The last couple of weeks have given Portlanders hope that spring will in fact return, and the days of unpredictable gray skies, ice storms, and bone-chilling cold are almost over. The crocuses reach their thin green necks above the earth, mirroring our own necks craning towards the sun. Like bears waking from hibernation, we remember that we have neighbors as we emerge from our houses. The winter blues and illnesses we have been battling with elderberry syrup and antibiotics begin their retreat. Hope is born anew.
It might sound dramatic, but spring in Portland is really something to celebrate. As much as I enjoy the break from the heat and snow day activities that fall and winter provide, by early April I’m ready to welcome spring with a big old bear hug. I’m ready for the longer days, warmer weather, and rainstorms that promise rainbows. Even though this winter was relatively mild, it definitely provided many days when going out and about and socializing didn’t seem worth braving the threat of getting stranded in an ice storm or contracting the flu. All this time at home has left my house cluttered, muddy, and disheveled. It’s time for spring cleaning, Portland style.
Step 1: Stop Dirt at the Front Door
Just about every Portland house I’ve visited has some sort of rug inside every exterior door. It’s a great strategy for keeping mud and debris from shoes out of the house. Remember to replace your rugs or wash them. Granted, the mud from rain won’t stop until summer, but at least your rugs won’t be so saturated with grime that they no longer serve their purpose. I also use a portable rug steamer to spot treat the muddy splatters and splotches that inevitably make it past the threshold.
Step 2: Get Out Your Oils
Some people think essential oils are a fad, but there’s a lot of evidence showing oils can help with a host of household issues. Some have disinfectant properties, while others can help calm anxiety or clear up congestion. I like to use lavender and lemon essential oils mixed with vinegar to wipe down counter tops and cleaning fixtures. I diffuse diluted eucalyptus when congestion from winter bugs and spring allergies has everyone in the house coughing. I even use clove oil to battle the weeds that grow up from cracks in our walkway and kill mildew along the windowsills and cracks in the tile!
Step 3: Dig Deep for Joy
Just admit it; you’ve binge-watched all the Tidying Up episodes. Even though Marie Kondo’s methods of decluttering are a bit extreme, going through your possessions and getting rid of what you don’t need creates space in your mind and your home for new experiences. My kids, especially, are magnets for toys, clothes, and random pieces of plastic junk, so I try to go through their things at least once a season. Cleaning and organizing is a lot easier when you’re only dealing with the things you’re currently using. And it’s a lot easier to purge toys when the kids don’t “help,” so sometimes I speed-purge during the school day or when they’re engrossed in something else. Obviously, we also have family decluttering sessions where I try to teach kids the joy of seeing the living room floor, but let’s face it, that method rarely works! Oh, and NEVER leave the donation box in the hallway or the car long enough for them to see it. Nothing sparks a child’s joy more than a long-neglected toy mom is trying to get rid of.
Step 4: Let the Sunshine and Spring Air in
In an effort to warm ourselves up and keep our electricity usage down, we’ve had curtains drawn across the windows for most of the winter. It’s time to pull back the curtains, and open up the windows. Take advantage of the sunshine and warmth to air out your house. You might find a new appreciation for your home, and at the very least you’ll be able to see the cobwebs in the corners and the dust bunnies lurking under the couch. Hunting dust bunnies and cleaning floorboards are wonderful activities for even the smallest members of the family, so get everyone involved and make shorter work of your cleaning!
Step 5: Get Outside
Some Portlanders regularly get outside during the winter for skiing, snowshoeing, and other cold weather activities, but for those of us whose only winter outside time has been walking to and from the car, this tip is for us! Nothing keeps your house cleaner than staying out of it. Think about it; when is your house at its grimiest? When your family is home! Shake off your cabin fever, and shuffle everyone out the door to dig in the dirt, climb Mt. Tabor, or bike along the Waterfront. Heck, simply standing in line at a food cart can provide the Vitamin D Portlanders in particular lack. Just don’t forget your sunscreen and sunglasses. It will take a while for your eyes and skin to adjust to that glowing orb in the sky that we haven’t seen in a while!