‘The goal is to simplify your life’ – not make it worse: experts explain how to spring clean without getting overwhelmed
Spring cleaning is a daunting task for many, here is how to prevent overwhelm
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- 1. Make a detailed plan
- 2. Start one room at a time
- 3. Or, break it down into areas
- 4. Don’t feel the need to get everything done at once
- 5. Ask for help
- 6. Take regular breaks
- 7. Have a smaller spring clean
- 8. Tackle the harder tasks first
- 9. Prepare with supplies before you start
- 10. Don’t buy more stuff before you declutter and clean
For many of us, a whole week or more dedicated to cleaning and tidying a home doesn't sound like a relaxing retreat. In fact, spring cleaning can be one of the more stressful times of the year – so how do you spring clean without getting overwhelmed?
It is easy to put together a list of cleaning tips and decluttering tips in the run-up to spring cleaning, but failing to plan for inevitable tiredness is a common cause of stress or overwhelm – especially if you haven’t made a detailed spring cleaning checklist.
Working out ways to help prevent overwhelm when preparing for spring cleaning is one of the best ways to prevent burnout, but there are a few other methods that can help spur you on, according to experts.
How to spring clean without getting overwhelmed
‘Spring cleaning can be really overwhelming as the thought of starting and completely cleaning your entire home feels like an insurmountable task,’ begins Johnny Pallares, residential cleaning expert and owner of De La Rosa house cleaning (opens in new tab). ‘Deep cleaning the floor boards, scrubbing down a bathtub, and cleaning your house for a whole weekend can make cleaners start worrying about a headache and a sore back before they even start cleaning!
'Cleaning can be good for your body and mind, but spending all day doing grueling deep cleaning is not ideal. The key to managing spring cleaning is doing things that make cleaning manageable while still giving you a sense of accomplishment and a clear mind that comes with a tidy space,’ he explains.
Johnny Pallares (opens in new tab) took over his family's company, established in 2005, in 2018 and he was able to transform the small cleaning company into a professional business with his cleaning skills and keen eye for business.
1. Make a detailed plan
Making a cleaning plan is not just good for spring cleaning, but for a range of household tasks like decluttering when feeling overwhelmed, for example. Spring cleaning can be particularly stressful as it involves tackling areas of the home that require more time and energy than regular household chores, explains Alvin Pullins, (opens in new tab) cleaning specialist and founder of the home maintenance blog, Nerd In The House. This is where making a plan comes in handy.
‘Making a list of the areas that need to be cleaned helps you to visualize your tasks, your goals, and prioritize things based on urgency and importance,’ he says. What’s more, if you are not sure where to start when decluttering and cleaning, there are plenty of pre-made checklists available online to help you get a start.
Alvin Pullins (opens in new tab) is a qualified home improvement specialist, cleaning expert, and maintenance professional with a passion for home renovations.
The Ultimate Spring Cleaning Checklist| $2.99 at Etsy (opens in new tab)
This comprehensive cleaning checklist has been created by a professional home cleaner to help you tackle your to-do list like a pro.
2. Start one room at a time
You may have heard of the ‘different day, different room’ housekeeping schedule that helps you to stay on top of your chores, so why not apply that methodology to your spring cleaning routine too? ‘Divide the cleaning into smaller tasks, such as cleaning one room at a time and sorting and cleaning every item in that space before moving on to the next. This helps to keep the mess contained and can give you a fulfilling sense of achievement when complete,’ says Alvin Pullins, cleaning specialist.
The ‘ski-slope’ organizing method is another great approach to cleaning and tidying one room at a time as it helps to prevent distractions and makes a logical path around your space to guide you through your tasks.
3. Or, break it down into areas
If cleaning by room is a little too overwhelming, then breaking your room down into areas can help you to sort your cleaning priorities and prevent you from dealing with only the easiest bits and ignoring the hardest sections.
The best approach is to think of each small area, whether it be a dresser or a cabinet as its own small project, suggests Justin Carpenter, cleaning expert and manager of Modern Maids (opens in new tab). ‘Prioritize which tasks are most important, such as working out the first thing to clean in the living room. Beginning with those will make the biggest difference. Delegate tasks to other family members if possible; each person can take on one area of the house or room.’
Justin Carpenter (opens in new tab) has been a professional cleaner for over four years, having founded Modern Maids in his spare time before making is a successful cleaning business in its own right.
4. Don’t feel the need to get everything done at once
The framing of spring cleaning suggests that all your cleaning and organizing tasks need to be done within the week, month, or season of spring. In reality, it doesn't matter too much if you get it done a little into summer, start during winter, or do a little in the first week of April and not pick the tasks up again until the end of the month. In fact, starting early to give yourself plenty of time is a top tip from cleaning expert Justin Carpenter.
‘If completing everything in one go is too daunting, break it up into several weekends or days and space out the tasks to make them more manageable. Going at a relaxed pace will help you stay organized and keep stress levels low,’ he says.
‘I recommend splitting spring cleaning duties up over a four-week period instead of slogging it all out through an entire weekend,’ Johnny Pallares, residential cleaning expert adds. ‘On a calendar, write down the tasks that you want to complete each week and finish them. This will allow you the benefit of tidying up your home while still giving you some time to enjoy your weekend. You can divide up the task based on rooms or you can do it based on chores.
‘Bathrooms in week one, bedrooms in week two, living rooms in week three, and garage in week four. You don't need to overwhelm yourself. Split spring cleaning into multiple weeks and the task won't feel so overwhelming.’
You can also take on some cleaning and decluttering challenges such as the ‘one bag a day’ method to make the task a little more of a game.
5. Ask for help
A lot of cleaning influencers seem to tackle their entire home on their own, but there is no shame in asking for help with cleaning. In fact, it can even be beneficial to those helping you. ‘Cleaning can be more fun and less overwhelming when you have someone to help you,’ explains Alvin Pullins, cleaning specialist.
Sometimes spring cleaning tasks are physically too large or technical to tackle on your own anyway, as Phi Dang, cleaning expert and director of home services company, SidePost (opens in new tab) points out. ‘Enlist family members or friends who can help out with heavier tasks such as moving furniture or cleaning windows – especially if you are using ladders.’
Besides asking friends and family to help you tackle your chores, or you helping them out in return, professional cleaning services are non-judgemental and offer confidential cleaning services too. ‘A professional cleaning service can take care of all the hard work for you, leaving you more time to focus on your work and other important things in your life,’ assures Paul Filho, professional cleaner and owner of Celestial Cleaning Service (opens in new tab) in San Francisco. No task is too small or too big for professionals.
6. Take regular breaks
There has been an increasing trend in incorporating wellness in design and wellness tips into our everyday routines, so why not apply this to our cleaning routines? When creating a plan, it is important to set time aside for relaxing and taking a physical – and mental – break, says cleaning expert Justin Carpenter. ‘Don't forget to set aside time for yourself in between all the chores. Take a break, grab a snack, or even take a quick walk – this will help you recharge your energy and motivation to continue.’
7. Have a smaller spring clean
Spring cleaning is traditionally a whole house gutting, but if you are already rushed off your feet, or your home is already relatively clean, doing a smaller spring cleaning session may be just enough. Even addressing the one area you should always clean before spring and leaving the rest of your home is perfect.
Even professional cleaners suggest taking it easy on your tasks when feeling overwhelmed. ‘Focus on only the most important tasks that need to be done, and leave everything else for another day (or year),’ recommends cleaning expert Phi Dang. ‘This will help reduce stress and make it easier for you to stay motivated throughout the process.’
8. Tackle the harder tasks first
It may seem counterintuitive to start with a tough spot when cleaning, but getting the hardest tasks out of the way when you have energy means that, if you do get overwhelmed, you only have the smallest tasks to cope with, explains professional handyman Walter Bennett of Green leaf Air (opens in new tab). ‘As you work through the process, the tasks will become more manageable, and you will feel a sense of accomplishment as you complete each one.’
9. Prepare with supplies before you start
Ensure you have everything you need for all of your tasks before you start, says Rosemary King (opens in new tab), a holistic life coach who specializes in decluttering and organizing. ‘Having your supplies on hand (cleaning supplies such as all-purpose cleaner, disinfectant wipes, glass cleaner, gloves, trash bags, boxes, etc.) will keep you from having to rush around looking for the supplies as you clean. Keeping them in a central location like the laundry room or garage will also help you when you tackle your list from one day to the next.’
We always suggest picking eco-friendly cleaning products to help detoxify your home and be more environmentally conscious with your cleaning. Often, most tasks don’t require harsh chemicals – and they could be damaging your space too.
Rosemary King (opens in new tab) is a holistic life coach specializing in decluttering and cleaning. She helps clients simplify their lives and find harmony through tidy homes with her company, Heart-Led Concierge.
10. Don’t buy more stuff before you declutter and clean
Plenty of home organizing ideas require new systems such as bins, baskets, and dividers to help make them look pretty and work effectively. However, buying the best kitchen organizers and best bedroom organizers, for example, before you know what you need to organize will only add to the clutter and cause more overwhelm – especially if you realize you have bought the wrong products!
‘You’ll be surprised at how many organizational bins, baskets, and shelves you already have that are inadequately used!’ points out Rosemary King, holistic life coach. ‘The goal is to simplify your life,’ she reminds us. ‘Discover what you already have, and when you’re done cleaning and decluttering, you’ll have a better idea of what needs to be replaced and purchased new.’
Implementing a rotating section to your pantry cabinet will change the way you can view your foodstuffs.
These Water Hyacinth Bins offer an attractive option for storage of a variety of items.
How can I make spring cleaning easier?
Spring cleaning can be made easier by enlisting the help of others – whether it be friends, family, or professionals. Consider throwing a ‘cleaning party’ with good music, snacks, and friends to help tackle a room in your house, before going to their home and helping them – this can help make it a more social activity and prevent you from getting burned out. What’s more, you may be able to lay a fresh pair of eyes on a space to help you make tough decisions.
Why do I get so overwhelmed when cleaning?
You may get overwhelmed when cleaning if you have a lot of stuff and clutter, or have not made a plan of attack before starting to clean a space. With no plan, it can be difficult to visualize what needs to be done, what you have already done, and what needs the most attention. This is often made worse if you have to move or relocate a lot of things every time you want to dust your shelves or desk as the physical load adds to the mental load to the task in hand.
Avoiding overwhelm when spring cleaning is easy if you put plans in place before you start out. Make sure to take breaks, and give yourself rewards to help break the process down and limit your mental load to make spring cleaning easier.
Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for six months, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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