Make Spring Cleaning Not Suck: Friends, Food and Fabulous Scents are Key


OK, your spring cleaning might not be THIS fabulous, but it can be more fun than you think! Image via Flickr User Stephanie Carter.

I know you have been putting it off: Spring Cleaning. But seriously, it’s the end of April and it needs to be done. And there are a few ways to make it more pleasant (I promise). In fact, I found a cheap dumpster rental near me in Sacramento where you can throw all your trash.

Yes, I clean my own house, and yes, I do these things myself; I’m not just writing down a bunch of ideas that I think will work; these are tried and tested!

Prep the Night Before

If you get all your cleaning supplies (more on that below), gloves, tools, garbage bags and boxes, and whatever else organized and placed in a prominent position the night before, you will be way more inspired when you wake up bright and early on cleaning day. Most importantly, make a list of what needs doing in your allotted time, and prioritize. If you get through the whole list, great! But if you don’t, at least you’ll know you have knocked out the hardest and most important stuff first.

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Use Awesome-Smelling Cleaning Products

I love using Mrs Meyers cleaning products because (most importantly) they work well, but also, they smell divine! And not in a fakey-artificial way, but in a most lovely way (it’s because they use natural essential oils in wonderful combinations). They are also phosphate-free, so safer for our waterways, and the company never tests on animals. They also disclose their ingredients for each product so you can check them out, but are free of Phthalates, Glycol Solvents, Chlorine, Formaldehyde, Artificial Colors, and Parabens too.

I use their counter spray (radish is my fave, but my boyfriend likes the lavender) in the kitchen, but it’s also great for dusting, cleaning shelves throughout the house (it leaves a light scent behind and I sometimes just spray some in the linen closet for the scent), and around the cat box. The Basil surface scrub is a particular favorite of mine (yes, it’s non-scratching, but tough, and thankfully chlorine-free). It’s the only scrub I’ve found that doesn’t destroy my hands after using—if you’re going to clean, you should get a nice aromatherapy boost from it, and Mrs. Meyers is healthier for the cleaner (that would be me!) too.

Set a Time Limit

5 hours is about my max for cleaning; if I start with a good breakfast, I can get through that much cleaning without needing a full-on meal (I’ll still need a snack though); remember, cleaning is HARD work and is definitely exercise—I’m always sore the next day even though I regularly run and work out—you end up stretching and using muscles you might not normally hit at the gym. Also, a time limit means you can always seen the end of the work, you can prioritize your goals, and plan for a self-reward.



Having an organized, stocked bucket you can just grab-and-go with is key to being efficient in your dusting, scrubbing and other cleaning tasks. Image by Flickr User Chiot’s Run

Tom Sawyer it: Enlist the Help of Friends

I know this sounds unlikely, but it can work. Based on the principle that it’s always more fun to clean other people’s homes than your own, ask a friend for help doing something specific (like, say, washing all the floors after you have cleared the off and vacuumed them) or sweeping and hosing down the patio. Make it one job, one request, not “Can you come over and help me clean?” Offer them something nice in exchange (maybe the promise to do the same for them, or a couple beers/glasses of wine).

This has two benefits: One is that you will have to prepare the area for your friend’s work, so you will be motivated to get that started in advance, and Two is that you will have someone to chat with while you work. Even if it’s just a small job, you’ll have someone to talk with for an hour or so, to break up the day—I recommend early afternoon if you are planning on working from

Turn up the Tunes to 11

Nothing gets me through cleaning better than some inspiring, fun music. I love Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Michael Franti. Think positive! You are doing good work that will last for—at least—weeks and will make a healthier and more pleasant home for yourself. I like to blast it (if you start early, use headphones so as not to piss off your neighbors). When you need a break from the tunes, check out a fun and absorbing podcast: My faves include RadioLab and Slate’s DoubleX Gabfest.

Do Something Fun/Rewarding Afterwards

Once you hit your cleaning stop-point, STOP. You put in the time planned, you are finished. If you drastically underestimated how much time it would take, block another chunk of time aside a couple weeks in the future. Or, leave some tasks undone until fall; if you have prioritized, you will have done the bulk of the stuff that really needs doing.

Then, take yourself out to dinner and a movie, or get a massage. Or whatever you love to do that’s a real treat; after cleaning, I prefer to get out of the house, but if you stay in, order in from your favorite place! Or, if you are on a budget, ask a friend to cook for you! And again, you can exchange the favor when they are cleaning their house (or doing something else they need a ‘reward’ for).

Don’t Forget the Essentials

Have plenty of fresh water for drinking, nuts and/or fruit for snacking, eat a good breakfast before you start, wear comfortable clothes, and give yourself a good stretch once you’re done. Oh yeah—don’t forget to open your windows wide! You’ll be knocking dust and other allergens around, and it will make your lungs happy to have the fresh air saturating the house.

Now get clean! (Let me know what your fave cleaning tips are in the comments!)


Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.