In my part of the world, it’s still cold, gray February. Spring feels very far away.
I know that when the sun comes out, I’ll want to overhaul the whole house and scrub it down…and I’ll be tempted to skip school in order to do so.
Maybe it’s spring in your neck of the woods already, and you have that vague itch to clear everything out. Maybe, like me, you want to skip lessons and clean house just to help make it feel like spring.
Why we want to spring clean
Part of the itch to do a “full” Spring Clean, I think, is a desire to burst out of the doldrums of February with a big project. If you’re a results-oriented project person and not so much a content plodder, the stretch between Christmas and the end of the school year starts to feel long. Everyone has to plod during this period, like it or not, and it makes the project people itchy and restless.
However, we have to be careful. Our desire to start and complete an overhaul-level project is strong and often includes a temptation to ignore the regular duties of life as much as possible. So while one thing gets done, many more pile up.
While our ability to intensely focus on one outcome can be beneficial at times, we have to temper it with the realities of family life.
Our desire to accomplish one big thing that will create a visible difference often results in a boom and bust cycle: One crazy sprint of focused energy toward a goal, followed by “relaxing” after a big expenditure of effort – during which time entropy works its magic and things fall apart.
Spring Clean with Baby Steps
So let me suggest a different way, learned the hard way after over twenty years of homemaking through various stages and in various homes and situations.
Take the whole spring to do spring cleaning, but use only one hour per week to get it done. This method combines the best of project-mode and plodding-mode.
As a project, you get a full hour to accomplish one piece of the project. You can ignore everything else for one hour (two if you can), and obsessively work toward a goal – but only for a determined block of time. You get the satisfaction of focus and achieving a task, while not letting everything else go.
The other benefit of using a time block method for Spring Cleaning is that it will force your focus toward what will have the biggest impact. You’ll naturally move toward getting the visible, meaningful work done first rather than getting distracted by details that won’t matter much.
Those details grab us when we’re in obsessive mode, but with the check of a timer, we can deliberately choose the work that will make the most difference.
A Spring Clean Plan for Real Life
So how do you Spring Clean in an hour a week?
There is no standard checklist that everyone needs to work through in order to have completed a “Spring Clean.” Instead, our cleaning checklists should be customized to our particular homes and situations and needs.
Therefore, you should start with a brain dump. List the areas or zones your house has. Estimate how long a basic cleaning of each zone would take you. Then choose 1-3 extra tasks in that area that would help you feel more on top of things. Maybe it’s washing the windows or dusting baseboards or cleaning the top of the ceiling fan.
Estimate how many minutes each of those extra jobs will take and write it next to each one.
Now, tally the hours. What did you come up with? Is it doable to spread that out over the next 2 months or so?
Then look at your calendar. Slot in a planned time block that’s 1-2 hours once or twice a week. You might even consider setting a phone alarm for those times to remind yourself.
When your time block begins, set a timer and start on your list. For the duration of your timer’s countdown, don’t pick up your phone or start something else or get a snack or a drink. Just see how much from your list you can pound out.
When the timer goes off, stop, even if you didn’t finish.
It’s true your whole house will not be clean all at once with this method. But let’s face it, that’s a pipe dream anyway. Although we’re trying for an entirely clean house when we begin, it’s not likely to actually happen because life is being constantly lived in the house. And life means messes.
So a steady extra-clean hour weekly approach is a better fit for real family life.
When Spring Cleaning Isn’t Possible
The truth is that we don’t have time to overhaul the whole house. Moreover, the whole house won’t remain in a static state for more than five minutes if you have a few kids living there.
However, it’s also the truth that we don’t need to overhaul everything in order to improve the state of things.
There are just a few chores that, if done daily and weekly, keep things on an even keel, mostly cleanish most of the time. Daily cleaning routines are the secret to make major spring cleaning totally optional.
Take the next six weeks with me to put these maintenance routines in place. You’ll spend 45-60 minutes per day (total, not additional) on chores AND that’ll be enough to make a huge difference. It’s all about being strategic.