Clean Sweep? The Case Against Spring Cleaning

Spring blows in with warm wind and the promise of ... spring cleaning?

With the coming of spring, even the most casual home managers feel an inexplicable urge to move furniture, clean windows and vacuum baseboards to welcome the return of sunshine and warmer weather.

But is spring cleaning really necessary?

Certainly, there's a lot to be said for the notion of spring cleaning. It's a good time of year to rout out the dirt, dust and disorder that's crept into the home since the holiday season. By doing a thorough clean once a year, no area of the home gets too far removed from the results earned by energetic mops, vacuums and cleaning cloths. Longer days bring a new burst of energy for many of us, and using that bonus to deep-clean our homes seems like a good match for rising springtime spirits.

Then there's another point of view: that spring cleaning is unnecessary in an organized modern home.

The Case Against Spring Cleaning

Historic reasons for a traditional spring clean are no longer a factor in the vast majority of today's homes. When homes were heated with wood, coal or coal oil furnaces, the winter heating season brought a build-up of soot and ash on walls, furniture and fabrics. Spring cleaning marked the end of the heating season, when the entire house was aired and scrubbed clean of the dim, smoky film given off by older heat sources.

But with today's heating technology, this rationale no longer applies. Today's central or forced air furnaces, disposable air filters, and air filtration systems prevent a build-up of soot or film--and knock the props out from under the idea of a top-to-bottom spring clean.

Modern lives, too, no longer possess the rhythm and pace required to sustain an old-fashioned cleaning marathon. Today's working moms or active mothers of young children don't have the ability to clear two weeks of other commitments to engage in a full-time, full-bore spring cleaning session.

The notion of turning the house upside down each spring for a thorough cleaning seems as quaint as grandmother's house dresses to today's busy home managers--and it's certain that most of us no longer enjoy grandmother's access to paid household help, either.

Then there's the inevitable backlash! By the time modern families finish a whole-house deep-clean, we're apt to be so exhausted and alienated from our mops and buckets that we allow cleaning to slide--often for months to a year afterward! Instead of a reasonably clean house all the year long, spring-cleaners sometimes slip into peaks and valleys of clean versus dirty.

Finally, there are valid maintenance reasons NOT to defer deep cleaning to a single, yearly session.

Carpeting lasts longest if maintained by frequent vacuuming and regular cleaning, which prevents deposit of abrasive grit deep within the fibers.

Deferring needed carpet cleaning until spring causes unnecessary wear and works against the goal of a clean house.

Similarly, windows which are washed on a regular schedule won't develop the scale build-up requiring special treatment in a once-a-year cleaning session.

Exhaustion. Lack of time. No more seasonal need. The goal of better home maintenance EVERY day. All these factors weigh in against the idea of a good old-fashioned spring cleaning session.

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The Solution: A Household Cleaning Plan

So how do we replace spring cleaning? With a workable household cleaning plan.

Homes cleaned according to a household cleaning plan stay reasonably clean all the time--and even when they slip, can be pulled back into line easily.

Instead of a single yearly intense cleaning period, a cleaning plan provides for routine deep-cleaning of each room in the house, on a regular, staggered schedule.

A cleaning plan integrates seasonal cleaning chores into daily or weekly cleaning sessions, and no task goes too long without being done. Result: a clean home the year around.

How do you develop a cleaning plan for your organized home?

The best plans are individualized for your own family's needs. Tempting as it is to jump into a canned routine of lists and schedules, it's hard to sustain the energy to continue if you're either cleaning already-clean areas (because the plan says you should!) or living with neglected corners (because they weren't part of the plan!).

While there are lots of "Do it my way!" options out there, rigid methods fail most folks in the long term, because they're not suited to the unique needs and challenges of any given family. Just ask all the "Week Three drop-outs" about the disappointment they face after. an intense flirtation with somebody else's cleaning plan!

No, a cleaning plan must be home-grown. While the steps are fairly simple--identify the household's cleaning needs, decide on frequency of cleaning tasks, set up a calendar or tickler file to schedule cleaning chores, and assign chores to the time periods mandated by the calendar--the devil is in the details ... and the doing.

Will you spring-clean your home this year?

For some of us, like this writer, there will be no choice: the house must be reclaimed, top to bottom, from built-up dirt and disorder.

But you can bet that as my dust cloths fly (Aaaa-CHOO!), I'll be thinking of how I never intend to face spring cleaning again. What will my secret be? A household cleaning plan!

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