Spring is a period of new beginnings and marks the traditional time for top to bottom house cleaning. Having less stuff is green—this year declutter.
With the advent of indoor running water, electricity, heating and cooling systems, and labor saving devices, house cleaning became an activity that could be done year round. One can vacuum the refrigerator coils or dust the venetian blinds in September or January.
So…when spring rolls around, ask yourself if you could benefit from a spring decluttering instead of spring cleaning. The psychological benefit of divesting yourself of stuff you do not need, want, or use should not be discounted.
This post, part 1 of 3, covers things to think about and do before beginning decluttering.
Spring Decluttering Game Plan
I would not say I like decluttering and organizing, but I do enjoy the result.
A little thought and preparation before you begin will ensure the process goes smoothly and eliminate or at least minimize family conflict.
Establish a Goal
Figure out up front what you are trying to accomplish. Do you just want to get everything picked up and put away, clear out excess belongings, clean and get rid of stuff, or what?
Acknowledging your ability, or lack thereof, to focus on and complete tasks will help you devise and employ a successful strategy. Do you set aside a day for a project and blast through until it’s done? Do you get half way through cleaning out a closet and then don’t want to do it anymore? The last sentence describes me so I clear out one drawer or cupboard at time, and then if I run out of steam there is not a huge mess to clear up.
Engage the Household
If you live with other people, talk with them about and include them in decluttering. Listen to and address their concerns and ideas. Discuss and agree on how decisions will be made about getting rid of or keeping stuff, and what contribution each person is expected to make.
It may seem easier to keep kids out of it, but having the kids participate helps them learn how to make decisions about stuff and teaches organizational skills.
Perhaps the most difficult part of decluttering is deciding what to stuff to part with. Some items are more difficult than others, for example:
- Clothes you never wear but keep because someday you might wear them.
- Your children’s artwork and schoolwork.
- Gifts or family heirlooms you do not like or never use.
- Toys the kids have outgrown or never play with anymore but are THEIRS.
- New items still in the sealed box that you have had for 6 months or more.
A few possible tactics for dealing with difficult decisions are:
- Start in an area that will provide an immediate benefit once it is decluttered, like your desk or pots and pans cupboard.
- Give yourself a time limit to make a decision.
- Place the item in an undecided pile and come back to it later.
- Use the rock, paper, scissors approach to resolve disputed items.
- Visualize your uncluttered home.
- Consider how another person or organization might benefit from an item.
- If you cannot decide which music CDs or kid’s artwork to get rid of, at least gather them together and put them in box to facilitate the process in the future.
- Skip sentimental items that will result in a lengthy journey down memory lane or create a battleground with other family members.
- Flip a coin—heads it stays, tails it goes.
I do not recommend “disappearing” stuff while others are not looking. Someone is sure to miss the game that has not seen the light of day for 5 years or the t-shirt they got as a birthday gift 2 years ago and have never worn.
It is doubtful that everything in your house requires an agonizing decision, so if you are committed to decluttering you will be able to make progress.
Part 2 of spring decluttering deals with sorting stuff and getting it out of the house and garage.
- Dictionary.com – Definition of Declutter
- Psychology Today – Your Closets, Your Clutter, and Your Cognitions
- wiseGEEK – What Are the Origins of Spring Cleaning?