Spring-Clean Like the Pros

How to eliminate more than dirt and dust

Spring-Clean Like the Pros

You don’t need to go full Marie Kondo to find joy in a clean, well-organized home. All you need is a label maker, a couple of clear containers and a little bit of creativity. We spoke with Sandi D’Arezzo, professional organizer and owner of Hello Simplified, and asked her for a few manageable tips on how to make this spring-cleaning season your most productive yet. Her first suggestion — declutter your space before you start organizing it.

Choose a space and pull everything out before organizing

Don’t just move your clutter around. Take items out of closets, remove silverware from drawers, pull out expensive china plates that you never used, and ask yourself if you still enjoy using each individual item. The goal is to keep pieces that you love. “Sometimes sparking joy can be tough,” says D’Arezzo. “You can still use and love something because it is useful for you.” (OK, yes, there are some commonalities with the Netflix organization queen.) You might “love” your can opener because you use it often, but you don’t have to keep a strawberry corer you bought for that Pinterest fail strawberry pie. “Try not to get caught up in the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ and keep an item because you spent so much on it,” says D’Arezzo. “Holding onto that bread maker is bringing you down, no matter how much you spent on it.”

D’Arezzo sometimes also sees clients who struggle with “gift guilt.” “If you receive a gift and you know that you will never use it, just let it go,” says D’Arezzo. “You don’t necessarily have the responsibility to carry that item with you for the rest of your life. If you are saying ‘should,’ then you shouldn’t be keeping it. Purging items like old gifts that are collecting dust will free up space for new, useful items.”

As you sift through items, make three piles labeled “keep,” “throw out” and “donate.” It will feel better to donate items than hold onto them for years on end. Once you finish sorting, make sure you clean the physical space out — sweep, vacuum and dust so you can start with a clean slate.

Make sure everything is in the proper room

You probably have papers in your kitchen that belong in your office, and old bowls in your office that belong in your kitchen. Make sure they are in their proper place so you can be more efficient in your organizing.

Start by grouping like items together

“If you are in the pantry, put pastas, cans, dressings and sauces together,” says D’Arezzo. “You can even group cleaning supplies and ‘extras’ like sponges together in a storage closet or under the bathroom sink.” The goal is to have a purposeful place for every item.

Utilizing space and containers

As you’re grouping, you’ll start to notice what space you have available for containers and storage bins. D’Arezzo recommends using items that you already have, such as shoeboxes or product boxes to store your stuff in to start.

When looking at bins for your space, it’s important to remember that utilizing vertical space is always better. D’Arezzo suggests keeping your toothbrushes and makeup brushes in cups or mugs on your counter, and using magazine holders instead of trays so you don’t have stacked clutter. The choice of container also depends on the room you’re organizing. “Clear acrylic bins are great for the pantry so you can put your grouped items in them,” says D’Arezzo. “Lazy susans also work well for oils and sprays, and drawer organizers come in handy for bathroom and kitchen drawers.”

Grouping like items, putting them in containers and labeling everything will help keep your closet or pantry in good order. Photo by Sandi D’Arezzo

Along with bins, baskets and trays come in handy for organizing items such as TV remotes and blankets. “I love keeping a big basket in the living room for tossing toys or throw pillows and blankets,” says D’Arezzo. You can also use old boxes as a “donation station” for unwanted items. When it’s full, you take the box in to your local thrift shop.

Labeling

Labeling isn’t always necessary, says D’Arezzo, but it is useful for roommates, couples and families. “One person might know where the soup pot goes, but the others might not. Labeling helps give the reins over so everyone is able to properly put items away.” You can use a label maker and put labels on the lip of drawers and shelves, or purchase basket clips at Target or the Container Store for the bins in your pantry. “Paint pens are a fun labeling option as well,” says D’Arezzo. “They are better than chalk markers because they don’t rub off, and they are more aesthetically pleasing.” The ultimate organizing goal is creating a system for yourself that is sustainable and maintainable.

While it may seem tedious at the time, spring cleaning pays off in the long run. As you get rid of the books you don’t read and old plates that are gathering dust, you are also calming inner chaos and possibly kicking the winter blues. Once your home is put back together, you will be limiting any future mess, and you might find some old treasures along the way. Crank up your favorite tunes, pull out the vacuum, and get ready to feel refreshed.

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