Spring cleaning is a great way to spruce up your space after a long winter hunkered down in your apartment. And I’m all for a good spring cleaning, but there’s another type of cleaning that I find even more necessary: after-summer cleaning.
At first, summer is great – spending the afternoons by the pool, grilling outdoors, vacations, trips to local parks, picnics … what’s not to love? It seems that the beginning of summer is packed with outdoor fun, but then something strange happens right around the end of July … the kids get bored, they complain that it is too hot to go outside, and they spend the rest of the summer indoors, sprawled on the couch, watching TV or playing video games. Even the dogs, who at first wanted to be outside, frolicking in the grass and chasing the squirrels up trees, end up sprawled out near the air vents, napping. And somehow, we’ve collected objects we didn’t have before … beach towels, souvenirs from our summer vacation, sports gear, swimming goggles, outdoor chairs … and strange dishware from barbecues and summer parties where guests brought covered dishes and then forgot to take the dishes home again.
With school starting on Monday, I took a look around and realized … I need to take my house back. Even though I’ve kept up with the house cleaning basics, I’ve noticed that the pantry is disorganized, household items have been relocated and shuffled around, and rooms look more cluttered than usual. And, with the beginning-of-the-school-year papers and whatnot that will soon arrive to my kitchen table and beyond, something needs to be done before this gets out of hand.
Getting organized (or re-organized) can be a lot of fun – especially if you think outside of the storage bin. Scour garage sales, antique stores, and thrift shops for unusual containers. For example, an old wire birdcage can be easily converted into a mail center (the wire slots are natural mail sorters), a tiered cake stand can organize lotions, perfumes, and makeup bottles in the bathroom, vintage suitcases stacked up make a great side table, an old trunk makes a great coffee table with tons of storage space, and old crates can serve as bookcases — or add castors and use them for toy or magazine storage.
Bookcases are great, but if you have one without doors and you want to hide some of the shelves, get a tension rod and a café curtain. Hang the tension rod and curtain above the portion of the shelves you want covered. You still have easy access to the items behind the curtain, but the clutter is hidden from view, and the visible shelves are open for attractive displays.
Peg boards and hooks make versatile storage that also looks great. Paint the peg board and hang in the kitchen; add the hooks and hang pots, pans, and utensils. In the hallway, the peg board and hooks become a great place to hang backpacks, tote bags, coats, scarves, and hats. In a closet, it can be used for purses, ties, necklaces, and scarves. And in a child’s room, add a mesh bag or two for soccer balls and stuffed animals, and hang catcher’s mitts, book bags, and jackets. You can even attach small bins and shelves for storing little items such as pencils, Legos, and small toys.
Next comes the cleaning. Start in one room and work your way through the spaces – finish a room completely before moving on to the next. If you hate cleaning, make it fun – set a timer and try to get all of your cleaning done before it beeps. Turn up some music and dance your way through it. Or, enlist some help from your roommate, spouse, or child and make it a race to see who can get done (and do the best job) the fastest.
If you prefer to use all-natural products, be sure to purchase white vinegar, lemons, lemon oil, orange oil, and baking soda. With just these few things, you can have your apartment in tip-top shape in no time. A great all-purpose cleaner (for windows, chrome fixtures, countertops, and shower doors) is a mixture of vinegar, baking soda, and water.
Orange oil is great for getting gum out of a wide variety of fabrics, and wiping a little lemon oil on the shower doors every couple of weeks is a great way to prevent soap scum build-up.
In small spaces such as apartments, clutter can very quickly become overwhelming. Tackle it now before the mad rush of school – and then the chaos of the holiday season – begins.