Spring cleaning transcends time and culture. Persians perform khaneh takani (“shaking the house”) as part of a New Year tradition of cleaning and scouring the home inside and out. The Chinese also mark the New Year by cleaning; it is seen as a way to sweep away any bad luck from the previous year and make space for good fortune in the year to come. In Jewish culture the house receives a thorough cleaning to rid it of crumbs in preparation for Passover.
Whatever its origins, spring cleaning provides an ideal opportunity to address the areas in our home that may need purging, cleaning or refreshing. And it can benefit our health as well. A thorough spring cleaning can unearth outdated foods and medicines, help reduce household allergens and reveal safety hazards. Plus it just makes you feel good.
Attack the Clutter
It’s hard to clean surfaces that are covered in clutter. But where does one begin the uncluttering process?
“Start where it will do the most help,” advises professional home organizer Heather Baker of New Season Organizers. “For most people that means the kitchen or the bathroom.”
In the bathroom check the medicine cabinet for expired medications, lotions and cosmetics. Sunscreen, for example, usually has an expiration date after which it is less effective.
For medications that have expired or that you no longer use, look for take-back events or locations.
Once you’ve removed expired or unnecessary items, says Baker, categorize what remains. “Separate and store items by their use—for example, shaving items, dental items or hair care items.”
In the kitchen look for broken or duplicate tools and seldom-used appliances. Clean the refrigerator and cupboards, disposing of any expired foods.
Throughout the house, “Get rid of what you don’t need,” says Baker. She advises giving away items that haven’t been used in the past year. If that is too difficult, she suggests placing the items in a box marked with the date and the word “donate.” After a year if you haven’t missed anything in the box, give it to charity.
Clear the Air
Sometimes we don’t realize how much dust and grime can accumulate in our homes. Take the time to wipe walls, dust light fixtures, scrub floors and shine windows. Especially for those with allergies, it is important to clean curtains, carpets and linens such as comforters and pillows.
Check air conditioning and heating system manuals regarding how often to change filters. Generally it should be done about every three months, or more frequently if someone at home has allergies or asthma. Look for filters with a higher MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating. If you have a fireplace, have your chimney professionally cleaned.
Look for old cleaning products, used batteries, old cans of paint and other forms of toxic waste. There are many hazardous waste disposal locations in the South Bay; check your city’s website for ones nearby.
Change the batteries in your smoke detectors. This should be done twice a year; linking it to the spring and fall time changes can be a handy way to remember. Check your fire extinguisher. Restock your emergency kit.
Don’t expect to complete all of your spring cleaning at once. Make a list and schedule times that make sense. Perhaps you want to dedicate an hour a day for a certain period of time. Or maybe you prefer to set aside a couple of weekends.
Completing these tasks can make your home healthier, safer and more appealing. So if you haven’t already, consider making spring cleaning part of your tradition.