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The Joys of Spring Cleaning

As the snow melts – dribbling down the snow banks like an ice-cream dripping down a cone on a hot sunny day – spring cleaning is on my mind. And as I think of sunny days, I realize that I will be spending more of my time outdoors – in the garden and playing with the grandchildren on the trampoline. So whatever doesn’t get cleaned and sorted by May will probably wait another six months.

I remember as a child my mother always did a  thorough cleaning of everything in sight – every Spring and Fall. And I have continued her habit, always thinking of it as a renewal process – a chance to start afresh.

Remove the clutter first, then clean

In my mind, there are two important things to consider about this semi-annual cleaning process:

  1. Getting rid of everything you wouldn’t need next year; and
  2. Making sure all the spaces in the house are so clean that if they were skipped or a bit neglected in bi-weekly cleans during the Summer, “no-one would notice”.

I have always been of the opinion that the time spent “spring cleaning” will permit me to be a bit more carefree as I quickly whisk through my regular weekly chores during the “lazy, hazy days of summer”. The reward later is worth the bit of extra effort now.

For everyone, “spring cleaning” represents something slightly different.

  • My principle is that it means discarding or giving away what you do not need in your life.
  • My practice is to empty one space at a time, wash or dust all of the surfaces (shelves, bins, drawers, closets and storage spaces), and return only what you need, or that you want to see there next year.

If something is old and tired, or someone has outgrown it – out it goes. Why are you keeping the blue sweater you bought five years ago that doesn’t match anything in your current wardrobe? If you haven’t made onion soup for six years since the family has grown and moved out, give the onion soup bowls away. The acrylic paints are all dried up, so why are they taking space on the shelf? If you have stopped sending Christmas cards by mail, what are you doing with 150 cards you bought at a Boxing Day sale? Perhaps you could give them to a nursery school to make decorations.

If you do not need it, why are you keeping it? Retaining stuff that you don’t want actually adds a “burden” to your life. When you have a particular item of clothing in the closet that you haven’t worn for a few years, you think “I really should wear that”, and then you feel bad when you choose not to. If it wasn’t there, you would be free from those feelings. And you would also free up more room to replace it with an item that you would really want to wear. Not to mention that you could pass it on to someone (maybe a friend) who would really love to put it on every day.

The 80/20 rule – keep the 20

On a recent TV show, the guest stylist was describing how to focus on creating a “capsule wardrobe” because we only wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. So “spring cleaning” is an ideal time for you take a hard look at the other 80% of your wardrobe to see what you can eliminate.

It really doesn’t make sense to hang on to clothes that do not fit. If children have outgrown their clothes, they definitely will not fit next year – so why store them. Storing adult clothing for someone who has changed sizes is a constant reminder of loving the old self instead of the new person they have become today. Discarding old clothes really gives you a sense of freedom.

Unnecessary possessions in your home start to “own you” rather than the other way around. These things require space (in your closets, cupboards or drawers), cleaning (even if you haven’t used something for two years it will still be dusty), and moving around (to get at things you like more, or to dust). This is even more true of anything that requires repair or maintenance because it stays on your “to-do” list, and distracts you from things you’d rather be doing. Keeping unnecessary things around wastes your energy!!!

Paul Graham in an article called “Stuff” shared this observation: “…unless you are extremely organized, a house full of stuff can be very depressing. A cluttered room saps one’s spirits.” So de-cluttering will freshen up your rooms as you do your “spring cleaning”. It will bring some energy back into your life. You will feel a Karmic lightness.

If you need more inspiration, check out Marie Kondo’s theory of “the life-changing magic of tidying up” and see how de-cluttering can bring a “spark of joy” to you and your home. And don’t forget to say “thank you” to all the items that you dispose of – either for the joy they have provided in the past, or the lesson they taught you about buying something you really didn’t need. And you will no doubt find an additional “spark of joy” because you have now made room for a few new things in your life, and a fresh perspective to replace “same-old, same-old”.

Get into the hidden corners of your home

Spring cleaning is also a great time to tackle some of the other less frequently visited areas of your home: attic, basement, garage, or filing cabinets.

The season of Spring is like a re-birth, so it the best time to get rid of the stuff that you no longer, need, want or like.   If the items are valuable, you can sell them on an on-line forum (e.g. Let-it-go, Kijiji, Craig’s list) or have a garage sale on the first weekend of nice weather when everyone is out walking your neighborhood. If financial gain is not a factor, then take them to a thrift shop and let a charity make some money, giving you even more incentive to throw your “guilt” to the wind.

To make “spring cleaning” more fun, I put on some of my favorite music, with the volume one notch louder than usual, and set some goals (e.g. fill X number of boxes in X hours). The rewards are chocolate cookies with tea for every box that I discard, and potato chips with a glass of wine at the end.

What do you do to make “spring cleaning” more fun at your place? What are your goals? Rewards? Is it your solitude time? Who pitches in to help?

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