The first step to fighting messes and keeping your home spic-and-span is getting rid of all that stuff you never use. Go through all the places where it accumulates–try closets, junk drawers, out-of-reach shelves, attics and basements, and any other place where you’re inclined to toss stuff as you say, “I’ll deal with this later” and be diligent about– separating out what you really will use someday from what you never will. Be honest: you may say you like that sweater your aunt gave you for Christmas in 2004, but if it still has the tags on it, you aren’t ever going to wear it. And be practical: do you really need that pasta maker? We’re not suggesting that you trim down to an uber-minimalist lifestyle, but the quickest way to cut your cleaning time is to simply have less stuff to clean.
Now you have a pile that you’re ready to get rid of–but wait: don’t just trash it. First, go through and see if any of those items could serve a purpose you haven’t thought of before: Do you have enough books to stack up and use as a side table? Can you take the frames off those ugly paintings and use them elsewhere? We know of ways to reuse everything from single mittens and broken guitar strings to holiday greeting cards and ceramic tiles–so while we aren’t suggesting you keep all this around just in case, see if any of what you have can save you from buying something else.
Once you’ve taken stock of what you can use, separate out items that someone else might need. This includes dishes, kitchen gadgets, clothes, books, magazines, toys, home decor–all of these items could find a second life with someone else. If you need instant gratification, just drop it all off at your local op-shop, or if you’re slightly more patient, try offering items for sale in a garage sale, or online. Your house will be less cluttered; someone else can skip buying new; and the landfills will be that much emptier.
Get the right home organisation tools
Now that you’ve managed to weed out the useless from the useful, you need to find a system for organizing what you’ve got left–because if you can’t find something when you need it, you’d might as well not have it at all. For this, you’ll need storage containers, but that doesn’t mean you need to stock up on (non biodegradable) plastic bins; instead, try cardboard boxes wrapped in pretty paper, bamboo baskets, or cloth bags made from old t-shirts. Raise your storage with eco-friendly shelving to free up floorspace and make your rooms look bigger. And note: if, while you’re organising, you find items that don’t seem to fit with anything else, those are likely goods you could add to the “donate” pile.
Aim for a no-waste clean
No matter how green your sprays and scrubs may be, if you use an entire roll of paper towels to scrub your bathroom–well, that is not exactly eco-friendly cleaning. And when you’re looking at a project as big as this one, you’ll want to leave little to no waste in your wake. Trade paper towels for reusable microfiber cloths or sponges, and ditch the Swiffer sweeper for a broom (preferably one you already have, of course) or the disposable mop for a reusable one.
Choose natural cleaning for big projects
Sure, you vacuum, dust, and wipe the counters on a daily or weekly basis, but spring is the perfect time to focus on the spaces you generally gloss over–by vacuuming out the refrigerator coils to make the appliance more efficient, deep-cleaning your carpet, and washing your drapes. For the carpet, mix borax and essential oil together, sprinkle over the rug, let it sit, and then vacuum; for curtains and drapes that are machine washable, use an eco-friendly detergent. If they’re not up to going in the washer, find an eco-friendly dry cleaner in your area and drop them off there.
If you keep these tips in mind all year, then your spring cleaning will be that much easier. Don’t let stuff accumulate in your home; don’t buy things you don’t need; and don’t be shy about returning gifts you won’t ever use.