Why do people always assume that spring is the best time for cleaning? The reason is simple – storage rotation. In many parts of the world, the seasons are about to change dramatically – and that means pulling stuff out of storage – everything from seasonal wardrobes to seasonal tools such as lawnmowers and gardening tools. At the same time, you may have a lot of things that you’d like to put back into storage: snowblowers, sleds, winter sports gear, holiday decorations that never got put away. There’s no denying that it’s an ideal time to clean – if you can find the energy.
There are two ways to handle spring cleaning: the gradual method and the all-at-once method. If you can spare a weekend to do nothing but clean, the all-at-once method has a distinct advantage, in that you can get the whole job done at once – especially if your entire family can be persuaded to help. But if you can’t free up an entire day or weekend, you are stuck with the gradual route. Don’t worry – it can be done! Here is a week-by-week planner to help you accomplish your spring cleaning well before Memorial Day:
Week 1: Focus first on the stuff that you need to get rid of: the things that you plan to give away, throw out, or recycle. Go through one room at a time, sorting clutter into these three categories. Tackle one room of your home each day this week. Each day, when you are done, end the day by taking trash bags to your dumpster or bins, and packing the trunk of your car with bags and boxes of things to be given away or recycled. At the end of the week, at a time when you are running other errands, stop to unload your already packed trunk of donatable items.
Week 2: Next, go back to your closets. Empty and clean each closet. Put back into the closet only what you will need there for the season. Anything else you can pack up and put into the trunk of your car, just as you did with the “to donate” items during week 1. When you have finished going through your closets (and possibly your basement, attic, or garage), drive your by now thoroughly packed car over to your storage unit and do a rotation: putting out-of-season items back into storage, and taking newly in-season items out of storage. Or, if you do not use a storage unit, modify this process for your basement, attic, or other preferred storage space.
Week 3: It’s time to declutter your home’s living space. But this should not be such a hard process, now that you’ve already pulled out everything you wanted to get rid of, and now that you have clean closets. Here are some tips to help you deal with the most challenging pieces of clutter you may find:
- Make a special box for home office clutter. At the end of the week, take all the home office clutter that you’ve collected from other places, and go through it. Make sure that you have a designated location to save tax information and receipts, and a place to save reference materials such as account numbers, school directories, and the like (a three-ring binder is a good choice for this).
- Take digital photos of children’s art work, and use the photos to make a screensaver for your computer, or load the photos into a digital photo frame to put in your living room. Then, ruthlessly throw out the originals. Alternatively, if your children have produced original art work that is too precious to throw out (even if you have a digital picture of it), frame it and put it on your wall. That way, you can still enjoy the art, and it won’t be floating around where you can trip on it, spill things on it, or lose it.
- Make liberal use of book shelves. Book shelves are an organizer’s best friend. They don’t have to be used to hold books. Shelves can be used to hold files, children’s art supplies, baskets of craft items, etc. The same stuff that looks like clutter when it is sitting on your living room coffee table will look artfully organized if you throw it in a wicker basket and put it on a shelf.
Week 4: Finally, you’ve reached cleaning week. Even if you don’t like to clean, this week shouldn’t be that bad. You will have already decluttered, and you’ve already cleaned your closets. This is the week when you can go through the house doing all those once-a-year jobs that tend to get put off: washing the drapes, cleaning the windows, steam-cleaning the carpets, testing smoke detectors, and if you are very thorough, dusting on top of and behind appliances such as your refrigerator and stove. If you again divide the week up, doing one chore per day, you should be rewarded with a sparkling clean house by the end of the week.
If you have to, there is an even faster method. It’s not organized, it’s not ideal, but it works in an emergency. Collect boxes, and go through each room in your house, throwing anything that won’t be missed for a while into a box. Empty rooms of clutter as ruthlessly as possible. Take your clutter-filled boxes and put them immediately into storage. Do the same thing for your closets. You’ll find that your rooms and closets look much more organized right away, as soon as they are clutter-free. Then go through and do your personal version of a superfast emergency housecleaning. This method will leave you with a storage space full of clutter-filled boxes that you’ll need to go back to later to sort out. But if you need to have your home clean and organized in a hurry – this is what you’ll want to do. If you’re lucky, you’ll find that nobody misses the clutter that you stored in your whirlwind house cleaning.