Spring Cleaning

Of course, “a fresh, new start” sounds a lot like spring cleaningright? Whether it’s cultural traditions, seasonal product marketing, or extra daylight revealing the dust in our homes, this is the time of year when many many of us turn to tidying our houses. And it’s with good reason—there are so many mental and physical benefits to having a neat and clean home. Read on for approaches to make spring cleaning easier and products that not only work well but are also safer for our bodies and environment.

Benefits to Spring Cleaning

We’ve all experienced how good it feels to be in a clean home, and the benefits to cleaning go deeper than you might guess. From a psychological standpoint, the act of cleaning can make you measurably happier. And research indicates that cleaning can increase empathy and a willingness to help in the greater community. Additionally, living and working in an organized environment supports better focus and lower stress in adults and children. Physiologically, spring cleaning can greatly reduce allergens and pollutants in the home, helping to keep allergies at bay and reducing the overall load on the immune system. Cleaning also gets your body moving, a nice bonus!

There are lots of ways to tackle such a task. I like to break it down into 4 steps so I don’t become overwhelmed: (1) declutter; (2) organize; (3) clean; and (4) move things out.

Declutter

A thorough spring cleaning can be a big project, especially when you’re talking about a family home, so a good first step is to declutter.

Consider making a list of the areas in your home that need the most attention, as well as the spaces that can be handled quickly and are easy wins. Once you have your list, you can go room by room, or drawer by drawer, depending on the time available. A spreadsheet can help you break the work into bite-sized pieces. Depending on the age and maturity of your children, consider inviting them into the planning process to get their buy-in from the start.

How do you decide what to move out and what to keep? You know yourself and your family best, so consider what approach will be effective for you. Personally, I like to ask: “Do I need it? Do I want it? Do I have space for it?”

Organize

The next step is to organize. As you arrange the things you’re keeping, make the items you reach for daily easily accessible. Sort things by type, and if you’re using containers, use labels. Try to give everything a home so it’s easier for everyone to put things away and keep areas tidy day-to-day.

Clean

Wiping, scrubbing, and cleaning are tasks you can get started on during the decluttering process. If you empty a drawer, cabinet, or shelf to declutter and organize it, take that opportunity to wipe it out before you put everything back.

In general, start high in the room and work your way down, dusting the tops of doorways, lampshades, shelves, table tops, table and chair legs, down to the baseboards. Sweep, vacuum, or mop last. If you’re sensitive to dust, consider wearing a mask.

Opt for cleaning products that are healthy for your family and the environment, as well as safe and effective for the textiles and finishes in your home. I like good old biodegradable soap and water or hydrogen peroxide based cleaners (see below). Generally, you’re better off choosing green or green and fragrance free cleaning products to improve indoor air quality and reduce potential health risks. Here are some suggestions for safer cleaning products. As of March 2024, all products have an Environmental Working Group (EWG) rating of A unless otherwise noted.

General Cleaning

Degreasing

Disinfecting

Dishwashing

Hardwood Floors

  • Warm water is a good option. Consider adding a couple drops of Shaklee H2 Biodegradable Cleaner.
  • Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner: The EPA lists it as a safer choice while EWG data from 2012 and 2014 gives the product a failing grade. This apparent conflict is a good example of the limitations of databases. A review of the current ingredient list (which is substantially different from the list used by EWG) does not reveal chemicals of concern. This product does indeed appear to be a safer choice.

Stain Removal

Windows

Moving Things Out

Consider giving items away through Buy Nothing groups, selling through social media marketplaces, or donating to charity. If you are local to San Francisco, remember to check with SCRAP about old art and craft supplies. You could also work with your kids and community to organize a garage sale. And if you have no takers and find yourself at Recology or a local transfer station (aka “the dump”), remember to ask a worker to see whether your “good stuff” should go in the donation section so it can have a second life with someone else.

Making Progress

In spring cleaning, as in so many things, aim for improvement, not perfection. No matter how far you get on the project, your home will be better than it was when you started.

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