PITTSFIELD — Like many of us, Melissa Garcia, of Fresh Start in Pittsfield, is currently in place at home.
Garcia, who started cleaning residential homes in 2008 and officially started her business in 2013, said her business has been "hit hard," since Governor Charlie Baker's closure of non-essential businesses last week.
"We've suspended cleaning services until April or May, depending on the virus situation," she said. "I miss it. I love cleaning, and being with my staff and clients."
As well as being a professional cleaner, Garcia is also a professional organizer. While she might not be able to go to her clients' homes right now, she does have some suggestions for all of us to use this extra time at home to clean and get organized.
"Let's start with the master bedroom closet," she said. "We're getting into spring and it's time to pull out the winter clothes and put in the spring clothes." She added that if your spring clothes are already in the closet, organize them, perhaps by type (dresses, skirts, pants) or style (casual, color). "If you haven't worn it in six months to a year, it's time to give it away or donate it."
When organizing the closet, she suggested lining the floor with shoe racks, on which you can arrange shoes by color or style. And for all those purses, she recommends baskets placed on the closet shelf with the purses neatly arranged, or buying hooks that hang on the clothes rod, "like a tree with branches that you can hang purses on."
"A lot of people's [basements] don't look nice," Garcia said. Her strategy when tackling a room is to start in a corner and work in a clockwise or counter-clockwise circle around the room. Sort the items into three piles — items that will go into the trash, clothes and items that you will be donating, and one for items you are going to be keeping. As you sort, place the items to be kept into plastic bins and store them on shelving. And, if the basement isn't finished, brush down any cobwebs and sweep the floor.
"You're probably already doing a lot more cleaning in your kitchen since being shut in," Garcia said. "You're cooking more and there's more activity with everyone at home." But, there is always room for more improvement. She suggested spending some time organizing your spices.
"Pull out and discard anything that is over two years old," she said. "You can purchase little containers, label them with the spice and date that you're doing your organizing, then place them on a small Lazy Susan in your cupboard." She added she likes to place the spices together according to the dishes she'll be using them in, such as tacos and pastas.
While you're in the kitchen, Garcia suggested going through your pantry and cabinets, and weeding out any food that has expired. When putting the remaining items back into the pantry or cabinet, Garcia recommends putting like items together. Put the boxes of pasta in clear, air-tight containers, which will help to keep the pasta fresher longer.
When going through the other kitchen cabinets, look at your pots and pans, mixing bowls and dinnerware. Toss out any that may be dented or chipped, or any you haven't used in awhile. Garcia said items you use every day should be placed on eye-level shelves. Those used only occasionally may be relegated to upper- or lower-level shelves.
And then there's the refrigerator ... "You don't think about cleaning it out until Thanksgiving when you need room for all the leftovers," Garcia said. Working from the top to the bottom, throw out any items that have expired or you used once and know you won't use again. Once a shelf is clear, Garcia said to wipe it down with a solution of 2 ounces white vinegar added to a spray bottle with 6 ounces of water and, if desired, a drop of an essential oil. Shake the bottle and squirt away, wiping the shelf with paper towel, then return the food items back on the shelf and move on to the next shelf.
And don't forget the rubber gasket around the door opening. "It may be a bit moldy, but the vinegar and water will take car of it."
Garcia suggested buying clear plastic bins and putting similar items in them. "You can corral salad dressings together, yogurts, jams, juice boxes or even have all the kids' snacks in one box they can grab."
She said to repeat the process with the freezer, but only use hot water to "get the crumbs up."
Garcia also had some tips for cleaning during the COVID-19 pandemic: On a daily basis, with a disinfecting wipe, wipe down refrigerator door handles, cabinet door handles, remote control, phone (wipe and then dry with a paper towel), counters, sink faucets and the toilet flusher. Door knobs and light switches should be treated with a spray disinfectant.
Cintia Miranda, owner of Berkshire Family Cleaners in Pittsfield, also offered some cleaning tips to help avoid the coronavirus.
"In the morning, disinfect all the counters in the kitchen, even if you haven't used them," she advised. "Use a disinfectant wipe, or a disinfecting spray and paper towel, move the appliances and wipe everything."
When coming into the house, she advised leaving shoes by the door and spraying them, then taking all your clothes off and washing them. In the morning, spray your shoes and clothes with a fabric disinfectant.
"Always keep the bathroom clean," she said. "Clean the sink, shower and toilet daily, using disinfectant, Clorox wipes, mops." She recommended using a steam cleaner in the bathroom to kill the virus. "It's very hot and will help to kill the virus."
She recommends changing the beds in the house once a week, and opening the windows as you clean.
"Let in some fresh air," she said. If there are pets in the home, wash the pet toys, blankets, bed and dishes once a week.
"Cleaning is essential; cleaning is going to kill the virus," she concluded.