Cleaning for Spring (as if that makes it come sooner)

The weather this winter in Italy has been hard to predict, unless I predict “drizzle” and then I’m right sixty percent of the time. I’ve found that the best way to know if the day is going to be nice is to look across to my neighbors and see if they’re hanging out sheets, tablecloths, and more laundry. Then I know we’ll have nice weather at least for a few hours. Otherwise I’ll be drying my laundry inside over the bed rails.

It has been so cold living in this old building. We have radiators (but we don’t control the thermostat), and we have a couple of electric heaters, but we try to be conservative with them. What a difference modern windows and caulk can make! We’ve piled and stacked up our blankets and pillows around the door frames to keep out the cold wind, and that did help. I used to gaze enviously at vintage windows with architectural charm and think how grand they were. With the weather being cold, I now look at our arched windows and all I can think is “drafty.” My life is going to change with the spring. It starts on Sunday, you know that, right? I can’t wait.

I can’t wait to throw open the doors and windows every day without thinking about losing precious heat. I want to air everything out.

This is the vacuum we’ve been using. Just like everything else in our apartment, it has its own personality. The hose is held on by masking tape. It rolls around on wheels like a little robot. It works much better now than it did before since we took it apart and cleaned out the inside. Do you know how to make your vacuum work better? You need to clean it out at least once a year. It makes a huge difference.

Next on my list is to clean some of the buildup in the kitchen of residue from the gas burners on the stove. And maybe clean the windows too.

A few helpful posts related to spring cleaning:

Cleaning Products: Are you spending more than needed?

My Top 5 Cleaning “Ah-Ha” Moments

Easy Home Improvement Projects Anyone Can Do

I know it will be a few more weeks before the weather warms up, but I’m ready for it.

What’s on your spring cleaning list?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. The electricity bill was horrendous when we were in Florence, but those windows were charming. We definitely shifted to relying less on mechanical heating and cooling and more blankets, using the shutters etc. We’ll be back and staying in the Oltrarno at the end of April either just up from Porta Romana toward Arcetri, or on Via dei Serragli just south of the river- if you’re still around.
    Tepary´s last post…Language of Love

  2. Michelle says:

    I am really enjoying reading about your Italian adventure…masking taped hoses and all. You are a VERY good sport…:)

  3. I want to be able to travel and live in other places, even for shorter stays, but more than a vacation. Going and staying in an American resort may be *nice* but you don’t get to experience the life of the people in the country you are visiting.
    I think it is awesome that you are able to immerse your family in this culture, drafty wndows and all!
    And Spring will be here very soon, and think how lovely that will be!
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Just how lucky are you

  4. I can’t wait for posts about spring in Italy. Which US state has temps that are most similar to those in Italy?

    • I don’t know, I haven’t lived in very many states, and it depends on where you are in Italy. Southern Italy is much warmer than here in Florence.

      • Lily (from Italy) says:

        You’ll regret cool weather when it’s summer, I’m afraid… Florence is terrible.

        • Everybody complains about the weather no matter where they are. I am in Chicago and my younger daughter in Iowa. Both of us are whining about how cold it is in April. Hubby in India and daughter no.1 is in Phoenix complaining about how hot it is in April. LOL

  5. Oh, I love it that you can predict the weather by watching what your neighbors do. It makes me think of an old Italian woman who knows what’s the day going to be like, just by watching the birds or something.

    I hope it will be warmer soon! I’m sure it will though, the weather here in the Netherlands is getting better as well and the weather in Italy is always a lot better then ours, so you will be fine in two weeks, I promise ;)
    Maaike Quinn @ Life with FlyLady´s last post…Your Morning Routine should make you happy

  6. By the way, have you been to Siena and Lucca yet? If not, go immediately!! :D
    Maaike Quinn @ Life with FlyLady´s last post…Your Morning Routine should make you happy

  7. Doug and Marie in BC says:

    Rachel, old Doug in BC Canada here…check out Kyle Phillips in Florence, he is an American living there with his Italian wife who
    is a Doctor, and their children. He writes About.Com and I have been on his list for quite a few years.
    Glad you kids are enjoying Italy!

  8. On my spring cleaning list: under the beds in both bedrooms. Ick.
    Katherine@YeOldCollegeTry´s last post…60 Minutes

  9. Marchelle says:

    I am a student living in Paris, and for all of last year I had a vacuum whose hose was “attached” by duct tape, but every time I went to pick up the hose, it fell apart. Eventually, I gave up on the vacuum altogether and only used the broom and dustpan!

    Welcome to Europe!

  10. Oh man, it all sort of turns into a great adventure when it’s a short-term proposition, doesn’t it? I love the way you bow to your neighbors’ wisdom, eyeing their laundry to gauge the weather! I don’t know why I find that so sweet, but I do. Thanks as always for sharing your experience over there.
    Maggie @ Maggie’s Nest´s last post…Snapshots of Home

  11. Haven’t tackled spring cleaning yet – but I have indulged in very inexpensive bunches of daffodils. I’ve got a small vase full of them on my desk right now, and their cheeriness is being enjoyed by me and my co-workers who walk by and stop to admire them. Ahh, a bit of spring indoors.

    • I’m heading home for a round of spring cleaning..and will be stopping in for daffodils!

  12. vermontmommy says:

    Funny how even on vacation Mamas are cleaning. :)

  13. We had a vacuum like that for the longest time. I was so afraid it was going to electrocute me as the cord was all mangled and taped together! The hose was practically made of duck tape by the time we tossed it!

    Your mention of cleaning out the vacuum reminded me of another trick. Seth takes our laptops apart and uses an air pump to blow out the dust. You can also use a can of compressed air, or a blower. When he puts the computers back together they run so much faster and quieter. Our laptops are over 5 years old and running great thanks to this!
    Frances´s last post…Sweet Cabbage

  14. I absolutely love your laundry picture! We lived in Mexico years ago and I know what you mean about the drafty houses. The houses down there were not built to keep out any cold. You wouldn’t think about getting cold in Mexico, but when it got in the 50s during the winter, that was the temperature in our house, as well. On my list for spring cleaning, cleaning out all the dirty windowsills and figuring out how to get rid of all the box elder bugs which are appearing in my daughter’s bedroom!
    Jenny W´s last post…Say “No” to Junk Mail and the Target Giveaway

  15. so much on my spring cleaning list! i just finished a catch all closet and it feels so good to be done… now to sell some of the stuff i took out of it that we don’t need. i also want to go through the kids’ closets again, specifically toys, games, and puzzles. i also need to do a deeper cleaning of kitchen cabinets. i have a lot to do! last spring i was still feeling terrible pregnant.
    Charis´s last post…proverbs- how to become a fool

  16. I’ve got to start spring cleaning too! There is a terrible lot to be done in my appartment!
    If you have some trick on how to clean baked-on oil from the aluminum flame spreader of my gas stove, I would be grateful! ;-)

  17. Not about spring cleaning, just the place of understanding of how it can feel so cold in Europe! We moved from Germany to Portugal to be warmer, and it is most of the year of course. The unexpected was the less insulated housing and less efficient heating here! I still wear the same clothes as in Germany!

    A couple things we learned there that you may have already been doing in the US, especially for children: Put baby onesies or undershirts under all their clothes (and yours too!). We also saw how boys and girls wore tights under their jeans every day. These things helped tremendously. I bought my first pair of fleece lined boots there and am so glad I did. But hopefully you will not be needing those for a long while–enjoy the hope of spring coming!
    Jenni´s last post…At the End of the Rainbow Rice

  18. I bet cleaning in a new place, in a foreign country is more fun than cleaning at home (ie where I’ve lived for 15 years)…for a while, anyhow. Any new place is exciting when I’m still in my ‘nesting’ phase – figuring things out, finding places for things. Old buildings are much colder, mind. I love my double glazing and my radiators just now, but I’ll be pea-green with envy once you get warm weather! I hope you’ll post one day about how you found your place. Our goal is to spend summers in warmer places than NorthEast England and Bill is currently dreaming about buying a small RV. Not sure that’s the best way to go, but it does keep us flexible…
    Shelley´s last post…French Impressions

  19. Our farmhouse is a bit more than 110 years old and it’s easier to keep warm by wearing layers as opposed to turning up the heat. I hate that oil bill! In the summer, the high ceilings and fans help keep the temps lowered.
    When we first moved here and were in process of renovations, I would hang quilts and heavy blankets over doors leading to the outside. It was a challenge but wouldn’t change it for the earth.

  20. I can’t wait to fling open doors and Windows too…a person starts to feel so confined after a long dreary winter…I love looking at your pictures and reading your blog, to travel is one of my most favorite things!

  21. What are the day and night temperatures? I suspect Italy “cold” is quite different than Canada “cold.” I was thrilled to wake up to 9C here in Canada’s capital.
    Slackerjo´s last post…Naked!

  22. How much you are having! I’ve been in Paris and its the same – will it rain or won’t it? You might want to try hanging quilts over the doorframes and windows – this is standard in the colder parts of China and it makes a difference…although not sure how you would get them up without making holes??? Looking forward to more of your Italian adventure! :)
    Also, how is Doug enjoying his break from work? Perhaps he could give us some ideas about what its like to take such a break? :)
    angelvalerie´s last post…living in the past…

  23. Lily (from Italy) says:

    Double glass windows rule :P

  24. We hear ya on the cold! Our bedroom stays in the high 50’s and we’re lucky if we can get it up to 63′ in the livingroom area! The joy of high ceilings, right?

    I can’t wait to get out there and clean the windows! Living in Seattle it seems like such a pointless thing to do, but when it is done and on the rare occasion the sun is shining, it makes such a difference!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…The Babymoon and The Gender Is

  25. Oops, I forgot to mention my spring cleaning list. First things first: I’m getting my kitchen in order! Yesterday I cleaned our fridge and today…well, today I made lots of food. Because I just couldn’t help myself. :) This week the plan is to tackle a cabinet a day, sorting what we do and don’t use, and organizing so that everything has a home.
    Maggie @ Maggie’s Nest´s last post…Recipe- Coconut Flour Bread

  26. We live in the Netherlands, and I do the same thing to predict the weather! The neighbors laundry hanging is just about the best predictor I have. But our weather changes so often, even in a couple hours, that I’ve gotten caught with laundry still on the line when it starts raining. Oh well, such is life. Oh, and we have a combination microwave convection oven thing, but when we turn on the convection oven part it shorts the whole first floor. Adventures in foreign living!
    Tracey´s last post…FUNDAY MONDAY

  27. Rachel, your comment about the old windows being drafty made me think of the many beautiful old farmhouses around me in New England. When we were looking for a house a couple years ago, we considered a beautiful Greek Revival house with tall ceilings and a ton of character. It was within our price range, but all I could think about looking at those high ceilings was all of our heating money floating up there. In the end, we decided on an early 80’s house that is very warm and cozy. And when you live in a region that doesn’t warm up consistently until mid-May, you definitely go for cozy over charm!

  28. I have to mention in my spring cleaning. First of all, I mean kitchen in order! Clean our fridge yesterday and today … Well, today I have a lot of food. Because I could not help me.