The idea of “spring cleaning” is a bit misleading. While it’s a no-brainer to get rid of dust and dirt, clearing out the clutter — the papers, the shoes, the sentimental tokens — is anything but simple.
In The Beginning
Choose an approach that’s right for you:
- Slow and steady: Pick an area with a mess you know what to do with — success will boost your endorphins for the rest of the endeavor. Tackle a focal point of a room, like the kitchen table or island where things tend to accumulate. Activate a force field around the area repelling all clutter. It’s easier to stick to a zero-items-allowed rule when you don’t make exceptions — even if you use a can opener daily, it’s not difficult to keep it in a drawer. Once a day or week, continue this until all cluttered areas are clear!
- Decluttering-palooza: Designate a free weekend for a sweeping overhaul. Strategically tackle various areas until you can declutter no more. A checklist is your best friend here — nothing feels better than crossing things off with a sense of finality!
- Create photographic memories. One way to bask in your success is to mimic those makeover “before” and “after” snapshots. When a room is cleaned up and exactly how you want it, take a moment to feel love for the look and your hard work, then take a photo! If you begin to accumulate more clutter, you won’t have to rely just on the distant memory of how great your home can actually look.
In The Thick of It
When you’re elbow deep in stuff, it can be difficult to stay focused and make decisions on what to keep, what to toss, and what to do with it once you decide.
Even in this digital age, report cards, mail, records, and random takeout menus are inescapably pervasive. When you get something that you need to address but are not in a rush, put it in a designated “active inbox.” Once your business with it is finished, out it goes into your filing system. Depending on your household members and needs, your “inactive” filing system can be detailed or not — but it has to be organized! Color-coded folders and drawers are made for this. Most importantly — if you know you don’t need to keep it, recycle immediately! Take advantage of the easy green approach and put non-sensitive information into a computer filing system.
Sweep every bathroom cabinet and drawer clean of expired medication, crusty ointment bottles, and that makeup that didn’t actually match your skin tone. You can even clean out the bottles and repurpose them.
Are you a victim of “I’ve never worn it, but I still might...” syndrome? Try turning all your hangars backwards on the rack. As you wear things and return them, switch the direction of the hangar — you’ll really see how much of your clothing you “need.”
The tried and true method for decluttering is to make three piles: KEEP, TOSS, and MAYBE. When it comes to that (probably huge) MAYBE pile, what’s holding you back?
“I might need this later.”
Take all the items in this category and put them in a box. Tape it up, and slap a date on it that is six months in the future. Put the box in your closet, garage, or attic, and when that date comes around, it’ll be like opening a time capsule full of things you have proven you don’t need.
“I don’t know where to put this” and “I won’t be able to find it again if I put it someplace new.”
The biggest obstacle to spring cleaning is your perspective on it. Create a logical filing system based on your own intuition, and you may actually see this streamlined, empowered feeling trickle into other areas of your life.
“This has a lot of personal meaning.”
It’s normal to see physical items as tokens of a life lived. Check out this article on sentimental clutter here to help you decide what’s really important and what’s holding you back.
“I just can’t decide what to do with this item.”
It is important to remember that no person or the space they occupy can be perfect. If you are at peace with a certain amount of clutter, accept it! Above all, be kind to yourself.
In The Clear
Aside from the trash and recycling bins, consider other ways to get rid of your excess. A little re-gifting of brand new items is always an option. If it’s gently used, Goodwill and resale shops, churches, homeless shelters, pet shelters, and local charities are more than willing to take your donations. Don’t forget to file your receipts!
To prevent a relapse of clutter, be mindful of what new items you introduce into your home. Avoid impulse buying by making a list of items you want and allowing 30 days to pass before acting on that list. If you still want what’s written, you’re more likely to get a lot of use out of it. Happy Spring Cleaning!
Garret Stembridge is part of the team at www.extraspace.com, a leading provider of self-storage facilities. Garret often writes about storage and organization topics for homes and for businesses. Your Complete Guide to Spring Decluttering