The keeping-it-real guide to a 'big autumn clean'

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By Abi Jackson

Spring might rule the roost when it comes to the eponymous seasonal 'Big Clean', but we reckon autumn's prime time for a good spruce and sort-out at home. Hibernation period is around the corner (so it makes sense to get our nests ready for all those cosy nights in) plus, we're still banking on those 'back to school' vibes (a good tidy-up is the house equivalent of a pristine new diary, after all). And we tend to keep windows closed more during the colder months - and crank up the heating - which means things can get stuffy and dusty.

But let's get things straight: We're not clean freaks, we know there's more to life and, yep, we're all busy. However, a good sort out and scrub down can feel pretty rewarding - meditative, even (and don't worry, admitting you sort of enjoy housework - on your terms - really doesn't dent your feminist status). It really does feel good to curl up on the sofa with a bowl of hot crumble in a freshly decluttered lounge, all the cushions just so.

You with us? Here's our keeping-it-real guide to tackling a 'Big Autumn Clean'...

Before you start

Step 1: Clear your diary

The 'Big Autumn Clean' doesn't happen by magic and you'll need to set aside some time. Either block off a few two-hour slots across a few evenings, or dedicate a weekend to it (but be realistic about how many jobs you can do back-to-back without losing the plot - you're allowed tea breaks). That might sound ghastly, but think of the money you'll save by holing yourself up indoors in the process - and how good dinner will taste after all your hard work.

Step 2: Pick your battles

If you want to 'enjoy' your Big Autumn Clean, you need to set targets that are doable, but still hefty enough that you're going to feel suitably smug afterwards. Pick a balance of jobs that aren't very fun but really need doing (like the fridge and oven) and ones that are (slightly more) fun - like reorganising your wardrobe and bookshelves.

Step 3: Get cracking

Want some inspiration? Here are the top seven cleaning and sorting tasks we recommend...

Freshen up the fridge: When was the last time you properly cleaned the fridge? As in, completely emptied it out, removed all the shelves and gave it a thorough scrub down, so that every inch is sparkling. Can't remember? Enough said...

Conquer the cooker: Yes we know, it's a hideous job, but you can't put it off forever. We suggest dodging those nasty chemical-loaded products and taking a greener DIY approach (Google 'natural oven cleaning hacks' and you'll find lots of recipes for vinegar and baking soda solutions).

Mix up your solution, apply it - then leave it to dissolve all that grime while you get on with something else.

Blitz the bathroom: You're probably doing a good job keeping the bathroom clean enough, but those stubborn mould patches that insist on taking up residence in your grouting require a bit more elbow-grease and attention (again, use Google for some bleach-free solutions). Not the most rock 'n' roll way to spend a Saturday, but think how much nicer all that winter pampering will be in a gleaming tub...

Dust like a demon: Remember how much you used to love rearranging the furniture when you were 10? Well, now's your chance to reconnect with your interior designer alter ego - because you're going to need to move everything in order to give all those nooks, crannies and neglected corners a good clean. Chances are you won't be airing the place as regularly until it gets warm again, while you'll also be spending more time indoors, so it's a good time to properly clear out all the dust and dander that's settled over summer.

Switch up your wardrobe: If you don't normally 'switch' between a summer and winter wardrobe, we'd suggest investing in a few vacuum storage bags and getting into the habit. Fold away all the floaty frocks and shorts you won't be needing until next May, stow them away under the bed/stairs/in the loft, and then you can have a neatly organised wardrobe of just the clothes you'll actually be wearing this season. Oh, the satisfaction! In the process, pull out anything you no longer want/wear/fit into, and donate to charity or recycle.

Clamp down on clutter: Has your bookcase become bogged down with random post, magazines and paraphernalia? Is your desk drowning in mess? Don't wait until the new year to get organised: Do it now, so you can stride into winter feeling collected and in control. Create a permanent home for life admin bits; invest in a couple of nice storage pots and boxes for stuff that needs to be kept, and tidy it all up.

Cabinet clear-out: We're all guilty of hoarding and over-buying beauty products. Sometimes, it's only when you confront the issue head-on that you realise just how out of control it is. So, empty out all your bathroom cabinets/drawers/make-up bags - and take a good, long look at all those half-used bottles, out-of-date lipsticks and crumbling palettes. Do you really need to keep that eye-shadow from 2004? No. Is it actually necessary to keep buying new night creams and face oils when you already have seven barely-used ones stashed away? No. Recycle and give away what you can, take the reality check, and let this be a lesson to you! (Trust us, we're the worst offenders here.)

Catherine Devane