Spring cleaning

Need to spring clean? Find a mantra and get it done!

We’ve all been there, standing in front of closets stuffed with clothes, attempting to swap out our clothes for the season. Nearby, there's a pile of items you meant to donate months ago. In the corner, there's a stack of empty organizational bins you bought in a feeble attempt to finally get organized. 

Now, the snow is melting and it's time to get down to business with spring cleaning.

Some people enjoy the feelings spring cleaning brings, while others find it overwhelming. The piles, chaos and disorganization that come in the midst of the process can make some people so frustrated that they throw everything back into a storage bin and drag it back to whichever hiding place it came from.

For me, there's a mixture of the feelings I’ve described. The struggle is exhausting. My procrastination go-tos are my phone or a book. Coincidentally, this is how I stumbled on an article on how clutter can increase your stress and anxiety levels.

Studies have shown that decluttering can improve your mental health and give you greater peace of mind. So why do we let items pile up in the first place? The answer is simple: life. While clutter is “one of the easiest stressors to fix,” according to Psychology Today, the ability to carve out time to take action is more difficult than actually cleaning. 

In January and February, my schedule was crazy. While my fiance and I tried to keep up with chores, our home became filled with piles of clothes. Packages and bags were spread out on the counter tops. Towels were spread over the back entryway to clean up snow tracks. There were piles of work materials. Our house wasn’t dirty, but it was cluttered, and the thought of that gave me anxiety and made my stomach churn. I knew that at some point, we had to set aside time to deal with it. Luckily, our schedules have settled down a bit, now. 

Part of the issue of tidying our homes relates back to our initial feelings toward cleaning. If you feel discouraged or overwhelmed, it’s less likely you will finish. You have to commit and develop a motivational reminder to run on a loop in your mind while you go through the process.

Still at your wits' end even after the motivational speech? Remember: More often than not, when you begin to clean up but don’t finish, you end up with more disorganization than you started with. Don’t make it harder on yourself — finish the job! Ask yourself if the items are worth keeping. Do they bring you joy, as author, tidying guru and Netflix star Marie Kondo touts, or do they hold significant value? If not, toss them! If it is difficult for you to make a decision, consider whether you could live without the item and whether it is bringing you more clutter versus joy.    

Raise your hand if you have ever bought storage bins without having an immediate purpose for them. I know my hand is flying high in the air. As a teacher and an organizer wannabe, if storage bins are on sale, they're in my cart. But, as Kondo notes, those bins could bring you more frustration than joy.

Once you’ve committed to your cleanup, it’s time to start. According to Kondo, one of the worst mistakes you can make is cleaning room by room. Instead, her KonMari method (featured in her book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing," and Netflix show, "Tidying Up With Marie Kondo") is all about tidying and decluttering according to category. For instance, if you begin with clothes, pile all of your clothes together and sort through them at once. Make a checklist of the categories you need to sort, which will help keep you on task. 

Once your tidying is done and your get-rid-of piles are bagged up, decide where the items should go. Area shelters such as Winnie’s Place, King’s Harvest Ministries, and Christian Care provide acceptable donation lists online. Local animal shelters often will accept old towels, cleaning products and animal products for furry friends, so do not throw items into the garbage unless they’re entirely unusable.

Happy spring cleaning!   

Katy Williams is an occasional Radish contributor. 

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