It ain’t easy being clean, either

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Ha.  And you thought I meant drugs.  You wish.

On the other hand…  No, I’m too much of a nerd.  Besides I stay up wired all by myself, without any help, thank you very much.  And you’re about to witness more ramblings that are the said product of such insomniac states.

So ever since we moved to our apartment and our available living space has pretty much been halved, keeping things tidy has come into sharper focus.  Well, actually that happened during the course of our packing at the house; as we packed and then cleaned, we once again saw the reality of what should have been during our years there, and realized that we sort of neglected things.  I have the remedy…or at least a rough draft of it.

January: Christmas Cleanup
This is a great time for those New Year’s resolutions.  It’s also time to take down the decorations, use that spent real tree for firewood, use the spent wrapping paper for kindling, and add to the giveaway pile, whether it’s Christmas gifts you simply can’t use (maybe someone else can!) or something that is being replaced by a Christmas gift.  Eat those leftovers and give the house a good thorough cleaning now that the houseguests have gone.

February: Thinning Out
Combing your closets, cupboards, and drawers and deciding what you no longer need or use can make that eventual spring cleaning project easier, because after you’ve identified your giveaway pile and brought it to the local charities or sold it through Craigslist, Ebay, or Amazon, you’ll have less to have to wade through and clean.

This is probably one of the single most potently therapeutic and rewarding tasks you’ll do for yourself all year.  You get a lot of bang-for-your-buck mileage out of this one.  It’s not real nice outside yet, so put off the yard work until next month, and you could also put off the actual spring cleaning part until the month after that, when the weather is consistently warmer and you can open up the house as you clean.  This is a rockin’ time to have a garage sale!  Beat the usual springtime garage sale rush and stand out by holding yours early.

March: Spring Yard Work
Those Texas weeds are starting to grow, so start weeding early.  Please don’t use chemicals – they’re quite harsh and toxic and your neighbors may be sensitive to them.  The environment is shared, and spraying a shit-ton of chemicals on your lawn is as disrespectful as smoking inside a building.  Instead, if you cultivate a healthy yard, your grass will edge out the weeds anyway.  You may want to plant your Bermuda seed at this time, aerate, and spread microbes and nitrogen.  You’ll also want to do a good, deep edging job right now, and trim your trees before they take off in another growth spurt.  And don’t forget to replace any broken/missing sprinkler heads.

April: Spring Cleaning, Allergy Prevention
No sooner does April begin than everyone starts sneezing.  There’s only so much of that you can control, but you can improve your odds by changing out all of your air filters.  You’ll also want to tune up your A/C and air ducts and vents now, before the heat hits, along with the service calls and long waits that come with A/C failures during the first upcoming hot days that loom not far into the future.  You’ll also want to dust now, a thorough job that involved that little quarter-inch ledge on the top of a door frame, or the margin of your ceiling/floor fan blades or light bulbs in said ceiling, you get the point.  Do dust everything.

May: School’s Out
During the next few months of summer, when the kids are home and everyone’s outside more because the weather’s nice, your house is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.  I’ve found that cleaning the high-traffic areas (beyond simple maintenance) is pretty much a futile effort.

Instead, this time of year is perfect for turning your attention to areas and tasks that aren’t usually in the forefront.

Like window cleaning, for example.  Most people use Windex, but I actually learned a tip from my dad (Mr. Home Improvement, complete with the plaid shirt and a serious arsenal of power tools)–he prefers Rain-X instead of Windex for glass cleaning.  He says it saves on paper towels or something.  I can’t verify that part, but I do know that when I used Rain-X, cleaning all the windows in our house (which had a TON of windows) took me a lot less time than I remember it taking.

You might also feel like washing any cloth window dressings at this time.  Or attaching those clear protective coverings to the corners of your walls (the ones that jut out–you know, the ones we run into), especially in high traffic areas.  They help preserve the integrity of the wall and prevent hard-to-repair nicking or other damage, especially with a more active season fast approaching.

June & July: Design on a Dime
This is a fun time for remodeling, redecorating, changing color schemes, etc, because you have the longest daylight hours to work with, and the sun is giving its most direct light, allowing you to see the full potential and full effect of your design plans.

Try not to let the summery season tip you overboard, though; remember to pick something you won’t get sick of too quickly, unless of course you want to make this a yearly custom.  IKEA is an awesome place to shop, because they have a nice variety, their prices are decent, and while the quality is sometimes hit-and-miss, there are good-quality items to be had.

Bonus: their model setups provide a cool springboard for ideas, combinations, and color schemes you might not have otherwise considered. HGTV is another great source of ideas, too (hence the title of this subsection…gosh that was a bureaucratic moment!  Where’d that come from?) although HGTV can get a little trendy (and expensive), and one can tire of trends easily as they become dated.

Depending on where you live, Craigslist can be a valuable resource!  Make sure to Google “Craigslist scams” for a heads-up on red flags, scams, situations to avoid, and precautions to take. Craigslist arrangements almost always work out very well, eliminating a retailing middleman, but there have been reports of physical assaults, robberies, and scams, although they’re not as common as they could be.  Just be smart and protect yourself.

August: Loose (Odds &) Ends
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything good to do because Texas in August simply calls for a lawn chair and some frozen fruit smoothies–under an umbrella.  It’s too hot to do much else. 🙂  Unless of course you want to dust again.

Actually, this might be a good time to start a spreadsheet on all of your major electronics, their serial and model numbers, and customer service phone numbers in case there’s ever a problem.  If your personal file system is out of whack, you may want to spend time putting it into order. Reconcile bank statements, examine bills, re-shop for your insurance policies to make sure you’re still getting the most bang for your buck, re-shop your banking institutions and your credit card issuers to make sure your terms are the most favorable possible, call your phone/internet/cable/satellite companies to see if they have a lower rate plan out there, test the keys on your key ring, reacquaint yourself with your safety deposit box, update your resume, anything that you can do from inside that might have been neglected the rest of the year.

This way, you head into the new school year (or job season, as September is the most common time of year to start a new job), you have all of your personal affairs in order.

September: Summer Cleanup
At this point, you’ll want to recover from summer.  Dirt and pollens tracked in, kids in and out with friends, you get the idea.  This is a great time to deep clean the carpets and touch up any scuffs on the walls with the matching paint.  You’ll also want to vacuum the window sills and the carpet closest to the walls (silverfish and other dead bugs).

October: Fall Yard work
By now the acorns have started to fall (if you’re anal like me you comb through the grass to pick these up and prevent them from sprouting) and the bushes and trees you pruned so well this spring have spent several months in a growth spurt.  Not to mention that the leaves are probably starting to fall.  So, now is a good time to rake those leaves and trim everything back again.  If you live in an area where grass grows out instead of up, you may also have creepy-crawly grass strands sneaking their way across your driveway.  You may also have plenty of debris and toys from summer outdoor parties or kids playing games in your yard.

November: Presentable & Airtight
Just before company starts raining down on your space, you’ll want to spruce the place up a bit.  Dusting lightbulbs (chandeliers, overheads, ceiling fan light bulbs, etc) is a good idea.  If you have any natural wood (I hope you do, for sanity’s sake), a little Old English will work wonders to restore the warmth of its natural color, while covering any nicks and scratches.  Wear special clothes and use a drop cloth for this – it will stain!  You’ll want to weather seal your windows and doors.

December: Holiday Cheer
Yep, it’s decorating time, if you haven’t done so already (although I will say, please, in the spirit of preventing a phenomenon called Christmas Creep, preserve the seasons and their accompanying magic by holding off on the Christmas paraphernalia until at least the day after Thanksgiving…and that’s the *US* Thanksgiving, not the Canadian Thanksgiving, which takes place about 6 weeks earlier).  Anyway, I digress.  Decorating rules, no matter what religion you follow, or none at all.  So even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s still fun to put up some natural-looking garland or lights.  The candles alone cast a warmer light over the milky glow from the outside overcast sky and provide some extra light for those shortened daylight hours. Simmer some mulling spices over the stove.  Make sure they’re the natural edible kind, not anything synthetic.

As for cleaning?  Screw it – here’s your get-out-of-jail-free card; you’re either going to be gone (in which case you won’t be making a mess, nor will you be there to clean any already-existing messes) or you’re going to be there with other people, in which case you’ll be enjoying good times with them and not cleaning!

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