Amanda Lamb is at home, surrounded by a mop, dusters and boxes, as she enthusiastically prepares to tackle the job most of us dread - the big spring clean.
“At this time of year, I open all the windows to let the fresh air in, and then step back and take a long, hard look at my home so I can really pinpoint what needs washing, dusting, or generally sprucing up,” declares the 43-year-old former model and TV presenter, whose most well-known series include A Place In The Sun and Selling Houses With Amanda Lamb.
“Clutter clogs spaces - I’ve seen that so much during my 16 years presenting property programmes - and this is my chance for an essential annual clear-out.
“I have to do it sensitively though, as my husband Sean is much more sentimental than me, and, given the chance, will hang on to everything!”
It may be an essential yearly chore for Lamb, but it seems, on the whole, the annual spring clean is a tradition that’s falling out of favour.
A survey last year found 85% of Brits believe it will soon be a ritual of the past. Less than half of the 2,000 respondents said they still do spring clean, while 37% said they do it every couple of years, and one in five confessed to never bothering at all.
For Lamb, the habit is well worth keeping up - and she’s full of tips for making it easier.
“My rule is only tackle one room at a time - never attempt the whole house in one go,” she says. “I make a list of tasks for each area and give myself a week to complete them.
“I equip myself with three boxes: one for items to recycle, another for things which can be stored away, such as photo albums or memorabilia, and a third for things I want to display and use. Once that’s sorted, it’s fairly straightforward to clean and pop everything back.”
“I always focus on the least used room - our spare bedroom - first. I can whisk through it quickly, which motivates me to carry on and tackle another room the following week,” Lamb reveals.
“It’s sensible to start at the top of the house and work your way down. Dust falls that way, so you won’t end up re-cleaning rooms, which you will if you work your way up.”
TOP KIT: Pack cleaning kit into a portable Living Nostalgia Vintage Housekeeping Box, £23.24, Tesco. Functional utensils needn’t be dull, which Red Candy proves with their sleek Bucket Dishwashing Set, £40, available in chic shades including grey and pale blue.
Equally attractive is John Lewis’ Bloom Homewares collection, which includes a pink and grey Dustpan And Brush, £12. Lakeland’s bursting with brilliant gadgets and as a spider-phobe, my top pick is an Extendible Cobweb Duster, £14.28, which keeps the little critters at a safe arm’s-length. There’s a lovely retro feel to Baileys’ eco-household range; I love their Rice Straw Broom, £12, and Natural Beechwood Brushes, from £3.50-£5.50 each.
SPRING SNIP: Fun house-shaped Household Brush, £19.99, The Oak Room.
“The kitchen’s subject to the most wear and tear as the heart of our homes these days, which means you’ll probably see most satisfying effect from a clear-out, deep-clean and spruce-up of any dingy corners here,” says Lamb.
The Portsmouth-born personality is working with AXA Insurance to help celebrate the UK’s ‘Home Heroes’ - people, be they neighbours, friends, relatives, who help make our daily domestic lives more manageable. Lamb thinks kitchen-spring-clean day is the ideal time to rope in a ‘hero’.
“Find your own ‘home hero’ for the day - a good friend or relative who’ll look after your children - so you can concentrate on the task in hand, because this working room needs completing in the fastest possible time.”
She suggests starting small with a cutlery drawer, before moving onto larders or storage cupboards. “Crockery and pots and pans accumulate over the years. A homeowner we filmed recently had an amazing total of 23 coffee cups on her worktop and five colanders, which were rarely used and over-crowded her space.”
TOP KIT: Freshen decor with smart new tea towels, cake tins or storage caddies from Debenhams’ delightful floral collection and At Home With Ashley Thomas range. Set Of Four Ceramic Flower Hooks, £22; Set Of Three Floral Printed Tea Towels, £14, and Set Of Three Metal Tea, Coffee And Sugar Storage Tins, £18. Also sweet is a White Floral Print Mug featuring the cheery slogan, ‘Smile, happiness looks gorgeous on you’, currently reduced to £4.80 from £6, and Set Of Two Cream Floral Cake Tins, reduced to £16 from £20.
Brabantia’s created three lovely new cover designs - Barley, Raspberry and Botanical - for their ironing boards, £89 each (available from April).
DIY TASK: Transform a wall into a blackboard with Colours Black Matt Chalkboard Paint, £11.73 for 1L, B&Q, ideal for scribbling down lists and reminders. If that’s too radical, a House Shelf, £47, from Clare Loves, has a chalkboard roof, storage cubby and three hooks for hanging keys.
“I’m fanatical about storage because I like to be organized, and can’t bear stuff all over the floor,” says Lamb, who is also mum to two daughters; Willow, seven, and two-year-old Lottie.
“I like to make my furniture work hard, so I have an ottoman which doubles as extra seating, an old chest with loads of room inside for a coffee table, and I’ve had a large MDF cupboard built for the children’s toys.
“I love hunting down pieces at antiques fairs and auctions and have a collection of wicker baskets, which are light and can be tucked under tables or benches. Crates on wheels, which can be moved around, are another great idea.”
Do sweat the small stuff - group ornaments in an uneven number - three, five or seven items - to dress a shelf, and make use of home fragrances. “Tiny details make a room and, when the clutter’s cleared, will really have an impact, and a fresh appealing home scent is essential,” says Lamb.
TOP KIT: B&Q’s Form Konnect White 3 Cube Shelving Unit, £20, and 4 Cube Unit, £25, are brilliant value. Live, Laugh, Love has Large Storage Baskets With White Hearts, £14.95 for set of two.
Give existing storage a facelift with a lick of paint and new handles. John Lewis has Butterfly Ceramic Cupboard Knobs, £5.95 each. I love Quince’s This & That Hooks, £14 for a set of four.
SPOIL YOURSELF: After all that effort, a few treats never go amiss, and top of my wish-list is a Seletti My Little Neighbour Table Lamp, £175, Amara.
Brighten a sofa with a coloured stripe Tallinn Cushion, £30, John Lewis. Fruity ornaments, especially pineapples, are still all the rage, and an Ashby Pear Ornament, £4 for a small one and £6 for a large one, from Neptune, is especially striking.
Amanda Lamb is working with AXA Insurance to help celebrate the UK’s ‘Home Heroes’. Nominate your #AXAHomeHero at www.axa.co.uk/axahomeheroes
Amara: 0800 587 7645/amara.com
Baileys Home: 01989 561 931/www.baileyshome.com
B&Q: 0845 850 0175/diy.com
Clare Loves: 01494 874 101/clareloves.co.uk
Debenhams: 08445 616161/debenhams.com
John Lewis: 0845 6049 049/www.johnlewis.com
Lakeland: 01539 488 100/lakeland.co.uk
Live Laugh Love: 01342 842 599/livelaughlove.co.uk
The Oak Room: 01992 501 040/oakroomshop.co.uk
Red Candy: 0121 224 7728/redcandy.co.uk
Quince: 0131 618 0806/quinceliving.co.uk