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The Green Spring Clean!
By Lisa Barthuly

I love this time of year! Days are slowly getting longer, the sun is warmer (when it does come around), and everything is “springing” to life! It’s time to fling open some windows, let some fresh air in, and get down to spring cleaning and organizing!

For me, in order to get down to cleaning, I need to have things organized first. As a homeschooling family, we are “extra challenged” to keep clutter at bay! All those projects, papers, supplies, books, and . . . why is there a clay canoe in my bathroom sink? (My youngest daughter admitted, “I wanted to see if it would float.” Hmmmmm. “Well, okay, she is learning,” I tell myself!) If you are reading this, more than likely you are a homeschool parent, and you know exactly what I am talking about!


As much as I love all of my children’s beautiful writings, projects, creations, copy work verses, math lessons, and craft projects, I just can’t keep it all, keep my sanity, and keep our home organized! Keeping our homeschool projects and such organized can be a challenge. So, as we go about our learning, we keep records and memories of projects and schoolwork by taking pictures of them. This works for us!

Don’t get me wrong; we keep some special things such as poetry, special stories, etc. in scrapbooks—one for each child—along with pictures of what they’ve done as well. Reality is, I just can’t keep it all. Not only does this serve as a very special “memory book” of sorts, but it keeps things organized in a manageable, simple way.


Once the clutter of paperwork is cleaned out, we go through our curricula. This is a great time to take stock of what we have on hand for next year. What worked? What didn’t work? What needs to be purchased? Has my oldest child finished using anything that a younger child can start to use now? What needs to be tossed?


We do the same with clothing. Winter clothing gets tucked away for next year, and out comes spring/summer clothing. Things that need to be passed down to the next child get moved, things that need to be repaired go into the sewing area, and things that are beyond repair go in the ragbag for use with cleaning chores.

I like to have three boxes or large plastic containers available when I start this process. I use one for things to donate, one for things to sell (or give away), and one for things that need to be tossed, along with a large canvas-type bag or “stuff sack,” which I use as the ragbag. These come with me through the house as I embark on this process. I go to each room or area until all has been gone through. When I do my spring cleaning, I get brutal and toss, toss, toss! Once I’ve combed through each room, it’s time to get down to cleaning.

Deep Cleaning

Although it seems we clean all the time, during this time of year we deep clean. Everything gets dusted, wiped down, and cleaned off. It’s amazing how many dust bunnies can accumulate in such short order! I use natural, homemade, nontoxic cleaners for everything. Not only are these “green,” but they also are much less expensive than “standard” cleaning products. I use a variety of recipes, depending on what I have on hand. I love to use essential oils, not only for their pure fragrances but also for their antibacterial properties. If you don’t have essential oils in your home at this time, you can still make up your own natural cleaners without them, very simply.

Here is a short list of supplies to gather, right from your kitchen!

Baking soda
Olive oil

Now gather up some empty sour cream containers (glass canning jars with lids work well too), a couple of empty sprayer bottles, some of those old articles of clothing that are in the ragbag, and maybe a green “scratchie pad.” In just a few minutes you can have basic, frugal, nontoxic cleaners that work to clean your home. Let’s get these items all together and get going on a “green spring clean”!

Window/Glass Cleaner
Take one of those empty sprayer bottles and fill it 50/50 with water and vinegar. Shake, spray, and clean. It’s that easy! (I add ten drops of peppermint essential oil or twenty drops of lavender essential oil to this too. Peppermint repels bugs and leaves a really nice fresh scent in the room, and lavender is a great all-purpose antibacterial oil.)

Furniture Oil

Grab another one of those empty containers and fill it half-full with olive oil. (I usually use about a ½ cup; a little goes a long way.) Squeeze in about a teaspoon of lemon juice, mix, dip an old rag into a small amount of this mixture, and polish all your wooden surfaces. (I love to use sweet orange essential oil in this recipe.)

Surface Cleaner

This product works great on countertops, and I use it on the kitchen floor too, for spills. Take one of your empty sprayer bottles and add 2 cups of warm water, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of borax, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Shake it up well and voilá—you have a multipurpose surface cleaner! Depending on what I have on hand, sometimes I’ll omit the lemon juice and use essential oils, usually that old standby—lavender. Twenty drops of lavender essential oil added to this will do the job. You could also use a lime essential oil or any citrus essential oil of your choice. They all have great antibacterial properties and smell wonderful!

Bathroom Scrub
Grab another one of your empty containers; add ½ cup of both baking soda and borax and 1 tablespoon of salt. I sprinkle in a few drops of lemon juice (about a tablespoon). Now, I say “sprinkle in” because you don’t want your liquid to create a big clump with your dry ingredients. Mix this slowly, as you add your lemon juice a drop or so at a time. Once you have it all in the container, put the lid on tightly and shake it up to mix a bit more, and you have a great scrub for your toilets, showers, and tubs! With some elbow grease and one of those green scratchies and/or toilet brush, you’ll have sparkling clean tubs and toilets!

Depending on what I have on hand, I’ll omit the lemon juice and use essential oils. In this mixture I use grapefruit seed crush (which is available from, ten to twenty drops of lavender essential oil, and maybe even a few drops of tea tree oil (an excellent antibacterial and antifungal ingredient). In a real pinch? You can get away with using a mixture of 1 cup baking soda and any antibacterial essential oil, around ten to twenty drops. Mix as listed above and scrub.)

Carpet Cleaner

Grab one of those handy empty sprayer bottles, fill it with 2 cups of hot water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and shake well. Spray a light layer over your carpets, let it “sit” for a while, and then vacuum it up. This freshens up the carpeting without using any of those toxic, dusty powders or those terribly toxic carpet cleaners! To kill germs and add a nice scent, I like to add essential oils to this mixture too. Twenty drops of lavender essential oil or any essential oil that has antibacterial properties will work well.
Now that we have the basic cleaners made up, how about a wonderful spring/summer potpourri blend to bring a little “spring” into your home? I want our home to smell nice and inviting, and you can easily mix up the potpourri blend described below, and set it out in a pretty dish or toss it into a simmering pot of water. You can even take a handful and put it into those single, old socks that you can never find the match for. Then tie the end in a knot and you will have the most frugal sachets around! Tuck them into dresser drawers and closets for lovely fragrance throughout your home! (No one will ever see them, and it’s a way to put to good use those mysterious single socks that you’d just toss anyway.)

As always, keep all of these things away from the little ones. Never mix ammonia and bleach. Enjoy creating your own frugal, natural, homemade clean! Homemade creations such as these are easy to make and have many variations, depending on personal preference. They are very “forgiving” should you add a little too much of this or that. As you can see, with a little organization, some basic ingredients, and some elbow grease, you can have a “green spring clean” too!

The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” (Proverbs 10:27)

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” (Proverbs 31:27)

Joyfully homekeeping,

Lisa Barthuly

Lisa is wife to Marc and Mama to four blessings! They live a lifestyle of learning on their little homestead, with Shalom the Great Pyr, some Nubian goats, a flock of  “chicklettes,” and lots of wild critters. They run Homestead Originals, where they specialize in candles and gifts for the homestead. Come on by and visit their blog for great ideas, tips, freebies, and contests too!

Looking for more natural cleaning ideas and recipes? Check out Lisa’s book, Homestead Simplicity: Natural Clean at Also see Lisa’s articles in the Fall 2006 and Fall 2008 issues of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.

Let’s Get Started!

Here is a list of everything you’ll need (and then some!) to make all of these homemade, nontoxic homestead helpers, which you can whip up literally in minutes!

Supplies you can gather right from your kitchen:

Baking soda
Olive oil

Gather your “tools”:

3 clean sprayer bottles
3 glass canning jars, with lids (empty sour cream containers will work too—they’re easier for little ones to get into)
A few old rags/articles of clothing that are ready to be tossed
A green scratchie pad for scrubbing

Optional Essential Oils:
Tea tree
Sweet orange (or any citrus you like)
Grapefruit seed crush extract

Spring and Summer Potpourri Blend

1 cup dried lavender buds/flowers
1 cup dried rose petals
½ cup dried rosebuds
1 tablespoon whole cloves
½ cup dried chamomile flowers
½ cup dried calendula flowers

Place all ingredients in a wide bowl and mix together well. You also can drizzle twenty drops of lavender essential oil and twenty drops of geranium essential oil over the mixture and mix well. Leave the potpourri sealed in a container or Ziploc-type bag for about a week, shaking up and tossing around the ingredients every few days, and replace as needed. This also works beautifully in homemade, hand-sewn, pretty sachets!

Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The
Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Spring 2009.
Used with permission. Visit them at


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