Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 1: Get Set

by Michael on March 22, 2010 · 0 comments

Closest thing to a maid you'll have this month. (Photo by DanBrady; art by Banksy)

Ultimate Spring Cleaning is a project to clean and declutter not only your house, but your life. Each day you’ll get a housecleaning assignment, an assignment that involves the world around you, and a project to clear your mind. You can start anytime at the Ultimate Spring Cleaning main page.

It’s official, spring is here. With it comes the tradition of spring cleaning: the opportunity to clean out the debris you’ve accumulated for the past year and make your environment one that will foster your creativity and keep you feeling positive. It’s time to do battle with Mr. Junk Pile and the Dust Bunny Army.

And we’re going to go that one further: in addition to cleaning up and clearing out the clutter in your home, we’re going to work on the clutter in your world, and in your mind. I’ve got 30 days of exercises to help you move forward with a fresh attitude and new focus.

But what can you expect from this exercise? Isn’t a task a day going to take away from quality time with the Xbox?

The Rules

Every day I’ll have a set of spring cleaning tasks for you: one for your home, one to do outside your home, and one for yourself. You can choose to spend the month doing just the “Your Home” traditional cleaning items, or all three task series, whatever your time allows.

While some of these tasks will take no time at all (and may even save you time), others may be very time-consuming. If you’re crunched for time, I’d rather have you do something than nothing, so pick what you can do and come back to the other items later. Keep in mind, though, that some of these tasks will have to be done in order, so don’t skip a day. If you’re out of town or can’t do anything, come back and pick up where you left off.

A very few of these tasks may cost money. I’ll try to include a low-cost or no-cost substitute wherever possible, but you may have to set others aside until you can afford them. In any case, I won’t have you buying a Brooks Brothers suit or booking an around-the-world trip.

Please ask questions if you’re stuck or confused, either in the comments of the post on the day in question or by e-mail. I will monitor both and try to help you out.

And if you’ve found the Ultimate Spring Cleaning pages after we’ve begun, feel free to start anytime. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you can either make it Ultimate Fall Cleaning or wait until September, your choice.

Let’s jump in and get started on Day 1.

Your Home: Gather Your Implements of Destruction

You’re going to clean your home thoroughly. I mean thoroughly, as in not only the surfaces you see every day, but under anything that can be moved, on top of places you can’t see, behind furniture, inside closets, and around toilets. If you’ve lived in your home for more than a year, you will be surprised at the dust, grime and unidentifiable coatings you will find in the most unlikely places.

To bust the dust and de-gunkify, you’ll need some basic tools and fluids. For the most part I can clean every surface in my home with either window cleaner or an All-Surface cleaner. For the floors I use a flat mop with washable terry cloth cover (ran me about $12) and either just warm water or water with a little dish soap. For the rugs, a vacuum (duh). You really don’t need much more than that, but there are some additional pieces that will make things easier.

The full list, ranked most to least important:

  • All-surface cleaner (Formula 409, Method Multi-Surface)
  • Glass cleaner (Glass Plus, Windex, Method Glass Cleaner)
  • Sponges, rags and/or paper towels (my suggestion: save a tree)
  • Old towel or chamois for drying
  • Newspaper for cleaning windows
  • Mop (rag, sponge or terry-cloth) or Swiffer Wet-Jet
  • Vacuum
  • Toothbrush for cleaning crevices (treat yourself to a new one and use the old one for cleaning)
  • Bathroom cleaner (anything “tub ‘n’ tile”)
  • Wood cleaner/polish for natural wood surfaces (Pledge, Method “Wood for Good” cleaner)
  • Metal/porcelain cleaner (Bon Ami/Barkeeper’s Friend)
  • Screen cleaner for computer and flat-panel TV screens
  • Scrubber/brush
  • Gloves (rubber or latex)
  • Oven cleaner (if your oven is not self-cleaning)

If you have only the first 7 or 8 items, that’s enough to clean just about everything. If it sounds like I recommend Method a lot, it’s because I love their products, which are made to be environmentally friendly and non-toxic. You can also clean a surprising number of things using various combinations of water, vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice (see this page).

For the de-cluttering portion of this exercise, you may optionally need:

  • Trash bags
  • Boxes
  • A filing cabinet or Banker’s boxes

Get it all together and we’ll attack the first room tomorrow.

Your World: Opinion Detox

This is an important part of the next month, and it will take you zero time and very little effort, so I expect you to do it. You’re going to avoid professional opinion-givers and gossip-mongers for the next 30 days.

That means newspaper columnists, editorial pages, “talking head” TV programs, most of the programming on the cable news networks (I would recommend avoiding cable news altogether), political websites, tabloids, gossip columns, and especially talk radio of any kind (news or sports). If your faith is important to you, please continue to attend services, but stop watching TV religion programs for 30 days.

There’s a multi-billion-dollar industry in giving opinions, distributing gossip and taking political stances. There’s nothing wrong with reasoned analysis using the principles of critical thinking, but the vast majority of professional opinion-givers don’t do that. They’re paid to give you their “side,” with facts tailored to making their opinions look good. Many of these professional debaters—especially in the political and, oddly, sports realms—want to make you frightened or angry at someone or something, while assuring you it’s right to do so.

This is toxic, both to you and to those around you.

Feel free to read straight news articles, watch sporting events, entertainment programs…everything but shows, channels or reading material featuring opinions. It doesn’t matter if there’s a “balance” between opinions—that’s not the point. The point is to free your mind of anyone who’s purpose is to give an opinion of any kind.

You won’t be able to avoid this entirely: in order to appease people who believe news articles are slanted, newspapers and local stations feel obligated to insert someone on each “side” of a story. Hollywood gossip becomes “news.”

You can certainly live for a month without someone telling you what to think (or agreeing with the way you already think). You could probably live the rest of your life without gossip.

Yourself: Sleep

Finally, this is a critical part of your mental cleansing: get yourself a solid 8 hours or more of sleep tonight. I’d like you to schedule a good night’s sleep every day this month. Set an alarm for bedtime and go to bed.

Then make sure your sleep is sound: keep the room dark and quiet (use an air cleaner or white noise generator, if that helps) and that your bed is comfortable. Do something relaxing before you go to bed, like taking a hot shower, listening to some mellow music or reading a book. And avoid caffeine, alcohol or food shortly before bedtime.

Make sure you have a regular bedtime, and if possible that you’re getting up around the time the sun rises. If you haven’t been getting a regular, solid night’s sleep, you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

I’ll see you tomorrow, and we’ll start cleaning.

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