What a beautiful Friday here in New Mexico – the sun is shining, the wind hasn’t picked up yet and it’s time for a quick Friday Frolic!

April is the quintessential springtime month and, as such, a perfect time for our minds and hearts to turn to thoughts of spring cleaning. Personally, I think if I’m moving everything around to clean around it, I might as well re-think my organizational plan as well so I get a fresh start every spring. Doing this each year helps re-energize my home and me for another year with a fresh outlook and helps keep clutter at bay. This is no small task for someone who is, at heart, a hoarder. Many of these ideas ultimately came from my mother but didn’t sink in until I had a family of my own – others came to me as a result of struggling for solutions through the years. I struggle with the clutter monster daily so a yearly fresh start is a must. Being organized is critical whether you’re juggling a busy career with family life or just trying to achieve a sense of normalcy while living with the limitations of a chronic illness – a sense of balance and harmony can be healing. Let’s get started:

To-Do Lists. I love lists. Long-term Goals, Short-term Goals and To-Do Lists separated by Tasks related to those Goals are a must. Keep it all in your planner so you work from one central information clearinghouse – paper or electronic, it’s up to you and your personal style. There’s a particular sense of satisfaction when one marks off completed tasks, knowing the goal is one step closer.

Clean as you go. Gather the supplies/materials needed for the task at hand before you start and clean up after yourself as you complete various stages of the task. The relief at the end when you realize the task is complete and there’s no big clean up waiting is so empowering the next task on the list is not so intimidating.

Sort as you go. Inevitably, as you clear an area for cleaning, you find yourself sorting through excess things – clutter, if you will. Designate four categories and set up a box or bag for each: Keep, Toss, Donate, and Undecided. The Keep pile is for items that are currently in use and valid in your life. The Toss pile is for items that are trash – no good to anyone and need to disappear. The Donate pile is for items that need to be loved by someone else now. The Undecided pile are for those things that are still friendly but not so current that they need to take up valuable real estate – they go in a box with the current date on the outside. If you haven’t opened the box within six months – it moves to Donate status without ever being re-opened. If you do open the box within six months, put the new date on the outside – once six months has passed without opening the box, it gets donated.

What does it mean to you? As you sort, clean and designate categories for your belongings, be mindful of what each possession means to you. Keep what you love – re-home the rest. If you don’t love it anymore, it’s either time to toss it or time to give someone else an opportunity to enjoy it.

Like with like. Remember the old saying, “A place for everything, and everything in its place?” As you return your belongings to their appropriate places think, ‘like with like.’ You probably already do this with many things, T-shirts with T-shirts, socks with socks, etc. Can you take it a step further and put all the white T-shirts together, then the yellow, green, blue, etc.? All the summer clothes grouped together, by color, followed by winter, by color. Better yet, if you have a spare closet, split the seasons so you have only one season of clothing in your closet at a time. Then, sort by color and keep the accessories (think purses, shoes, etc.), by color, on the shelves above each color grouping. It may sound trivial at the moment, but the time and stress it saves in a busy morning, allowing you to get out the door looking pulled together and serene is immeasurable.

Expose everything. In the dresser drawers, that is. Most of us stack our T-shirts, shorts, pajamas, or whatever is in the drawers so what we see is just what is on top, and that’s what we wear most often. Try rolling these items and lining them up like logs instead. You will see everything you have in each drawer resulting in more items being worn more regularly plus, the items wrinkle less when they’re rolled versus being folded. Of course, as you’re rolling and re-filling the dresser drawers, you might as well sort by color. I also take this opportunity to check for stains, wear and tear, etc., to make sure what goes in the drawer is wearable.

Keep workspace clean. Moving on to the office area, keeping your workspace clean and clutter free is key to increased productivity. Using the same rules as the household (only keep it, if you love it or it serves a real purpose), clear the desktop as much as possible. Keep the current projects in a vertical file on the desktop or credenza close at hand – other projects go in a file drawer.

Streamline files. Current projects close at hand – in a vertical file or top file drawer of desk. Research needed within a month or two – bottom drawer of desk or top drawers of file cabinet that’s close by. Completed or legal files – file room or bottom drawers of file cabinets. If original documents aren’t needed, consider scanning for digital long-term storage and disposing of originals.

Cleaning products. I give this category a paragraph of its own because I veer off from the ‘like with like’ philosophy on this point. I keep cleaning products in the laundry room, kitchen and bathrooms so I don’t have to drag them throughout the house as I’m cleaning or every time there’s a spot mess to address. This has become even more important through the years of dealing with a chronic illness – fatigue is an issue that requires streamlining everything. The bathrooms have ‘scrubbing bubbles’ for the tub and toilet as well as mirror cleaner while the kitchen has grease-cutting spray cleaner as well as appliance cleaner and dish detergent. The hardcore cleaning products for the floors and furniture polish are kept in the laundry room. Additionally, I have the swift duster things strategically stashed throughout the house for quick touchups. Obviously, if you still have children in the house, you need the cabinet locks to keep these things out of the hands of the little ones, as did I. The minutes saved and the ability to do spot clean ups without the extra steps is invaluable. Keeping up with the cleaning as you go through the week virtually eliminates having to spend an entire day on the weekend catching up with chores – spend the day with your family instead.

Hopefully, these ideas give you a starting point for your own foray into spring cleaning. It can be a formidable task so take it one room at a time and before you know it, you’re done!

Enjoy your weekend!

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