Yay for SPRING! Anyone else ready for for a fresh start & a clean house? This year I thought it would be fun to do a spring cleaning series for a little extra motivation, breaking the process into manageable steps so that by the end of the month, our homes all sparkle. You with me? Good!
We are going to start by clearing the clutter.
But first, a riddle: What do you get when you take one shopaholic-turned-coupon fanatic and one guy who hates to get rid of anything, then add 2 houses worth of stuff, a hurricane, 3 cross-country moves, 2 kids, a major remodel, the death of a semi-hoarding parent, and a daily schedule filled with homeschool, crafts, & too many other activities to mention?
Yep, you guessed it: A mess.
Oh don’t get me wrong, on a day-to-day basis our comfortable little 3 bedroom, 2 bath house appears relatively neat and clean and clutter-free. Organized, even. The dishes are washed and the beds are made and the clutter is picked up and put, well, somewhere.
But all that STUFF is lurking in the background, tucked away behind closed doors, in closets and cupboards and containers. And in the garage. Especially in the garage.
Over the past year I really have been trying to weed out the excess, a carload here, a few boxes there. It has been a painfully slow process. You see, Husband and I are pretty much polar opposites when it comes to the acquisition and loss of property. For me it has always been easy come, easy go. The shopaholic in me loves to bring it in, but the neat freak in me loves to see it go.
Husband, on the other hand, hates to shop and buys nothing most of the time, not really because he is cheap, but because he would literally do almost anything rather than go to the mall or even to Home Depot. But once it is in our house, courtesy of me, he can’t stand to see it tossed out. To him, it is wastefulness. He’s not wrong.
But do you see our problem? Once something is here, it never, ever leaves.
But not anymore. You see, I think we have finally had some sort of coming together moment. It started last summer with taking all the toys away, and then our spending freeze and finding financial peace. I [finally] stopped shopping, even for so-called bargains. And I think once Husband was able to stop worrying about me just buying another one, he stopped clinging to the things we already have but don’t need.
We have been clearing the clutter like a couple of crazy people.
It feels so good!
The more we get rid of, the more we want to get rid of. De-cluttering begets more de-cluttering! It is a beautiful thing. There is still a lot of good-old-fashioned deep cleaning that needs to happen, and this spring cleaning series will have several more parts to it, but for now we are focused on doing some serious purging. This clutter has got to go!
If you’d like to join in, here are some tips for getting started:
Do an initial sweep
Grab a box and a large garbage bag and starting at one end, do a walk-through of your entire house. Scan each room, quickly grabbing anything you see that you know is either garbage or no longer needed. Place items in either the donation box or the garbage bag. Keep going until you’ve made your way through the entire house. See how easy and painless that was? Even if you don’t make it through the rest of the steps, you’ve already made a ton of progress!
Clear out one area at a time
After your initial surface purge it is time to dig a little deeper. At this point it is not a good idea to start randomly delving in to more than one area at a time; you will quickly become overwhelmed. Instead, start with one manageable area–a room, a corner, a closet, a cabinet, or a dresser–armed with a box for goodwill, a laundry basket for things that need to be returned to their proper place, and a garbage bag for the trash. Then get to work and don’t leave your area until the job is done!
Give yourself permission to only keep the things that are currently useful, despite who gave them to you or how much they cost. This can be really hard, especially at first. That’s where the ruthless part comes in. As you sort through your things, ask yourself these questions:
- Do we use it, wear it, or play with it? If it is clothes, does it still fit?
- Is it in good working condition?
- Does it enrich our lives in some way?
- Does it have sentimental value?
- Could someone else use it more?
It is helpful to make 4 categories: 1.) Things to keep in this area, 2.) things to donate, 3.) things to throw away, and 4.) things to put elsewhere (keepsake box, seasonal items, or things that belong in a different room). Once you’ve cleared an area and put away all the items that belong elsewhere, move on to the next area. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Get it OUT of your house
Once you’ve determined something needs to go, get rid of it as quickly as possible. Don’t let those boxes of donation items sit in your garage or basement for months on end; inevitably someone in your family will start digging through it and the clutter will be right back where it started. As soon as you’ve filled a box, put it in your car so that you can drop it off at the nearest donation center as soon as you can.
I personally am not a huge fan of hosting garage sales–to me they are too much work for too little payout–but if you do want to throw one, do it right away. I do usually sell bigger items on Craigslist, and occasionally we will also just take a picture of multiple small (but) nice items, list all the items, and sell it all for one flat price. Those type of listings always go really quickly! (For more tips on selling your stuff, check out this post)
It really helps if you and your spouse are both on the same page when it comes to clearing the clutter, especially if you can tackle it together or divide and conquer different areas. Our kids are still a little small yet to pitch in this year, but if your kids are older, get them involved and excited about the process. (Try letting them keep the money from the stuff you sell!) It is so motivating to have a partner or team to cheer you on!
Husband and I have each been tackling different areas in our own time, and honestly he has been leading the charge. But seeing him work so hard and get so much accomplished has encouraged me to do the same, which then in turn motivates him to keep going. It is fun to feel, for the first time, like we are in this together. It is us vs. the clutter, and we are determined to win!
Stop bringing in more
For us bargain shoppers especially, this is the step that can be SO hard. But if you want to have a house that is truly clutter free, you must STOP BUYING MORE STUFF. During this spring cleaning series, I challenge you to take a break from buying anything beyond the basic necessities of life. Once you’ve purged and purged and purged some more, simply allow yourself to bask in the glow of less for a while.
While I’ve made vast improvements in the past six months, buying less is a discipline I am still learning. Honestly, I have found that the biggest “cure” for me comes from avoiding temptation. If I go to Target (or the craft store, dollar store, etc.), I will find something to buy. In fact I will usually find multiple somethings. So I just don’t go. The same goes for thrift stores, garage sales, & online shopping. Remember, just because it is a “good deal” doesn’t mean you need it! Buying nothing is still cheaper than buying something on sale.