Wow, hi, this house is filthy! Fortunately for me, Lent is upon us and creates a nice tidy (pun intended) parenthetical and meaningful season to bring the outsides of things and the insides of things into order and alignment.
I’m very excited about getting started on our spring cleaning – one of the most important things I need to do this year coincides with one of the the things I really WANT to do this year. Clean it up and clear it out is happening! While it’s difficult to see this body of tasks as much of a sacrifice, considering the self-gain in the end, it does present a healthy challenge, and a measure of (self) discipline that my procrastinating, alt-perfectionist tendencies – well – tend not to lend themselves. It’s also a setting aside of carelessness, and becoming more grateful for the things we are blessed to have for nothing more than our own pleasure and comfort. It is satisfying both spiritually and practically.
For a framework, I’m doing a modified version of the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge – I’ve done it before, with varying degrees of success, but the idea is a good one whether four or forty bags or boxes or whatever end up off my floor and off my shoulders. I’m moving through our home in chunks designated by square footage and level of difficulty (coat closet:small and easy, dining room:large and difficult) so they can be worked into the day to day rather than demanding giant blocks of time that would interfere more in productivity than would the clutter itself.
I’m no role model, but I am an advocate for an annual purge and scrub, so here is my little “what I’ve learned” insight into the process:
Declutter first, clean second – you’re going to be disturbing a lot of dust, lint, and random items awaiting reassignment, and possibly relocating things more than once – let the housekeeping/cleaning wait and focus on getting the stuff where it needs to go. As with most work, other work is the biggest obstacle to getting work done, so prioritize “everything in it’s place” over “isn’t this the cleanest sink you’ve ever seen?”. Put a cherry on top of the newly de-cluttered area by spiffing it up at the end of the session you’ve planned (and take a picture and put it on Instagram!!)
Clean smarter, not harder – streamline your product line up. Don’t add another layer of clutter with cabinets full of cleaners. Pick a few favorites for everyday, buy what’s needed for specific tasks, and enjoy the liberty of being able to see what’s under your sink without a flashlight and a hazmat suit. Store as much as possible in the place you’re going to use it – an inexpensive unobtrusive toilet brush in every bathroom, sponge and cleaner under every sink along with shower spray and scrub brush, with special brushes and that sort of thing kept in the utility room works best for us.
Commit to keeping cleared surfaces clear – this is a challenge all it’s own, but it’s imperative. You’ll need some staging areas as the process moves along, but don’t undo what you’ve already done – it’s beyond frustrating. Choose two or three holding/transition areas, and maintain all other reclaimed surfaces/spaces like your life depends on it.
Avoid distraction – set a timer for an hour, two hours, 10 minutes – whatever time you’re allotting to the task you’re tackling and honor it. No social media checks, no phone calls, etc. Get in and get out. Also, don’t stray from your area of the day (this is my Achilles heel) – when you leave the kitchen to put the mail in the office, don’t stop to do something else in the office. Set down the mail, get back to the kitchen and back on task.
Throwing money at clutter isn’t the solution. Be clear about the challenge, and resist the urge to go buy a lot of stuff to hold the stuff you really don’t need. USE IT OR LOSE IT! is my little mantra this decluttering season, with a one year time frame. If I don’t use it once over the next year, it’s out of here.
Don’t over-invest in trendy vocabulary – While I appreciate the value of assigning certain words or terms to a process, getting too into the wooo can create any number of practical roadblocks to just getting the job done. Joy is a state in which all things can be appreciated, apart from circumstances. Minimalism is an aesthetic movement with an academic definition, as well as a personal philosophy that defies definition due precisely to its personal nature. Use the ideas from the current de-cluttering wave to motivate you, but don’t let them be the boss of you. The minute that little voice of “am I doing this right, I don’t feel joy over my screwdriver?” creeps in, shut.it.down. Put the screwdriver where it goes, no matter how you feel about it, and move on. You’ll feel joyful when you need the screwdriver and you find it exactly where it should be.
Don’t ride around with your donations in your car for more than a day – first, moving the clutter from your home to your car means that now your car is cluttered. You’re not done. Also, if you’re the driver of the “family” car, meaning the one with the most room that everyone piles into for outings, that newly boxed stuff is going to be in the way, and it’s going to wind up either back in the house, or the garage, or somewhere else it isn’t supposed to be. That’s a recipe for discouragement and backsliding, don’t do that to yourself (Rachael!). Drop it at the nearest charity shop or non-profit garage sale, etc., within 24 hours of loading it up. If you’re giving things to family or friends, tell them they have to pick it up within the same time frame. If you have items you’re selling, which is a legitimate plan for some situations, list it the very same day you’ve decided to let it go, and price it to move. Don’t value items based on what you paid, that’s simply not relevant to most items on the secondary market. Look at the going rate on CraigsList or eBay or whatever, and price yours at 20% less.
Cheers to a happy spring cleaning, for both heart and home!
Whether you celebrate the Lenten season as a casual reset or as a serious religious time of observance, abstinence, and contemplation, or something in between, I would love to know all about it….
With love and optimism –
P.S. – some reading on the matter:
The More of Less, Joshua Becker I’ve read this one – if you’d like to read it, I’d love to pass it along to you – send me an email.
Outer Order, Inner Calm Gretchen Rubin Brand new release – I enjoy Gretchen Rubin’s writing and her podcast with her sister, Liz, so I’m looking forward to reading this one. I’m intrigued by the title.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Marie Kondo The immensely popular book upon which the companion Netflix series is based – I haven’t read the book, but have watched a few episodes of the show. If you connect with this approach, dive right in!