The sun is shining; birds are chirping, daffodils and crocuses are pushing their way out of their long winter slumber. Suddenly you feel that familiar urge to spring clean everything in sight. But before you get started, do yourself a big favor and consider these spring cleaning mistakes you definitely want to avoid.
Mistake: Starting Out Too Big
Who among us has never undertaken the proverbial biting off more than we can chew? Just as I thought, and you sure didn’t see me raise my hand on that one! I’m talking about deciding to dejunk, clean, paint, and reorganize the garage. In one day.
Here’s what happened: Ended up just shoving everything back in about dinnertime, with plans to “finish up tomorrow.” It’s clear to see why that project turned into one big fail. It was too large, too nebulous, absolutely impossible.
Here’s the problem: We get motivated to spring clean, which is great, but then take it on as one big single project. It’s too vague. We start out overwhelmed and then give up altogether, figuring we’ll do it all at some other more convenient time.
The secret is to break up big projects into smaller “microtasks.” Each microtask should not take more than an hour. If washing windows will take an entire day, break that down to say “Wash Kitchen Windows” or another manageable area. Looking at a shortlist of microtasks is empowering. What’s reasonable is doable!
Remember, we often overestimate what we can do in a short time (one afternoon) and under-estimate what we can do over a long period, a little at a time. Like spending thirty minutes a day for a month clearing clutter. But that’s the kind of process that is manageable.
Mistake: Organizing First
If you take away only one thing, let it be this: You cannot organize chaos. This is a truth of life that cannot be denied. I spent much of my life attempting to prove it wrong. Surrendering to that truth has made all the difference.
Take your closet, for example. It’s stuffed to the gills, a complete mess that is causing stress. You want it to be super organized with everything in order by item, then by color, so you can at least find things and know they’re going to fit and look great. A noble desire for sure.
So you start “organizing.” An hour later, you have done nothing but moved the clutter from one spot to another. You can keep doing that kind of thing until you qualify for the next season of some Hoarder TV Show, or just believe me now: You cannot organize clutter.
Remove everything. Empty out. Whether that’s a closet, cupboard, drawer, or the entire room—you need to get everything out. Now clean it, scrub it down. Line it with shelf paper, paint it. Whatever it takes to make the space tidy, lovely, and ready to receive its strategically organized, well-thought-out contents. Declutter first, then organize.
Mistake: Loading Up on Fancy Equipment
What’s the first step many of us take when deciding to clean—really clean out and get organized? Yep, we head to the store. And, ironically perhaps, it’s the people with the worst clutter problems who have the strongest instinct to run to load up on complicated drawer organizers, hangers, shoe racks, pot holders, and on it goes.
Don’t get me wrong—these kinds of organizational items can be a godsend. But you’ll be making a big mistake if you let yourself buy an item before it’s absolutely clear that it will help you organize possessions that are truly necessary.
Declutter first (see above)! Otherwise, your purchases may be needless, acting as a crutch to move clutter around and, worse, adding more clutter rather than becoming a solution.
Mistake: Saving Stuff for Some Future Unknown
Some things are worth keeping for the “hazy unknown,” but not most things. Things like baby clothes and equipment in case you decide to have more children, maybe. But clothes you have loved and that you hope will fit again someday? Or that dog bed in case you ever decide to get another pet in the future? Really? I doubt it.
If you get a new dog, you’ll probably want a fresh dog bed, and if you lose a bunch of weight, you’ll probably decide to buy a new pair of jeans. As for family planning, years old baby stuff? Hmm, probably not.
Often, when we “store” something, it’s because we know we don’t really need it, or use it, or care about it much, but we just want to get it out of the way. It’s still good, has value, you might run into someone someday who could use it.
It’s easier to mindlessly throw something in the basement, attic, or garage than it is to figure out what to do with it. But in the long run, it’s better not to “store” that stuff. Give it away, recycle it, or toss it right away now—without an interim period in storage.
Be realistic when it comes to storing tons of stuff because you have this vague notion that you may need it someday. I know how difficult it is to part with things that perceive to have value—stuff we might need or at least be able to use. Someday. It actually hurts as in physical pain of some sort. I’m right there with you!
It takes courage to get rid of possessions. It’s good to have courage! Suck it up, stop listening to your whiney thoughts and move it out. Get rid of it so you can concentrate on things you really need, things you use often, and those things that bring beauty and joy to your life.