spring cleaning house keeping concept

Spring Cleaning Mistakes You Want to Avoid

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 start, do yourself a big favor and consider these spring cleaning mistakes you want to avoid.


spring cleaning house keeping concept

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.

Fix it

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 underestimate 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.

Fix it

Remove everything. Empty out. You must get everything out, whether that’s a closet, cupboard, drawer, or the entire room. 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.

Fix it

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. In case you decide to have more children, things like baby clothes and equipment, 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.

Fix it

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.





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12 replies
  1. Lou says:

    I love your ideas
    I agree with spring cleaning and look at everything
    My husband and I recently did a lot of spring cleaning and I kept way too many things. I thought I should keep so many things
    I mean I kept a lot of things I did not have to keep
    Old dishes, older antique, baby clothes, toys – a lot of them , pictures , and things that people have to me but I did not want to just throw away
    I found out that we should not of kept a lot of things
    Recently we had our daughter and her husband move in with us and
    A lot of items are going out . You might think it’s important to keep items
    But they don’t care
    Donate items
    There are a lot of places
    And consignment places too
    Don’t keep too much stuff

  2. Mary says:

    I struggle with old family heirlooms passed down generations. Some items are beautiful gilded frame bubble glass photos of my great grandmother and my mom. Also. If you have a column about cleaning out a house after 40 years residence that would work for me at 75 with no one to assist it would help. There’s no one to hire in my tiny town in Alaska and friends are older and no family to help. It’s daunting and brings me to tears trying to figure it out. I don’t want a mess for my family from the Lower 48 to deal with when my husband and I get too disabled or pass away.

    • Cathy down on the farm... says:

      Agree totally with Mary! Any thoughts on clearing out three generations of stuff in an old farmhouse? Who needs three sets of China? I don’t even need one! But it is decorative, right? 🙁 I’ve done pretty well thus far but have a long way to go! Too sentimental here.

    • Cally Ross says:

      It brings me to tears reading of your pain! Is there a non-profit in your area who has a thrift store who might help sort and eliminate items that they could sell? Do you have a home-church who could help? And, again, remember Mary’s advice to take small bites at it every day rather than look at the big picture.

    • Deborah says:

      Mary, do you have any responsible teens from church? Sometimes different school clubs, youth groups or others will volunteer to assist you. May you find someone responsible to help you. God bless!

  3. sue says:

    I took everything out of my backyard shed and cleaned it. Then I went through every box and bag to see what I could get rid of. It took me a week, but the shed is almost empty now! Every afternoon, I put stuff i no longer wanted out on my side yard with a “free” sign.

  4. Pat Williams says:

    I try to make it a habit to declutter on a regular basis so it never becomes a huge job. I do not like to get up in the morning to face yesterday’s mess so I take a few minutes every night to straighten up and put things away. If I take an item out of the closet to wear it and decided that it isn’t something I would likely wear again, it goes directly into the donation bag. I realize we are all wired differently and this type of organized thinking doesn’t come naturally to some people, but it can be learned.

  5. Theresa Urbanski says:

    When you put my thoughts into words, I can relate. It is so hard to part with something that has “value”, but to whom? None of my kids want my “stuff” so why can’t I part with it? This is a constant struggle, but slowly I am getting more strength to let the memories go.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      One idea is to take a photo that you print and keep forever in a beautiful album. If it’s the memory you want to preserve, a high-quality photo does a really good job.

      • Julie Humphrey says:

        That is a great idea! I am one of those who has a hard time parting with things, and yet I also love to organize and declutter. It’s a losing battle. I am still dealing with my parents stuff, since my mother passed away almost four years ago. My problem is that I still work and the weekends are not enough time for me to go through and get rid of stuff on top of everything else I have to do, like laundry, clean house, etc. Any suggestions would be helpful.

  6. Linda says:

    Mary, I love Everyday Cheapskate! Keep up the good work!

    I’ve found that almost any kind of ‘organizer’ takes up more room than it saves.

    I donate usable clothing and household items to local non-profit, but many don’t take opened cleaners. I found that the local Women’s Shelter will gladly take any opened personal care or cleaning products! So, no more guilt in throwing out that bottle of shampoo who’s fragrance I can’t stand!

    Same for leftovers from home projects: Habit for Humanity’s ReStore stores will take them.

  7. Lida says:

    Hi, Mary
    Do you recommend the new, upgraded and more expensive version of your favorite cordless stick vacuum or still stick with the older version? There is a big price difference. Thanks!


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