Spring in to Action
Embrace the chance to give rooms a mood-boosting revamp. TV's Amanda Lamb tells Gabrielle Fagan how to make light work of the dreaded chore...
Be honest, are you really itching to flick the dusters, beat a trail with a broom, and generally blitz your home?
Take heart if the answer's 'no', because only a virtuous third of us perform the traditional spring cleaning ritual, according to research by Mintel. That presumably means the rest of us are suffering from spring-cleanitis, a little-known allergy to rolling up your sleeves and getting down to the task.
But all that dust and muck that's gathered over winter is cruelly highlighted once the sun comes out.
Thankfully, TV presenter and property expert Amanda Lamb has an infinitely more positive solution.
"Instead of focusing on cleaning the whole house - which can feel daunting - I first regard this time of year as a perfect opportunity to refine what's in rooms, and generally re-evaluate my home," says the 42-year-old mum-of-two.
"I take stock of possessions, sort out those which can be stored away to free up space, and also de-clutter. Once that's done, it instantly transforms a space, and has the added bonus of making me feel less stressed and more relaxed.
"It also makes me ready and willing to start working out a spring clean plan," adds Lamb (pictured right), who lives in a three-storey Victorian townhouse in London.
She advises avoiding the rookie-cleaner mistake of trying to tackle all the rooms at once, which is exhausting, inefficient and guarantees spring-clean meltdown.
"Instead, work out which rooms need most attention and do only one at a time, and crucially, when you've finished, reward yourself with a 'room treat'," she says.
"It could be simply replacing a door handle or knobs on a chest with pretty new ones, or shaking up a wall with a display of prints, or filling a vase with fresh blooms."
Lamb, who's partnered with Air Wick to launch their new Life Scents home fragrance range, adds: "A new fragrance for a room - our sense of smell is our strongest sense - is also incredibly effective.
"Choose fragrances to suit the atmosphere of every room, so the moment you walk in, each smells fresh and appealing - proof of your hard work."
Follow Lamb's tips for a pain-free spring clean...
"Clear out a food cupboard and get rid of anything past a sell-by date, thoroughly clean shelves, and put in new lining sheets," says Lamb.
"Divider compartments in drawers stop contents ending up jumbled and hard to find and minimises clutter building-up."
Spring Kit: Lakeland's the destination for home solutions and plastic Linus Drawer Organisers start from £2.99 each. Its Metallic Shelf Liner, £7.99 a roll.
Cleaning materials stored in a transportable container will help speed up a dust and polish routine, and a blue Housekeeper Box, £24.99, from Dobbies stores, could give guests the idea you have Downton Abbey-style staff. Garden Trading has utility room essentials, ranging from a Rosehead Hook Rail, £32, to a Kitchen Bin and Mini Bin in fashionable charcoal grey, £45 and £22.
Slogans are so on-trend, and the 'It All Comes Out In The Wash' Laundry Basket, £16, Tesco, says it all, and could be calming if you're tearing your hair out over tackling boring jobs.
Room Treats: A Brabantia Orla Kiely Retro Bin, from £95, John Lewis, proves utility items can still be smart. I also love George Home's colourful retro-style collection, especially a 'Freshly Baked' Hanging Sign, £3; Jones Lemonade Bottle Wall Clock, £12; and cheery Rise & Shine Mugs, £5 for set of four, all available from Asda stores and online.
"Corners attract clutter and make rooms feel overcrowded and unloved, giving a general impression of mess and disorganisation. Clear them and empty surfaces of knick-knacks, books and accessories," says Lamb.
"With a couple of large boxes handy, gather everything into the middle of the room. Items you're keeping can be popped into one box, while those to give or throw away can go in the other.
"If a corner's always used as a dumping ground, equip it with a storage unit so at least it looks tidier. Before you put everything back, consider refreshing a display with new items - not all your collections have to be out at the same time - to give a room a lift. "Less is more is usually the golden rule, and small groups of treasures look more striking."
Smart Kit: A bamboo Sapporo Bookcase, £279, Marks & Spencer, is super-suitable for organising a messy room. Tech kit has a knack of littering surfaces but disappearing when it's needed. Make a start by rounding up chargers into a handy Chargers Box, £18.50, Garden Trading. Make a note of when you next need to blitz a room on a Cream Heart Memo Board, £14, Next.
Room Treats: Air Wick Life Scents Colour Change Candle, in Summer Delights, a blend of white flowers, melon and vanilla orchid, £7.99, available direct or from supermarkets including Asda and Sainsbury's. A Dickins & Jones Welly Boot Vase, from £16, House of Fraser, is a quirky touch which could lift your spirits.
"Free space in a wardrobe or chest by having a cull and putting winter clothes in store. To get rid of unwanted clothes - my cut-off point is if they've not left the hanger for two seasons. I have a 'grab and go' day; I lay them out and invite family and friends to take what they like, and then give the rest to charity."
Lamb also recommends vacuum-cleaning mattresses and renewing pillows. "Hold a pillow in the middle in the palm of your hand and if it flops to one side, it's time to throw it out," she says. Unruly bedlinen storage could be tamed with her other tip - fold matching sets and put them inside their corresponding pillowcase.
Spring Kit: Protective covers help keep a mattress clean and lengthen the life of pillows. Dunelm's Down Proof Zipped Pair Of Pillow Protectors, £5.99, and a Comfortzone Zoned Mattress Protector, from £14.99, should do the trick.
Room Treat: A bedroom chair often ends up invisible if it's a dumping ground for discarded clothes. A slim Jux Natural Beech Coat Stand, complete with mirror, £160, Habitat, could be the answer. Flowers brighten a room but fresh blooms aren't always suitable for a bedroom, or for those with allergies. A fake arrangement can look great, and a Faux Floral Mini Lavender, in a mesh basket, £8, available in stores from the By Sainsbury's range, is a pretty choice.