Spring Forward

The time of renewal and celebration is upon us, so here are some ways to help you get in the spirit of the season.

March 18, 2001|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

March is a deceptive month. Maybe it's how early it gets light. Or the forsythia budding on bare branches. But even if the weather is frightful, we know spring is just around the corner. After all, the vernal equinox, when night and day are the same length, is only a couple of days away. (The official start of spring falls on March 20 this year.) So in honor of the season of renewal and celebration, here are some suggestions for cleaning your home and garden, and preparing yourself -- body and soul -- for the good times to come.

Celebrating spring is easy. Buy yourself a big bunch of bright yellow daffodils to start.

Renewal is more problematic. Having a facial. Yes. Good. Spring cleaning? Ugh.

When you think about it, spring cleaning is just a bad idea. How many of us really want to spend a nice spring day cleaning house? We should do a fall cleaning, just before we're going to be spending our time indoors for the next six months.

Still, there is something very satisfying about having at least one small part of the house renewed, so we asked five cleaning professionals to recommend the one chore that would make the most difference. If you did only one of these, you could still feel good about your spring cleaning and then move on with your life:

Polish. Laurel Stevens of Maid to Order in Towson likes the house to sparkle in spring. She recommends polishing both furniture (her crews use lemon oil) and silver. "Use a toothbrush to get in the crevices," she advises.

Woodwork. People dust furniture all the time, says Carla Freburger of Merry Maids in Perry Hall, but how often do they move furniture to clean the baseboards, get fingerprints off the door frames, and wash down the window sills? Vacuum and then wet wipe. For greatest efficiency, work top to bottom and left to right.

Windows. Lynn Smith of Clean as a Whistle in Ellicott City uses an ammonia-based cleaner and rags to wash windows and a squeegee to dry them.

Carpets. Ken Pukanich, president of howtocleananything.com (a Web site for free cleaning information), thinks that from a health standpoint, cleaning your carpets is most important. They gather dust, dirt, mildew, mold and other allergens all winter and need deep-

extraction cleaning at least once a year. (You can hire someone or rent a machine at supermarkets or home-improvement centers.) "Then opening the windows to let fresh air circulate to dry the carpet will make any house smell fresh and clean throughout," he adds.

* De-clutter. It's not exactly cleaning, but Annie Berthold-Bond is right when she says, "Nothing is more discouraging than having stuff everywhere."

As a bonus Berthold-Bond, the author of "Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living" (Three Rivers Press, 1999), shares this recipe for a spring-cleaning non-abrasive scrub: Mix half a cup of baking soda with enough liquid soap to give it the texture of frosting. Scoop onto a sponge and use for porcelain or counters.

While you're at it, your yard may need a little spring cleaning too -- before you start gardening seriously. Make sure the lawn is thoroughly raked, clean out winter-

damaged branches and clear away leaves from the base of shrubs. Keep an eye out for those little bits of trash you didn't bother picking up in the dead of winter. You'll be surprised at how neat your yard can look without much work.

Now on to more important things.

Spring fever

Spring is a good time to start taking better care of yourself. Resolutions are traditionally made on New Year's Day (and broken a few days later in the misery of winter). But spring is just as important a time to change your life for the better; and it's easier to keep a resolution when the sun is shining.

We're not just talking about doing a hundred sit-ups a day to strengthen your abs, but something a little more spiritual.

Theresa Mueller, owner of Touch the Earth, a local holistic shop that specializes in aromatherapy and massage therapy, has made these resolutions for spring, any of which you can adopt for your own:

* Find some new things that make you joyful.

* Surround yourself with people who make you laugh.

* Breathe more deeply.

* Work less, play more.

* Keep fresh flowers in the house.

As for her last resolution, maybe you don't have any flowering bulbs in your garden, or maybe you don't have a garden. But nothing will lift your spirits like fragrant spring flowers. Bring home a brightly colored bunch from the florist or buy the potted hyacinths, tulips, lilies or daffodils that have appeared in advance of Easter. If you don't want to spend much money, nice, inexpensive ones are available at the supermarket.

Spring forward

Spring flowers will make you happy; getting in better shape will make you even happier. Not all of us are going to try to fit into a teeny-weeny itsy-bitsy polka-dot bikini this summer, but all of us could benefit from shedding our winter slothfulness, getting out and doing something aerobic.

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