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.
After a quiet Sunday, it’s time to hit the ground running again. For some of you, the bathroom may be the last remaining area you’ll clean, but for others there may still be much work to do. We still have two weeks remaining in Ultimate Spring Cleaning, so don’t worry if there’s still a home office or garage remaining—we’ll tackle it later. Also, you’ll need the results of the time tracking you started on Day 11.
Your Home: Clean Your Bathroom
Depending on your attitude and upbringing, your bathroom may already be the cleanest room in the house, or you may have dreaded this day for a long time. In any case, it’s time to get out the heavy duty cleaners and tools and get down to business. Knee pads may also come in handy. You’ve got two days in the bathroom before we move on.
Let’s go over the steps to getting your bathroom sparkling clean:
- First, take out any rugs for laundering. Either vacuum or wash them (most bathroom rugs are machine washable…to a point—when the rubber backing starts to flake it’s time to replace them).
- Clear out all shelves and cupboards, then clean each shelf and cabinet.
- Just as you did in the previous rooms, you’re only going to keep what you actually need and use. The difference in the bathroom is that there is likely nothing of sentimental value: it’s either useful (or decorative) or it’s out. Set all drugs, creams, medicines, etc., aside for the next step.
- Put back the medicines you currently use, and over-the-counter medicines like cold medicine, cough syrup and aspirin. Even if they are a year or two past their “best before” date, over-the-counter drugs should be stable and potent. However, you should throw out two types of medicines: prescription drugs you currently don’t take and don’t have an active prescription for, and drugs more than a few years old. The former are no longer useful to you and could be misused by you or others, and the latter may be an older formulation with ingredients that can cause side effects like stroke. If in doubt, throw it out—but do it safely. The Federal government has a guide to doing so (PDF).
- Look for other expired items, and toss them. Also round up scented toiletries you’ve had for a while. Colognes will break down within a year if they aren’t in a sealed spray bottle, and within two years if they’re in a spray bottle. Other scented items will have similar lifespans.
- Once you’ve got your cabinets squared away, prepare the tub for cleaning. remove any toiletries, shower caddies, and other items from the shower/tub area and start spraying the walls and the tub with your tub ‘n’ tile cleaner. Don’t scrub yet, let it soak in.
- Now spray the toilet with bathroom cleaner. Again, just let the cleaner work right now.
- Go back to clean your shower/tub walls. Use a sponge to remove any marks or stains. Use an old toothbrush to clean crevices. Then rinse the walls by sponging on clear water.
- Clean the tub itself with the sponge. If you’re having trouble getting the scum off the tub, use a small amount of low-abrasive cleaner such as Bon Ami on the sponge. Then rinse the tub thoroughly with water.
- Now move to the sink area. Clean the counter or the outside/base of the sink. Again, use a small amount of low-abrasive cleanser if the bathroom cleaner isn’t doing the job.
- The toilet is next. Clean it inside (with a brush or scrubber) and out (with a sponge). Clean under the seat and under the lid. Use the toothbrush on the hinges. Clean the outside down to the floor—you might be surprised at how dirty it is down there.
- When all your fixtures and cabinets are clean, mop the floor. You might have to get down and clean in tight corners by hand, or even use the toothbrush. When it’s dry, replace your clean rugs, and you’re done.
After you think you’re done, take one last look around and clean anything you might have missed (light fixtures? Ceiling?). Also, check for mold and mildew. If there’s much on the walls, you may have to treat it with bleach.
Your World: Schedule Your Time
A few days ago you started tracking your days. Today you’re going to take that information and turn it into more efficient use of your time. Get your tracking sheets and make sure you’ve circled all the things you didn’t need to do, didn’t want to do, or took too long to do. Now get a fresh sheet (a computer spreadsheet works very well for this) and start penciling in your day:
- Start with the things you absolutely, positively have to do: eat, commute, meditate, play with your pet. Pencil them in at the times you typically do them, for the amount of time it normally takes to do them. For now, pencil in your start, lunch and end times at work, but leave out the details.
- Next, look at the things you should do (things that move your life forward) in your non-work hours. Pencil them in, and be realistic about the time it takes (if you know) or think it should take (if you don’t know for sure) to do them. Pencil in your workout, the time you want to work on painting or that Great American Novel, time you’ll spend building a new skill…anything that is important to your life.
- Next, write in time for the things you want to do but aren’t important: playing your favorite videogame, reading online forums, watching TV. Schedule only the time it takes for you to feel satisfied.
- Next, look at your work day. Start with everything you can schedule rigidly, like checking e-mail, lunch, or that mid-afternoon coffee break. If you have specific projects or tasks, schedule them within your day. Same with meetings.
- If you have time left in your day, write in what you should do in that time to make your work life better. If you have no time left, go to the next step.
- If you see tasks and meetings you think you can condense, delegate or eliminate, make a separate list so you can take action on them. If the action results in extra time available, go back to the previous step.
By this time you should have a handle on just what it is that’s important and what’s not, and you should have a typical day scheduled with both important and fun activities. The schedule may be very different on Monday than it is on Wednesday–you can create one for each day, if that works best. If you do, I recommend leaving a block open on the weekend for whatever you choose to do in the moment.
The only thing left to do is start living the schedule. Practice finishing activities when the schedule says it’s time to move on. As you go forward, you’ll find you need to adjust the schedule. That’s fine. You may also want to set alarms to let you know it’s time to move on. Do that. The end result should be a schedule that helps you do everything you have to do, at least some of what you should do, and a little of what you just want to do.
Many of us dread living by a schedule: if that’s you, at least try this as an exercise for a week or so, then go back to your life with a little better knowledge of how to better utilize your time.
Yourself: Start a Journal
A properly kept journal is more than just a receptacle for the events of your day—it’s a way to sort out your thoughts, to talk some sense into yourself, to ask yourself hard questions that force you to search deep inside for answers.
That’s a lot of value for something so cheap and easy to do.
To start, all you need are two things: a medium and a small amount of time. The medium can be anything you’re comfortable with, from a password-protected Word document to a notebook. You might consider a Moleskine notebook and a high-quality pen, for the reason that these tools imply commitment. Moleskines come in sizes from extra-large to pocket size. You can also get an iPhone or iPad journaling app like BigNotes or Momento that let you type your notes anywhere you take your phone.
What do you write about? Simple: anything. You can record the great or awful things that happened to you, the steps to solving a difficult problem, life issues you’re concerned about, or names you want to remember. Perhaps the greatest use of a journal, however, is to ask yourself tough questions.
For example, when you think, “I’m afraid of calling that awesome sales clerk and asking her out,” the process often stops there. You don’t ask her out, maybe you beat yourself up a little, and the problem surfaces again the next time you get a phone number. But write down the question, “Why am I afraid of asking her out?” and you start a dialogue with yourself that prompts soul-searching, maybe starting with what you think is the answer. Then you re-read that answer later and your gut tells you it isn’t the real answer. You go deeper inside and pull out the real fear—and now you can address it. In a journal you can ask questions every day that will help you to understand and improve yourself.
Some days your journal entries might be very short, and other days they might be long and thoughtful, but you should set aside a time each day to write. Even 5-10 minutes will let you get the hang of it.
Be open, be honest. If you still feel self-conscious after you’ve done it for a few months, burn the book or delete the files. Just give it a try.
Tomorrow we finish the bathroom and start thinking long-term. See you then. (Don’t forget to meditate.)
Ultimate Spring Cleaning Articles:
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 1: Get Set
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 2: the Rubber Hits the Road
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 3: Closet Case
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 4: Strike While the Iron is Hot
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 5: …in Bed
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 6: Kitchen Patrol
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 7: Elbow Grease
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 8: Be a Gourmet
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 9: Carry On
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 10: Make Time
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 11: Get Busy (on the) Living (Area)
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 12: Plants or Pets?
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 13: Goodbye White Walls
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 14: Lazy Sunday
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 15: Bathroom Humor
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 16: What’s on Your Walls?
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 17: It’s Shoe Time
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 18: The Office
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 19: File Away
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 20: Clean Out Your Computer
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 21: Garage Wars
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 22: Carpet Crawlers
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 23: Auto-tune
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 24: Fresh Air
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 25: There Goes the Neighborhood
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 26: Get Online
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 27: One Last Look
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 28: Sell, Sell, Sell
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 29: Be Charitable
- Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 30: The Last Toss