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Spring Cleaning: 5 tips on Decluttering

and Making your space your own

by Desmond Fuller, Social Media Coordinator

Spring cleaning. For some of us it’s the next anxiety-inducing chore after Tax Day. For others, it’s the garage sale we’ve been waiting to hold once the clouds part. Sometimes it’s the difficult and emotional task of finding a home for the belongings of a loved-one that’s passed on. Whatever the case, we approach spring cleaning with the goal of simplifying, making room to breathe, and let in the light. We all want to pull out the gardening tools and camping gear without having to jostle our way around boxes of I’ll-get-to-it-laters. Decluttering makes your home more livable. Getting rid of redundant possessions not only renews our spaces but can provide useful household goods to those making new spaces themselves.  Donating your still-useful household goods gives them renewed purpose with new people to appreciate them.

So, why can it be hard to get started on a deep clean? We often search our calendars for a good weekend only to find our schedules have gotten away from us.  Even once we have a date set to tackle our cleaning or downsizing, it can be daunting to know where to start, and emotionally taxing to say goodbye to things.

“[People] need help to be okay with letting things go,” April Doll of Unstuff Professional Organizing says of those she helps with decluttering and downsizing. “So many reasons come up…I might need it, it was a gift, I paid a lot of money for it, etc.  Once over that hurdle, it is about finding the right options for donation or recycling. Knowing something can be put to good use or disposed of properly really helps.”

Doll adds, “Indecision plays a big role [in accumulation]. If you can’t decide what to do with something or if you should keep it, it becomes something added to a pile or stash someplace.  Those piles and stashes are delayed decisions.”

Here are some tips we can all use to overcome hesitation and indecision to get the most out of a day spent cleaning.

1.  Start Big! In the much in vogue book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Margareta Magnusson drops the simple and poignant tip, “Start with the large items in your home, and finish with the small.”

2. Celebrate giving! Magnusson stresses proactively donating and giving things away. “Sometimes you must just give cherished things away with the wish that they end up with someone who will create new memories of their own.”

3. Purpose to place! Organizers NW recommend making goals for spaces that net the most clutter in the house. These spaces, like the living room or den, can be burdened with too much multi-purposing and become a landing place for things in transition. Before you clean your living room, decide what the purpose of the space is. Knowing what a space is for will help determine what does not belong there. Furniture that doesn’t fulfill a specific purpose should move or go to a new home.

4.  Everything in its right place! Once you’ve cleaned and begin trying to organize anew, Doll recommends that you implement, “the old school idea of a place for everything and everything in its place. Even when life gets crazy and things get out of control the cleanup is so much easier if you know where to put your STUFF! [Also,] have a designated bag or box for items you no longer want, that way when you have the thought that you don’t need or use something it can be one step closer to heading out the door.”

5. Mess = Stress! Our clutter can be directly tied to our stress and is credited as a factor in triggering anxiety and depression. Clutter distracts us with excess stimuli, signaling our brains that there are constantly organization tasks in waiting that are also part of our environment as clutter begins to surround us. In short: mess equals stress.

When we set out to “spring clean” we’re reflecting on where we’re at and where we’d like to be by the time we’ve tied off the last Hefty bag and dropped off the last box of donations at our local organizations that can put them to good use. Spring cleaning is about owning our spaces, not letting them own us. Taking back the agency we let our possessions pacify.

So write down the tips we’ve gathered, grab a broom and some boxes. Shrug into some cut-offs and conquer your garage, living room or office before spring passes us by. And when you’ve amassed the body of household goods you need to pass along, remember to drop them off at your local furniture bank where they’ll go to homes in need.

It’s amazing how much work can be accomplished by so few when the hearts are dedicated. You guys are the real deal. Jane Green

Community Advocate