Sometimes I dream that I will have met my lifetime limit of cleaning responsibility. This, however, never turns out to be more than just a dream. In an effort to survive, I eagerly keep up seasonal cleaning. The routine of seasonal cleaning and purging creates more space where you live. It can save you money as you are more aware of what you need which keeps you from unnecessary purchases. Regularly, this activity helps me to locate lost or forgotten items. Inevitably, this habit means you keep less stuff. Most of us will move several times in our lives necessitating the going through of our possessions. Keeping our collection of things culled out will be greatly appreciated with additional space immediately and overall less unnecessary things to store or drag around.
Here are some ideas from a chapter in Hum of the Home: The Rhythms and Routines of Homemaking.
Seasonal cleaning or purging can happen once a year, twice a year or quarterly. Many traditionally deep clean right after Christmas is put away, in the spring or fall when the weather is most pleasant while some like the summer months best. To be as fast as possible when tackling some of these big jobs, it is important to plan for efficiency. Whenever the time allows in your schedule, here are some basic rules to propel you to success.
1. Gather all items that are alike to one space. Plan to store all like items in the same location. While this seems simple, it is often challenging. As you begin on a category that needs cleaning, you may find that these items are scattered in numerous storage areas. Give this some thought and locate all like things together. Simplify.
2. Do not buy organizing or storage containers until you are finished with the “Sort, Trash, Donate” plan. If you think about it, you really don’t know what you need until you are finished cleaning out. Some of the containers that you have cleaned out might be just what you need for your “keep” things.
3. Expect to make a big mess while you are touching everything and making decisions. It is supposed to get worse before it gets better. Don’t give up. If your time is limited, divide your task into zones or sections. For example, I recently cleaned through the attic. Once the space was sorted into five zone in my mind, the job became more manageable. The categories were based on what is being stored there at the moment. For those of you with curious minds the zones were Christmas, college and graduate school student storage, furniture kept for children as the set up their homes, true memorabilia and other. The purging concluded with three zones. There is so much floor space in the attic. We took so much to donation and garbage. These items had lived their life with us. The space certainly served its purpose as we raised our children.
4. Take EVERYTHING out of your closet or cabinet when cleaning. Clean the inside of the closet or drawers. Wipe out. Vacuum out. Consider painting or putting a liner down when necessary. A quick straightening up does not require taking everything out, but when purging or seasonal cleaning, I highly suggest this method to keep only what you really need. Look for items that have lived their best life with you. Send them on their way. Live in the space your own! Take all trash immediately to the outside garbage area or dumpster. All donations should be loaded into your car or piled so they can be dropped immediately. Do this as you clean. Make sure you don’t stop for the day until the trash and donations are carried out. A helping friend comes in handy to keep these categories moved as you create them. A friend would not emotionally tied to your belongings and can gently help you decide to let go.
5. Once all trash and donation items are out of the house, sort out the things you plan to keep. Put all like items together in the same area. Use baskets or organizers that you have to reorganize the newly cleaned zone. Most cleaning situations do not require a trip to the store to buy new organizing tools. Only do that when necessary. Sometimes baskets that were used for storing things that you have not tossed or donated can now be repurposed for your newly organized space. When needed, throw up worn out storage containers. Consider labeling to encourage family members to keep items in the designated areas. Those who help with the cleaning out process usually develop an empathy for the energy required to purge and make decisions. Whenever feasible organize the family to participate on purging or seasonally cleaning days. If there are several people and a few key organizers in the bunch, the seasonal cleaning list could be divided.
6. When organizing larger storage areas like attics or garages, consider buying containers that are the same size and are easily stacked after the big clean out. For example, my Christmas decorations used to be sorted into groups, but they were in a variety of boxes. I bought about thirty boxes that are grey and black and stackable for all storage areas. They were replacing paper file boxes. Label each box. When I was changing the children’s clothes out seasonally the correct labelling made everything so much more efficient. Same-sized boxes which were properly labeled greatly aiding that effort. This organizing tip really helped especially since I would not be getting back into them right away. Same size containers creates a neat look because they stack together. Labeling helps with sorting and locating.
By examining the usefulness or purpose or importance of the things you own, you are free to live happier in your space. You control your stuff. It does not control you.
More on cleaning, cooking and hospitality in Hum of the Home: The Rhythms and Routines of Homemaking.
To join a conversation with Tim and me on this topic, listen to Embrace Your Everyday podcast.