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Cleaning House Brushes Out Winter Doldroms

Thu., March 30, 1995

A long with longer days and warmer temperatures, spring brings a wish to brush away the cobwebs and refeather the nest.

While arranging a bunch of daffodils in a vase is a good spring tonic, something a little more labor intensive such as a good spring cleaning can lift the spirits even more. A plan that works starts with removing clutter then moves on to the heavy stuff like washing windows and cleaning the rugs, maybe even repainting.

Don Aslett, author of more than 20 books on the art of organizing and cleaning the house, says to start clutter removal with three large cartons. Label the first “junk” for items to be thrown away, the second “charity” for items to be given away, and the third “sorting” for those to be matched and put away or discarded. For the indecisive, a fourth carton for items to be dealt with later is a good idea.

“It doesn’t take that long to vacuum floors, wash windows and clean walls and furniture if you don’t have to stop to decide what to do with things,” Aslett says. “When the junk and clutter are removed, half of the cleaning is done.”

Cleaning will go faster with professional-quality tools such as a 12-inch squeegee for windows, a long-handled squeegee mop for floors and baseboards and dust rags of old, neatly folded terry cloth toweling. When one side of the cloth gets dirty, refold to expose a clean side. A rented machine that disperses liquid detergent and sucks it up again - it’s known as an extractor - is good for cleaning carpets, Aslett says.

Clean from top to bottom and tackle all of the walls on one level or in the whole house before moving on to all of the windows, then the floors.

Aslett’s other tips, such as assigning each family member a specific job and getting started early while energy and resolve are high, seem simple. Yet, this indefatigable lecturer says his audiences always seem enlightened by such advice.

Those who can’t, or don’t want to, involve the family in the process can hire professional help.

“Pros are fast and usually thorough,” Aslett says. “Always get and check references and make sure the service carries liability insurance by asking to see the certificate of insurance. Get a firm estimate, and never pay in advance.”

For some people, painting is the best spring tonic.

“Sometimes it is easier to repaint scuffed baseboards than to wash them,” says Leslie Harrington, corporate interior decorator for Benjamin Moore & Co. in Montvale, N.J.

Doorjambs, windowsills and moldings also often benefit from retouching. If the woodwork doesn’t need repairs, it’s possible to go around a room in a few hours, with a good brush and a steady hand. Repaint the woodwork in a slightly lighter color than before, and you will fool the eye into seeing a total change, Harrington says.

Those who decide to paint the walls, too, can give the fabrics a lift by painting the wall a shade grayer than the original color. If the walls are pink, for example, choose a dusty rose. If they are white, repaint in white with a browngray or a blue-gray tinge.

To give decor a lift, consider a decorative paint finish such as sponging or ragging.

Using simple tools such as a level, 2-inch painter’s tape (similar to masking tape but doesn’t lift paint when it’s removed from the wall), shapes cut from cellulose sponges and paint, Harrington recently redid a nursery in white, yellow and blue, with terra cotta accents.

The lower wall is yellow and white stripes, the upper wall is blue and the border at chairback height is white with terra cotta designs.

Harrington relied on the level and the tape to get the first stripe. Then she used the first stripe as a guide for the rest of the room, marking her place with pieces of tape.

The border designs of stars, crescents and diamonds were cut from sponges. Dipping the sponges into paint, Harrington made prints at random within the border.

She says a project like this can be done in stages, taking only a portion of each of three days for the upper wall, the border and the stripes.


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