Quick, Not Dirty: Four Projects You Can Do in 45 Minutes

Four ways to deep clean and declutter your space.

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Welcome to "Quick, Not Dirty," cleaning and organizing projects from expert Jolie Kerr. These discrete jobs are easy to pick off and will earn you the satisfaction of seeing a task to completion without an enormous amount of effort. (Read previous columns here.)

Do you ever have a day where you don't feel like leaving the house, not out of laziness but because the weather is frightful or because the thought of having to interact with another human being is more than you can bear? I don't mind admitting that I do! On those days, I like to survey my domain to identify a task in need of doing that will help me justify a day spent indoors. These are the kinds of projects that may not be high on your psyched-to-do list but that are well worth the time investment to make your life and your home less chaotic and more lovely.

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Mail-Pile Triage

It's tempting to fool ourselves into thinking that in this, our golden digital age, piles of bills, magazines, and catalogs are no longer a thing that plague humanity.

Not so. Lennys, may I level? This one is so personal for me. I'm drowning in catalogs. Dear Scully & Scully catalog, you are so lovely, but from whence did you come? And would it be possible to get buyer data on the Sleek Black Walking Sticks? I must know who is buying these beauties.

Instead of suffering under the yoke of unwanted mailings and a recycling bin in constant need of emptying, I finally sat down one day with a pile of catalogs that I'd been setting aside for just this purpose, and set about unsubscribing myself from them. Should you feel moved to do the same, here are some tips to get you on your way.

Bills: You know that one stray bill you've been meaning to convert from paper to electronic? Go ahead and do it now. I'll wait.

Catalogs: Catalog Choice can unsubscribe you from even the most insidious mailers (I'm looking at you, Pottery Barn). Are you more of an app kind of gal? PaperKarma allows you to snap a photo of the offending junk-mail label and will contact the mailer to remove you from its list.

Magazines: Head straight to the magazine's website, where you'll find instructions for canceling subscriptions in the customer-service or frequently-asked-questions section of the site.

Credit-Card Offers: Use OptOutPrescreen to remove yourself from unsolicited preapproved credit-card-offer lists.

Miscellaneous Junk: Sign yourself up for the National Do Not Mail List.

Personal Mail: It's nice to get personal mail, but it's also worth acknowledging that there's a cap on how long you should allow it to linger willy-nilly in your home. Thank-you notes, holiday cards, birthday wishes — they're all lovely, but unless they're especially sentimental, give yourself a time limit for how long you'll hold on to them. A day? A week? A month? All are fair. Just pick a window that seems reasonable to you and be diligent about purging (or filing, if you plan to keep it) personal mail before it becomes clutter.

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Deep Clean the Fridge

You know those fake holidays like National Pet Your Dog Day and National Eat a Pound of Bacon Day? They're fun and all — who doesn't love petting a dog, or eating a pound of bacon?! (Cat lovers and vegans, I suppose.) But they're made-up and, often, are just marketing schemes created by brands like Iams or IHOP. There is, however, one very real "national holiday" that occurs on a specific day, for a specific, if terribly United States–centric, reason: November 15 is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day, falling as it does just before Thanksgiving to account for the demands the holidays make of your icebox.

Now, you don't have to wait until November 15! Regardless of when you decide to tackle the fridge, here are a few tips that will help you on your way.

1. Take everything out. Everything. All of it. Nope, don't leave the bottle of ketchup in the door, or the box of baking soda on the bottom shelf in the back. Everything comes out. Highly perishable items can be stashed in the freezer or a cooler while you scrub.

2. The choice of cleaning product, whether it's a commercial all-purpose cleaner, a white-vinegar solution, or diluted bleach, is entirely up to you and what you feel comfortable using in a place where you keep food.

3. You should, however, get yourself a Dobie Pad, which is super handy for scrubbing dried-on splatters and spills without scratching the plastic interior of your fridge.

4. You can (and should!) wash removable shelves and crisper drawers the same way you would dishes, using dish soap and hot water. If your kitchen sink isn't big enough to accommodate such an operation, the bathtub is a good alternative. If you have outdoor space that allows for it, shelves and drawers can also be hosed off.

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5. For spills that have congealed egregiously, make a compress of sorts by wetting a rag, sponge, or thick stack of paper towels with very hot water, wringing it out, and pressing it on the sticky substance. Repeat as needed until the spill begins to loosen, then wipe it up.

6. Before putting condiments back, wipe off the exterior of bottles and tighten the caps (you may also want to open infrequently used jars to check for mold!)

If you feel so inclined, we would be tickled if you'd share before and after photos with us, like this set that a reader who wishes to remain anonymous granted us permission to share with you. If you'd like to share your own set, email me at joliekerr@gmail.com, tweet photos to me @joliekerr, or tag me on Insta @joliekerr. We may even feature the fruits of your fridge-cleaning endeavors on Lenny's Instagram account!

God, isn't that so satisfying?!

Clean and Style a Bookshelf

Now that it's winter, many of us look forward to getting back in touch with our inner indoor kid. You know, the one who much prefers to have her nose stuck in a book while the other kids are outside making mud pies? Sure you do, and if you identify with that description so hard, have I got a project for you!

Cleaning and styling a bookshelf is a straightforward endeavor, but it's still a process — and a dirty one, at that. Books, and the shelving in which we store them, are dust magnets, so be prepared for this to be a grimy job. And because the shelves themselves get so dirty, like scrubbing out a refrigerator, doing a thorough cleaning of a bookshelf requires that you remove everything from its place, rather than trying to clean around things.

Other than that one piece of advice, there's not much to a shelf-cleaning project. But here's a list of what the order of operations may look like:

● Gather your supplies, such as rags or dusting cloths, dusting spray (if using), and a vacuum.

● Take a photo of the current arrangement if you plan to re-create it.

● Remove all books and knickknacks from shelves.

● If it's a freestanding unit, move shelves away from the wall so that you can dust from the top down and vacuum the floor underneath and behind the unit.

● If you need or want to pare down your collection, assess what you've got by first grouping like items together, then systematically deciding what stays and what goes.

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● Wipe dusty books with a rag or dusting cloth.

Now comes the fun part, because once your shelves are clean and bare, you can begin putting everything back in a way that pleases you. How you style your bookshelf is entirely up to you, and one of the great joys of this kind of project is getting to spend some time with your beloved books and the collection of shiny dimes that makes no sense but brings you joy nonetheless and those decorative geodes that remind you of your great-aunt Linda's house, with its conversation pit and creeping spider plants.

Deep Clean the Tub, Shower, and Grout

Now that you've spent so much time with your book collection, remembering old favorites and digging out titles you always meant to get around to, wouldn't it be nice to grab one of those tomes and settle into a lovely bubble bath with some reading? Sure! Except maybe your tub isn't looking so inviting? I can help with that.

Doing a deep clean of your tub, shower, and surrounding grout isn't complicated, but let me be really straight with you and tell you that it is hard work. You will sweat, is what I'm trying to warn you of. You'll also get a pretty righteous shoulder and back workout, so that's nice.

For this endeavor, you should invest in a good scrub brush (Casabella and Rubbermaid are brands that offer a variety of scrub brushes for bathroom cleaning) and a heavy-duty cleaning product — save the tea-tree oil for regular cleaning, and opt for a more powerful product, like X-14 or Zep, that will do a lot of the work for you. Not all bathrooms have the same needs, so instead of going into super detailed instructions on how to clean grout, or glass shower doors, or a porcelain tub versus a fiberglass one, I'm going to leave you this link, in which you will hopefully find answers to every bath-cleaning quandary you may encounter, and some you hopefully never will.

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. Her weekly column "Ask a Clean Person" appears on esquire.com, and its companion podcast is available on Acast, iTunes, and Stitcher.

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