It’s that time of year again. Time to spring clean the cottages. After about fifteen years, we’ve finally got it down. Sort of. It’s a chore, for sure. It seems that I never, ever get to relax at any of my vacation homes, but there is something in the preparation for a new season that just is so enlightening (I admit it). But it’s exhausting, too. Every muscle aches when I fall asleep around 8pm. And I’m not even touching the yard work. I think I need to hire someone for that as there is no way I’m going to get to it this week.
This spring we have a divide and conquer strategy. Husband and son headed up to our Nova Scotia cottage and are opening it up (of course they left their to-do list on the kitchen counter so I am Facebook messenger-ing them chores two at a time). Daughter and I are tackling the two Maine houses…made extra complicated by having two dogs and a chicken underfoot.
Spring cleaning a rental cottage can be very cathartic. Note: CAN be. For a few years, before our cleaner moved to another province, we had her do a spring opening clean of our Nova Scotia cottage. That was a real treat because our spring trip to Novie is usually less than a week and the cottage usually needs some sort of extra work, so it was nice not having to spend half of our time there scrubbing down walls and floors.
I also have my closing up routine down pat up there, I’ve been doing it for so many years. In the fall, I take everything off of all of the shelves and out of the drawers and pack up the entire house in giant Rubbermaid bins. Then I pull out the kitchen drawers and store them elsewhere, so if mice do sneak in during the cold months, they can’t nest in the drawers. Then I cover everything …I mean everything… with waterproof tarps. If a critter does get in, it’s not a very comfortable place— no food, no heat, no soft nesting spots.
Since I’ve been doing that, we haven’t had a critter invasion (knock on wood). But spring cleaning is unpacking all of those Rubbermaid totes. Washing all of the kitchenware and putting it back on the shelves, washing all of the bed linens and duvets and hanging them on the line (we don’t have a clothes dryer there). Husband really is a great cleaner and he scrubs down the walls and ceilings and washes the windows. That cottage will be operating room clean when he’s done.
Down here in Maine, I’m doing the same for our two Maine cottages. In a way, they are easier because they are both kept open year-round and, as they are rented weekly even during the off season, they have the benefit of regular cleaning. But there are still the chores that don’t get done by the weekly cleaners — windows, (I hate washing windows), and cleaning the baseboards and all of those little crevices in the doors (one of my properties has antique doors) and pulling out the refrigerator and cleaning behind and things like that. I do more cleaning in my rental houses than I do in my own house — the only time I pull out my fridge to clean behind in my year-round house is when it’s not working and I need to pull it out for the repairman. But I have much higher standards for strangers (who almost always turn into friends) who stay at my properties.
Here’s my spring cleaning list:
1) Bathroom/Laundry Room:
- Scrub grout in tubs and showers.
- Clean every little crevice around toilets – evaluate if a new toilet seat is needed – come on, they’re only $10. If a stain can’t be cleaned, splurge on a new one.
- I replace the toilet brushes every year (.99 at Ikea).
- Evaluate all of the drains to make sure water is draining properly.
- Clean inside, behind and under washer and dryer (you can usually make them look new with some elbow grease).
- Vacuum out lint trap.
- Inventory towels and washcloth and discard any that are stained or threadbare. Make a list to order new replacements.
- Pull out fridge and vacuum coils and clean behind and under, clean on top of fridge.
- Clean inside of fridge and freezer – take out bins and wash them.
- Take knobs off of stove and wash.
- Take any burner pans off stove and wash.
- Clean the oven. I use a non-stick oven liner (similar to this one) which helps keep my oven clean throughout the rental season.
- Wash any vents and range hoods, changing any filters as needed.
- Wipe down outside of kitchen cabinets (and inside if needed).
- Take everything out of kitchen drawers and wash utensil holders and make sure there are no crumbs in drawers. Take inventory of utensils (I always end up with multiple corkscrews at the end of the season and once was surprised to have been left with only two forks).
- Take inventory of dishtowels, pot holders and other kitchen equipment that might need replacing (also check dishes, glasses, silverware, etc.).
- Make sure that toaster is crumb free!
- Take inventory of all linens — any sheets with stains or holes has to go. A rule of thumb for me is to have three sets of sheets per bed per season — one set on the bed, one set to swap it, and one spare in case one becomes damaged during the season.
- Wash all duvets, duvet covers and blankets (this past week I washed 10… and then a bird — yes, a bird — flew in through an open door and poo-ed on a clean cover so I had to re-wash one again. Only, me. I swear. Only me.)
- Wash all pillows and put on new pillow covers.
- Wash all mattress pads or replace if necessary. I like covering both the mattress and box spring with waterproof and bed bug-proof cover but then putting this inexpensive cover from Ikea on top — easy to take off and launder or even replace between guests if needed.
- (Depending on the size of your home, this can be quite time consuming and taxing on your home laundry and septic. I usually take a carload of duvets, blankets and other linens to the laundromat for the annual clean.)
- Wipe down all of the baseboards.
- Put a microfiber cloth on a broom handle, wipe down all of the ceiling fixtures, corners, ceiling fans, etc.
- Check ceiling light fixtures for dead bugs and replace lightbulbs while you’re at it.
- Change batteries in smoke and CO2 detectors.
- Wash windows (always on a cloudy day).
- Wipe down windowsills (don’t forget to open the windows and wipe down the exterior, too).
- If you have slipcovers, now is a good time to wash them, or at least hang them outside for awhile to air out. Same with throw pillows – bring them outside and get your aggressions house — slap them around a little.
- Shake out rugs or steam clean carpets.
- Inspect fire extinguishers to see if they need replacing.
- Restock supplies you will need for the upcoming season — kitchen sponges, dish soap, paper products, dish towels, soaps, shampoo, trash bags, etc.
5) Indoors and Out
- Go over everything with a fine-tooth comb and look for any safety issues. Are any railings or banisters that are loose? Are decks up to proper code? Do patios have bricks or stones popping up that guests can stumble across? Do outside (and inside) lights need to have lightbulbs replaced? Are outside lights with sensors working correctly?
- If you are waterfront, comb the waterfront area for trash and debris and repair or have repaired any docks or floats.
- Take a close exam of any outdoor equipment – kayaks, canoes, etc — are there personal safety devices, oars in good conditions? What about the grill and fire pit? All clean and in good working order?
- Check the condition of outdoor lawn furniture – clean and replace if necessary.
- Check window screens – wash if needed.
- Replace welcome mats – they are the first thing that will welcome your guests to your home.
- Besides the super important changing the batteries in the smoke and CO2 detectors, also change the batteries in the television remote controls and all battery operated alarm clocks (as well as battery operated combination door locks).
- And finally, pour yourself a glass of wine or some seltzer and enjoy a beautiful Maine sunset knowing that you’ve put in a good day’s work and guest’s will leave you glowing reviews about the cleanliness about your special retreat.