My sister is a pro at house cleaning. Over the years, she has shared her trade secrets. For example, her work uniform is an oversized sweatshirt purchased that doubles as a duster and polishing rag for those missed spots.
I love my sister. When we started our B&B almost 10 years ago, she mailed me a copy of “Speed Cleaning” by Jeff Campbell, owner of a cleaning service in San Francisco. The subtitle, “Clean your entire house in 42 minutes with the Clean Team’s unbeatable system that makes every move count,” got my attention. Wouldn’t it get yours?
The “Speed Cleaning” method of cleaning makes all cleaning jobs less cumbersome and frustrating because it’s all about being efficient. Efficiency means you’ll have more time to fix the subsistence net, wash the car, relax in the sunshine, and go for a hike.
Here are some time-saving, spring cleaning tips for the house and the garden:
Make every move count. Work your way around a room once, carrying all your tools and supplies with you. Some sort of cleaning apron (don’t laugh) fitted with pockets is a lifesaver. It helps you cut down the time it takes to clean your home. No more wasting energy by dashing willy-nilly around a room.
Work from top to bottom. Don’t fight gravity, work with it! Start at the top and work your way down. As you clean things high up, the dust and bits of grime fall to the lower regions. That way, you don’t end up cleaning an area twice.
Don’t clean things that aren’t dirty. This might sound silly, but you’d be amazed how much time is wasted cleaning surfaces that weren’t dirty to begin with.
The right tool: Recognize if the tool you’re using isn’t working. Shift to a more heavy-duty cleaner or tool (such as a retired toothbrush) as the task requires instead of expending a lot more elbow grease. (See my description of the Zip tool below).
Use both hands. If you’ve got two hands, use them. Spray with one hand while you reach for the cloth in your apron with the other. Scrub with one hand while the other wipes up behind it. It might take a while to perfect the motions, but all motor skills get perfected by practicing them over and over, right?
Pay attention. When you work with full attention on tasks, you’ll be working at the edge of your full abilities and this makes the work more fun. That’s right — cleaning can actually be fun if you pay close enough attention.
SPRING CLEANING IN THE GARDEN
Rake branches, dead leaves and twigs. Gently now. Lawns might still be heaved up (frozen) or too squishy to hold up against heavy foot traffic and ambitious raking.
Prune and trim. Prune back weatherworn or winterkill bushes and trees. Trim away brown (dead) branches until you reach viable green. And before the sap starts to flow, trim currants, gooseberries and any raspberry canes that bore fruit last year. Note: Not all trees and shrubs should be pruned early, especially some of the flowering ones like rhododendrons, azaleas, lilacs, and flowering crabapples. Best to prune them after blooming. Why? Early spring bloomers set their flower buds the fall before.
Be patient: It’s tempting to dive into the garden and de-winterize perennials by pulling back dead leaves, twigs and old stems. Best to wait a little longer to avoid damaging new, tender shoots and inadvertently removing seeds that are waiting for the right post-winter conditions to germinate. Clear signs of new growth is your go-ahead signal.
Take action against weeds with some pro-active weeding. The sooner the better, folks.
Divide perennials and donate them to the annual Garden Sale, scheduled for Saturday, May 7. Spring is the ideal time for dividing primroses, blue poppies and rhubarb. Try to do this as soon as possible after the plant emerges in spring. Preferably before they bloom, as in primroses.
First of all, how do you know when it’s time to divide them?
Go outside. Find a clump of primroses. If the clumps resembles a donut (a tight ring of plants with a blank center) or a tight mound of green (think broccoli without a stem) they’re telling you, “Hey! My roots are too crowded!”
Use a shovel to split the clump straight down through the plants and roots. You might hear and feel a little crunching here.
Ideally, let them know, as in, give them warning at least 24 hours in advance of your intentions.
Divide the ring, or clump, into chunks. Separate the clumps and transplant them with more space between them.
To donate primroses to the Spring Plant Sale on May 7, first you’ll need to pot them up.
Of course, the roots are tangled like spaghetti. To release their grip on each other, set the clumps in a shallow tub of water. In time the soil will rinse away, allowing you to tease them apart. Take your time. Don’t force it.
Then transplant them in pots filled with not-too-rich soil. They don’t like, nor do they require, nutrient-rich soil.
A few years after my sister sent me “Speed Cleaning,” I purchased another Jeff Campbell book called “Talking Dirt.” Though I’ve yet to clean our house in 42 minutes, I discovered one of my favorite tools called a “Zip It.” It’s a simple tool that clears clogged drains in sinks, tubs, and showers. It’s a plastic strip that has specially designed teeth which allows you to pull the clog (as in hair!) out of the drain. But that’s another story.
Vegetables: Sow seeds for Swiss chard, mesclun (salad) mixes, lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, mustard spinach, Oriental greens, cucumbers (greenhouse only); zucchini, yellow crookneck squash.
Herbs: Sow seeds for dill, chervil, coriander (cilantro), sage, arugula (garden rocket), savory.
Flowers: Sow seeds for calendula, marigolds, nasturtium, canary bird-vine
The Spring Plant Sale is set for Saturday, May 7. Starts at 12 noon at 1223 W Kouskov St. This is a community fundraiser where all proceeds go to KMXT. Meanwhile, we need stuff to sell!
NEEDED: Seedlings (veggie, herbs and flowers), perennials, and cuttings from shrubs such as currants and gooseberries. We also need (NEW!) gardening books and hand tools. For more information, contact Pam Foreman at KMXT: 907-486-3181 or Marion at 907-539-5009. Thank you.