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Making the Most of Spring Cleaning; avoid these four common slip-ups

Spring has sprung! Warm weather means it is time to open windows, shake out rugs, and spring clean your home. Wait a minute! Before you get started, here are some common slip-ups on house cleaning and tips on how you can be more effective and efficient in getting your home sparkling clean.

Slip-up #1: Cleaning Around Clutter

Much of what makes a home look messy is the accumulation of stuff you don’t use or need. Clothes you haven’t worn in years, extra knick-knacks that are in the way, books you’ve already read, toys the kids outgrew…the list can go on and on. Why waste time dusting or washing the things that are just taking up space? Spring is a great time to purge, purge, purge. Here are some great ways to unclutter easily.

  • Sell. Drive around town on a sunny spring weekend and you’ll find dozen of garage sales. Why? It’s the perfect way to get rid of small appliances, clothes, toys, books, jewelry, housewares and more. Keep in mind, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. This is certainly true when it comes to yard sales. If you don’t have time to host a sale, consider bringing your items to a consignment store.
  • Donate. If you don’t want to have a yard sale or open a booth at a consignment shop, consider donating your items to charities. Local resale/charity shops will take donations any day of week. You can drop off donations to your local charity, church or shelter. It makes you feel good and helps you to get rid of stuff.
  • Recycle. For all those things that can’t be donated or sold, make sure you dispose of them properly. Recycle newspapers and mixed papers in a designated bin. Condense the contents of nearly empty plastic containers and take to our local recycling center.

Slip-up #2: Sparse Supplies

So, you’ve cleared out the clutter and you’re ready to go. But are you? What about cleaning supplies? Make sure you have the right tools for the job. Some necessary cleaning supplies include:

-          All-purpose cleaners

-          Chlorine bleach

-          Abrasive and non-abrasive cleaners

-          Glass cleaner

-          Furniture polish

-          Vacuum cleaner bags

-          Trash bags

You can purchase cleaning supplies or make your own by following recommended recipes. For cleaning supply recipes, contact the Howard County Extension Service and ask for a handout which has several different recipes for making your own “green” cleaners at home.

Slip-up #3: Plan? What Plan?

            Do you do your weekly grocery shopping without a list? Would you head out on a road trip without directions? Map out your cleaning tasks and create a schedule. This will make the job run smoother and go faster.

  • Determine your cleaning style. Some people prefer to clean one room at a time; others prefer to do one task at a time. Which one works for you?
  • Prioritize. If you do choose to clean one room at a time, decide on the best order. Dinner guests coming soon? Perhaps the living room and dining room might be a higher priority than, say, the upstairs bathroom.
  • Clear out the Big Stuff. Do items such as bed linens, area rugs and curtains need to be laundered? If so, remove them from the room. It will be much easier to clean the rest of the space when those larger items are gone.

Slipup #4: Going at It Alone

“If you want all the days of your lives to seem sunny as summer weather, make sure when there’s housework to do, that you do it together!” It’s been 40 years since Carol Channing said this on Free to Be You and Me, but it still holds true.

  • Enlist Family or Friends. Everyone above the age of two can help out in some way, big or small – whether that’s putting blocks back into a bin or scrubbing the toilet bowl. Assign tasks according to age and ability.
  • Make it Fun. Let’s face it – housework is no day at the beach. But it doesn’t have to be pure drudgery either. Put on some lively music, create built-in rewards for tasks completed or make a game out of it. Hide surprises in places that need cleaning, or create a contest to see who can put away the most things that are green, or shaped like a circle.
  • Plan Ahead. Cleaning burns calories, so make sure you have snacks or lunch readily available to provide boosts of much-needed energy. And if you have asked a friend for help, think about ways you can say thank-you – either a token of appreciation or a promise to return the favor.
  • Outsource. If time is a constraint and your budget allows, call in the pros on places you can’t clean; such as carpet, windows, etc. Just be sure to straighten up and remove clutter before hired help arrives. You don’t want them to vacuum up tiny toys or misplace important papers that were lying around.

Finally, keep in mind the end reward. A clean house! Think about how much better you will feel and how great it will look once you are finished.

The information for this article was adapted from information from the American Cleaning Institute. Check out their website at for more information or contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517. We are located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Recipe of the Week

Here is a money-saving recipe for a window/mirror cleaner that you can make at home. This recipe is just one of several in the free handout available to you by calling the Extension Office.

Window/Mirror Cleaner Recipe

  • ¼ c. cornstarch
  • ½ c. ammonia
  • 1 c. vinegar

Mix ingredients together in a jar. Wear gloves, if necessary, because vinegar is a mild acid. It will remove rust or lime deposits on the outside of windows.

Tip: Newspapers leave a streak free shine.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair