Spring is here, and it's time to give your house a clean sweep after a long winter of homeschooling! However, if the words "spring" and "clean" make you break into a cold sweat and imagine housework horrors, perhaps these helpful tips taught by my Dutch grandmother will help make cleaning a breeze. To give your home a breath of fresh air, try the following suggestions:

Assess the Mess - Before you lift a hand, walk through each room of the house and take stock of what needs cleaning. Is the problem clutter, dirt, or both? In my grandmother's day, deep spring cleaning usually involved more work since homes were heated with messy coals and fuel oil. Today's modern homes usually don't require as much spring cleaning, and if you clean regularly, you may get by with a good old "lick and a promise." Calculate the time needed in cleaning each room and schedule a weekend or time off from school to complete the work.

Pool the Tools - Thankfully, we have more modern cleaning tools than Grandma did in her day. Gather the following supplies in a central location to make cleanup easier:

• Sturdy laundry baskets or boxes for collecting "misplaced" things. (Throw away broken laundry baskets and buy new ones for every member of the family).
• Plastic storage tubs
• Vacuum cleaner and broom
• Cleaning tote filled with the following: paper towels, window cleaner, spray disinfectant, toothbrush (for scrubbing stains and hard to reach places), putty knife (for chipping off tar, gum, dried food, or whatever crusted-on item can be found), kitchen-size garbage bags, toilet cleaner, spray bottle with white vinegar/warm water mixture (¼ cup vinegar to 1 gallon water), furniture polish, oven cleaner, air freshener, and cotton rags (worn-out, white cotton socks or t-shirts work best).

Recruit the Troops - Grandma's famous quote from the Bible was, "If you don't work, you don't eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10)! Don't feel guilty about enlisting help from your children. They contributed to the mess, and they certainly can help in cleaning. Consider this cleaning experience as part of their education in home economics. Many hands make light work, and you can reward your recruits with a special night out at their favorite restaurant after the work is done! If your children are young, ask their grandma or a friend to baby-sit or have your older children supervise their play.

Clear the Clutter - Grandma always said, "A place for everything and everything in its place!" When homeschoolers face the task of spring cleaning, removing the clutter is half the battle. To combat this problem, simply gather all those loose items (toys, books, clothes, games, school papers, keepsakes, etc.) into a new laundry basket and remove them from the room. After you've finished cleaning, you can have each person in the family put their things away or reorganize their items into clear, plastic tubs. (I've always liked the flat tubs with wheels for storing items under the bed).

Proceed to Clean - Grandma always cleaned by starting from the top of the room down, as she worked clockwise around the room. This eliminates the need to re-clean the floors and furniture and assures that no inch of the room is missed. With cleaning products in place and a "cleanliness is next to godliness" philosophy, this was her procedure (with a few minor additions from today):

• Windows - Remove curtains or drapes first. If curtains are not soiled, "fluff" them in the dryer on low for a few minutes to remove the dust. If they are dirty, wash and hang partially wet (curtains will iron themselves). Heavy draperies need to be shaken outside by hand or dry cleaned. Vacuum window sills, tops of doors, and doorway moldings. Then, wash the windows (inside and out) with ammonia water or window cleaner. Clean screens outside with a stiff bristle brush or a vacuum.

• Light fixtures - Remove (if possible) and clean with warm soapy water or window cleaner.

• Walls and floor boards - Push furniture away from the walls, vacuum cobwebs, and wipe down walls with a damp rag. Wipe the floor boards and wood trim with a vinegar mixture to remove fingerprints. Then, lightly apply furniture polish with a cotton rag.

• Beds/couches/recliners - Remove all bedding (quilt, sheets, blankets, and mattress pad). Wash and dry outside for a fresh clean smell. Vacuum mattress and box spring, flip or rotate mattress, and remake the bed. Vacuum couches and chairs (flip cushions when finished and spray with an air freshener).

• Floors - Vacuum floor around the walls first. Push the furniture back into place and finish the remainder of the room. (Since you're already moving furniture, you may want to shampoo badly-stained carpets).

• Furniture - Polish and clean out junk drawers. Remember, if you haven't used it in the last two years, it's time to throw or give it away!

• Closets and dresser drawers - Remove clothes, vacuum, and replace winter clothing with spring and summer items. Place most frequently worn clothes in lower drawers where little hands can reach them. Bag worn-out clothes for rags and outgrown items for younger children or a donation. Place sachets or scented stick ups with your favorite fragrance in drawers or closets.

• Kitchens and bathrooms - Cleaning these rooms takes a little more "elbow grease." Use the same top to bottom procedure as above. For kitchens, wash the insides and fronts of cabinets with warm, soapy water. Use spray disinfectant to clean counter surfaces, sinks, and tiles. Reorganize cupboards and drawers and discard outdated food and mismatched food containers. Clean dirty ovens with heavy duty foam cleaner and paper towels. Vacuum dusty refrigerator coils. Wash the inside of the refrigerator with warm, soapy water after removing the food. For bathrooms, use toilet cleaner and/or pumice stones on stools and clean the sink and tub with spray disinfectant. Scrub shower doors or wash the shower curtain in the tub and hang back up to dry.

Like everything else you do as a homeschool family, spring cleaning can be a fun learning experience. While you reclaim your house, put on upbeat music, open the windows, and dress the part (have your girls wear aprons and the boys wear overalls). Play cleaning games like "Beat the Clock" and don't try to accomplish more in one day than you can handle. Best of all, once you've finished spring cleaning the entire house, you can celebrate your major achievement. Purchase a new welcome sign or flag and proudly hang it in front of your freshly spring-cleaned home!

What tips do you have for spring cleaning?