especially for the house-cleaning-challenged like me - and I once again turned to the chapter entitled "Easing into a Routine".  Here's what I read:
Spring Cleaning or fall cleaning is the name given to a massive, whole-house deep cleaning.  The custom of a seasonal "housecleaning" in the spring arose because after two seasons of heating and lighting with wood, oil, gas, kerosene, and candles, the condition of the house made it essential.  By winter's end, everything in the house was coated with a malodorous layer of black grease and grime, the ugliness of which would become ever more apparent as the days became longer and sunnier.  So people cleaned everything - literally everything - as soon as the heating season was over and as soon as it was warm enough to do chores that cold weather made too inconvenient, such as beating rugs, taking mattresses and pillows outside for airing, or going into frigid areas of the home (cellar or attic).  They emptied every drawer, shelf, cabinet, closet, and room; cleaned them; and cleaned, washed, polished, or shined all their contents (drapes, mattresses, pillows, rugs, carpets, upholstery, crystal and china, silver, brass, copper and so on); and then put everything back.  Walls were washed or painted and cellars whitewashed.  Pg.25
 Unfortunately (or fortunately) with the advent of modern heating and cooling systems much of that
seasonal deep cleaning has been rendered unneeded - but not all of it.  Dust and gook still gathers in the hard to reach places.  Spiders still make cobwebs wherever they can find an undisturbed spot.  And sought-after items make their way to unknown places, and can only be found by tearing the place apart.
Spring cleaning still has a place for anyone who can find the time for it or who rather likes the feeling of renewal that follows the major upheaval of turning your home inside out. ...It is delightful to begin the new season with a home that has been scoured top to bottom...every square inch of all surfaces...brought to it's finest state.  Pg.25
 So for those of you brave enough to tackle all or part of your home head on, here are a few tips and suggestions according to Ms. Mendelson:
1.  Proceed from higher to lower.  Start upstairs and work your way down; in general, clean higher places in each room before the lower.
2. Proceed from dry to wet.  Begin with dry rooms and areas without sinks, tubs or toilets, then go on to the wet rooms and areas.
3.  Proceed from inside the house to outside. 
4.  Begin with the chores that require waiting periods.  Start time-consuming automatic processes first - bed airing, laundry soaking, soup simmering - so that they can proceed while you do other things.  
Also, if you start a room from the "insides" (ie. closets, cabinets, etc) and work outwards you can avoid dirtying areas you've already cleaned.

Also of note is the list of "to do's".  This is not an exhaustive list nor is it recommended that you do absolutely everything on it, it is just a list that gives you an idea, if you are clueless like me, of what needs to be done and when.  Not only does this help with keeping your home neat and clean, but doing many of these tasks helps prolong the life of your things and keeps them in good repair so that when you do need them, they are ready and waiting.

Monthly, Seasonally or Intermittently
  • Launder under bedding (mattress covers, pillow covers) and washable spreads and covers (monthly)
  • Turn mattresses (quarterly)
  • Wash or air pillows (quarterly)
  • Clean lampshades, light shades or globe lights; dust lightbulbs (quarterly)
  • Wash mirrors
  • Clean the oven (as needed)
  • Wax floors (as needed)
  • Wash or wax woodwork (as needed)
  • Organize frequently used drawers, cabinets, closets
  • Dust mini blinds and other blinds and shades (monthly), door tops and other hard-to-reach areas where dust may collect
  • Wash windows, storm windows, and screens (as seasonally appropriate)
  • Clean blades of ceiling fans
Semiannually or Annually
  • Wash (or dry clean if necessary) blankets, comforters, quilts
  • Remove out-of-season clothing from closet, clean and store it, replace with seasonal clothing (spring and fall)
  • Give away or throw away unused or worn out articles
  • Clean and polish gems, jewelry, silver, brass, copper
  • Clean chandeliers and light fixtures
  • Tune the piano (2x per year)
  • Clean all walls, ceilings and floors
  • Clean the basement and garage
  • Clean the attic (every two years will suffice)
  • Wax the wood furniture
  • Vacuum books (not entirely sure what this means)
  • Move and clean underneath heavy appliances and furniture such as stove, refrigerator, piano
  • Shampoo rugs and upholstery
  • Clean lampshades
  • Empty and clean all closets, drawers and cabinets.  Dust or wash china, crystal and knick knacks
  • Wash blinds, miniblinds and shades
  • Dry clean or wash curtains and draperies
  • Organize and/or store photographs, videos, CD’s
  • Pay taxes
  • Organize household business records, throw away superseded ones
  • Review insurance
  • Update household inventory
Happy Housecleaning!


  1. Tune the piano twice annually. Ack! the cost! I laughed that pay taxes is somehow part of cleaning(?). I have developed a routine over the years but my mother definitely taught me that sheets are changed on Saturdays, bathrooms are cleaned once a week and supper is planned (if not made) in the morning.

    1. No kidding, eh? I think my parents tuned our piano twice in my life.

  2. My hubby would live this list! Except we wash all towels, sheets and blankets once a week or once every other week. We also do a thorough bathroom cleaning and clean the floors once a week. Dishes are done daily, by hand we don't have a dishwasher, and you are right doing them once you use them is best instead of spending too much time scrubbing them later. Great post!

    1. *I meant he would love this list but he would also live this list too!

    2. Thanks Kat. Looks like you've got an excellent routine - keep it up!

  3. Years ago I worked with an older women who had raised a passel of children. She spoke to me with all due authority. "Spring clean in the Fall. Your home will be ready to Christmas, and in the spring, you'll have time in the garden!" Great post.

    1. Starting into the Christmas season with a clean home is such a good idea. And honestly, as long as the house gets one deep cleaning per year, does it really matter when you do it?

  4. Such wonderful advice. It's a bit of a kick in the pants to me, though, who has used moving and being pregnant (and now, hugely pregnant) to avoid various household tasks.

    1. Ha Jenna I should have started the post with a general exemption for all pregnant ladies.



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