Washing windows, shampooing carpets, hosing down the garage. It’s almost spring and 60 percent of Americans agree that this is the best time to rid their homes of dirt and clutter, according to the Soap and Detergent Association Spring Cleaning Survey.
While many families have a plan to tackle large overall cleaning jobs, most forget to crack the surface and clean out what lurks in those hidden crevasses—closets, lunch boxes, backpacks, glove compartments, toy boxes and medicine cabinets that can be hot spots for clutter, crud and general messiness.
Lisa Ireland, owner of a professional cleaning service, cites night stands, linen closets and medicine cabinets among the most neglected areas of the home. Freezers, junk drawers and the coat closet also top her list as places where mini-messes can easily collect. "I’m often hired to deep clean kitchens this time of year," says Ireland, who helps clients wipe out cupboards that can collect crumbs and reorganize junk drawers that tend to become catch-alls for all types of clutter.
This year, clean from the inside out and create a plan to tackle these most-missed areas along with your regular spring cleaning routine. Address one area each week and you’ll be spic and span by summer vacation.
Lunch boxes and backpacks
Turn soft lunch bags inside out, gently wash inside walls with a mild detergent and use a toothbrush to scrub seams. Run your child’s lunch box through a cycle if it is dishwasher safe or scrub it down with a mildly abrasive sponge. Turn backpacks inside out, too, shake crumbs and dirt outside and use a clean paint brush to clean seams. Smell like old gym clothes? Give it a good squirt of fabric-friendly odor neutralizer.
Discard old condiment packets, outdated directions and extra food napkins. Check maps, insurance cards, emergency contact information and registration papers and replace with current information. Update first aid kits with fresh ointments, bandages and antiseptic wipes. Add a fresh packet of wipes and bug repellent wipes for summer road trips.
Whether your catch-all drawer is in the kitchen or home office, dump it out and start from scratch. Wipe out the interior and use a drawer organizer to sort like items into bins—paper clips, twist ties, rubber bands, pens and birthday candles. Discard expired batteries (schools often collect them for environmental friendly disposal), coupons and dried up pens. Collect coins and relocate to your wallet.
Dump all toys out of the box, vacuum and scrub inside. Take this opportunity to get rid of broken pieces, toys with missing parts and collect a bag of items your child has outgrown to donate to your local shelter. Don’t forget other toy collection areas, like those in your car.
Remove everything from the closet and make piles of similar items. Once you’ve wiped down the shelves, get rid of frayed or stained linens. Consider labeling each shelf and stacking towels, sheets and pillow cases according to shelf assignments. Use plastic, labeled bins or baskets for any extra guest soaps, cleaning or hygiene products you store in the linen closet. Try scented shelf liners or place a few scented dryer sheets in the back of shelves or in drawers to keep linens smelling fresh.
Purse, diaper bag and wallet
Completely empty your purse, diaper bag or wallet, file important receipts and throw away trash. Check coupons, medicines and gift cards for expiration dates. Use a large, clean paintbrush to dust debris from billfolds and a small hand-held vacuum for cleaning out purses and bags. Replace photo holders that have become ripped or dirty, update pictures and replace supplies like wet wipes and diapers.
Take dress coats to the cleaners, wash winter coats, mittens, gloves and hats and replace with spring jackets and sweaters. Toss odd mittens, broken coat hangers, ripped galoshes or boots that have been outgrown. Relocate sports equipment, camera cases and mops or cleaning supplies that can hog up space or use bins to keep these items separate and organized. Wipe salt and mud off of floors and consider a shoe rack to keep garden shoes and flip flops orderly this spring.
Discard all medicines that have expired or have not been properly sealed. Get rid of medicines that have less than one dosage left. Refresh toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, contact cases and razors. Stock up on supplies for summer, like sunscreen with appropriate SPF, insect bite relief, allergy medications and first aid supplies like antiseptic wash, ointments and bandages. Check out the American Red Cross for suggestions on what to put in your first aid kit at www.redcross.org.
Throw out magazines, return library books or shelve unread novels to free up clutter from your bedside table. Throw out old lozenges, lip balms and night creams and replace with fresh ones. Replace batteries in alarm clocks or reading lights.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends defrosting freezers with a manual feature at least once a year or when there is more than one fourth inch of frost over a large area of the freezer surface. Follow instructions in your freezer’s manual for defrosting. Get rid of frozen food that has been in the freezer more than a year, containers that are not properly sealed and leftovers that aren’t even big enough for one serving. Take inventory of what you have and make a meal plan to include frozen ingredients. Make sure you’re ready for summer with a fresh frozen ice pack for injuries.
Sharon Miller Cindrich is a mom and freelance writer who specializes in helping other moms and dads navigate today’s technology.