You're caught. We've discovered your
biggest, deepest, darkest secret-your
apartment is a smelly, cluttered,
dirty, disorganized mess! Laundry
is piled to your ceiling. Unidentifiable
shoes and socks are holding a rave
under your bed. Books and magazines
from November 1996 are wallpapering
what used to look like a coffee table,
and the dust on your carpet has turned
it a mysterious shade of gray. And
to think, you actually pay rent for
You might protest that you really
like it this way, that you can find
things just fine, that you have your
own "system." Yeah…
and James Van Der Beek is a really
good actor. (That's sarcasm.) Face
the facts: You've arrived at such
a low point that it's going to take
more than a Dustbuster to get things
in order. You'll need to do some honest-to-goodness,
'til you scream cleaning. And we're
here to help you do just that.
We warn you, a lot of this information
will be incredibly basic. But you're
such a slob, that you've obviously
forgotten about the basics anyway.
Plan A Course
Look, we know that there are a zillion
other things that you'd prefer to
be doing that are a lot more fun and
interesting than cleaning-they're
the things you've been doing for months
while the dust was accumulating. But
enough excuses already: You need to
psyche yourself up.
Pick a day that you will perform
the cleaning deed and keep telling
yourself that this will be "cleaning
day." To help yourself stick
to that day:
- Write that date on your calendar,
fridge, hand, whatever.
- Visualize yourself in cut-off
jean shorts and an old T-shirt,
fighting grime to the tune of Bon
Jovi, Bocelli, or perhaps something
a bit more obscure.
- Tell your friends that you're
going to be cleaning your apartment
that day. In fact, if you can, enlist
a friend to help you so that you
can encourage each other and so
that you cannot back out.
After you've picked out your red-letter
day and committed yourself to it,
you have to decide whether you are
going to clean, organize or both.
Cleaning is the process of actually
freeing your apartment of filth. Each
room in your pad requires a different
cleaning tactic, so you must approach
each one independently in order to
properly plan your strategy. Bedrooms
and living rooms are relatively easy
to tackle-they generally involve vacuuming
the carpet (or washing the floor),
dusting the tops of dressers and night
tables, and throwing away piled up
papers and other unnecessary junk.
Kitchens require scouring the countertops,
sink and refrigerator, cleaning the
stove, sweeping up crumbs and mopping
the floor. Bathrooms require getting
rid of mildew in the shower and bath
area, scrubbing the sink, disinfecting
the toilet and washing the floors.
Now that's some rip-roaring fun.
Organizing is different from cleaning
in that it involves creating a system
for storing and finding things. This
means that you'll have to take an
inventory of the clothes in your closet
and drawers, reorganize where everything
goes and pick out old things that
you never wear anymore (to either
give away or throw out). You can also
organize personal papers (bills, receipts,
cancelled checks, tax returns, insurance
information and personal letters)
neatly into clearly labeled file folders.
You can even get crazy and organize
your kitchen, placing spices and canned
goods in one cabinet, dishes and glasses
in another cabinet, utensils in one
drawer, and tin foil, plastic wrap
and plastic sandwich bags in another.
Organizing is a great "finishing
touch" way to tie everything
together after your apartment is clean.
Although you may want to clean and
organize, you've got to keep your
priorities in check. Doing both can
take an entire weekend - which means
no time to veg out on the couch and
watch Real World marathons. And that
would be a tragedy.
Gather The Proper Materials
Planning to dust with your roommate's
favorite sweater? Please be kind,
and stock up on the following:
- For vacuuming, you will obviously
need a vacuum cleaner. Well, at
least if you have carpets. If you
don't have one and don't want to
incur a huge expense, then consider
a Dustbuster or a mini-cleaner.
There are some that are lightweight,
high-quality, and under $100.
- For cleaning linoleum or tile
floors, you'll need a household
liquid disinfectant (like Pine Sol
or Mr. Clean) and a bucket where
you can mix it with hot water. You'll
also need a broom and a mop (either
a sponge mop or a rag mop is fine
by us-your call).
- For windows, mirrors and other
glass surfaces, you'll need a glass
cleaner (like Windex or Glass Plus).
- For tough surfaces like sinks
and bathtubs, you'll need some scouring
powder (like Comet). If you're a
wuss, you can get the liquid kind
that contains tiny scouring granules
(like SoftScrub). You'll also need
a toilet brush, a tub brush, and
a mildew-removing spray cleaner
(like Lysol Basin, Tub & Tile
- If you have wood floors, you'll
need to use a special wood floor
cleaner (like Murphy's Oil Soap).
- You'll also need a wood cleaning
polish (like Pledge or Old English)
to use on wood cabinets, doors,
dressers and other wood surfaces.
Keep in mind that you cannot use
regular cleaning solutions on wood
surfaces - it will spoil the finish
and make your furniture look like
crap. Also, you may want to have
a feather duster on hand to use
as a pre-cursor to the polish.
- For additional overall disinfecting,
you can use household bleach (like
Clorox). Keep in mind that bleach
should not be used around areas
where food is prepared.
- To clean your oven, you'll need
an oven cleaning spray. Pretty straight-forward,
- You'll need lots of sponges and
dishrags to soap up all things nasty.
- To dry things off, you should
have an ample supply of either paper
towels or dry, soft cloths (old
T-shirts work just great).
- It's also a good idea to have
some air disinfectant (like Lysol
spray), to spritz into each room
as you finish it so that it smells
clean and fresh.
- Most importantly, remember to
protect yourself by using rubber
cleaning gloves whenever possible.
Make sure not to get anything in
your eyes or mouth. Read all of
the directions and warning labels
on all materials before using them
so that you don't end up with a
science experiment gone wrong instead
of a clean apartment.
Target Specific Surfaces
Since you're reading this article,
we know you're not exactly Alice from
The Brady Bunch. Still, we're sure
even an uninformed slacker like you
can handle simple tasks like sweeping
and vacuuming without our help. Hey,
we're not that patronizing.
So we'll skip the moronic tutorials
and focus on how to deal with specific
surfaces in your home that are relatively
easy to clean - yet still not mindless.
If you're looking for real cleaning
challenges, though, feel free to skip
this and go on to the next step.
Wood furniture is delicate, so it
needs a little extra TLC. If you're
cleaning a wood dresser, for example,
you should first remove all lamps,
trinkets and framed pictures (like
the one of you and that cardboard
cutout of Mr. T). Dust lightly with
a soft cloth or feather duster, and
then finish off the job by polishing
with a soft cloth and wood cleaning
polish (the more lemony-smelling the
better). Polish helps seal and protect
the wood, which helps keep it looking
Plastic and Formica surfaces are
more versatile than wood, so they're
easier to clean. They're also more
likely to be very dirty. For areas
that are not very dirty, you can just
use plain soap and water and lightly
go over the surface until it is shiny.
If your countertops are somewhat stained,
you should use warm water and a household
cleaner like Formula 409. If you have
particular stains, create a solution
of baking soda and water and use a
toothbrush to scrub it out. For the
most difficult stains, try bleach
- but make sure not to let the bleach
remain on your surface for more than
90 seconds. And rinse the area thoroughly
with water afterwards.
Start out by sweeping the floor to
get rid of all crumbs, hairs and other
unfortunate debris. Move tables, chairs
and other obstacles out of the way
if possible. Fill a bucket with hot
water and floor cleaner (mix it according
to the ratio listed on the back of
the bottle). Dip in your mop and wring
it out well - if it's too wet your
floor will be a sopping, slippery
mess. Go over the floor in straight
lines, pushing extra hard on stubborn
stains or spots. If you're using a
rag mop, swirl the head in figure-eight
shapes. Remember to rinse and re-wring
the mop periodically. When you're
done, be sure to let the floor dry
before walking on it.
Tackle Tough Areas
The best way to clean the bathtub
is to stand inside it. Using scouring
powder and a tub brush, scrub aggressively
at each difficult stain. Be sure to
collect all the soap-scummy hair that's
accumulated in the drain - if you
don't want to touch it with your bare
hands (and we don't blame you), try
using an old, slim comb or hairbrush.
For rinsing the tub, it's convenient
to use a clean mop to go over the
entire bottom area. The tiles in the
shower can be cleaned easily using
a sponge and the above-mentioned mildew-removing
cleaner. For the cheapies out there,
a solution of ¾ cup liquid
chlorine bleach mixed with a gallon
of water works just as well. Leave
the solution on for at least five
minutes before rinsing, and then let
it air dry.
To clean the refrigerator and freezer,
remove all the food from it (or, if
you're like us, the lone ketchup bottle
and stale English muffin). Be sure
to toss out any identifiable lumps
during this process. Use good ol'
soap and water to wipe down the inside,
scrubbing extra hard at the most difficult
stains on the drawers and shelves.
When you clean your freezer, make
sure not to bang your head on the
bottom of the door as you reach for
some more soap. Don't laugh…it
happens. Wipe down the outside of
the doors with glass cleaner (who
says it's just for glass?!) and paper
What's the most trying, the most
disgusting, the most discolored, smelly
and degrading part of your apartment?
Yep, it's the toilet bowl (also known
by one of it's countless other names:
the pot, the crapper, the john, the
toi-toi). In any case, because so
many yucky things get flushed down
this thing, it is almost always in
desperate need of a cleaning. First,
lift up the cover and squeeze some
toilet bowl cleaning solution (or
sprinkle some scouring powder) around
the edge of the inside of the bowl.
Use a toilet brush to soap up the
entire bowl, making sure to remove
all of the stains. Then, flush at
least once to make sure that the dirty
water is taken away and clean water
returns to the bowl to rinse it out.
Any common household cleaner can be
used to clean the outside of the bowl,
as well as the cover, seat and base.
Be sure to christen your newly-cleaned
toilet when done.
Nothing's grosser than hardened,
bubbled-over cheese that's settled
onto the bottom of your oven. Here's
how to deal: First, remove all the
oven racks and place them in warm,
soapy water. Preheat the oven to 200
degrees, then turn it off and spray
the inside with an oven cleaner. After
the cleaner's soaked in for about
10 minutes, wipe away all the greasy
dirt with a damp sponge. Be sure to
rinse the sponge frequently, and finish
the whole process off by drying the
inside of the oven with a soft, dry
cloth. Oh yeah, and remember to put
the racks back inside.
Keep Your Apartment Clean
Now that you've scoured your place
from top to bottom, you have an even
more difficult task: Keeping it clean.
Maintenance isn't that tough - it
basically means staying on top of
things on a daily basis. When you're
done with dinner, wash the dishes.
When you take off your nasty socks,
throw them in the laundry basket immediately
instead of leaving them on the floor.
When you spill OJ on the kitchen counter,
wipe it up right away (unless you
want to attract a few undesirable
visitors by letting the sticky mess
just sit there).
By tackling smaller jobs at more
frequent intervals, you won't end
up feeling overwhelmed by the all
the dirt and disorganization that
surrounds you. Doing this will not
only help you maintain your sanity,
but also your Saturdays.