DIY Design: Spring Cleaning

6 steps to clear your home of clutter.

Spring has sprung! The sun is starting to show itself and, for some reason, it makes me want to get rid of stuff. I wondered where this feeling came from and Wikipedia gave me the answer: 

Historically, many religions and cultures cleanse their homes during Lent or before the New Year. Israelis cleaned before Passover, Catholics cleaned before Good Friday, people of the Greek Orthodox Church cleaned before Greek Lent (aka Clean Week) and Iranians practiced "shaking the house" before Persian New Year. In more recent history, people cleaned in the spring because it was finally warm enough to open the windows! The fresh air blew all the dust and cleaning fumes quickly out of the house.

So it's not just me, lots of people get the urge to clean in Spring. If you're feeling that way right now, take advantage of it! Many friends tell me they'd love to live with less but clearing stuff out is a daunting task. Here's a guide to get you started.

Ashley's Guide to Spring Cleaning

1. Break it into chunks.

Think of your house as individual rooms. Then break each room into separate areas. For example... My house has a living room, dining room, kitchen, and bedroom. The bedroom has a closet area, two dresser areas, and a bed area. Now decide how you will you reward yourself for finishing each area. Yes, reward yourself! After I purge the closet area I get to pause for one episode of my favorite tv show.

Give yourself a deadline to complete each room so you don't get out of control with the rewards. Also, do it slowly. One room per week is a reasonable goal.

2. Purge the dark corners.

Whatever area you're working in, bring all the stuff out into the light. Take everything off shelves and out of drawers so you can reach the back corners. Place everything where you can see it. This will help you understand the sheer volume of your stuff. It should motivate you to purge.

3. Sort through each piece.

Go through every piece of stuff, large and small. Ask yourself some questions:

Have I used this thing in the last year?

This is more complicated than it sounds. You may not have used it but it was expensive and you'll certainly be using it this year. That's fair enough. If you have the space, keep the item. But if Spring Cleaning rolls around next year and you still haven't used it, time to sell the thing.

Does this thing serve more than one purpose?

Everything you own should have some kind of utility. It should perform a necessary task or give you LOTS of joy. The ideal item serves a practical purpose AND it's pretty AND it's nostalgic. For example... My french shopping bag serves as my grocery bag, it's beautiful and well constructed, and it reminds me of my romp through France with Sarah. 

People really struggle with this when it comes to clothing. A work shirt only serves one purpose, but of course I need several of those! Well, yes and no. How often do you do laundry? Once a week? You only need work shirts to last you one week. And let's be realistic, do you really need more than three pairs of jeans? Here's an interesting exercise for purging clothing:

For one month, never put anything back in your closet. After you wear something, pile it on the floor or your dresser or whatever. After one month, check how much is left in your closet. Now do you have an excuse to keep that excess clothing?

The ultimate Spring Cleaning sin is keeping two things that serve the same purpose. Sell one! Just sell one. The ultimate Spring Cleaning victory is getting rid of something that you've kept tucked away because you may just need it one of these days.

Is this thing a priceless heirloom or memory?

I've mentioned before, I'm a very nostalgic person. I believe in keeping memories alive so I keep things that hold fond memories of a specific person or event. That being said, I keep the small things. Ticket stubs, greeting cards, jewelry, photos, small statues or signs. I keep stuff that will fit in the box under my bed. I'm not evil, you can keep your memories. But try to only keep the small reminders.

4. Divide it up.

If you ever watch Hoarders, you know this part. Form a distinct "keep" pile. Then separate the rest of the stuff into "sell", "donate", and "trash" piles.

5. Put the keepers back.

Reassemble your area with the "keep" pile. Now stare at it and reassess. Can you add anything else to the "sell" pile? Ideally, there's nothing left in those dark corners.

6. Get that stuff out!

First: visit used clothing stores like Buffalo Exchange. They're pretty picky but they pay more than you'll get at a yard sale.

Next: start organizing that yard sale. You'll be amazed at what people will buy. Seriously! Plan about a month in advance and ask neighbors to join in. One week beforehand, post about it on Craigslist and hang signs at the nearest intersections. A couple years ago we had a garage sale of things cleansed from our 1 bedroom apartment. We made $400 on stuff we thought had very little value.

Add everything that doesn't sell to your "donate" pile. Then donate it! Find your nearest homeless shelter or Goodwill store. Sometimes they even do pickup.

Trash the rest. Or burn it. Just get rid of it.

Now breath a sigh of relief. Your house is less cluttered. You have less stuff to maintain. And you have more free space!

Still feeling daunted? Don't want to tackle this alone? I may be able to help. For a budget-friendly price, we can work through your Spring Cleaning together. It may actually be fun! Call me, the first phone call is free :)