It’s spring! Those ridiculous birds are singing. Budding branches bob in a gentle, wafting breeze. And you don’t need have to keep wearing that same damn coat and boots every single waking day because there’s some kind of blazing fireball in the sky.
You might find your dull, greyed out retinas shell shocked by cartoonish hues as you pass a green hillside, yellow daffodils and a blooming tree popping against a childlike blue sky. Is there hope in the world after all?
There may be. But if it’s going to do us any good, we’re gonna have to tackle some serious house cleaning. Spring cleaning is an important ritual to help with shaking off those winter blues. Because clutter “constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done,” it generates guilt, anxiety, and and embarrassment while prohibiting creativity and productivity. Cleaning up your physical space helps you achieve an uncluttered mind, which in turn promotes physical health.
So get it together! Let the sun sweep those clouds away. But you gotta sweep your house yourself. Here’s how to tackle the impossible mountain of spring cleaning in a way that’s fun and not so overwhelming after all.
1. Start with one thing.
Did you ever lose a whole day getting carried away on the cleaning train when all you meant to do was wipe up a spot on the kitchen counter? Cleaning momentum is real. Take advantage of this by starting small. If you focus on the big picture, you’re likely to get overwhelmed before you start. Instead, just pick one area to tidy up. This will start a cascade into a chain reaction of organizing that will naturally get you fired up and give you momentum. Don’t overthink it. Just start somewhere.
2. Look fearlessly into those blind spots.
At some point you’ll edge closer and closer to the closet or corner of fear. What’s in that closet, anyway? God only knows. Nobody’s been in there since the Clinton years, so why start messing with it now?
Blind spots in our homes are like the fearful, unexamined corners of our minds. You need to shine a light in there and air it out once in a while to be healthy! So don’t shy away from these corners. Steel yourself, then haul everything out into the light of day. Leave no paper unturned! Those boxes probably hold a stimulating trip down memory lane.
3. Give every item a place.
To keep a space from falling back into clutter, put a system in place. This can be a set of shelves, a rack for clothes or kitchen tools, or even just a jar for pens. Simply saying “this is where pens go now” will keep you from ending up with pens everywhere (and yet somehow nowhere when you actually need one). In the future, you’ll know exactly where to turn to find whatever you need, and you’ll know where something goes when you’re done with it, making day to day upkeep significantly easier throughout the year.
4. Purge the things that don’t have a place.
Be merciless. If it really means that much to you, give it space on the shelf, a hook in the closet, or a folder in the filing cabinet. If it doesn’t have a place and a specific reason to keep it around, feed the hungry garbage can. It’ll feel good longer than it will hurt.
5. Don’t leave a job half done.
If it’s worth doing, do it right. That way you won’t have to revisit the task again anytime soon. If you start decluttering a stack of shelves, don’t stop until they’re 100 percent dismantled, dusted, and reorganized. If you sweep the kitchen, mop it too (or sweep the rest of the house, if that’s the direction you want to go). This might mean you’re ignoring whole other untouched rooms and their respective messes. That’s fine. This is a multi-day job. Just don’t leave anything half done, because you’ll rob yourself of the satisfaction and you won’t reap the rewards for your effort. Better to have one precisely stacked bookcase than a half-heartedly cleaned home that still feels messy.
6. You can have a mopped floor or a clean floor, but not both.
Honor that kitchen floor the old fashioned way: on your hands and knees, with a rag! Mops just push dirty water around. Honestly, this is really just one writer’s opinion. I also swear by brooms over vacuums. So what do I know?
But seriously, a mop is useless. Throw it away with that wad of last year’s 7-11 receipts on your dresser.
7. Take a guilt free break.
Listen to your body. When it’s time to rest, sit down. When you’re hungry, enjoy a meal with the knowledge that you’ve already earned the calories. Smile. Hydrate a lot. You’re home, so it doesn’t matter if you have to pee every hour.
Don’t grind yourself obsessively forward when you feel your body getting tired. Your productivity will fall off, and you’ll quickly become frustrated with the work. Take a break without feeling guilty about it. That’s an important part of the process. When you return to work, change it up a bit by tackling a different corner, doing some reorganizing that’s a little more fun, or even just changing the pace of the music. Don’t get stuck in one gear.
Okay, ready? Crank up those blood pumping college tunes or a stimulating podcast, put on your grubby sweats, open all the windows! We’ll see you soon on the other side of the mountain, looking like a healthier, springier, more vibrant you.