Tips for tackling the dirty work of spring cleaning

Tackling grotty tile grouting can have a transformative effect on the overall appearance of the bathroom. Picture: iStock

Get ahead with spring cleaning by tackling heavy duty jobs now, so by the time March comes around there will only be lighter chores to do, writes Carol O’Callaghan.

For the last week, I’ve an urge to open windows and doors to let fresh air circulate around the house. But I’m reluctant to lose the cosy heat built up over weeks.

The alternative, for the time being, as we wait out threats of snow-storms, is a touch of extreme housekeeping to refresh the space.

It’s a little early to call it a spring clean. March, according to the venerable Good Housekeeping Institute, is the month for ripping the house apart.

Still, slightly, in hibernation mode, the energy required for a spot of ripping has failed to build, but a delve into two of my favourite housekeeping books, accompanied by an all-important cup of tea, provided enough motivation to create a list of jobs to tackle during what I hope will be the last few weeks of winter slow mode.

The list now comprises chores usually filed in the deep recesses of my consciousness. Shower tile grouting is at the top, as it currently descends into grimy charcoal grey but out of sight and mind by closed shower doors. 

Next is the removal of loose sofa covers for a spot of refreshing on a rinse and spin cycle.

This is all done to the instructions of someone for whom I have a soft spot: Mary Berry. 

Mops and buckets to the ready for the start of spring cleaning. Cindy Harris urges us not to ‘slack off’ as the results of procrastination are worse than not doing what needs to be done.

Not only is she my go to for a reliable cake recipe, but her book, Mary’s Household Tips & Tricks: Your guide to happiness in the home (Penguin), is one which lives among my favourites.

It’s a tried-and-tested experience we get here, developed over decades, from war-time frugality and a “make do and mend” attitude learned from her mother to being dispatched off to Pau in south-west France by her parents for three months to study housewifery.

But there’s nothing Mrs Beeton about Mrs Berry, as she moves with the times. It’s from her I learned the most efficient way of stacking a dishwasher to maximum capacity, with a gleaming outcome, while also learning how to clean the machine for consistently great results.

One of the banes of my housekeeping life was also resolved by her common sense. 

It’s the bills, receipts, bank statements, shopping lists, and magazines which every household piles up on the table or kitchen worktop, which the fanciest of filing trays doesn’t diminish. However, sifting through them once a week does.

Cleaning floors and rugs revives them while bringing fresh fragrance to the home.

Alongside Mary Berry on my bookcase sits American Cindy Harris. 

Her volume, Keeping House: Hints and tips for a clean, tidy and well-organized home (Ryland, Peters & Small) is just as valuable to me. 

But where Berry is encouraging and motherly, Harris is more headmistress in teaching her good house husbandry syllabus.

Chapter one lists daily tasks, followed by weekly, monthly and annually. It’s a bit daunting but she’s supportive, recognising how homes vary in size as does the time each of us has to devote to keeping on top of our chores. 

But I do love her motivating hint of, “Resist the urge to slack off, even for just one day. The results of procrastination are worse than not doing what needs to be done in the moment.”

In the spirit of tackling non-routine jobs, my focus is on her annual task list. 

Learning how to stack a dishwasher properly means fitting in more and everything being washed thoroughly without any debris left stuck to ware.

Instructions to clean light fittings were timely as I switched on a rarely used overhead light just yesterday to illuminate two dead spiders clung to a particularly woolly web floating above the bulb.

Cleaning smudges off walls turned out to be transformative, and more so, I reckon, if there are little ones around enjoying self-expression with a crayon on the expansive canvas of your paintwork.

Clean rugs and carpets thoroughly, Cindy instructs, and I agree. 

It’s not the onerous task it was in the past as outdoor shoes now tend to be left near the front door to pad about in slippers.

She’s fond of oiling skirting boards, and honestly, if I had nothing else in the entire world to do, I might be tempted. 

As for her suggestion to pull out the cooker, fridge, washing machine and dryer to clean behind, I’m not just a year behind. It’s more like seven.

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