By STEVE KAUFMAN
Out with the old.
As we think about Spring cleaning â€“ though Spring seems awfully far away these days â€“ everyone has a similar concern: Where do I start?
Often, a big cleaning project begins with decluttering. You canâ€™t get in and really do a good job in all the places that need it â€“ pantries, closets, shelves, basements, most enclosed spaces with dark corners â€“ until you pull everything out and examine it, evaluate it and decide whether or not you really need it.
Thatâ€™s what Lissa Hicks, owner of Cleaning Maid EZ, means by â€œout with the old.â€
â€œOldâ€ may not only mean something youâ€™ve had for a long time. Those things may have real value, sentimental or even financial. â€œOldâ€ in this case means something that has outlived its usefulness.
You donâ€™t use it anymore. Itâ€™s past its expiration date. You canâ€™t get parts for it anymore. You have three or four of the same thing. Or itâ€™s just plain unsafe.
â€œMy ad for Spring says â€˜Get rid of clutter you donâ€™t need!â€™ â€ Hicks says. â€œClutter is the real problem, especially in Spring after a long winter.â€
She says Spring is a good time for most people to de-clutter, not just for the sake of organizing and starting over. Clutter also leads to the kind of ground-in dirtiness that can lead to other problems.
Clutter feeds upon itself. â€œYou clutter up a closet or drawer and then you get overwhelmed by everything thatâ€™s in there, so you tend not to go in there much,â€ she says, â€œexcept maybe to toss more things in, which just adds to the clutter.â€
That can also be the garage, or the basement, or the laundry room, or the kitchen pantry, or the medicine cabinet.
â€œBy the end of winter, youâ€™ve accumulated all those flu and cold medicines in there,â€ she says. â€œMany of them contain just a little bit at the bottom of the bottle, so you donâ€™t want to throw it out.â€
But, she says, â€œmedicines lose their effectiveness, or expire, and then can even become dangerous.â€
Similarly, tubs and showers can accumulate mold and mildew, laundry rooms can accumulate lint and stoves and ovens can accumulate grease. All of those lead to potentially unhealthy situations: airborne fungus, fires, toxins in foods you prepare.
Hicks has a professional-strength steam cleaner she uses on all the surfaces in the house. She uses a cleaning agent she has prepared herself, a recipe she got out of an all-natural remedy book. The secret ingredient is lemon juice, or some other acidic agent that really cuts grease in a way most off-the-shelf products donâ€™t, regardless of their advertised claims.
Clutter in closets can also become a breeding ground for moths, silverfish, even spiders, all of which like the dark and warmth to burrow in and lay their eggs. â€œYou donâ€™t know theyâ€™re there until you take out a favorite sweater and holes have been eaten into it,â€ she says.
She recommends cedar chips, which for some reason repel insects and also smell really good in a way that old-fashioned camphor mothballs did not. Not only did the old mothballs smell bad, they also contained a chemical that was highly flammable and was determined by the U.S. Department of Health to be carcinogenic.
Cedar chips, which have also been used for dog bedding and mulching, are probably not the same chips youâ€™d throw into your barbecue grill. Theyâ€™re usually found in the household items aisle in the supermarket.
Much clutter originates from disorganization. â€œPeople tend to accumulateÂ several of one thing over time,â€ she says. â€œVacuum cleaners. Blow driers. Curling irons. Coffee grinders. Old TV sets. I once cleaned out a garage that had 20 rakes. The man misplaced one, couldnâ€™t find it, so he kept going out and buying another.â€
Also, people donâ€™t normally go through their closets regularly, especially the hall closet, she says. â€œTheyâ€™re a catch-all, a hiding place for all the things you donâ€™t want to see, â€œ she says. â€œShoes, kidsâ€™ toys and games, last yearâ€™s Christmas boxes. People are in a hurry, so they just throw things there and forget about them.â€
The benefit of clearing that out, even just once a year, is not only that you find things youâ€™ve been looking for for 10 months or forgot you had. You also find dirt, spills and sometimes even spider webs.
One you finally decide to throw something out, donâ€™t throw it out! â€œThe point is not just to add to the landfill,â€ Hicks asserts. â€œIâ€™ll take clientsâ€™ things to the local womenâ€™s shelters and homeless shelters, the DAV, Wayside Christian Mission or the Home of the Innocents. Thatâ€™s what I do with my clutter.â€
So even the professional has clutter? â€œThe rule of thumb in my house, is, if I havenâ€™t used it for six months, it goes! Itâ€™s a little severe, but it works â€“ usually.â€
Working out of their Okolona base, the seven-person Cleaning Maid EZ staff will go out within a 50-mile radius â€“ all over Jefferson County, as far south as Elizabethtown, as far north as Southern Indiana.
For a typical spring clean, she charges around $225 (though may go as high as $350 for a larger house). For regular weekly or bi-weekly house cleaning, she charges between $95-$145, again depending on the size of the house and what needs to be done.
She can be reached at 502.551.9473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, and I asked, because I knew youâ€™d ask: She does do windows.