Who better than hotel housekeepers to guide us in cleaning thoroughly as well as efficiently?

By Patricia Doherty
May 05, 2020
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Now that we’re spending nearly all of our time at home, we’re face to face every day with those projects we’ve been putting off for lack of time. Well, now that time isn’t the issue for most of us — even if we’re working at home — what’s our excuse for avoiding that overflowing junk drawer or bulging closet? What about that “spring cleaning” project we’ve been thinking about? After all, the calendar says it’s now spring.

Would a bit of organization in our work area make things easier? Is it time to upgrade our bedrooms to make them more comfortable or appealing? Could the kitchen or bathroom cabinets stand a bit of attention? We’re here to help. Well, with advice anyway.

Travel + Leisure went to the professionals for tips on clearing clutter, organizing storage, and maintaining our newly streamlined closets and drawers. We also gathered cleaning ideas from experts on the housekeeping staff of luxury hotels. Who better than hotel housekeepers to guide us in cleaning thoroughly as well as efficiently?

Tips From Professional Organizers

Regina Lark, founder of A Clear Path in Los Angeles, suggests beginning with a cleanup project where there’s no emotional attachment. “Start with a junk drawer, for example, and give yourself a full hour. Set a timer. That will help you learn how much time is needed to accomplish tasks.”

Composed Living’s Elsa Elbert points out, now that we are all spending more time in our homes, it’s important that our surroundings are calm and supportive: “With many of us working from home, it is essential to create an organized space. Productivity will improve when your workspace is clutter-free and inspiring.”

Here are a few of their ideas to get you started.

Tidy the junk drawer.

Place a recycle bin and trash bin nearby, and set up a towel or old sheet and a bowl of sudsy water. Dump the contents of the drawer onto the towel and start sorting into keep, recycle, or trash. Keys, coins, and anything sticky goes into the water. Wipe the drawer and return what you want to keep. Think about using dividers or even Tupperware to keep contents organized.

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Tackle your clothes closet.

Start by taking everything out and creating piles by category — t-shirts, sweaters, etc. Once the space is empty, wipe the shelves and vacuum the floor. Matching hangers create a nice look. Elsa Elbert recommends velvet hangers if space is an issue or wood hangers if there’s room.

Next, go through each category and decide what you’ll keep. If you love it, it stays. “I don’t always follow the classic ‘if you haven’t worn it in six months rule,’ because so many of our items are seasonal or specialty, like a black tie dress,” Elbert says. Once you’ve sorted through the piles, put back what you’ve decided to keep.

Create a dedicated space for donations.

Parting with clothing or other objects will be easier knowing that someone else might be able to use them, so save usable items in one place for donations. Regina Lark suggests keeping a box for gifts that are not to your taste or are not useful. Every couple of months, take the box to Goodwill or another organization. You might also re-gift items to someone who would enjoy them.

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Organize your work space.

Keep all essentials nearby, such as chargers, notebooks, and pens. Spend a few minutes clearing off your desk at the end of your work day to give yourself a fresh start every morning. “I keep beautiful objects around me while I’m working in my office, like fresh flowers, a framed photo, favorite books, and crystals,” Elbert said. Start a work space cleanup by tossing chargers and cables you no longer use, pens that don’t write, and notes you don’t need.

Purge the pantry.

Tackle the Tupperware by making sure everything you keep has a lid. Store with the lids on if there’s space or nest containers and stand lids on their sides. Go through serving pieces, utensils, cookware, and bakeware, discarding any pieces that you don’t use. Store rarely used appliances in the back of cabinets. Purge the pantry, tossing expired food or donating unwanted items. Do the same with the refrigerator and freezer, discarding items that are expired or freezer burned.

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Don't forget a digital cleanup.

Take some time to clear unused apps, obsolete contacts, duplicate photos, and other unnecessary items from your phones, tablets, and computers. Organize photos into folders or albums.

Tips From Hotel Housekeeping Experts

The housekeeping team at the luxe Capella Sanya on Hainan Island in China provided tips for cleaning efficiently. They also included suggestions on the best way to make beds as they do in the hotels we love — the ones we might be missing right about now.

Rosewood Mayakoba housekeeping supervisor Herminia Casiano also shared bed making secrets from the luxurious resort on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Executive housekeeper Sabina Slavujevic of the The Losinj Hotels & Villas Hotel Bellevue in Mali Losinj, Croatia, advised that everyday supplies like dishwashing detergent, vinegar, and bleach are all we need for cleaning. Here's more of what they had to say.

Use cleaning supplies you already have.

A mixture of warm water and dishwasher detergent works as well for daily cleaning as store-bought all purpose cleaner. For disinfecting, a solution of bleach and cold water (about ½ ounce bleach per quart of water) is effective.

Clean upholstered furniture.

Clean with a solution of warm water and dishwasher detergent. To get rid of stains, apply a dash of vinegar and sprinkle some baking soda. Leave it for a few minutes and then vacuum.

Super clean the bathroom.

“Vinegar, lemon, and baking soda are all you need to keep the bathroom clean and germ free,” Slavujevic said. These everyday items are free of toxic chemicals, and baking soda is mildly abrasive to remove built-up soap and dirt on most surfaces except for natural stone or polished marble. Note: Once your bathroom is sparkling, why not treat yourself to some new towels?

Find those hidden stains.

Slavujevic and her team use a UV blacklight to detect stains that might not be noticeable in bathrooms or on furnishings. For around $20, you can get one that will find the sneakiest pet stains at petco.com.

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Dust with efficiency.

Start from the highest points on shelves and furniture. Once again, Slavujevic uses easily available products — warm water and dishwashing detergent, with a few drops of essential oil (like tea tree or lavender) for scent on a dampened cloth.

Make your bed hotel-style comfy.

At Capella Sanya, here’s how they make the beds look and feel perfect. First, place sheets in the middle of the bed and hang them evenly over all edges. Pull the sheets as tightly as you can before tucking them under on both sides. “Hospital corners are a must for that luxury hotel look,” according to the team. Shake the duvet and lay it in the center, tucking it in at the bottom of the bed. Shake it again to be sure that it is even, and smooth out any wrinkles. A new comforter on your own perfectly made bed would be the ideal finishing touch.

High quality Egyptian cotton sheets made in Italy are the only ones used at Rosewood Mayakoba, and unlike most of us at home, they use a flat sheet rather than a fitted bottom sheet. That’s their secret for achieving a smooth foundation and crisp corners. To remove wrinkles, they spray lightly with water and pull the sheet firmly from the bottom. Smooth each pillow from the middle out to the edges to get them super puffy and stand the pillows straight up so the bed looks inviting and full, Casiano advises.