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Top tips for cleaning and decluttering

It's that time of year again - clear bright days can mean you suddenly start to notice the dusty cluttered corners in your home, but it's often hard to find the time or the energy to get around to them. Don't despair though - you haven't missed the boat. It's not too late to give your home a late spring clean and clear out, and we've got some handy tips to help you on your way to a fresher, tidier home.

Planning ahead

  • Start out by making a list of all of the areas of the house you want to tackle, starting with the place that most needs your attention. Take it one room, or even one section of a room, at a time as this will make the task less daunting. Decluttering and cleaning always takes longer than you think, so don't set yourself unrealistic goals - it may be easier to set yourself a time limit and just do as much as you can during that time. Once you've seen the difference that just one clean and tidy corner can make, it will motivate you to get the rest of the house into shape. If you try to do it all at once, you're more likely to give up and feel demoralised.
  • Stock up with all the cleaning supplies you will need before you start.
  • Find a time when the children are in bed, at nursery or having a nap.
  • Focus on one area, and don't allow yourself to get distracted.
  • Have three separate bags for things to take to the charity shop, to put in the bin or to put away.

You need to be ruthless with clutter

We are all guilty of keeping things we think we might need one day which just sit around gathering dust. Decluttering can make you feel as if you have a new lease of life, but it isn't always easy. You may feel guilty about getting rid of unwanted presents or items that cost a lot of money, and it can be hard to let go of old baby clothes or toys. Professional clutter consultant Sue Kay of No More Clutter says she has found that people often worry about throwing things out, "People are often scared that the minute they part with something they will need it and consequently hold onto copious junk. All these feelings are a completely normal part of the decluttering process and often stem from what you were taught in your family. If you feel really panicky about letting go of something, then store it for six months in the loft or shed. Put the date on it and if you haven't used it in six months, then give it away."

Now you're ready to be ruthless, you can focus on specific areas of your home, getting rid of what you don't need and giving them a thorough clean.

Tips for halls, stairs and sitting rooms

  • Wipe down skirting boards, dado rails and paintwork using a damp cloth and a bucket of warm water.
  • Get out a ladder and dust the places you don't normally see - take down lampshades and clean them.
  • Take down curtains and either have them dry cleaned or wash them if that is an option (check labels). If you can't face taking the curtains down, you can vacuum them which will get rid of accumulated dust.
  • Vacuum and clean carpets. You can buy special carpet cleaning solutions or if you want to do a really thorough job, you could consider hiring a steam cleaner for the day.
  • Take the cushions off your sofa and vacuum thoroughly. Removable sofa covers can be washed or dry cleaned - check labels.

Tips for your bedroom

  • Take everything off surfaces (bedside tables, dressing tables, mantelpieces etc) and only put back what really needs to be there. Everything else should either go to the charity shop, or find a new home.
  • Take off your sheets and pillowcases and vacuum your mattress. Then leave it standing to air, by an open window if possible.
  • Check the labels on your duvets and pillowcases and either wash them at home, or have them dry cleaned.
  • Go through your wardrobe and drawers. Take everything out and vacuum inside or clean thoroughly with a damp cloth. If you have items of clothing that you haven't worn for a year or more, you should consider taking them to the charity shop. Don't keep things just because they were expensive if you don't ever wear them. You may want to try to sell any clothes that you feel may be worth some money, either on eBay or at a boot sale. This is only a good idea if you do it right away. Don't use it as an excuse to keep your clutter.

Tips for the kitchen

  • Take everything off your work surfaces. Clean the surfaces, and all the items you have taken off. Only put back what really needs to be there.
  • Empty your kitchen cupboards one at a time. Get rid of any out-of-date food items or things you know you won't use. You may also want to take the opportunity to get rid of any kitchenware you haven't used for a year or two.
  • Thoroughly clean your oven, hob and fridge. For the fridge, you may find that using a solution of bicarbonate of soda and water for cleaning helps to get rid of any lingering food smells.
  • If you have a dishwasher, you can buy special cleaners to use on an empty run, or you may want to use vinegar or bicarbonate of soda instead. Make sure you don't forget to empty the food trap in the bottom and check that the holes in the spray arms aren't blocked.

Tips for the bathroom

  • Clean the shower, bath and loo thoroughly. You can use commercial cleaners, or alternatively you may find that naturally acidic materials such as vinegar or lemon juice are good for getting rid of limescale and cleaning grout between tiles. Vinegar can be used to clean mirrors and windows, and you can wipe them dry with scrunched-up newspaper.
  • Take everything out of your bathroom cabinets and drawers. Clean inside them with a damp cloth. Get rid of any old make-up or out-of-date medicines.
  • Check shower curtains and rubber bath mats for any signs of mould. You can get rid of mould using a solution of bleach and water.
  • Go through your towels and check that you aren't keeping too many old ones 'just in case' you need them one day.

Tips for a clutter-free family future

  • Get your children accustomed to decluttering sessions from an early age - this will help them get used to getting rid of things that they have outgrown. You can give this a positive spin by explaining that you can take things to the charity shop where they will help raise money for good causes.
  • Remember that although spring cleaning may feel like a chore, getting rid of some junk and having a good clean doesn't just make your home feel fresh and new, it can give you a boost, too.

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