Joy of Cleaning When your house - or your life - is a mess, author and house cleaner Joy Krause knows how to mop it all up.

March 29, 1998|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Sun Staff

Sometimes when you're facing a really monumental task, the biggest obstacle is simply figuring out where to start.

Joy Krause has an answer - whether it's giving your house a good spring cleaning or getting your life in order.

You start at the top.

"To look at a big mess and try to figure out where to start is overwhelming to most people," she said recently from her home in Florida.

Krause, 51, is an expert at starting out and starting over. She was 27 when her first marriage ended, leaving her with not a lot of education, no job skills, no money and two small children. Her new life began with an ad in her local paper in Rhode Island: "Cleaning lady for hire. Windows included."

In time, the tiny business based in Krause's truck grew to an establishment with an office, more than two dozen employees and hundreds of regular clients. Along the way, Krause climbed a mountain with her son, remarried and divorced, and took some time off to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a lounge singer in New York .

She also learned that dust often covers heartache, that fame and fortune have their drawbacks, that life has good chapters and bad chapters and that you can't get to the former by skipping over the latter.

Her experiences are related in her new book, "Spring Cleaning for the Soul: Love Lessons for Life" (Abbondanza! 1998, $9.95). Krause's uniquely intimate perspective allowed her to observe people in their homes, without the masks they might put on for society. Instead of becoming cynical, as might have happened, she developed great sympathy for the messes that people get into and don't know how to get out of - starting with their homes. The book reflects both her encyclopedic knowledge of the cleaning business and her philosophic ability to draw life lessons from her work.

"We did a huge spring and fall cleaning business," she said. "Our business tripled. People would call up and say, 'Help, we don't know where to start.'" And some people would get started, then become overwhelmed. "They'd call in the middle and have us come in and finish."

Although "every season has its cleaning challenges," Krause said, spring is the time when dirt and clutter get noticed the most - "when you open the windows and let light in."

Working systematically

She and her team developed a system for battling grime, always moving from top to bottom and from left to right. "First you move all the furniture away from the walls and dust the walls with a dust mop - or if you don't have a dust mop, wrap a rag around a broom."

One of their secrets was to vacuum twice: once after the walls are dusted - "the room gets full of dust, and it just takes a minute" to vacuum it up - and again at the end.

"The next thing we tackle is the woodwork," she said. Then, with the furniture out of the way, "this is the time when you can see any marks on the wall" and get rid of them. "If it's a wood floor, this is a good time to get the floor behind the furniture and under the bed."

The next step is cleaning the wood furniture. Spray the cleaner on the cloth, and use another cloth to buff, Krause said. "Otherwise you're just spreading dirty wax around."

She uses glass cleaner for mirrors and knickknacks. "You can take everything off of dressers and tables and put them in the sink to wash, or just damp-wipe them."

Finally, go over hardwood floors with a damp mop, and vacuum again. "Then you back out of the room and shut the door and lock it and don't let anyone in," she said, with a laugh.

The best way to spring clean, of course, is not to do it all in the spring, but to space it out. That's one way to make the job less than overwhelming. "In my own home, I do one room a month," Krause said.

If even one room seems too tough, Krause said, start really small. "Just do a table." Evaluate every item on the surface. "Pick up each piece and ask yourself, what can I absolutely live without?" If you can't decide, Krause advises putting the item in a box and stashing it in the attic for six months: If you don't miss it, you probably don't need it.

Even the smallest cleaning task is worth doing, Krause says, because it can make you feel so good. "It really feels wonderful; it's freeing when it's all done.

"Living in a cluttered space numbs a person," she said. "It fills our vision and our mind," so we can't see the things that are really important.

And she's not just referring to the house. "It's the same thing when our lives are out of sync," she said. "We need to take stock, and to eliminate what isn't working for us."

It's just like starting with that one table. "Do it a little at a time. Maybe we need to take a look at what we're reading, what are we bringing into our minds? Maybe it's friends - maybe we need to spend less time with the ones that are taking up time and not contributing very much" to our lives.

It's not an easy process. "Some of the things in our lives that are not working have been there for a long time - and that could be people, maybe a relationship."

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