Start Your Year Clean

Woman cleaning a mirror

Hogmanay in Scotland is more than just singing a Robert Burns song, taking a shot of whiskey, and dancing around. It can be that as well, but in Scotland New Year involves clearing out the old year and welcoming the new, which means house cleaning.

When I lived in Scotland, I found that this obsession with New Year cleaning extended to having not even a teaspoon in the sink at the stroke of midnight. The New Year offers you the possibility of a clean slate.

The focus on cleaning is less about fetishizing cleanliness and more about removing obstacles to real action. As long as you have that nagging sink full of dishes, you have an excuse not to focus on what you really want. So, let’s focus on clearing out the baggage, then we can turn our minds to what the new year might bring.


Is the house out of control? It’s easy for everything to slip into chaos when you have little kids. One of the most effective systems I’ve seen for gaining control is the Fly Lady. Years ago, when the Fly Lady was just a Yahoo group, I followed this system daily to dig out from under physical and other garbage holding me back. Fly Lady calls this CHAOS, Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.

First step? Reclaim one small space every day. Shine your sink. It’s not about your sink; it’s about a guaranteed success, an area of calm within the chaos.

If the state of your house is holding you back, I recommend Fly Lady in any format as the cheerleader who can help you take back control.

What Are You Tolerating?

What holds you back from doing everything you want to do with your family, your children, and just for yourself? Maybe your house is sparkly and you still feel like something is holding you back. You have a few days to figure it out and clear it out so you can face the new year ready to roar.

What are you tolerating around you? Make a list. I love this exercise to bring all of those tiny issues into consciousness. Get a big piece of paper and start listing all of the little things you are putting up with. The tap leaks, the dog’s hair is too long, my son’s shoes are too small, not enough hangers, too-small kids cloths are piling up, and so on. You know how it goes. Start with the obvious that you see around you then move on to the less obvious. Haven’t gone out with my husband for weeks, tired of the foods we eat regularly, haven’t taken my new yarn out of the bag. Keep digging. When I go through this process with friends, I tell them to number every item and don’t stop until at least 50. If you create enough calm around you to think clearly, you can probably get to 100 without much problem.

Then, look at the list for three things you can knock off immediately. Then, three more. Don’t let these ridiculously tiny things hold you back from big dreams.

Time to clean up!

Image © Iakov Filimonov |

Embrace Spring Cleaning

Toddler washing a window

It has been warm enough that we have windows open during the day—on days when it doesn’t snow. Once the windows and doors are open, it’s time to clean. Spring cleaning, or thorough house cleaning, is a tradition in several cultures with new year or celebrations in the spring. In my family, we clean for Hogmanay (December 31st) as well as in the spring. Since my children and I just spent three full days cleaning our house, I want to share with you what I’ve learned.

List everything you need to do. I get my kids to help me. Usually, we write every major cleaning job on a post-it note and slap it on the wall. While we are cleaning, each of us chooses one note at a time and moves it to the active area. This year, we decided to save on notes. We wrote out the list on a spreadsheet on the laptop that followed us around playing very loud music while we worked. It worked fine, but I miss the quick visual of the colorful post-it notes.

Gather your tools. Make sure you have what you need before you start. Look at your list, look at your cleaning cupboard, and match up job to cleaning solutions, brushes, mops, cloths, and any other tools you have. Do you have what you need? If not, can you make what you need? If not, go shopping.

Nothing takes the wind out of your sails more than optimistically wiping a wall with a water only to find that hand prints just stay there. A couple of weeks ago, I cleaned my house top to bottom. I cleaned walls that had far too much grime at a height suspiciously similar to my son’s height. This built up over time because I was refusing to buy cleaners. I was using water to wipe walls when I needed to cut dirty, greasy marks with a more serious cleaner. I finally bought a d-Limonene cleaner (d-Limonene is an extract from citrus rind that is used as solvent in cleaning products). Getting the walls clean was so easy. I can’t believe how long I stubbornly held out when all I needed was the right cleaner. So, learn from my lesson! Assemble the right tools so you don’t face frustration.

Schedule a block of time. Spending 15 minutes here and there isn’t spring cleaning. That is basic maintenance. You should do that, too, but give yourself enough time that you can get into the corners without the next thing on your list distracting you from finishing. Schedule at least 3 hours at a time for cleaning. It will take more than one 3-hour block to clean a whole house. Spread it out over a week or just do it over a weekend with short breaks. Whatever you do, don’t think you will get to it when you have time. You won’t. Schedule the time now.

Play music. This is essential! Music helps keep spirits up even when you are doing grimy jobs. We set up a playlist of dancing music, and it helps us keep moving. We take turns playing DJ. We also stop here and there to talk about the music and the history around it. When you homeschool, any moment can be a homeschooling moment. If you are asking your children to help, it’s important to keep them motivated. This pays off over time as they associate cleaning with fun.

Celebrate the finish. We were cleaning because we had house guests coming to spend spring break. Our celebration was a delicious dinner on the arrival of our guests. Throw a party. Invite friends over. Just have a special dinner in a room where you don’t usually eat. Make it memorable and unusual. Thank everyone for helping to keep the house clean and tidy.

Are you ready? You can do it! Spring cleaning is exhilarating.

A few articles you might like to read:

Image © Tamara Souchko |

Save Money on Household Cleaning

Save money on cleaning with natural products

Do you know how to ditch your $6 window cleaner for a natural $2 alternative? When you are saving pennies, those $4 count. If cost savings isn’t enough, those less expensive natural cleaners have far less environmental impact and they aren’t a safety hazard for curious children and pets.

Start with Water
Use water out of the tap on a reusable cloth. That will clean a lot of what passes for dirt in your house. Move up to boiling water when you need to.

Wipe Down Surfaces Daily
If you clean up the small messes, you won’t need so many expensive cleansers to clean up big messes. Wipe down surfaces as you go and pick up around you. It makes a difference in how you feel as well as maintaining a level of clean.

Don’t Buy Expensive Cleansers
While we’re on the subject, don’t buy those special cleansers for big jobs. Assess the mess and choose a natural cleaner from your own pantry instead. Check out our Clean Cleaning for the basics of cleaning with just 5 common ingredients: water, vinegar, baking soda, salt, and lemon. Buy the main ingredients, distilled white vinegar and baking soda, in large packages and you will save even more.

Buy or Make Reusable Pads for Mops
Good old string mops work, but you might not find them at your store. You can still use the flat style wet mops, but you don’t need to buy the throwaway pads. Make or buy your own reusable pads and wash them. It doesn’t even require sewing. Just choose an thick, absorbent, natural material like soft cotton sweatshirt material.

Image © Frannyanne |