The spring season brings rain showers, blooming flowers, and the beginning of baseball. Spring is also synonymous with renewal. The ritual of cleaning your home in April has been a tradition for many generations. It is a great chance to declutter, scrub, and get organized.
Commencing the spring clean-up can be overwhelming. Family homes can be filled with clutter and chaos, and it may be difficult to figure out where to begin.
Experts suggest breaking down a spring cleaning by project/room rather than attempting the whole house in a day. Andrea Walker of Chatham, owner of Smartly Organized, says, “Two-hour chunks of time seem to be more manageable.”
Include the whole family in the clean-up process. Tackling a family cleaning project together gives parents an opportunity to teach their children valuable life lessons. Explain why it is important to be organized or how items the family no longer needs can be used to help others.
Don’t just tell your children to “go clean their room” but rather work alongside them. Walker says, “Kids have no idea what to do and need parents to model behavior.” Make cleaning fun and not just a long, boring chore. Take breaks and incorporate incentives such as playing a board game you find at the bottom of the closet or ordering a pizza when the job is done.
Start decluttering by sorting through all the toys and sporting goods. Toss the ones that are broken or missing pieces. Set aside outgrown items for sale or donation.
For the items with which you can’t yet part, Sue Anderson of Simplified Living Solutions suggests creating a vault. Have your child put half of their toys in a large plastic bin, and store that bin out of sight. Every few months, bring out this treasure chest and put the ones they have been playing with in the box. Anderson says, “The toy vault will cut down on clutter and make daily clean up more manageable. In addition, kids will feel like it is Christmas again when the ‘new’ toys appear.”
Walker helps her clients to stay organized by creating “zones” to store like items together in their child’s play area just like in an early childhood classroom. Label shelves, drawers, or containers (using photographs for younger children) so that children know where to place toys when they are done playing with them.
Sort sporting goods into three piles— keep, toss, and donate. Don’t just put items back into the clutter. Figure out a shelving system to maintain organization. Use this time to check that helmets still fit properly, fill basketballs with air, etc. Make a list of any equipment that needs replacing.
Art, clothing, and more stuff to decide—toss or treasure? —>
Part with Art.
From worksheets to tests to art projects, kids bring home a lot of memorabilia. It is impossible (and unnecessary) to hold on to every piece of paper. Personally, I do feel guilty when I toss out an art project (and quickly take the trash out to avoid getting caught). But saving too much each year makes it hard to locate the really special things when you need to.
When children come home from school, empty their backpacks, and toss items such as worksheets immediately. For the remaining papers, create a space (a drawer in the kitchen or mudroom or a plastic bin) for each child in the family to store their work. Go through the box every few weeks to sort and toss.
There are several ways to preserve extra-special artwork. Take some snapshots to create a photo book of your child’s art. Or buy some inexpensive frames and hang the best pieces for the year. Walker says, “Framing makes the art look special and important. Parents can use the same frames year after year by just laying the newest piece on top for display.”
For kids’ clothing, again use the method of sorting items into three piles—keep, toss, and give away.
Of the keep pile, I separate by season so that the closet contains only weather-appropriate clothes (thereby avoiding my 9-year-old wearing shorts when it’s 10 degrees). Designate a box for clothes that your child has outgrown and keep it in her room year round. When something doesn’t fit, immediately put it in the box (rather than pushing it to the back of the closet).
Getting rid of your own clothes can be a daunting task. Walker says, “The rule of thumb is if it hasn’t been worn in six months to a year, let it go. Unless it is something really special, unworn clothing just takes up space, creates clutter, and makes it difficult to get dressed in the morning.” Group the items you keep together by style and color.
Giving up material items can be difficult for many people, even when said items are no longer of use to them.
There are many reasons people may be afraid or unwilling to depart with things they don’t need. Some worry that they may need the item “someday” and will be upset that they no longer have it. Others feel wasteful getting rid of something because they paid good money for it, especially when it didn’t get a lot of usage (or, even worse, still has the tags on). Some items carry sentimental value, such as a child’s Christening gown or a pair of baby shoes. Parting with such items may feel like giving up a memory. Anderson says, “When people are cleaning their homes, sometimes they aren’t able to think it through and they just think it is easier to keep all of their stuff. But if they just ask themselves, ‘Why do I have this?’ and ‘Do I really need it?’ they realize they don’t.”
Getting rid of “stuff” not only makes your house look better, it can also make you feel better. Excessive clutter has been linked to stress and a decrease in productivity. Robin Wilson of robinwilsonhome.com, says, “A clean house can equal a clean mind. Once people reevaluate and declutter, it can give them a new outlook, a new beginning.”
And, keep in mind, a lot of the stuff you don’t need and choose to get rid of (through sale or donation) can really make a positive difference in someone else’s life.
Mother of three, Randi Mazzella, is a freelance writer from Short Hills.
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