REASON GONE MAD: Springtime tips for cleaning your home

REASON GONE MAD: Springtime tips for cleaning your home

If the warming weather has you thinking, “It’s time for some spring cleaning!” then you’ve come to the right place! Putting to use my decades of experience, I’m going to show you how to quickly clean and organize your entire house (and, by extension, your life!) so you’re ready to have the best spring and summer ever. Let’s go!

DEAL WITH PAPER FIRST: Nothing shakes a Zen, mind-like-water, high-productivity vibe faster than a house bursting at the seams with random papers, receipts, to-do lists, notebooks, subpoenas, financial ledgers, unread magazines, yellowing newspapers, assorted files, junk mail, important mail, the draft of your will, undeposited payroll checks, jackpot-winning Powerball tickets, comma-separated lists of the various kinds of paper in your house, and all the other paper that screams out for attention and action. (PRO TIP: Next time, do not buy a house whose cloth walls and roof are attached with “seams” that can “burst.” Get a house made from modern building materials. You’re welcome.)

Are these papers trash or recycling? Neither, they’re kindling!

According to the American Society of I’ve Got Pieces of Paper All Over the Damn Place, this kind of disorganization can lead to a paralyzing sense of overwhelm. To address, take a few centering breaths and whatever time you need to gather all this paper — from every room in your house, this is critical — in one place. You may want to spread everything out on a large dining room table if you have one. Don’t make the common mistake of trying to organize these papers in order of importance or priority. Instead, arrange them by size into a single pile with the largest items on the bottom. Don’t read or evaluate anything while building the pile, as you’ll get distracted and may give up entirely.

Next, carefully pick up the pile, carry it outside, and lay it down on the grass. Douse the pile with lighter fluid and set it ablaze. Depending on the size of your pile, in anywhere from 19 to 53 seconds the psychic weight of all this paper will vanish and your home will also be instantly cleaner. GREAT JOB! Let’s keep going.

DUST: Since you likely kept your windows shut all winter and may not have done much cleaning — hey, I get it, there was binge-watching to do — let’s tackle the thick film of dust that has settled onto your knickknacks, electronic devices, the tops of books, and every other flat surface. You may know that household dust contains dirt, little bits of skin, hair, pollen, bacteria, fragments of dead bugs, dust mites, pet dander, and even some uranium-238 (for realz). So, it absolutely must be removed, especially considering how nauseous the previous sentence made you feel.

At this point, most experts would tell you to move clockwise around each room, pick up and clean each dusty item, wipe down the surface it goes on, and then replace it. DO NOT DO THIS. I’m begging you. Please don’t make this rookie mistake.

Instead, find everything that has collected a winter’s worth of dust — the aforementioned knickknacks and the like — and move them all to a single place in your home. What qualifies as a knickknack? According to the dictionary, anything you might describe as a trinket, trifle, plaything, bauble, bric-a-brac, bagatelle, gimcrack, gewgaw, bibelot, or kickshaw. Clear?

Get rid of shelves, and all the stuff on them, and cut your cleaning time by 100%!

Once again, a large dining room table may be convenient. If you still don’t own a large dining room table, having not bought one when it was suggested four paragraphs ago, you might find just the right one at Bill Shein’s Large Dining Room Table Online Emporium at

Once everything is on your (new?) dining room table, return to each room and clean all dusty surfaces with a damp towel, vacuum using that brush attachment you’re always misplacing, wipe down with an all-purpose cleaner, apply a few drops of calming lavender oil, say a nondenominational prayer, and then repeat until spotless. Do your eyes burn from the spread of lavender-oil aerosols? Good. That means you’re doing things correctly.

Now return to the large dining room table piled high with your gewgaws and other dust-covered belongings. Find a helper and carry the table outside and set it down in your driveway. Then douse everything with lighter fluid and set it ablaze. (Did I mention to bring marshmallows? Bring marshmallows.) While it burns, return to Bill Shein’s Large Dining Room Table Online Emporium to purchase a replacement table.

By now it should be obvious that next year’s spring cleaning is going to be much, much easier!

BASEMENTS, ATTICS AND GARAGES: Yes, I know that just reading the words “basement” and “attic” and “garage” may cause your pulse rate to increase, pupils to dilate, and a light sweat to form on your neck and brow. Alternately, these symptoms may mean (a) you’re feeling aroused, or (b) you have been bitten by a venomous snake. If (a), I’m glad you’re fond — apparently very fond — of this column. And if (b)? CALL 9-1-1!

Anyone who lives in a house knows that basements, attics and garages quickly fill with things you don’t need, can’t deal with, don’t want to deal with, and should never have acquired. And that eventually these spaces reach an event horizon described by Einstein’s GENERAL THEORY OF THE STORAGE AREA POINT OF NO RETURN™. This means trying to get them cleaned out and organized is, in fact, impossible, even if you worked at a pace near the speed of light for thousands of years.

If you’re smaller than a dandelion, it’s going to take a very, very long time to clean your home.

No doubt you’ve reached this point because you didn’t read my book, “New House? How and Why to Fill the Basement, Attic and Garage Entirely with Expanding Foam Before You Move In.” Since it’s too late for that sensible option, you’re going to want to immediately and permanently seal up all doors to these spaces using cinder blocks and quick-dry cement. Just search online for easy DIY instructions. And, again: Don’t poke around in these storage spaces before sealing them up for good, as that will not be productive. The goal is to pretend there’s nothing there. (PRO TIP: If you have in-laws or a twentysomething child living in a basement or attic, consider giving them a few minutes’ notice.)

FLOORS: Just sweep, vacuum, mop and done, baby! But first, a question: Are you one of those people who asks everyone to take off their shoes when entering your home? To try to keep things a little cleaner? That’s great, it really is. Good for you. Because I’ve read that fully 100 percent of visitors to homes that require guests to remove their shoes completely enjoy the experience and don’t find it to be the slightest bit annoying. Many even confess to being a little sad when it’s time to put their shoes back on.

Or wait, maybe it was zero percent of visitors enjoy it? And fully 100 percent are infuriated and decide that next time they’re invited over they’re going to rub the bottom of their socks with a charcoal briquette before putting on their shoes, so that when they kick off their shoes in your foyer and walk around your house, well, yeah. You feel me, yes?

And that’s all we have time for in this installment of Springtime Tips for Cleaning Your Home! In future episodes we’ll explore proven kitchen-organization strategies like “Eat with Your Hands, Never Clean a Utensil Again” and “Seriously: Who Needs Cupboards When You Have a Dishwasher?”

Bill Shein’s practical, down-to-earth “tips” (and other musings) appear in The Edge every Wednesday. For more, check out his weekly e-mail newsletter.

REASON GONE MAD: Springtime tips for cleaning your home

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