Spring is a time of growth and renewal for many plants and animals. It’s also the ideal time to prep your home for rising summer cooling and lighting costs. Use these easy-to-follow spring cleaning, organizing, and decorating tips for a cost-saving summer.
1. Make a Plan (And Stick to It)
Getting your home in shape for summer is no small undertaking, whether you live in a studio apartment or a sprawling five-bedroom house, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed if you don’t know where to start. Make a plan and stick to it. Use a trusted pen and paper list or a cleaning app to help you stay on task and motivated (there's something very rewarding about checking something off a to-do list).
First, make a list of all the rooms in your home including outdoor spaces. Next, list the tasks you want to accomplish. Then, list the supplies and tools necessary to complete these tasks. Stock up on supplies such as all-purpose cleaner, wood cleaner, microfiber cloths, and scrub brushes. Pick up an extendable duster or a ladder for hard-to-reach spots. Use a bucket or a carryall apron to stow supplies so everything you need is within hand’s reach.
Spring cleaning takes time because you’re dusting, scrubbing, and rearranging spaces that are not part of your weekly housework routine. Allow yourself several days or even a week to complete the task on your list. Split large tasks into small chunks to make progress and avoid burning out. Focus on one room at a time, and don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for assistance with difficult tasks.
2. Conquer Clutter
Declutter and organize your home just in time for rising summer temperatures. Clutter absorbs heat and restricts airflow, making any room feel hot and stagnant. If your home is crammed with unnecessary knickknacks, your body may be working up a sweat just to navigate around these items, which may affect your AC usage and energy consumption.
To start, set up three bins and label them as follows: keep, toss, and donate/sell. Be honest. When was the last time you listened that Beach Boys CD? Are you going to listen to it in the near future? Is it worth holding on to it? Cell phones double as cameras, camcorders, and music players so there’s no need to keep outdated electronics.
If you’re a magazine hoarder, cut out your favorite recipe and recycle the rest. If you’re a souvenir collector, take a picture of the memento to preserve the memory and sell it. If you’ve been saving your Sunday’s best for a special occasion that has come and gone, donate the gently used clothes to charity and make room for a new summer wardrobe.
3. Start at the Top
The general rule of thumb for spring cleaning is to start at the top floor and work down to the ground floor. The reason is simple: dust and dirt drifts down, and you don’t want grime to land on your newly cleaned furniture and floor.
This tactic also applies to each room – start with the ceiling and end with the floor. If you live in a one-story home, start at the back and work forward to the front of the house. Don’t forget your garage, patio, porch or other outdoor spaces. These spaces also deserve attention after a harsh winter. Remember, each home is unique so you may have additional rooms or spaces to deal with.
4. Put Some Elbow Grease Into It
You’ve made a detailed list and estimated how long it’s going to take to complete each task. You’ve sorted through your belongings, and hopefully opted to donate, sell or toss a good portion. Now it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty, cleaning.
If you’re not sure where to start, it may help to visualize your home in terms of levels or zones - high, mid, low, and outdoor. Tasks are categorized by zones to ensure productivity. Here are some common examples:
Indoor & Outdoor Home Cleaning Zones
The High Zone
The high zone is the area and fixtures above your head such as ceilings, ceiling fans, light fixtures, ledges, high windows, and air vents. In this level, complete the following:
- Dust small ceiling fans, corners, ledges, crown moldings
- Dust or clean ceiling fans blades
- Dust or clean light fixtures such as chandeliers, pendants, and wall sconces
- Dust high windows and tops of doors
The Mid Zone
The mid zone is the area and fixtures between eye-level and waist-level such as windows, walls, shelves, counters, and furniture. In this level, complete the following:
- Dust bookshelves, furniture, floor lamps, and wall decor
- Dust lampshades using a lint roller
- Clean light bulbs with a damp microfiber cloth (avoid contact with metal screw base)
- Clean tables and countertops with all-purpose cleaner
- Sanitize light switches, wall plates, and fan controls with disinfectant wipes
- Clean blinds with an all-purpose cleaner or wood cleaner and a semi-dry sponge
- Clean windows and windowsills with cloth, sponge and squeegee
The Low Zone
The low zone is the area and fixtures below waist-level such as baseboards, rugs, and floors. In this level, complete the following:
- Vacuum baseboards, room corners, rugs, and carpets
- Clean hardwood, tile, and linoleum flooring with a gentle cleaner
- Vacuum coils and fan slats on home appliances and electronics to remove dust build up
- Vacuum heat and air-conditioning vents to remove allergens, and allow the unit to run efficiently
The Outdoor Zone
The outdoor zone includes the garage, balcony, patio, porch, deck, and any other exterior spaces. In this level, complete the following:
- Remove pesky cobwebs with an extendable duster
- Remove dirt and debris trapped in recessed lighting fixtures
- Remove and clean light shades with mild soap and water
- Replace burned out or broken light bulbs as needed
- Trim overgrown bushes, shrubs, and trees obstructing outdoor wall lighting
- Add additional outdoor lighting
- Pressure wash windows, siding, and garage door to prevent mold and mildew
- Clean patio, porch, or deck with gentle cleaner and brush
- Clean, repair, and if necessary replace outdoor furniture
5. Weatherproof Home
Your hard-earned money may be slipping through the cracks, literally. Leaky ducts, small cracks, and holes may be wasting as much as 40 percent of home cooling energy. Examine windows, doors, vents, recessed lights, and wall switches for air leaks that can quickly add up.
Use foam insulation or caulk to fill small gaps around doors, windows, and walls. Install or replace weather stripping under entry doors and around windows. Apply insulating film to windows to sustain temperatures from room to room and slash summer cooling costs up to 30 percent.
6. Put Away the Winter Gear
Just as you lighten your wardrobe for summer, trading fuzzy slippers for strappy sandals, your home's throws, blankets and bedding need some lightening too. Choose lightweight fabrics such as cotton, chambray, double gauze, and linen. Store away winter staples such as heavy afghans, quilts, and rugs that are too hot for summer.
Swap heavy bedding for lightweight throws and heavy drapery for light, sheer curtains that allow natural lighting into your home. Swap dark lampshades for light colored shades for greater illumination.
7. Cool Off
Install ceiling fans in frequently used rooms such as your kitchen, living room, or bedrooms. Using ceiling fans during the warm summer months can help you save up to 40 percent on air conditioning costs. Don’t forget to turn off the ceiling fan when you exit the room – fans cool people, not rooms.
If you have a ceiling fan, switch the direction of your ceiling fan so the blades are spinning counterclockwise in the summer (stand under the fan to verify the direction). The fan produces a wind chill effect that makes you feel cooler without affecting the temperature. This allows you adjust the thermostat a few degrees and rely less on your AC.
8. Light It Up
Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL and Screw in LED bulbs, which are more energy efficient and produce less heat. LED bulbs consume 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs and last 10 to 25 times longer.
Pair new LED bulbs with occupancy sensors and dimmers for additional lighting control and energy savings.
9. Use Your Green Thumb
Small potted plants add a decorative, verdant touch to your kitchen, living room, or sunroom. They work as natural air filters, removing harmful toxins such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, formaldehyde, and mold from the air. They can also reduce ambient temperatures in a home.
Strategically planted deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the fall), bushes, and shrubs can create a cool microclimate that reduces temperatures in your home’s exterior by as much as 9 degrees. This allows your cooling and heating unit to work less and consume less energy. This can slash cooling and heating costs by $100 to $250 annually.
10. Add Color
Dress your furniture in light-colored slipcovers with vibrant throw pillows to transform the look and feel of a space. Choose breathable fabrics that enhance your sense of comfort. Accent your home décor with summery hues like sunny yellow, sky blue, coral, lime, and crisp white that visually expand a room.
Spring cleaning is a great way to prepare your home for the upcoming summer. The mild weather and extra dose of vitamin D will provide you with just the right boost of energy to tackle all your tasks. Once you’re done, you will be able to enjoy all the beauty summer has to offer in the comfort of your home.