Spring into action and clear out the clutter!

Clear and clean to let the spring sunshine in!

Spring has arrived, and that means spring cleaning time – a seasonal tradition that’s perhaps not so welcome for those of us who just aren’t natural housekeepers!  

The penetrating rays of the first really bright, warm days of the year can shine an unwelcome light on to cobwebby windows and into grubby, cluttered corners. But if the thought of scrubbing and polishing and clearing mountains of clutter fills you with horror, a proper plan of action can definitely lighten the load. 

And if you’re putting your house on the market, remember a super-clean, fresh-smelling, uncluttered home will be far more attractive to buyers and will sell for a higher price than a tired-looking, untidy property.  So when it comes to selling, investing time and effort in a really good spring clean and sort out is a really cost-effective way to boost your home’s ‘buyer appeal’. 

But whether you're on the move, or just want to improve your home, a good old clear-out and clean-up is a cheap and cheerful way to refresh your surroundings. Not only will your home look fresher but you'll feel better in yourself too, so you get double the feelgood factor Investing some effort and elbow grease really be worth it in the end, I promise, so here are my top spring cleaning tips.
1 Plan in advance
Spring cleaning is all about organising your home so it pays to organise your ‘battle plan’. Set aside a day or two for a proper cleaning and decluttering blitz and let everyone know you will be busy – distractions can make the best-laid plans fall apart. 

Draw up a list of all the tasks you want to achieve and be realistic about how much time it will take to do them all properly. 

Make sure you have all the cleaning and organising supplies you need before you start – it can really disrupt the rhythm of your work if you have to dash out to buy bleach or dusters in the middle of your cleaning campaign. 

If you haven’t already got one, invest in a cleaning caddy (or two, one for upstairs and one for down) to help you transport cleaning products from room to room easily, so you don't have to keep running back and forth to get what you need. 

On your spring cleaning day or days, turn off your phone, turn on some upbeat music, and off you go.

2 Make it fun
Don't think of spring cleaning as a chore. Instead, think of it as a 'feel good' exercise – one that  will really help you to feel good about yourself and your clean and well-organised home.  

Play some lively, fun, music while you work. Dance your way through your home with your dust rag or vacuum – remember you’ll be getting some good exercise and burning off calories too.  Rope in the family to help if you can – regular ‘picnic-style’ refreshment breaks and a final reward to celebrate when the job’s done in the form of a meal out and a movie, or just a takeaway and a DVD, can help persuade reluctant younger recruits! 

Play 'beat the clock.' Set time limits for completing small tasks, and try to complete those tasks before the timer goes off.  Plan a car boot sale to sell old toys, unwanted games and books and other clutter and promise to spend the proceeds on a family day out.  If you don’t have family to help, ask a friend to help, or do a swap – you’ll help spring clean their house if they’ll help you.

3 One room at a time
One of the most common mistakes people make when spring-cleaning is moving randomly around the house. 

One minute you're clearing out the cupboard under the sink, and the next, you're in the bedroom trying to stuff all your winter jumpers into a bag. The result? A great big, unsatisfying, exhausting mess. 

Instead, try to clean methodically: this will conserve your energy and ensure nothing gets missed out.  This is why drawing up a plan of action before you start is time well spent.

4 Work from the top down
If you decide to tackle one room at a time, work from the top down to the floor – that way you won’t be making a mess of an area you’ve already cleaned. 

So, in the kitchen, get out the step-ladder and sweep away cobwebs and clear away off and clean the tops of cupboards first. Then clear out and scrub your over work-top cupboards – throwing out any out of date items and remembering to wipe the bottoms of jars and cans before you put them back on those lovely unsticky, ring-free shelves. 

Worktops, windowsill and sink next, then clean out those under-worktop cupboards and drawers, fridge, freezer and oven, before getting freestanding appliances out and cleaning out the crud you know will be lurking behind them. 

Sweep up all the accumulated debris and wash the floor as the very last job – then stand back and admire your handiwork!

5 Wonderful windows
Curtains need cleaning at least once a year to prolong their life and keep them looking as good as new. If the fabric's washable, you should be able to clean and iron them at home so choose a warm sunny day when you can line dry big items. Ironing is most effective while they're still slightly damp.  If curtains are pleated or gathered at the top, untie the header tape strings and release the pleats when spring-cleaning as they're real dust traps. And look out for mildew. This can accumulate when the fabric rests on a damp windowsill or against patio doors, where condensation gathers - so remember to wipe sills and windows down regularly.

While the curtains are down, take the opportunity to reach every corner easily to clean and polish the inside of your windows and the dust and wipe down the windowsills.  And open them wide to let the fresh spring air in.

For dusty venetian blinds you can now buy inexpensive ‘three-fingered’ dusters designed specially for cleaning and wiping the slats quickly and effectively.   

6 Freshen up your carpets
Carpets take a lot of punishment and over time accumulate a lot of ingrained dust and dirt that even regular vacuuming won’t shift, particularly on the stairs and in the living room . 

Hiring steam-cleaning equipment (most DIY superstores offer this service) for a day or two. Be warned, you will be shocked at how filthy the cleaning water is as you pour it away! 
Alternatively call in a professional carpet cleaning service to leave them smelling fresh and looking like new again. Again it’s best to choose a dry spell of weather so you can move living room furniture out into the garden. 
7 Spring clean your oven
It's a job that no one likes, but the inside of your oven will be in real need of a proper spring clean after all those winter roasts and casseroles. There are a lot of powerful chemical oven cleaners around that are no doubt effective but come with health and safety warnings. 

A simpler method is to mix water and some bicarbonate of soda into a thick paste, then smear it all over inside your cold oven - including the door - and leave for a few hours or overnight.  It will dissolve burnt and baked on mess and all you have to do is wipe it away with a damp sponge. 

8 Revamp your wardrobe
Putting away your winter garb and getting out your summer clothes is an ideal time to rationalise what you really need. First of all get EVERYTHING out of your wardrobe and drawers, then vacuum thoroughly before washing down the insides to discourage moths who love to lay eggs in dark undisturbed corners.  

Look at your winter clothes and accessories first – is there anything you didn’t wear at all in the last six months? Then donate it to a charity shop or sell it on eBay.  Now be ruthless and do the same with your spring and summer clothes – if there’s anything you didn’t wear last year, are you really going to wear it this year? And get rid of anything that in a size you once were but aren’t any more – even if you are really planning to lose weight, keeping slim clothes in your wardrobe is not an inspiration, they just induce guilt. 

When you put the clothes back in your wardrobe organise them by colour, from black, through navy and the rest of the rainbow to white – it really will save you time and effort co-ordinating outfits when you’re getting dressed in the morning. 

9 Clear out the clutter
Clutter is the curse of our age – most of us have got too much stuff and not enough room to store it in. So a properly organised decluttering session can be really cathartic. Here’s a great mantra to declutter by , from Victorian designer William Morris, on whose 182nd birthday (at least that's what Google tells me today!) I'm writing this: 

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful"

An easy way to remember this pearl of wisdom is to ask yourself these three questions for every item when you are sorting out your stuff: Is it useful? Do I love it? Does this fit my life NOW? If the answer to any of those questions is no, it’s got to go! 

Keeping things just because you might need them one day may seem like a good reason for clogging up your cupboards and corners. Remind yourself that what you REALLY need is uncluttered space and a well-organised home you can really enjoy living in. And remember how much time you wasted trying to find an important item last time you had to dig it out of a disorganised  drawer or an overstuffed cupboard. 

Use the ‘chuck, charity, cherish’ method to sort clutter
Get four large boxes or plastic storage crates/bins. Label them as follows and sort items room by room or cupboard by cupboard according to the categories. 'Chuck, charity or cherish' is an easy way to remember your sorting classifications. 

And move stuff you are getting rid of out of the house as quickly as possible – whether it’s to the bin, the tip or the charity shop – to stop you (or your family) changing your mind and hanging on to it! 

  • Rubbish:  This is any item that you do not need or want, but that you cannot sell or donate to charity.  
  • Give Away/Sell:  Be generous. Think about the uses someone else might get out of the items compared to the use it currently gets in your home. Consider the financial benefits of selling this stuff at a car boot sale or on eBay. Or the feelgood benefits of knowing your unwanted clothes and other items will not only benefit the charity of your choice but will be of real use to a new owner.  
  • Storage:  Put items in here that you cannot part with but do not need on a regular basis. Make an inventory of the items as you box them. Group similar items together ready to be stored together. 
  • Put Away:  This should be your smallest category. These are items that need to be out on a regular basis. Monitor yourself by working out if you have a place for each item. If the items in this box will not fit into your home without cluttering an area up, try to reassess if you really need them. If you do need these “essentials”, try to come up with a storage solution that fits into your home.

10. Bring spring into your home
When all your spring cleaning is done, add new cushions, towels or bedlinen in zingy spring colours to freshen up the look of your home. And of course, a freshly polished vase of spring flowers is the perfect finishing touch! 

If you need help with decluttering or home organisation, staging your home for sale, or ideas or inspiration for a new look for your home for spring, Clarify Interiors are the experts. Call 01865 594955 or 07917 716004 or email clare@clarifyinteriors.co.uk