Forty friends and neighbors rejoiced over a festive potluck, games of pool and Wii dancing, with Denise Litzelman as their hostess last week. Eleven of those guests also bunked in her four-bedroom Matthews home – six of them for a week.
Now the seasonal soundtracks are off loop as she and thousands across the nation trade jigs with friends in reindeer hats for tangos with mops, brooms and naked Christmas trees on their way to the curb.
The post-Noel cleaning ritual is in progress as we put our domiciles – and our lives – in order for the new year.
A tidy castle is considered essential, in some cultures, for good fortune in the months ahead. Getting it all done, though, can feel like drudgery, no matter where you’re from.
“If you look at your home (after the guests scatter), it’s overwhelming,” said Litzelman, owner of Merry Maids of Mecklenburg and Union counties, with her daughter, Jennifer Litzelman.
“The biggest thing is having a system and being organized,” Litzelman said. “Take one room or one task at a time.”
The disarray is but a momentary obstacle in Litzelman’s journey toward New Year’s sparkle, which involves lots of help from friends and family.
Her floors will twinkle with errant glitter and manufactured snow before the tree trimmings and garlands are back in their bins. She’ll move the decorations to one room and close the door. Later, she’ll sort those items into bins and move them to the attic.
She’ll wipe down the mantel, windowsills, mirrors and picture frames. Then the vacuum cleaner will make an entry for a slow, steady whir through each room. Move too fast, she said, and the needles of a fresh tree are guaranteed to clog almost any machine.
Reworking the pantry also was a must, to make a place for the goodies guests dropped off – many fine replacements for all the ingredients that have disappeared from those same kitchen shelves.
She’ll move everything from the countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms, and scrub from one spot around to the next. The glass cooktop will get its gleam back, as will the showers.
“Let your products do the work for you,” she said. “Squirt the things on the toilet or the shower. Vinegar will do so many things. It’s nice to mix it with water and spray it.”
She’ll will make a final pass through the house with a spray bottle of carpet stain remover and give the hardwood floors a damp mopping. Her 16-month-old granddaughter was especially good at making colorful arrangements on the kitchen floor.
Litzelman’s most important rule is to choose things to toss out of every room.
“I do go through cabinets and I think if I haven’t used it, I’m going to get rid of it,” she said. “I do the same thing with my attic. I do my pantry and my spices religiously. I do that once a quarter.”
Keep it simple
Sabrina Fierman is a kindred spirit. She takes housecleaning to a level that would satisfy the most obsessive germaphobe, and she has an eye for artsy tools of the trade.
“We come in with a crew and clean from top to bottom,” said Fierman, 45, vice president of Little Elves, a New York cleaning firm used by many designers and contractors. “From ceilings to lights to baseboards to hardware. We pull drawers out and clean behind them. We use Q-tips and chopsticks wrapped with cotton rags to get into vents and grilles.”
She has plenty of advice on the subject of how to make a home a glow. It just makes sense to make the extra effort as you box up the decorations.
To start, she said, you don’t need lots of specialized cleaners. Unless you’re disinfecting, she said, “you can almost clean the whole home with liquid Ivory soap or Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap.”
Include paper towels on your list of tools for rubbing out grime. And know that when it comes to paper towels, they aren’t all created equal. “We only use Bounty,” she said, “because it doesn’t disintegrate, fall apart, shed or leave fibers behind. If you’re cleaning with a paper towel that falls apart, you’re just creating more work.”
Having the right tools for the job is crucial, she emphasized. “It’s like anything else: It’s easier to cut a steak with a good, sharp knife, and it’s easier to get a good cleaning job done with the right products.”
Shopping for a few essentials, she started at Basics Plus, where she admired the Miele vacuums. “You want to have a really good vacuum – that’s critical,” she said. “Miele is like the Mercedes of vacuums: German, well-made and very attractive.”
But she was also impressed with a cheaper tool: the Sparkle scrub sponges from Casabella. “These are so cool,” she said, examining the way the metallic sheen reflected light. “Maybe they’ll get your kids to do the cleaning.”
At Bed Bath & Beyond, she picked out the OXO Good Grips dustpan and brush set. “Remember those old metal dustpans where you couldn’t get things over the lip? Well, I have this and it’s very good,” she said, showing off the dustpan’s flexible rubber lip. “When it gets dirty, you just run it under water.”
And online, she marveled at the WC Line from Kontextur, an unusually beautiful collection of objects considering the functions they serve: plunger, toilet brush and waste bin. “People usually cringe when they see those things,” she said.
The only drawback, she added, is “they’re so attractive that you might not want to use them for the job.” Tim McKeough of The New York Times contributed.
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