Spring cleaning- to do all at once or break down the tasks?

What is your style when it comes to cleaning? Do you prefer to do all at once…. often waiting until absolute last minute when you cannot delay any further? Or do you break down into smaller manageable tasks?

You can roughly know your own style- consistent or last minute by the following ways you prefer to approach other tasks in your life that you are not particularly excited about doing:

  • Studying for exams: Do you like to wait until the last few weeks before exams to cram everything in or ….you would have already started a study schedule and stick to it consistently
  • Delivery projects/ assignments: Whether at school or at work. Do you start doing the project or burn the midnight oil when the deathline looms

While last minute work may give the adrenaline high, it is quite risky and may cause you health problems such as anxiety and burdening your heart. Also, while you are out there on most time ‘enjoying life’, there is always this thing, almost like persistent annoying bug of guilty conscience that would eat at you. In terms of spring cleaning, I have experienced both approach and in the end, I find the last minute approach to be overwhelming.

When I was growing up, my mom was too busy working, going to buy groceries, then coming back to wash and prepare the ingredients, cooking, basic cleaning and coaching us in our studies that she hardly had time to do anything else.  So she seldom has time to deep clean the house till a particular day of the year.

The annual spring cleaning day. A day or two in the year, usually in January which I absolutely hate and loathe. The sinus in my nose would run like crazy…. almost like a non stop flowing pipe due to the dust. Of course when we were too young, mom would be the one doing most of the work, from dusting up the ceilings, taking out things to wash, wiping, tidying, etc. But as we grow up, mom got weaker and gradually was not able to do tasks in the same superwoman manner.

Eventually when my mom was very weak, the cleaning tasks fell gradually to my lap. I find that the annual spring cleaning, even though it was like one day in a year but that day was simply a nightmare. Also there is no point because then our house would be dirty most of the year. In recent years, we have done away with the annual spring cleaning day.

With some trial and error, I changed the approach to breaking down the tasks throughout the year. I learned a lot through asking for advice from friends of mine who have to juggle between a career, family, kids and a household.

I learned it is easier to break down all the cleaning into bite size, manageable tasks throughout the year. However, two months before Chinese New Year, I would need to repeat the main spring cleaning tasks:

  • main dusting of ceilings and walls
  • wiping window and door frames and washing the window and door curtains
  • cleaning the sofa and washing the sofa cover
  • tidying up surfaces and kitchen cabinets
  • wiping the dining table, chairs and other furniture

In this case, I find that using a monthly planner or scheduler to be useful for me to see everything I have at a glance. Just like how I plan for my Chinese New Year preparation, I begin by writing everything down, then scheduling these tasks in my monthly planner.

Simple modification that could cut down your cleaning tasks throughout the year:

There are some methods I have adopted that have reduced the need to tidy, dust and wash things. It has saved me a lot of hassle of needing to constant clean these stuff, as well as unpleasant surprises from bugs and rats:

1. Storage of unused pots, pans, extra plates, etc
When I was young, my mom liked to bundle up unused plates, pots and utensils into double layer plastic bags and put them in the kitchen cabinet. After years of getting fed up of having to take everything out to wash and finding yucky stuff stuck to the things, I packed up some stuff to be thrown off and kept the rest in plastic storage containers. This practice has saved me a lot of time and prevented a lot of unpleasant surprises.

2. Displaying my book collection
We were brought up by our mom to love to read books. So even till today, I still love to visit bookstores even though I limit buying of books. During my younger days, the books were kept in open shelves which attracted lots of dust and even bugs. We used to have pets in our home so pet hair would fly all over the bookcase.

The moment I could afford it, I bought my first glass covered book case. I kept my book collection in the covered book case. Once I did this, I got to be able to admire by book collection and only need to do a through cleaning (ie removed the books and wipe the cupboard) about once every few years.

3. Storing bills and filling
For filling of bills, warranties and other official documents, again the files are placed in plastic containers before being stored in my wooden storage cupboard.

This is because I find house lizards and bugs like roaches are attracted to paper especially old paper (we have to file our documents for at least 7 years for tax purposes). Even though the cupboard door is closed at all times, those sneaky little things still could wedge themselves in, lay eggs and defecate on the corners and in between the files.

In summary:

  • Instead of doing it all in one day, breaking down into small and managable tasks would be less overwhelming and do not make you hate the phrase ‘spring cleaning’ with all your guts
  • Make use of a diary, organizer and planner to help you organize and manage these tasks. Don’t have it all in your mind. You would feel lighter and less stressed once you have everything down in writing.
  • Find hacks that can help you to reduce the amount of cleaning that you have to do. For example, if you were to store books or decorations outside, you would need to constantly wipe them. Why not invest in a see through storage cabinet.
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