What comes to mind when you think of spring cleaning? For me, it brings images of throwing open the windows, taking down and washing the curtains and hanging comforters on the clothesline outside to air out or dry. Oh, and cleaning windows inside and out. I’m not sure why that’s what I think of. Honestly, here in Charlotte, throwing open the windows in April would only foil my efforts by creating a yellow pollen film over everything we own; we have blinds, not curtains; I’ve never owned a home with a clothesline; and finally, washing windows? Uhhhh, no. But the lovely dream of everything looking and smelling really fresh after a long rainy (or snowy) winter is what I want.
More realistically, Spring Cleaning probably means doing things inside and outside your home that rarely get attention, like cleaning out that cupboard above the fridge or tossing that grass seed that’s been in the garage for way too long. When you start thinking about all the little things throughout the house, it can feel like so much pressure to address all the areas that need attention, plus you need to stay on top of the regular responsibilities. Somehow, spring reveals things that go unnoticed the rest of the year.
I’m going to set you free from the pressure to Spring Clean with this news alert. SPRING IS NOT THE ONLY TIME YOU CAN DO THIS. You can spread it out over the entire year! Deep cleaning and organizing go hand in hand. If you are doing one, you might as well take the time to do the other. If you have the cleaning bug and want to clean and organize this Spring, start small. What area of your home do you spend a lot of time in? What area needs obvious attention? What drives you up a wall when you see it? Start there. Then work through the steps below as quickly or slowly as you want. Just be intentional and make forward progress. If it takes all year to do your Spring Cleaning, it’s ok.
1. Choose an area that needs attention
Choose an Area
Don’t tackle the whole kitchen at once. Too overwhelming and distracting. Focus on the pantry…or the freezer…or the cupboard with 99 mugs. When that is complete, move on to the next small area.
Declutter and Sort
Organizing always starts with evaluating what needs to go. Instead of throwing open the windows, throw out what doesn’t serve your life any more.
Have a bag or box for donations and one for trash. Create an area to place items that belong in another room. Wait until you finish to put them away-otherwise you will get sidetracked. Give yourself a time limit. When you start getting distracted, STOP, because you will no longer make quality decisions. Two or three hours is probably max. But fifteen or twenty minutes is fine, too. It’s still progress. Do your traditional Spring Cleaning as you go and wipe out the drawers, move the empty dresser to vacuum under it, mop the floor of the pantry…
Take all the time you need to declutter the area you are working on. This is probably the most critical part of the process to achieve the goals you envision. Be aggressive. With each item, ask these questions. Do I need it? Do I use it? Is it in good repair? Does it fit? Do I like it? And of course, there is the always popular, “Does it spark joy?”
Decluttering and Sorting go hand in hand. With each item, decide if it is trash, donate or keep. Place the donate or trash items in the appropriate bag/box. If it is keep, sort like things, ie put all handbags in one area, all scarves in another, etc. By sorting like things, you can really see how many white t-shirts you actually have. Fair warning: once you sort, you might want to do a second round of decluttering.
When you are finished for the day (even if you aren’t finished with the area), put away items you found that belong in another room, take the trash out and load the donations into your car. You will feel very accomplished. It’s ok if it takes more than one day to sort through the items in an area. Simply continue until you have finished, without pressure.
Now decide how you want to use your space. It may be differently than you’ve used it before. That’s ok. Place the items you use most often front and center. The things that are used rarely in the back or up high. You probably have some baskets or bins already. Or treat yourself to some new organizing tools. Use them to contain like items. When you open your pantry, a lovely basket with all the pasta and rice in it looks so much more appealing than all the boxes.
Organizing options are everywhere right now. Go ahead and search Pinterest boards for inspiration. Pay attention to what appeals to you while keeping in mind your life and how easy a particular system or style will be to maintain. You might be perfectly willing to take the extra few minutes to file fold your own clothes (I highly recommend this, by the way), but your teenage son who just started doing laundry probably won’t. In his room, consider investing in extra hangers for his closet so he can hang everything.
Now that you have your area put back together, label everything that can be labeled. Use whatever method you’d like-chalk labels, label maker labels, Avery labels. If you want to go all out, order some custom vinyl labels from an Etsy store. They will make you smile every time you are in that space. Public Service Announcement: I provide beautiful vinyl labels for my clients at no extra charge. ;)
Labeling is your secret accountability partner. When you are putting groceries away, you will take an extra couple of minutes to put things where they belong instead of just getting them in there wherever you find space. It will also help your family know where things should go. No promises, but the possibility that labels will help is good.
So, if you are thinking about Spring Cleaning, I challenge you to reshape the definition in your mind and make it work for you. Don’t consider the overwhelming list of tasks, but instead, start small and make progress. If you need it, take the rest of the year to check everything off your list.
Where will you start your Spring Cleaning this year?