A 7 Step Guide to Simple Spring Cleaning
Spring cleaning is an American tradition, or at least that’s what we’re taught as children. But how many of us feel really confident about our spring cleaning skills? If you’re like me, you did not just raise your hand. Stuff piles up while we’re busy living life, and one day (usually in the spring when the weather’s warming up and everyone wants to wear t-shirts and be outside) it’s just too much. You suddenly go crazy with the amount of stuff you own. Before you burn your house to the ground or donate all your winter clothing to Goodwill, let me help you think through a simple way to spring clean. All of this is do-able in one afternoon – just make sure you have a couple of hours to set aside so you can get it out of the way and get back to your hammock. Step 1: Make a mess.
I know, I know – we’re supposed to be cleaning. But how can you deep clean if you don’t know how much stuff you have? Pull everything out of the cabinets and the linen closet and the far recesses of your hall closet and spread it out. It’s going to be terrifying. YOU CAN DO THIS. Be honest with yourself – pull stuff out from under the kitchen sink and empty your paperwork into a pile. Once your house is nice and messy and all the hiding places for stuff are turned inside out, then you’re ready for Step 2. Photo by Bianca Nogrady/Flickr Note: There’s a slightly less messy way to do this for those of you that can’t stand clutter. Here it is: make a list of all the hiding places in each room, and go room by room. That way only one room is messy at a time. I tend to prefer this method, as it leaves the rest of the house livable.
Step 2: Organize your mess.
Yes, I’m sorry. Now we have to organize the chaos we just created. But this is really easy! Make three big piles: Keep Go Reformat Notice there is no “maybe” pile. You have to put your big kid pants on and decide whether something stays or goes. Here’s a good set of questions to help you decide:
- Have you touched it in 6 months? (if yes, keep; if no, it goes)
- Is it a valuable, inherited item from your Meemaw? (if yes, keep; if no, it goes)
- Can it be used in creating awesome Halloween costumes? (if yes, keep; if no, it goes)
The “Reformat” pile is for all those things you can condense, downsize, or reduce. I’m thinking tax files, old utility bills, paperwork, receipts, records, magazine collections, and clipped recipes or coupons that get stuffed in extra spaces. We’ll deal with these first.
Step 3: Go digital.
Take that “Reformat” pile and join the 21st century. Saving documents in a digital format saves space and lets you feel ok getting rid of lots of papers. First sort them into groups: bills, receipts, tax papers, and important stuff; magazines, newsletters, and mail; and other junk you dredged up. Go through each group, making a “save” pile and a “recycle” pile. [Note: You should definitely shred anything with your personal information on it, so consider making a third “shred” pile. Or call it “kindling” – your choice.] Now, using an app on your phone (and there are plenty, like …) or one of the cheap pocket scanners below, scan all the receipts and bills you think you might need to save. Be sure to label the folder they’re in clearly with the date you’re saving them. If you don’t know what to do with old tax documents, there are several businesses that can help like Neat or Shoeboxed. Here are some devices or tools that will help with Step 3: Scanners: Handheld Wand Scanner – $35 Scan-to-Butt Document Scanner – $65 Shredders: 6-Sheet Paper Shredder – $18 7-Sheet CrossCut Shredder with Basket – $27 12-Sheet CrossCut Compaction Shredder – $60 Apps: (pulled from this awesome Lifehacker article – they tested all of them) Google Drive’s Scan Feature – Free (Android, iOS) CamScanner – Basic account is free (Android, iOS, Windows) Genius Scan – Basic account is free (Android, iOS) Evernote Scannable – Basic account is free (iOS) FineScanner – Basic account is free (iOS)
Step 4: Deal with the rest.
Now, go back to your big piles of stuff. Remember? Keep, Go, Reformat. We should be done with “Reformat.” I recommend tackling the “Go” pile next. This part’s easy: do you trash, recycle, donate, or sell? Photo by Liz Lawley/Flickr Here are some things that will help:
- a list of 100+ things you can recycle at any of your local recycling centers
- a guideline for what to donate and what condition it should be in
- a beginner’s guide to selling stuff on eBay (cough, cough – those Star Wars figurines)
- a list of other places you can sell stuff for cash
From there, you can pretty safely assume anything left over is trash. Miami Heat Pitch it!
Step 5: Don’t forget the garage.
Take a quick outdoors break and head to the garage before it slips your mind – again! Since we spend a good chunk of time in our garages in the spring, this can be a light step. Be sure to check the expiration dates on all your chemicals, paints, stains, and liquids – properly dispose of any hazardous household materials that are expired.
Step 6: Deep clean.
I know, you still have piles of stuff sitting out around the house. So start by vacuuming inside all your closets, wiping down the shelves, sucking the bits out of all the drawer corners. And now’s the time you may want to consider putting down contact paper or lining any of your drawers and cabinets that hold linens or valuables. Photo by Sumeet Jain/Flickr If you’re organizing the kitchen, maybe splurge on a metal organizing rack to help keep the pots and pans clutter to a minimum. They’re readily available at any home improvement store, and pretty affordable for a “Hey, I think I need those!” purchase. While you have the cabinets under the kitchen sink and bathroom sink empty, scrub them down with plain soap and water (so as not to cause a chance chemical reaction if cleaners or products have leaked). And don’t forget to wipe down the outsides of the cabinet doors, too. I love Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products – they’re all-natural and won’t hurt your kids, or your pets, or the environment. And they don’t smell like weird chemically products. (Tip: You can use them on glass, painted woods, natural woods, tile, granite, leather, and more – just be sure to follow the mixing directions on the bottle!) You may want to go ahead and dust, vacuum, mop, wipe, and so on until the house sparkles around the piles of stuff that you’re keeping.
Step 7: Everything in its place.
This is my favorite step! Put everything back in its proper place. Then vacuum or mop where your piles were sitting, and you’re done! When putting things away, look for simple storage ideas that will help your home be more of the “where’s all your stuff” home. Think about using benches with drawers or baskets under them to hide off-season shoes or hats. Use boxes, bins, and baskets to keep small things inside your cabinets organized and accessible. And while you’re at it, hang up that cool painting you’ve always wanted on the wall. You found it again – do something with it! Photo by Nathalie Babineau-Griffiths/Flickr Spring cleaning can either be a chore you keep putting off or a game you play to see how much stuff you can get rid of. And in the end, with a super clean house and everything tucked away in its place, you can retreat to your hammock with no more guilt.