With spring's arrival, the sun shines through the windows illuminating our homes. In the corner? Cobwebs. The walls? Fingerprints. On surfaces? Dust bunnies galore. Even looking out the window can cause panic because the streaks of dirt block our view.
Where is Mary Poppins and her bluejays when you need them?
"Don't get overwhelmed." That's the message from Kim Olbert, the owner of a Molly Maid franchise in Oklahoma City, whose staff of cleaners have been whirring around town in cars emblazoned with pink logos since 2003.
Olbert said she sees a bump in new customers each spring, after clients have put away their winter clothes and decorations and are ready for deep cleaning. In fact, most customers book their spring cleaning by New Year's Day.
If you're tackling the seasonal chore and decluttering on your own, she recommends doing one small project at a time, whether it's the kitchen cabinets, laundry room or hall closet.
"Once you complete one project, move to the next. If you start on one area and move to another before you get the first one done, it becomes a confusing mess," Olbert said.
She recommended using separate boxes labeled for trash, recycling and donation, and to keep and re-use them.
"Everything needs to go into one of those boxes, and then you will be amazed at how easy the job is," she said. Clutter has become a booming industry, with storage facilities at an all-time high around the country. Overstuffed homes and overwhelmed residents often turn to experts in magazines, television and online for assistance.
Decluttering and organizational expert Peter Walsh of Peter Walsh Design, who often appears on Oprah Winfrey's show and cable channel TLC, has a best-selling book, "It's All Too Much," with stories and step-tostep instructions on how to deal with emotional and physical clutter. The book was turned into a DVD of the same name, with Walsh taking viewers through every room of the house, instructing them how to re-organize.
Everyone has an area of his or her home that's a little overwhelming to tackle, so much that the spaces become eyesores or shut out altogether. Olbert says spaces like guestroom closets, hallway cabinets or extra bedrooms tend to fill with things they don't know what to do with.
"Kitchen cabinets also tend to get neglected. Things get pushed back to the back, and you forget you have them," she said.
If a schedule is what you need, then the FlyLady might be in order. FlyLady.net is a popular online coaching site with cleaning and organizing packages, as well as a free membership to get tips on what to tackle next delivered to your inbox.
Oklahoma City resident Tiffany Wilken, a wife, mother of two and communications consultant, signed up for FlyLady's e-mail list, which meant reminders to do morning and evening household routines, plus a daily deepcleaning task.
"It helped me get into some good habits. She emphasizes that you don't have to be perfect, and you can do a lot in five minutes," Wilken said.
She also liked that FlyLady encourages you to recognize the "hot spots" in your house that accumulate clutter.
"Like, instead of dropping the mail on the kitchen counter, I throw out all the junk, open anything important, discard the envelopes and inserts, and put it directly in a tray on my desk to be filed," Wilken said. "The whole 'a place for everything, and everything in its place' adage goes a long way. I no longer lose my keys, because they are always hanging by the garage door. It's a little thing, but it does help curb the chaos."
Another tip that helped Wilken was to take a timer from room to room.
"The 'tick-tick-tick' reminds me to hurry and helps me focus on the big picture," she said. "Otherwise, I get completely sidetracked, and instead of cleaning the house, I end up spending two hours on something ridiculous, like organizing my son's Legos in bins by color."
photo Sonia Fierro with Molly Maid does a little spring cleaning. photo/Marianne Pickens