Cleaning up our apartment usually means shoving things in the closet before friends come over. Deep cleaning the apartment doesn’t happen as often as it should. It may be time to consider a real, grown-up habit: spring cleaning. This means taking the time to get rid of the clutter, clear out the grime, make the kitchen sparkle, and banish the dust.
Ah, spring cleaning. One of the very, very few things we apartment dwellers get to lord over homeowners: less to clean. Most of the spring cleaning posts I’ve seen online detail the ‘attic to basement’ type of cleaning, but I want to focus on a small apartment. It’s a bit less overwhelming. If you own a home (you lucky person, you) these tips all still apply. Except maybe the one about the landlord. If you need motivation, invite your parents over. (Mine are visiting in two weeks which was great incentive.)
To get prepared and in the zone, plan the cleaning for a low-key weekend, when you can dedicate a day or two to making your place like new again. Crank up your favorite playlist and pull on the gloves. Don’t take it too seriously; instead focus on how good everything will look once you’re done. Yank open the windows to enjoy the fresh air. And to clean them of course.
First things first. You can’t clean without supplies, right? There are plenty of household items that can be cleaned with a simple vinegar + hot water combination, so you don’t have to spend a ton of money on supplies. Keep your cleaning supplies in a caddy to carry them with you from room to room. Or maybe repurpose a tool belt. (I kid, I kid.)
Another important first step is to remove the clutter in your apartment. When the clutter is taken care of, there will be less to dust and vacuum around. Put away, recycle, donate, or toss out items that you no longer need or use, items that you can live without. For me, this meant various decorative knick-knacks (I have a hard time saying no to free items). I felt so much better once I freed up some breathing space. Even the books that you won’t read again can go to a new home. The wonderful website Bookmooch (which I use regularly) lets you exchange your books with other people. A lot of items can repurposed or given a new home. Since you have a small apartment, everything that takes up space should have a reason or purpose.
It may feel overwhelming to think about tackling your entire apartment at once. So break up the tasks and focus on one room at a time to make it more manageable. With any room, start from the top and work your way down. This means dusting the ceiling fan, light fixtures, blinds, and the tops of cabinets first. Clean the trash cans, perhaps in the bathtub if you don’t have outdoor space. Change out the smoke detector batteries. Wipe down your computer and tv screens. Wash the windows. Scrub the litter box. Don’t have one? Sit back and appreciate not having to scrub a litter box. Actually mop the floor instead of only sweeping or vacuuming it. Have your kids help.
Since we spend about one third of our life sleeping, make sure to take care of the bedroom. Flip that mattress. In fact, flipping your mattress is supposed to be done every three months. And when was the last time you washed your comforter, mattress pad, or pillows? I’m not trying to make you into a germaphobe here, but just think of the germs and dust! Okay maybe I am trying to make you into one. Shoot, am I one? Throw those comforters and pillows into the washer.
Focusing on your bedroom also means tackling your closet. Stow away your bulky winter clothing until next season. Take a look at your wardrobe and see what can be donated. For any clothes that are not donatable (because of stains/holes/etc.) take them to an H&M store for a 15% off coupon, and they will reuse the fabric. Ask yourself, have you worn it in the last year? Would you notice if it was gone? Does it fit, or have a stain? Use your gut decision, and you may free up some space for new items. And lastly, I’ll borrow my favorite from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, simply ask, does it make you happy?
That bright pink eyeshadow from your birthday a few years ago may have made you happy, but any old, expired makeup has got to go. Moving on to the bathroom—the cabinets could probably use some organization, yes? Say yes, and use this as an excuse to head to the Container Store. Truthfully, I look for any reason to go there. Toss all those products that you thought you would try one day, but never did. (SO many hair products, I can’t even.) Stick to the favorites that you wear every day. There’s probably a lot of expired medicine in there too, while you’re at it.
Take your usual (at least, what I hope is usual) bathroom-cleaning routine up a notch and get scrubbing at those surfaces. The shower, the toilet bowl, the tub; get rid of any germs and mildew. Get down with a toothbrush if necessary. Change out your shower liner, it’s time. If you can’t stand bleach, white vinegar is the next best worst enemy of mold.
The kitchen gets a lot of everyday use, and is probably the room that needs the most work. I intentionally saved it until last so you wouldn’t be scared off. Here is a very thorough kitchen cleaning guide if you’d like. Focus areas include:
- Clean out the refrigerator: actually throw away those old condiments and wiping down the shelves.
- Toss out the stuff in your freezer from three years ago. Defrost the freezer if necessary.
- Dust/vacuum the refrigerator coils if you’re especially ambitious. Luckily we renters don’t have to worry about owning the appliances.
- Each small kitchen appliance should get some TLC. There are a ton of Youtube videos about how to clean whatever you’re wondering about. Meaning, I have no flippin’ idea how to clean your Keurig so look it up on Youtube.
- Clean your dishwasher. It doesn’t just clean itself when a cycle runs. (Thanks for the link Bob Vila.)
- Microwaves are easy to wipe clean. Heat two tablespoons vinegar and one cup water in the microwave for 2-3 minutes and the build-up should simply wipe off.
- Clean the sink and garbage disposal. Barkeeper’s Friend is your friend too. (Same for the stovetop burners.)
- One spot I never think of: range hood filters.
- I avoid cleaning the oven like the plague. But here’s how to do it with baking soda and water.
- The pantry: you know the drill by now. Throw away any expired items and wipe down the shelves. You can sort similar items together with baskets or containers so they are easier to find in the future (Container Store strikes again!). My spice cupboard was a nightmare, but now that it’s organized I can find what I need, when I need it.
Lastly, and perhaps my favorite to-do item, call your landlord with that list of repairs you’ve been needing, and let them take care of it. Once you are finished and get to enjoy your clean home, make sure to treat yo self…ice cream, chocolate, cupcakes….whatever you fancy. My reward is always food-focused, apparently. Now sit back and enjoy the benefits of a little hard work for the rest of the year.
Did I miss any spots?
[Main image via Vogue]