Spring is in the air, and for many homeowners, that means spring cleaning, decluttering and organizing.
But getting started can be tough, which is why, like New Year’s resolutions, spring cleaning plans often die before they reach the “actually doing something” phase.
We aren’t immune to this spring slowdown, so went to an overflowing home with a woman who has turned organizing into an art form. She showed us how to clean up and make money doing it.
Mom now teaches others
Rose Lounsbury is a mom of three young girls and an author who now teaches other women how to simplify their lives in her book “Less: Minimalism, for Real.”
“I wrote this because as a mom of triplets, all 8 years old, I had a lot of clutter in my house, and I was overwhelmed by it; I didn’t know how to deal with it,” Lounsbury said.
Sound familiar? Unlike many of us, she found a solution to her stress.
“What I found was when I started decreasing the amount of excess stuff I had, it made such a difference in my life, I felt calmer in my home, it was easier to take care of my home, I was a better mom,” she said.
So we followed her to the home of Emily Wenig, who has had little luck organizing a houseful of children’s items.
“I have three kids — two boys and a girl — and a puppy, and there is stuff everywhere at all times,” Wenig said.
Lounsbury looked over Wenig’s family room, which looked like it might have become a refuge for inventory from a forsaken Toys R Us.
Here’s what she had to say.
Declutter, then organize
First, she said, don’t organize until you declutter. Many people make the mistake of just picking up their rooms and putting things in plastic bins, but the room will be a mess again two days later because the occupant simply has too many possessions.
“Organized clutter is still clutter,” she said.
So your first step is deciding what you’re not sure about and what you know needs to go.
Decluttering, she said, is getting rid of things that are no longer helpful to you.
“It’s about keeping the things you use and love, and getting rid of the things that get in the way of the things you use and love,” she said.
“If it was just dealing with your stuff, it would be easy,” she added. “But what you’re really dealing with is your emotions about your stuff and that’s hard.”
Lounsbury also said a common mistake is tackling too many rooms or closets at once. On the day she met with Wenig, they focused in on one room: The playroom.
Make signs and piles
Then, Lounsbury said, you need to put things in piles: save, sell, donate and garbage. She even makes signs and tapes them to the wall
“We’re going to empty most of the things in the room, and make like-with-like piles, so all the Barbies are together, all the craft supplies together,” she said.
If the kids haven’t used it in several months, it’s gone, she said, unless they have a strong emotional bond to an object, such as a favorite Teddy bear.
And get rid of empty boxes.
“It’s amazing. People keep boxes from technology, from a TV they bought, from toys,” Lounsbury said.
Sell things that could be valuable
If a piece of clothing, stroller, bike or other somewhat valuable item is in good condition, and you have all the pieces, Lounsbury suggests selling it at a resale shop like Once Upon a Child or Plato’s Closet if it is for teen items.
Adult clothing? Consider a consignment shop.
Now you can organize
After an hour, Wenig’s family room was cleared of clutter.
“The floor is clear, the table top is clear, which is what Emily wanted, so I think we have done well,” Lounsbury said.
The next hour would be spent organizing the remaining items into bins and closets.
Wenig was thrilled. She said it was tough letting some kids’ items go, but she realized her emotions had prevented her from getting rid of them.
“Sometimes it’s tough letting go. It’s very tough letting go of some things,” Wenig said.
But everyone needs to do so. Very few things are meant to accompany you through your entire life’s journey — relationships with most objects, like relationships with most people, have a season that eventually ends.
In both cases, Lounsbury says, removing things that used to be important and making more space for what you love here and now is often the healthiest thing to do.
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