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Spring Cleaning (not just for Spring Anymore)

Reprinted from Gray Matters, Times Standard, April 19, 2016

As we open our windows and doors and see the dust on all that stuff, maybe it’s time to push beyond our usual spring cleaning routine. I’m no expert on cleaning. I plan an occasion party just to force myself to do it. What I do know is that having less stuff makes it much easier.

A few tips.

  1. Have a good reason. Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist) suggests you start with a pen and paper. Write down why you want to do reduce your stuff to remind and guide you when times get tough. “Because my spouse keeps hassling me” won’t be enough. “I want to reduce my stuff so my best college buddy from out of town can stay with me instead of in a hotel.” Or “I want to spend more time doing fun things and less time taking care of my stuff.” Being specific helps you see how your life will improve and keeps you going when the going gets tough.

  2. Got Boxes? Best tool ever. Keep, trash/recycle, or donate. More refinements are possible, but start here. A handy box for when the urge comes to declutter makes a huge difference. When full, put in the car and take it away.

  3. Don’t start with someone else’s stuff. That is really annoying and self-defeating. Start with your stuff. As you clear the excess and unused items in your life, the energy in your home will change. Others will see the benefit and jump in on their own. To have it stick, they have to WANT to do it themselves.

  4. Start with the public areas of the home. Seeing them clean and uncluttered will reinforce your success and give you positive feedback. Don’t move everything into a back room and shut the door. That is counterproductive.

  5. Start with the least emotional stuff and ask: why do I have this? When do I use it? How does it make me feel? What would happen if I gave it away?

  6. If everything is emotional, get some help. How we feel about an item and the person who gave it are two different things. Yet we keep things because it was a gift or a family heirloom. It’s okay to pass items on to others who will enjoy them more. Remember: things aren’t people. You still have the memories without the stuff. If something brings bad memories, definitely toss it.

  7. Touch things. Don’t just look and say, “Yep, want and use it all. Done here.” Pick up each of the 200+ books (CDs, sweaters, etc.) one by one. Ask, “Do I love it? Why do I have it? Will I read/listen to/wear it again? Would someone else enjoy this?” Determine the real reason you are keeping it and if it is a sensible one, keep it. But if not, pass it on.

  8. Decide what you want, not what you don’t. Courtney Carver (Project 333) suggests that you take everything out of the closet and handle each item one at a time. Only put back what you absolutely love, is in good condition, and fits. Everything else can go. If you have trouble with this, bring in a teenager. They will help set you straight on what not to wear.

  9. Let go of the guilt. Why keep things that “don’t spark joy” (Marie Kondo) but spark guilt or obligation instead? Is that what you want in your life? Life is too short to be surrounded by things that make us feel bad.

  10. Who will do this if you don’t? Your children? Strangers? Is that what you want? Gift, donate, recycle or trash it now. You are doing everyone a great favor.

  11. Now, go out and play!

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