Hell's Bitchen

The most wonderful time of the year: Spring cleaning, tenement-style

By Kelly Kreth  |
April 25, 2013 - 3:22PM

It’s that time: Spring cleaning! Notice the exclamation point here and in the headline. It means I’m excited. While some might not be and think of cleaning and organizing as chores, when you are as neurotic as I am, it is a time to celebrate.

Probably the biggest chore for any NYC apartment dweller—particularly female--in relationship to the change of seasons is how to deal with clothing. You know the old tale of girls who store their sweaters in ovens and 100-plus shoes in kitchen cabinets? Believe it.

First up: Clothes and accessories

In the blink of an eye, when the weather changes from frigid to springy, everything changes when it comes to wardrobe. Boots get shuffled away into boxes that hide deep in the recesses of closets, while open-toed sandals come dancing out to be stored in full view.

I live in a crappy walkup that, very uncharacteristically, boasts a rather drool-worthy closet.   Even with a ton of closet space, I still put my winter items into storage in suitcases and storage containers hidden from view under the bed.

The tricky part for me is to also change the hangers because the clothes that can be seen displayed in my dressing room must hang on red hangers to keep with the black, white and red color scheme of my apartment. I realize this is nuts but for the sake of the article, go with it. I don’t expect you to change from wire hangers to a color-co-ordinated sort for display. (But you really should.)

As part of my spring cleaning ritual, I first go through all winter items and put those I did not wear this winter in a pile to be donated or traded. I check to be sure buttons remain attached, zippers are functioning, and none are in need of any sort of repair.

Then I also go through all the warm weather clothes, before hanging them in sleeve and color order, to be sure everything still fits, is still in style and worth keeping. If anything is a “no” it goes into the giveaway pile.

Shoes are reheeled, cleaned and shined and put in boxes for the following year. All the summer shoes had already been tended to prior to storage so they are ready to be worn.

I also switch out my purses, making sure to store them in their dust covers and clean them out thoroughly.

I take the “no” pile to a variety of places. The items that are designer and could be resold go to a consignment shop or to be sold or traded at Beacon’s Closet in Williamsburg.

Those they do not take go to the seasonal clothing swap that my friend throws; some of my favorite clothing items have been acquired from the swap. It is a great way to trade your stuff that is fun and social and gives you the opportunity to try out styles you never would have bought. We all bring food or drink and put on bizarro fashion shows for each other. Whatever none of us wants is brought to the local Goodwill. (In Hell's Kitchen, there's a Salvation Army, and a Housing Works, too).

Next: Linens

Once my clothing is in order I switch out warm flannel sheets and wool blankets for lighter ones and change my curtains to a thinner material and lighter color. I have someone install my a/c so I’m not caught by surprise by the first 90 degree day that always seems to sneak up out of nowhere.

Giving it all a good clean

After all this upheaval I usually give my apartment a thorough cleaning. Lately I’ve been trying to use less harsh products like a combo of white vinegar and baking soda or Mrs. Meyers’ products. It’s also definitely a good time to run your oven’s self-cleaning option before it gets too hot in the apartment.

I wash, dry clean and/or iron anything that has been messed up during the changeout, clean windows, taking the time to figure out how to unhook and bend the top portions of my tenement’s old windows in order to wash the outside of them.

Cleaning out the shelves

I go through all books and donate the ones I have read that I know I do not want to keep and look through any others that are no longer appealing to me even if unread to friends or the local Salvation Army. Sometimes I leave one on the bus for an unsuspecting passenger in the hopes they pick it up and enjoy it. You just never know whose life you will brighten.

I take the time to go through cupboards, the pantry, and fridge making sure no items have expired and that no cans or boxes are damaged.

Organizing my life

It is also a good time to schedule things--outside of the apartment--that may have gone neglected like dental cleanings, skin cancer screenings, vet appointment particularly for heartworm meds if you have a pet and hair trims.

Making a shopping list

After all this tossing, I make a list of items that are absolute necessities to acquire or that need to be replaced to prepare for the warmer season, such as sunscreen, bathing suits and flips flops.

I switch from hot everything to iced and sit back happy to bask in my clean and organized space. Until the next week or two when I will begin complaining about how hot it is and how inevitably some nimrod will reply that it is not the heat, it is the humidity.

See all Hell's Bitchen

How to survive life in a tenement-sized apartment

How to survive (and thrive) in a walk-up apartment

More posts by Kelly Kreth:

My worst nightmare becomes reality: The arrival of (real) bed bugs

15 things I've learned from 'Million Dollar Listing NY' so far

The 20 deadly sins NYC rental agents should never commit (but do)

Escape from the UES: Goodbye douchebaggery, hello Hell's Kitchen

Dear Neighbor: I am your worst nightmare

Living next to a bridge & tunnel club: KY Jelly wrestling, all-night noise, no regrets



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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