10 Spring Cleaning Tips
For a few years, I was a professional organizer. I realized very early on that clutter was more behavioral based vs. an issue the actual clutter. I’ve been paid thousands of dollars over the years and spent hours upon hours sorting other people possessions. Frankly, I stopped organizing professionally because I found it to be frustrating/sad/disheartening that people would spend their hard earned money to pay me to organize their belongings that they were too tired to care for themselves because they were too busy working to maintain what they had. There isn’t any judgment here, how people choose to spend their money and time is up to them but the cycle of clutter and things just became never ending and not a way I wanted to spend my time professionally.
Everything that you invite into your life requires maintenance. A question I often ask myself is; am I willing to spend my money and time maintaining this thing that I want? Sometimes the answer is yes but often it’s no. Below are the ten tips and concepts I’ve used in my house to keep clutter at bay. I’ve always lived in small spaces, my cottage was 850 sq feet and I’m currently living in 600 sq feet! I promise it’s doable to live with less, create more breathing room, save more money and free up your time by living with less.
1. It sounds counter intuitive but instead of first taking action to tackle clutter, observe. One of the main things I try to work on when I declutter is to try to get to the root issue of my clutter. Am I shopping too much, do I not have a system for the mail that is the backing up, is something broken that needs be fixed keeping me from putting something away, did I overbuy?
2. After observing, I then focus my energy on putting systems in place to accommodate my current behavior and patterns. I find it is way easier to keep organized and clutter at bay if I meet myself where I am and what I’m currently doing rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. ie: my shoes were piling up by the front door and no matter how good my intentions were to put them away in my closet across the house, I just never did so instead I created storage by my front door to accommodate my most regularly worn shoes.
3. Be RUTHLESS about what you allow to flow into your home. Stop and refuse as much as you can. Get off mailing lists, stop magazine subscriptions that you don’t read, create a system for keeping/discarding the art your children come home from school with. If someone gives you something that you don’t use, need or like, you are not obligated to keep it. Don’t let someone else dictate how you live in your home.
4. Focus on one zone at a time. Declutting, spring cleaning, purging whatever you want to call it can be a lot like deciding that you want to lose weight and get in shape. Everyone tries to do it all in one day and at one time. You’ll burn yourself out, it will not feel rewarding and you won’t make lasting changes. I declutter in manageable zones; sometimes it’s just one dresser drawer a day that takes 5-10 minutes each day and by the end of the week I’ve purged and reorganized the whole thing.
5. Little things add up. When I stop for gas, I clean the trash out of my car. I decline receipts for small things that I don’t write off for business. I don’t buy or subscribe to magazines, if I want an issue of a publication, I purchase it on the stand. Yes, I know that subscribing “saves” you money but honestly, I don’t love the constant flow of incoming mail. For me personally, it isn’t worth the hassle.
6. Simplify your cleaning products. Look under your counter; are there a dozen cleaning products? See if you can simplify that down to the most used/needed cleaners. I use four cleaning products; a spray bottle with a white vinegar and water mixture for an all purpose cleaner, Barkeepers Friend for scrubbing my sinks, tile and faucets, lemon oil for the occasional times that I need to give any wood surface a fresh polish and a bleach mixture for my toilets and to clean up my counter after preparing raw meats. That’s it. Not only does this allow for more space, decreases clutter but is also saves me money by not buying a lot of other products.
7. This same system can be applied really to any other part of your home, from kitchens to closets. Try to keep only the essentials and the things your really use. If you are hesitant to donate something because you do use it but maybe one or two times a year, remove it from your everyday items and store it away in a linen closet or garage to keep your everyday space functioning and free from things that aren’t being using and are taking up space.
8. Do you want to clean out your closet but not sure what to get rid of? I’ve used this trick many times and it really works. I purchased a collapsible clothing rack and set up in the corner of my bedroom (or wherever you store your clothing) and as I would wear things that I liked and felt good in, I’d then hang it on the garment rack after laundering it. After a few weeks, I found that I really was only wearing a handful of outfits and items. The other items in my closet were donated. I now have a small wardrobe where I regularly wear 80% of my clothing vs. the average American who regularly wears 20% of their clothing. Less clothing means I do less laundry, have to maintain less and can get dressed and out the door in record time.
If you aren’t at a size that you want to be at and don’t want to donate the clothes that you aren’t wearing, I get it. I’ve been there. Apply the same purging guidelines to the clothes that you don’t wear/don’t fit and instead of donating the clothes, pack them away for a year. After a year, if they still don’t fit, donate them. Life is too short to hang on to clothes that don’t fit.
9. Find organizations that you like supporting. Letting go can be really hard! It can be hard for me, too. However, I’ve found that when I’ve given things away to organizations or people that align with what I believe in, it makes it way easier. Find organizations that you can donate to, where you know your donations will impact and help someone else.
10. Lastly, if purging and donating is out of your comfort zone, as it is for many people, create a donation holding zone. This can be a designated area in your garage or spare room that you place the items that you think you want to get rid of but you want to make sure you aren’t going to miss it in your everyday life. Place the item in the holding zone and if you don’t go back and retrieve the item in a month, you don’t need it and let it go.