Cleaning

The One Thing You Should Do Before Redecorating Any Space

Prime the room for a few new touches.

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April 24, 2020
Photo by Ty Mecham

We've partnered with Miele to share smart, savvy tips for spiffing up your home—whether you've got an entire weekend or under an hour. Here, we're highlighting the one step you shouldn't skip before giving any room a refresh.


Every few months or so, I get the idea into my head that some space in our apartment needs to be redecorated. Because we rent, true renovation isn’t a possibility—we make do with easy, superficial tweaks, like swapping out artwork, adding new accessories, and very occasionally replacing a piece of furniture.

However, no matter what I do, I have one major rule that I follow: Before I can change anything, I have to do a deep clean.

Yes, I know. Deep cleaning is nowhere near as fun as painting an accent wall or re-outfitting your entire bedroom to look like a mid-century modern hotel room in Palm Springs. But priming a space for a new look makes a massive difference, and sometimes just cleaning and reorganizing the room will quell my desire to buy new things for it.

How best to get started depends on which room or area we’re talking about. Before you make major moves, spend some time in the room in question and have a look at how it functions. For example: Do you want to update your kitchen because your backsplash is grimy and there’s too much stuff on the counter? Is your bedroom covered in piles of clothing and you want a tidier space? Does your living room look exactly the same as it did when you moved in four years ago, mysterious rug stain from the previous tenant and all?

Make a plan for what you want to update or change, and commit to deep cleaning and decluttering before you start online shopping.

Here's how to break it down into three totally doable steps (plus, what to do if you're short on time):

1. Go Through What You Already Have

Before you do anything, assess what you already have—yep, that means tallying the contents of every drawer, cupboard, and shelf. Create a pile of things you'd like to donate and ensure that all your belongings have a specific home. During this process you might rediscover a set of decorative pillowcases or display-worthy cocktail glasses that end up giving the space a whole new look. But even if you don’t, you’ll make space for new items.

While decluttering, take a moment to wipe down dusty shelves and vacuum up any crumbs in the bottom of deep drawers with a crevice attachment. This is also a good time to look at furniture you think is damaged or tired to see if you can salvage it with a power drill or a new coat of paint.

2. Tackle dust & dirt

Toss anything that can be laundered into the washing machine, wipe down surfaces with a microfiber cloth and your multi-surface cleaning spray of choice, and ready the vacuum cleaner.

A dingy sofa or faded rug can often be spruced up to its former glory days with a deep clean, especially if you’re generally a somewhat haphazard cleaner like myself. Vacuum your sofa and other upholstered furniture (use an upholstery tool for this) to get rid of dust, lint, and pet hair that may be affecting color. If you’re particularly worried about pet odors on your sofa, try dusting a thin layer of baking soda over it. Leave it to set for 15 to 30 minutes, then vacuum up the baking soda (you can try this on rugs, too). If your rugs or sofa are in truly bad shape, consider renting an upholstery cleaner from your local home improvement store, or hiring professionals to come in and deep clean for you with their machines.

Dust can also settle on books, art, framed photographs, glassware, and knickknacks. It will take less time than you think to give all these items a quick swipe of a microfiber cloth or feather duster. Plus, while you clean something you can evaluate whether you want to keep it or update it.

3. Go over lighting & window treatments

If you have a room that feels super dark, see if vacuuming the curtains or blinds (using an upholstery tool for curtains and a dusting brush for blinds) makes a difference before you order a new lamp or ditch the existing window treatments altogether.

While you’re at it, dust your light bulbs along with any overhead light fixtures. Trust me, it makes a big difference. This is also a great time to wash any windows or sliding doors, including the window sills and tracks (a vacuum crevice tool is your best friend for those). Start by vacuuming the tracks first, then wipe with a microfiber cloth and a multi-surface cleaner to get rid of any remaining grime. The best way to wash your actual windows will depend on what kind of home you’re in and the size of the windows, but spraying them with glass cleaner and wiping down with newspapers (seriously!) is a good place to start.

Once the space is squeaky clean and tidy, there’s one final step to take before you go to town on redecorating: sleep on it. Because when you wake up the next day and step into that clean, re-organized space, you might want to make fewer changes than you originally thought.

Short on Time? Prioritize.

If you’re looking for some instant design gratification (aka, you don’t want to spend the whole day sorting through your closet or cluttered drawers), then the trick to making the space feel fresh is to prioritize.

Give the space a once-over with your vacuum and duster, and then try moving some furniture around. Repositioning your couch or moving a bookshelf can open up the room and make it feel totally fresh, without putting in hardly any time at all. It's that simple.

Do you deep clean a room before giving it a design refresh? Tell us in the comments!

For a vacuum that can handle any-size mess—from crumb-covered floors to dusty furniture—check out our partner Miele's assortment of vacuum cleaners.

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Nina is a writer, editor, and enthusiastic home cook in New York City.

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