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LI experts offer tips on cleaning the house, from the inside out

Cynthia Braun, a certified professional organizer, talks Jan. 29 about feeding off the client's energy and how it becomes "like an organizing party." Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

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Winter is almost over, and with a change of seasons comes certain traditional transitions. One of the most practical is spring cleaning, whereby homeowners open up windows, shake the dust out, and wipe away cold weather cobwebs to clear space for sunny days ahead.

Why spring?

"Spring cleaning is a natural response to the increase in light and warmth in the spring season, especially in cold climates," says Rob Lawrence, owner of Maid Brigade of Long Island, a Hicksville-based franchise that's part of the larger Maid Brigade brand, which also has offices in Freeport and Bohemia. "Most everyone feels that itch to open the windows and clean things out as soon as we get that first warm day."

For some tasks, spring cleaning begins even before the temps rise. Cynthia Braun, a certified professional organizer and certified feng shui consultant based in Lake Grove, says one of the best times to organize your space is while it's still cold outside, so you can make the best use of your last days indoors.

Once the weather warms, it's good to pay attention to your outdoor surfaces as well as your interior ones. "Homeowners should start thinking about setting up all their exterior [cleaning] in March," says Gary D'Angelo, owner of Magical Touch Power Washing in Farmingville. "Spring is the busiest time of the year for most power washing companies, and schedules fill up fast. Plus, there is no reason to hold off for all the pollen to fall. Pollen will not stick to a freshly cleaned house.

Don't neglect yards, either. Leonard Mirabile, designer and owner of Autumn Leaf Landscape Design in Centerport, says outdoor yard prep should begin at the end of frost season. "Most people think it's just about cleaning up debris, like leaves, fallen limbs, and branches left behind from the fall," he explains. "But you also have to hand-cultivate garden beds, turn over soil, and cut back perennials like day lilies."

Get help

If the idea of cleaning up your home seems too overwhelming, there are plenty of services all over Long Island available to help. Mirabile says spring yard cleanup starts at $300 per yard, but prices can get much higher if the yard is sizable.

For home organizing, Braun's services start at $85 an hour, and are measured in six-hour increments. She says garages, basements and attics take the longest, and offices can also be time-consuming, because sorting paper can take a while..

Power washing, which can take anywhere from 1 ½ to 4 hours for a typical home exterior, starts at $299, according to D'Angelo, but again, costs can vary. "It depends on what's getting cleaned," he says. "Most homeowners do more than just get a house wash. We clean driveways, patios, pool decking, sidewalks, and flower beds. So pricing depends on what the homeowner is looking to have cleaned." D'Angelo says that cost also depends on the type of material being cleaned. "There's vinyl, cedar, aluminum," he says. "And there are different methods and chemicals for different materials, which also affect the price."

As far as interior cleaning, Lawrence says that a thorough spring cleaning, which he recommends for every new customer, usually averages between $250 and $350, and lasts two or three times as long as a standard cleaning. "Spring cleanings normally they take us about 5 to 8 maid hours, depending on the size and needs of the home and customer," he says. "And we can get a lot done in that amount of time."

Do it yourself

A lot of spring cleaning tasks can be done without the help of a professional, and homeowners looking to get a jump on the season can start the work themselves. Mirabile says it's a good idea to start clearing up winter debris, such as sticks and branches, as soon as the snow and frost clears. "Make it fun for the kids," he says. "Give them a chore." 

If someone's coming to power wash your exterior surfaces, you can also save time by clearing a path. "Make sure there's nothing in the way of the areas being cleaned," says D'Angelo. "This includes stuff leaning on the house, or leaves piled up on patios, or patio furniture." 

Even for less strenuous tasks, such as decluttering, make sure you give yourself enough time. "I tell people if we're doing anything that involves papers, it takes longer," says Braun. "And if you don't need [a professional] for six hours, you don’t need me. That you can do yourself." Just start working through your clutter, which Braun defines as, "something you don't use or need or love," and see what needs to go. 

Lawrence advises getting the whole family involved in picking up and organizing. "In ten minutes, most rooms can be picked up and straightened, [with] a quick dust on flat surfaces," he says. Doing a little at a time can also make the job easier. "You don't have to set aside an entire afternoon to clean," he says. "Take five minutes and run the vacuum. Pick a drawer that needs organizing, then tomorrow the next drawer, and so on until the whole dresser or kitchen or bathroom are cleaned and organized. You'll feel a sense of accomplishment, and it will look better." 

Tips

  • Close your windows, says D'Angelo. He can wash a house without a homeowner being home, but make sure the house is watertight, and that the outside water is turned on
  • Close the doors to unused rooms to keep dust down significantly, says Lawrence.
  • Lawrence also suggests having a set of cleaning items on every floor of your home, so you won't have to search for supplies in the basement when you need to tidy up.
  • Declutter first, then organize, says Braun, "and get rid of anything you don't use or love."
  • Don't get overeager, and prune shrubs too early in the season, says Mirabile. That can lead to cutting off fresh growth. All perennials, however, can be cut back with no harm.
  • Finally, forget trying to be perfect. Lawrence says, "getting rid of some of the dirt is better than not getting started."

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