By Caitlin Murphy
With most of us still spending most of our time at home due to the coronavirus, we find ourselves confronted with various household tasks and cleaning. It may feel daunting to tackle, but by taking small steps and compartmentalizing, any mess is doable. While you may feel like getting right to the cleaning part, de-cluttering, and organizing, or “pre-cleaning,” is an important first step that makes cleaning not only faster and more thorough but helps create more space. Here are some tips for pre-cleaning and organization for different rooms/areas.
Looking through your pantry can be a nightmare: From expired spices, you bought several years ago, to the odd assortment of foods that you stocked up on during the pandemic. Do an inventory of the things in your pantry and organize them into expired, keepers, and things that you can give away, such as canned goods or other non-perishables.
Find All of the Pairs for Your Tupperware
It’s always a pain having to rife through bowls and lids looking for the right pair. Try to match Tupperware with their lids and discard any odds-and-ends that you have leftover.
Keep Double-Duty Kitchenware
If you don’t use your cookware very often, consider keeping pieces that have double duty purposes.
Get Airtight Containers
Consider getting airtight containers to help preserve foods. The Container Store has a section dedicated to airtight containers so that you can safely store anything from flour to deli and pickled foods
Hold On To Clothes You’re Not Sure About
When sorting through your clothes, it may be tempting to get rid of everything at once and be done with it. However, hold on to pieces you’re on the fence about for a while, just in case you end up missing it. After all, what’s the point in throwing something away only having to replace it soon after?
Sell or Donate Clothes
Once you’ve decided on what clothing to give away, you can discard it in multiple ways. If you’re looking for some extra cash, you could sell it on eBay, Craigslist or have a yard sale.
You could also donate your clothing to somewhere like Goodwill or Salvation Army. But make sure that your clothing is still in fairly good condition. Around 40% of Goodwill’s don’t make it into their aisles. Goodwill suggests that you imagine if you’d feel comfortable giving your clothes to relatives as a way of judging the clothes’ condition.
Some brands offer textile-recycling programs. Some company programs include: Madewell’s program turns old jeans into housing insulation; Reformation’s program receives shipped women’s/children’s clothing, handbags, shoes, and fashion jewelry; Nike takes back any brand of exercise shoes at their store locations; H&M accepts any textiles, even odd socks or worn-out t-shirts
Recycle Cosmetics and Beauty Products
Have makeup that you don’t use anymore? Several companies such as Lush, Keihl’s, and Origins take back their old packaging.
But it doesn’t have to be just makeup. Terracycle works with a variety of different brands to recycle the company’s packaging and used products, from makeup to toothpaste to shampoo. All you need to do is sign up online, print out a label, and ship your old products. Terracycle offers points that can be redeemed for charitable gifts or a payment to a school or non-profit of your choice.
Throwing Out Unused or Expired Medication
It’s easy to accumulate medication from various doctors. Most medications are safe to throw in the trash or flush. If you’re unsure, the FDA provides a list of certain medications that are detrimental to the environment. These are best dropped off at a take-back site or through a similar program. However, the FDA recommends flushing or trashing the medication if you have no other options to prevent kids or pets from getting into your prescriptions. Make sure to scratch any personal information on the bottles before you recycle them.
Washing Shower Curtains
One of my least favorite parts about cleaning the bathroom is tackling the shower curtains. If yours are plastic, it may be tempting to just throw them out and get new ones. However, many shower curtains, including the plastic ones, are machine-washable. Home Depot has a guide for pre-treating and washing your shower curtains, both by machine and by hand. Take out your curtains and throw them in the washer before cleaning your bathroom.
What Stays in the Laundry Room
The laundry room tends to accumulate an assortment of things, often acting as an extra storage space. When clearing out the laundry room, make a point of deciding what will stay there and what needs to be stored somewhere else.
Get Rid of Spare Socks
Go through your old socks and find pairs, and get rid of any that are still missing a “mate.” I personally like to use a mesh bag when washing smaller socks so that I don’t lose any.
Use Vertical and Small Spaces
Laundry rooms, although essential, are often on the small side. To deal with this, utilize vertical space and install shelves or hooks, even a mop/broom holder. Take advantage of nooks and crannies as well and get a small roller cart for detergents or a foldable drying rack for clothes that need to be air-dried.
Save Spare Change
A lot of times you may find a spare change in your pockets. Have a jar or piggybank in the room where you can toss any loose coins.
Have any leftover paint from a DIY project that you don’t need anymore or that has gone bad? Lowe’s has a guide on how to properly dispose of both latex and oil-based paint. Their page also gives suggestions on how to properly store paint and to tell when the paint has gone bad.
Donate or Recycle Unneeded Tools
Remember that just about anything can be donated! The Conservation Foundation gives your used tools to prisons for inmates that are learning new skills. Afterward, the tools are given to schools. If you’re looking for something a bit closer or have broken/unusable equipment, Recyclewhere has a database https://www.recyclewhere.org/role/garden-tools where you can search for recycling sites by county.
Repurpose Your Tools
Just because a tool is old or broken doesn’t mean it can’t still make your lawn look great! DIY Crafts has a great list s of ways that old tools can be repurposed as decorations.
You may have old phones or laptop that is on its last legs. It may be easy to throw all of this away in the trash, but e-waste is a rising problem in terms of pollution. Instead, take old electronics to an e-waste recycling plant. It’s also great for those odd items you don’t know what to do with, such as CDs or printer ink cartridges. They usually require a small fee for taking your old electronics to cover costs. Most states have a website for e-waste recycling plant locations and what items they take.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s the importance of cleanliness and being sanitary. Even if we aren’t able to go out as much, we should still make efforts to make our living space into a clean and safe environment.