Features

Spring Cleaning
When spring hits, a lot of people have an urge to begin cleaning by why? Image: Pexels

Experts say spring cleaning can be more helpful than ever before as Ontario enters “emergency brake” stage

Springtime is just beginning. The sun is shining, it’s starting to warm up, and allergies are in full swing.

When this season hits, a lot of people have an urge to begin cleaning. While there are religious and spiritual reasons for cleaning following winter, such as cleaning prior to Passover for those of Jewish faith, many people turn to the custom of spring cleaning for their mental wellbeing and for self-care.

And as Ontario enters another shutdown period at the beginning of spring, it’s a stark reminder of the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 shutting down the province and the initial surge of cleaning. It may bring more stress and concerns for Ontarians, which is why experts say that spring cleaning can be even more helpful now than ever before.

Andrea LeBlanc, a housing coordinator at the Canadian Mental Health Association, finds that cleaning has a positive impact on her physical and mental well-being.

She also stresses how cleaning, or lack thereof, can have an impact on a persons’ well-being.

“Living in an unclean household can be very overwhelming for people,” she said. “There can be negative barriers they have to overcome. But once anyone gets going or gets the support they need to get started, it’s actually hard to stop cleaning once you see the difference.”

“Personally, I incorporate cleaning into my self-care, because there’s nothing that will bring up my spirits like cleaning. It’s my go-to if I’m feeling overwhelmed.”

Julie Blais Comeau, chief etiquette officer at EtiquetteJulie.com, says for her, spring cleaning is about cleaning from the inside out.

“It starts with my home. I’ll take one room at a time and then I’ll complete that outside. Then I move to my body, I change my eating habits, I’m getting out more, exercising and eating a lot more clean. For my computer, I then check what’s coming into my inbox, what can I unsubscribe from.”

“It’s about aligning myself,” she said. “It’s a cleanse, and also it’s about gratitude. Even if you do one window, and remove all the winter dirt, you get a sense of accomplishment, a ‘yay me!’ ”

Stephanie Applejohn, vice-president of Merry Maids Ottawa, has been pleasantly surprised with the demand for cleaning services this spring.

“When COVID-19 first hit, we closed down. I wasn’t familiar with what was happening so I wanted to be more knowledgeable,” Applejohn said. “I wasn’t sure what to anticipate when we re-opened, but the last little while has been really busy.”

“I was a bit worried that people would be angry, but people have been wonderful to us. We’ve received so many compliments, people are just thankful that we’re there,” she said.

She says that since the pandemic hit, Merry Maids has had to upgrade its cleaning solutions to further disinfect homes and keep everyone safe. This includes hospital-grade disinfectants and cleaners, something that is especially important for move-in and move-out requests. 

“There’s a lot of deep-cleans, thorough cleans,” she said. “Everything is disinfected head to toe.”

“I think springtime everyone opens up their windows and starts to see dirt. And being cooped up at home, I think clients are just tired of being at home, and they want fresh air and to go outside so they email us and say they want someone else to come in and do the cleaning.”

Another request she’s been seeing a lot has been children calling to book cleaning appointments for their parents.

“A lot of people are calling in for their senior parents, people they can’t see because of COVID-19. So they call us to check in on them and clean.”

LeBlanc says hiring a cleaning service can have its benefits, especially for people who live alone during the pandemic.

“It can be difficult for some people to reach out for support, and doing some of the initial work can be difficult for some to do,” she said. 

“It can be overwhelming especially if you start from scratch, and it can be detrimental to one’s mental health, like isolating from friends and family. So typically we would help by connecting people to cleaning services and connect them to home support.”

Comeau adds that cleaning and hygiene are affected by the pandemic, with more people having a heightened sense of hygiene, but says that it’s also about organization and decluttering.

“By removing that clutter, you can see clearly and at the same time, your mind is more organized and more present. When you walk into a room that is cluttered, that is not clean it has a psychological impact. At least it does for me,” she said.

Comeau recommends the Marie Kondo cleaning and organization method to remove clutter and clean more thoroughly, regardless of whether or not you hire cleaning services. 

The Marie Kondo approach focuses on only having items in your living space that brings you joy or is a necessity. It also prioritizes planning in order to fully re-organize and re-align your home.

“You don’t have to be as precise as her structure,” she said. “But just aim to surround yourself with objects that bring you joy.”

All three agree that the best way to clean your home is to take it room by room, isolating them and completing them before moving to the next.

Applejohn emphasizes cleaning areas we wouldn’t notice, like baseboards, vents and window ledges. She adds that it’s a lot of work to clean, but it’s important to get it done.

Comeau says that it helps to remove all objects from a room and clean items as you put everything back. If you clean the walls or items, she emphasizes washing left to right and top to bottom for the best clean and recommends scheduling your time to clean.

“Once you start, make sure to commit to finishing,” she said. “People often underestimate the time it’ll take to clean and therefore they don’t end up finishing.”

“You can give yourself a week. You can decide ‘Monday we do this, Tuesday we do that,’ or you can multitask. You can catch up with friends while you wash the windows. Call your grandma, she’ll be happy it’ll make her day.”

Leblanc agrees and finds that before or after pictures help, as it shows the stark difference you’ve made in your home. She adds that when you’re done cleaning, you should make a plan to maintain the space to ease upkeep, especially if there are tasks you hate.

“You can pair cleaning with music, that gets people going,” she laughs. “I hate folding clothes, so I pair it with watching an episode of my favourite show.”

“Sometimes it takes hiring an external company to do a deep-clean to reset a living space to start maintaining their space.”

“But cleaning also doesn’t have to be a deep-clean every time. It could be making the bed, cleaning dishes, or putting away a load of laundry.” 

Plus, the benefits of a spring clean aren’t always just for you. Comeau finds there can be monetary or charitable benefits to spring cleaning and suggests creating piles for donation and items that could be sold.

“That way you have a benefit that is exponential. What you may not want anymore can bring joy to someone else,” she said.

Comeau adds that this spring symbolizes the hope of normalcy, and cleaning can be a way of preparing for the hopeful moment we can get together again, which she hopes will be this summer.

“We also have the recognition and the gratitude of what we missed,” she said. “Our hope is a lot more centred around people and being grateful for what we have because we missed so many things we took for granted before the past year.”

“Hope is what will keep us going throughout the summer, and we’re blessed that we’re going into good weather. There’s hope that around labour day there’ll be picnics and barbeques all throughout Canada.”