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Encore from NPR's 'Life Kit': The secret to a clean room is mastering the basics


Spring cleaning season is here. And as you check off the chores on your list, keep in mind these tips gathered by Life Kit's Kavitha Cardoza last year for a more effective cleaning routine, starting with your bedroom.

KAVITHA CARDOZA, BYLINE: Kevin Frazier, a master gunnery sergeant at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, is responsible for converting messy teenagers into expert cleaners. He understands - he lived the same way before he entered the Marine Corps.

KEVIN FRAZIER: Clothes in a pile in the corner of the room, bed's not made, food everywhere (laughter).

CARDOZA: The military, on the other hand, is very clean and organized. Frazier says when being organized is ingrained in Marines from the start, those skills spill into everything else, which can be critical in, say, a combat situation. Frazier calls it brilliance in the basics.

FRAZIER: Doing the basic stuff really, really well - when you can take care of all the little things, like cleaning your room, then when the big things happen, you're ready to accomplish that task.

CARDOZA: So maybe the stakes aren't as high for civilians, and a clean home isn't necessarily a matter of life or death. But having a tidy home is going to make existing in that space easier, healthier and more pleasurable. Taryn Williford is a lifestyle director at the website Apartment Therapy.

TARYN WILLIFORD: One of the most important rules is cleaning top to bottom. I used to strip the sheets before I would clean the bedroom, but the thing I would do after I stripped the sheets was start to clean the ceiling fan, and then all the dust would fall on my bare mattress.

CARDOZA: So leave those sheets on until you finish the fan and light fixtures. Then put the sheets in the laundry. Williford says rule No. 2 is clean clockwise.

WILLIFORD: When you clean clockwise or you follow the wall, it's really helping you make sure that you're not missing anything when you clean. Then the last thing is the floors.

CARDOZA: And that leads to rule No. 3 - do your dry cleaning before you do your wet cleaning.

WILLIFORD: If you start straight in with your wet cleaners and you haven't dusted that surface, you're going to end up getting all of that gunk, which is really not efficient.

CARDOZA: So say you cleaned everything. It's spotless, sparkling, like, smells great. Describe what that feeling is like to you.

WILLIFORD: A perfectly clean home really makes you feel like you can do anything. I really think a clean home is just the foundation for smart life habits that are going to impact your health, impact your mental health, impact your wellness, impact your hobbies, how excited you are to get up in the morning and explore the day.

CARDOZA: The nice thing about cleaning your house is you get to decide when you're done. But just as an experiment, after you're all finished, imagine for a moment that Master Gunnery Sergeant Kevin Frazier is coming to inspect your work. He's thorough.

FRAZIER: No dust, no debris, trash taken out. I'm going to run my hands along the backs of the TV to make sure there's no dust in any of the areas or crevices. The laundry room - make sure the lint traps are out. Same thing for the floors - cleaned, swept.

CARDOZA: So you would kind of lift up the beds or open cupboards?

FRAZIER: Yeah. Yeah.

CARDOZA: If a Marine fails inspection, he gets reinspected on his day off.

FRAZIER: Well, trust me - they catch on real quick. I'd say within a week of getting there, they know exactly what to do, and they do it. You can call it brainwashing, or you can call it training. I like to call it training (laughter).


SHAPIRO: That was Life Kit's Kavitha Cardoza with some advice from last year on how to clean better. For more tips and tricks, check out the Life Kit podcast at


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