WORDS: ANNE SCHAUFFER IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

A quote which resonates is that of Angel Chernoff, life coach and co-author of the best-selling book 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently, “When things aren’t adding up in your life, begin subtracting. Life gets a lot simpler when you clear the clutter that makes it complicated.”

So, what’s that got to do with spring-cleaning? Plenty. Increasingly, globally, everybody is becoming aware that bombardment of the senses by technology, materialism, clutter, you name it, isn’t doing anybody any good. Use it or lose it – to somebody who can use it.

Clear your head

A clear head’s a great result of spring-cleaning. You don’t have to do it in a day, or even a week – put together a 30-day/ month spring-cleaning calendar, so you literally have no excuse about being “too busy” or “too tired”. Take your time, but make sure you stick to the daily task you’ve set yourself.

Alma Dewar Richardson is Decluttering Momentum, and her mantra is “give away, pack away, throw away, tidy and clean”. For her, it’s important that spring-cleaning isn’t considered one person’s job. It’s both halves of a couple or every member of a family. If the mindset isn’t established, it’s difficult to sustain.

She’s adamant about setting time limits. Quick ones, so you limit the thinking time. “Create a designated spot for donations to charity – set the timer for five minutes, everyone identifies five items of their own they wish to give away and meet back at the spot with the items. Bag them and stow them in the car for delivery.”

And she thinks likewise about everything else in the home. “Create a pack-away mindset – toys in the toybox, dirty clothes in the laundry basket, clean clothes in the cupboard. To maintain a neat home going forward have a chores list – for everyone – which is fairly distributed and make sure that keeping the house a home is the whole family’s responsibility. Find a home for everything and have everything living in its home – take a deep breath, allocate rooms to everyone in the family and do a 15-minute pack-away blitz.”

Isabelle de Grandpre is NEAT FREAK. She considers clutter an impediment to, well, just about everything, and spring-cleaning. She suggests you start this way, “Write down on separate pieces of paper a list of all the things you need to do in the home or office that would help you feel better about that space. This could be accumulated admin and filing that really needs to be sorted before the taxman finds you, or your dining room that has become the family’s dumping ground.”

Timetable

But it’s not good enough writing out what needs to be done, it also needs a timetable, otherwise the temptation to abandon ship before you’ve embarked is strong. “Even if you only do the assigned task for one hour a day, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.”

She suggests this:

  • Monday: Decluttering and placing items into piles so you can deal with them.
  • Tuesday: You have undoubtedly awoken the dust mites, so start dusting, vacuuming and wiping (inside and on top).
  • Wednesday and Thursday: Go through and categorise the items in those piles.
  • Friday: Rearrange the items you’ve sorted through.
  • Saturday: Wash and launder where you can.
  • Sunday: Decorate – and buy yourself a bunch of flowers for the effort!

“And note,” says De Grandpre, “When you’re going through the scheduled tasks – which you can adjust to fit a weekend – do whatever it takes to stay motivated. If you love music, play it loud.”

Must-dos

She offers a few tips: No matter how obvious or simple they seem, don’t skip them. Spring-cleaning and decluttering requires a methodical approach. One of the big hurdles is sentimentality, and although you don’t need to throw feelings out the window, best get a firm grip on them.

“Don’t hold on to things you know you will not need, haven’t looked at since your 21st birthday, never liked anyway – donate it to someone who may. If there are items to throw away, recycle. Before you start, find out where the nearest recycling depot is, and drop off as soon as you’re done… otherwise, somehow, things find their way back into the spaces,” De Grandpre says.

“Prepare for your spring clean before you begin. There are ‘tools’ required – rubbish bags, labels and cleaning supplies. Have a good idea to whom you can donate items. Have empty boxes available or even containers for dividing up items in cupboards and drawers. If you don’t have what you need, you’re likely to get seriously frustrated and risk throwing in the towel,” she advises.

“Label!” says De Grandpre. “It’s a huge help when you know just by looking at the container what’s in it. “Think out of the box about the layout of your spaces. Consider your options – move things around and try new configurations. You can always put it back where it was if it truly doesn’t work.”

De Grandpre likes the idea of a bragging session. “Before you start on your spring clean, consider arranging a dinner with good friends for afterwards. This could be another motivation for you – you can’t go backwards because you’ve invited everyone round for a brag session.”