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The flowers are blooming, the birds are serenading, and our house still feels like it’s stuck with winter blues. Spring cleaning is a tradition that allows us to freshen up our homes and get a head start on the hectic seasons of spring and summer.

Make a Plan

Whether your place is tiny or massive, spring cleaning can be a challenge. Spring cleaning is about going beyond your usual dusting, mopping, vacuuming and scrubbing routine. Like all big undertakings, it’s a good idea to make a plan.

Start by listing out every room of your house, without forgetting places like the utility room, laundry room, garage and closets. Think about tasks like cleaning the baseboards, the walls, the windows and window treatments, as well as moving and cleaning behind and under furniture (and the furniture itself). Basically, things that you probably don’t clean on a regular basis. If it helps you, walk through your house or apartment while making the list.

Take Your Time

Before you give up because you can’t take a week off work just to clean, remember this: nobody can. Go back to your list and break down each task into manageable chunks. Estimate how long each task will take you and where you can add them on to your everyday routine.

You also need to build in breaks to avoid burnout. At the same time, be a little ruthless with yourself — now is not the time to flip through your old yearbooks or reread letters from pen pals.

Get Ready

Make sure that you have all of the supplies you need. Spring cleaning isn’t the most thrilling thing in the world, but it will be even more annoying if you have to stop and run to the store because you’re out of something.

You probably have the basics already, but at a minimum, you’ll need an all-purpose cleaner for everything from walls to floors and a glass cleaner for windows and mirrors. Don’t forget about specialized cleaners, like oven cleaner, silver polish or wood oil, because you probably don’t use those things nearly as much. Your tools are just as important: Inspect everything from brooms to mops, and replace them if they’re in bad shape. A frayed broom can make sweeping take twice as long.

Spring is also a good time to go green. You can even go one step further and discover new uses for household items like white vinegar and baking soda. You may not have them in the quantities you’ll need for cleaning, but buying them will cost you much less than traditional cleaning supplies. Try to avoid using paper towels if you can.

Declutter First

Before you can clean, you have to declutter and organize. There are lots of ways to go about it, but the easiest is to set up three different bins: keep, toss and donate/sell.

With each item, ask yourself what this particular thing is doing for you. If the answer is nothing but it’s still calling to you, next decide whether you could be happy with just taking a picture of it. If you don’t even want a picture of the thing, then why is it sitting on your shelf?

Once you have your “keep” items, think about how you can better organize them. You can find inexpensive baskets and bins in all sizes at thrift stores or dollar stores.

Involve the Family

If you have kids, get them to focus on their rooms first (including the closet). Just remember that you’ll need to help keep them on track and make sure they didn’t just shove everything under the bed. Even small children and toddlers can do things like dust baseboards. No luck with anybody at home? Offer to help a friend with his or her spring cleaning in exchange for help with yours (or for free food and/or alcohol — if it works for moving, why not for cleaning?). Finally, if you can afford it, you could also hire a maid service to tackle some of the larger jobs that just seem way too overwhelming.

Top Down

Dust and clean the ceiling, molding and the light fixtures. Then wipe down the walls, clean the windows and window treatments, dust pictures and other art and sanitize the doors and light switches. When you’re done with what’s on the walls, move on to the furniture and the outside and inside of any storage pieces. You can either start with the closets or do them right before you clean the floor, which is always going to be last.

Speed Up the Process

Another way to speed up the process is to look for shortcuts, like spot-cleaning instead of cleaning the whole thing. Instead of steam-cleaning all of the carpet, focus just on the stains in the high-traffic areas. If you have a hand-held steamer for clothes, use it on curtains instead of taking them down to wash. It’s your house, so you decide how your time is best spent.

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