15 Tips to Supercharge Your Spring Cleaning

With flowers blooming, the sun shining, and the birds chirping, there’s no better time to take stock and get control of your life than the spring. Spring cleaning symbolizes a time of renewal and new beginnings – out with the old, in with the new file cabinets and recipe card holders. Here are 15 tips that will help you eliminate clutter and live a simpler, cleaner life!

  1. Make a Mess: Ever heard the saying, “Before things get better, they get worse”? Never did they ring more true than to a person trying to organize their life. In order to clean things up, you’re going to have to make a big, stinking mess. Go ahead – rip open your closet doors, pull everything off the shelves and dump it into a pile. Then start sorting. Whether you are cleaning a closet, a cabinet, or an entire room, centralizing the clutter is an effective way to both empty the space so you can visualize how you want to put things back into it and weed through the chaff. Start thinking about some things you might need to get things ship shape, such as plastic bins, hangers, or shelves.
  2. Take Inventory: Commercial and retail organizations often take inventory of their stock at least once a year so they can maintain accurate financial records. The same method can be helpful in organizing your house. So you found out you have 4 pairs of black capri pants? Well, maybe it’s time for one or two to go. Often when we let our living spaces get out of control, we forget we have things that we already own. Are you the kind of person that runs to the store for a replacement every time you can’t find something? Well, then chances are you have a tremendous amount of clutter in your house. Taking inventory will also allow you to eliminate the stress of throwing things out or giving them away, because you will know what you have and what you need.
  3. Pull Out the Weeds: After you have made a mess of your belongings and taken inventory of your stock, it’s time to figure out what goes and what stays. Again, repeat items are a shoe-in for elimination, as are belongings that are worn out, cheaply made, or rendered useless. A sock drawer is a great example of the latter category. Go through and pick out all of the socks who have lost their mates. Who needs them?! Also, throw out all the old T-shirt remnants you’ve been using as dust clothes. Chances are you will have new pieces of cloth to cut up when you are done weeding. Still hanging on to that blazer from high school? Guess what? It’s totally out of style. Get rid of it! Throwing things out can be a difficult and emotional process for many people who form unnecessary attachments to their stuff. Be tough. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
  4. Contain to Maintain: People typically get into a state of disorganization because they start out that way. Once you have whittled down you belongings to represent only your favorites, don’t just throw everything back in your closet or living room in the same miserable piles. Organize your stuff with the help of some attractive containers or shelves. It’s a simple concept that will help you maintain your sanity throughout the rest of the year. Consider the following kinds of containers: file cabinets, plastic tubs, and free-standing drawers. For example, one thing that will help free your house of clutter is putting away items you hardly use. Measure the distance from the bottom of your bed to the floor and invest in some long, narrow storage containers that will fit underneath perfectly. In your living room, hide the fact that it’s storage by buying some free standing drawers.
  5. Categorize: Now that you have everything in containers, let’s get out the label maker! Maybe you won’t need one, but if you organize your belongings into sensible categories you will find life to be much easier. Gone are the days of the “junk drawer”, these are the days of the “baking supplies drawer”, the “record cabinet”, and the “tax document file”. According to blogger David Allen, “naming things give us power over them.” Categorizing your belongings will ultimately bring you freedom.
  6. Green Dimes: Another reason that homes get too cluttered is that we are constantly getting useless things in the mail that we for some reason or another feel we must hang on to. Examples of this might be that package of coupons you get every month that you swear you’ll use but don’t, or those catalogs that you convince yourself you’re going to buy something from but never even get around to reading. Eliminate junk mail from your life and save some trees by signing up for Green Dimes, a service that removes your name and address from mass mailing lists and eliminates catalogs and magazines you don’t want. This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone – reduce clutter and your carbon footprint with a few simple clicks of your mouse.
  7. Green Clean: Clearly, while embarking on a spring cleaning mission, you are going to need some cleaning products to disinfect and sterilize your home. Continue your work of reducing your impact on the earth by investing in some environmentally friendly cleaning products, such as those from companies like Simple Green, Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers. These products are non-toxic, biodegradable, and free of dyes and fragrances. Replacing just a few of your regular cleaning products with these safe products would have a huge impact on the earth. According to Seventh Generation, if everyone replaced a 100 oz. bottle of petroleum-based laundry detergent with a bottle of vegetable-oil based detergent, we’d save enough energy to heat and cool 27,000 homes a year.
  8. Clean What Hangs: So, you know those things that hang on your windows? Those blinds, drapes and valances that have been collecting odors and dust for the better part of the year? Well, they need to be cleaned, too. So do those ceiling fans that you’ve probably never touched with a dust cloth and those once-sleek lamp shades that look a little fuzzy. Often in routine house cleanings, most of us neglect to clean things that aren’t as obviously dirty as our spaghetti-sauce-stained kitchen counters. Take stock of the things in your home that have been ignored and attack. Begin by taking a hand-held duster to your blinds or drapes and see how much grime you can get off. If it’s a fair amount, you can probably complete the job by hand, using a fabric cleaner and cloth or all-purpose cleaner (for blinds). If you need something more heavy-duty, ask at your hardware store for a small, mini-blind attachment for your vacuum and suck the dirt off!
  9. Sit on Something Clean: Just like your drapes, it’s probably true that you haven’t given your sofa and chair covers a thorough cleaning in some time either. Spotting spills with fabric cleaners and Febreezing will only take you so far. During your spring cleaning, consider stripping off your couch and chair covers and taking them to see a professional. If that proves too expensive, as upholstery cleaning often can, do it yourself! By the way, this applies to rugs and carpets too. Look into local steam cleaners or businesses who rent the equipment out. If you want to do it yourself, you’ll need a vacuum, a rug shampooer and possibly a steam cleaner. Start by vacuuming off all the loose dirt from the fabric, under the cushions, the arm rests and the back of the couch. Then, with the appropriate shampoo, use the rug shampooer to clean the entire couch. Then let it dry. Depending on the type of fabric you have on your sofa, you may need a steam cleaner. Check with the manufacturer before moving forward.
  10. Prioritize: An important part of spring cleaning is packing away the stuff you’re not going to need for awhile. This means Christmas decorations, winter sweaters, and ice skates. Before you start restocking your rooms, figure out what sorts of things you want handy and what sorts of things are OK left unseen for awhile. Putting your seasonal belongings out of sight is a good tactic to simplify your home and control clutter. Previously, we talked about storage containers. These are essential items in helping you prioritize, as they will allow you to store long-term the items, like your Christmas tree, that you rarely use. Also, think about the types of places within your home that you would like to reserve for this kind of storage, like your attic or a faraway corner in your basement. Wherever you end up remember, out of your sight, out of your way!
  11. Dump Some Weight: One thing most people tend to hold on to for too long is their book collection. Let’s face it, if you haven’t read Catcher in the Rye since high school, it’s probably not going to happen again. Sort through your bookcases and pick out the volumes you haven’t lifted in years. You have several options with disposing of them, none of which should be the trash! Lots of organizations accept book donations, whether it’s for soldiers, inmates, or people in impoverished countries. Spread the gift of knowledge and simplify your life at the same time!
  12. Excavate the Fridge and Pantry: Your refrigerator and pantry are probably storing some things they shouldn’t be. While this is something that should most certainly be done more than once a year, cleaning out your fridge and pantry should definitely be part of your spring cleaning regiment. Check the dates on the stuff in your pantry that you once thought were imperishable. You may be surprised. How long can a box of Hamburger Helper really last after all? The fridge may be a little more self-explanatory. If it’s moldy, expired or just plain been around awhile, ditch it. Even for so-called non-perishable items you’ve got to have a limit. If you’ve been holding onto that box of pasta for two years, chances are it’s not going to get eaten, nor should it. Be liberal and throw out the sketchy stuff.
  13. Clean Your Grout: Know that stuff in between your tiling that looks rough and dingy? It’s called grout and it’s what is holding your beautiful tiles to the floor or the wall. For the most part, it’s supposed to be white. Typically, worn-in grout falls somewhere on the beige to dark gray scale. This is a special cleaning job into itself and, while tedious, is necessary to avoid getting gross build-up – the result of ignoring the problem year after year after year. And while you’re in the bathroom, check out your tub. It may be time to recaulk the sealant around the tub. Keeping up with this task reduces the risk that water will get behind your tiles and cause them to fall off.
  14. Remember the Garage!: So, you have your house pretty well situated, but what about that mess in the garage? Think how nice it would be to actually park your car in the space that was devised for that purpose. This is a task that may require some help. Go at it by dividing things up into what you want to keep and what you want to throw out. For the keepers, organize them into categories. Check out what can be hung on walls and hammer in some nails. The more stuff you can get off the ground, the better. Invest in a tool bench and some sturdy containers and your vehicle will be off the street in no time. While you’re at it, take the time to clean up those ugly oil spills or paint splatters from the floor. Depending on how large your garage is, you may consider building some separating walls and using a portion for long-term storage if that kind of space is limited within your home.
  15. Yard Sale or Donate: So, you’ve successfully cleaned and organized your home. What to do with all the stuff you’ve purged from your now-sparkling abode? Well, if you’re in the market for some extra income, and you have a good temperament and a few free weekends, then hold a yard sale and see how much your vintage items will fetch on the free market. This will be something of a chore that you may not want to undertake so soon after overhauling your house, as it will involve inventory and pricing. If so, then find a good charity to donate your stuff. Either way it’s a win-win. Donating your items to a nonprofit is a good financial opportunity as well, since all donations are tax write offs. Just make sure you research the charity so you know your stuff is going to a good place. And ask for receipts! You can’t claim it on your tax return without the proper documentation.

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