Spring Cleaning Tips from a Pro

Do you want to organize a closet, but just can't find the time to do it? Here are some easy ways to get your cluttered closets back on track

Ready your spring cleaning checklist — it's time to clean house. First tip: Start with the task you're dreading most.

Spring may not be in the air quite yet, but there's little doubt that the air around your home is ready for a solid spring cleaning right now.

But don't fret. If you break it down into some manageable tasks, says organization wizard Laura Wittmann, founder of OrgJunkie.com and author of the book Clutter Rehab, spring cleaning can be a rewarding way to spend a weekend afternoon.

"I always suggest that the best places to concentrate on first are the ones that annoy you the most," she says. "These little (or big) annoyances can cause as much mental clutter as they do physical."

Take a look around your home, she advises, and pay attention to the inner dialogue that happens when you find yourself frustrated with specific areas. Then create a detailed list of what needs to be done. For example, rather than simply saying "clean home office," break it into manageable steps that are each doable in short spurts of time, Wittman says. "You'll be amazed at what you can get done with small bursts of attention."

Then, Wittmann says, "Eat the frog." Essentially another way of saying "bite the bullet," Wittman thinks the best place to get started is the "to do" item on your list that you're dreading the most.

"You can go about your day feeling a huge sense of relief and satisfaction knowing you've accomplished a chore you've been putting off," she says. "It's very freeing!"

Another get-inspired tip? Some really energizing music helps to get you motivated as well, she adds. So throw on your favorite playlist and get to work.

Now let's tackle some of the biggest messes:


Spring Cleaning Challenge #1:
Cupboards that run the risk of item-avalanche when opened.

Allot 15 minutes per cupboard; 30 minutes for a pantry.

The Solution:
Unless you're stocking up for the end of days, there's no real need to have 500 cans of kidney beans. More likely than not, the lack of organization in your pantry or kitchen cupboards causes you to "forget" what items you have on hand and double up when grocery shopping. The same goes for that burgeoning Tupperware collection that topples over every time you open the cupboard. Time for a fix.

Start with the biggest problem cupboard. Pull all items onto a nearby counter and organize by category (either foods or utility/purpose). In the pantry, if you have more than your required monthly or weekly allotment (do you really have plans to cook something this week with those lima beans?), place extras into a pile to donate to your local food bank. If it's a Tupperware dilemma, organize by storage sizes. Do you have multiples of the same size that go unused? If they're in good condition, donate to your local thrift store.


Spring Cleaning Challenge #2:
Growing piles, disorganized papers and unpaid bills.

Allot 30 minutes to an hour for cleanup, no more.

The Solution:
Piles. They start with the best of intentions, but oh how quickly they go from "strategic placement" to "where in the world did I put that?" dilemmas. Nip it in the bud.

Where do you most commonly drop your mail? Purchase a mail organizer to place directly in that area; either get a counter top option or one to attach to your wall or side of cabinetry.

Immediately upon walking in the door, get into the habit of sorting the mail: catalogs/magazines to read, personal mail and bills (and, of course, have a recycle bin nearby for the immediate toss-aways). Label each slot -- chances are, as long as you see an envelope in the "bills" or "important papers" sections, you'll never be late on a payment or miss an appointment again.

For extra organization, add a small calendar with attached marker nearby; when a bill or appointment reminder comes in the mail, mark the appointment or due date on the calendar in red, then file the notification away in its designated slot. It takes a few extra seconds, but it ensures the days of buried bills and forgotten appointments are long gone.

Have a pile that needs tackling now? Lay it all out on your dining table and sort according to the categories on your new organizer. Be sure to have a recycling bin nearby for the inevitable junk mail.

Spring Cleaning Challenge #3:
Drawers that don't close properly due to overstuffing.

Allot 20 minutes to clean a drawer.

The Solution:
Chances are good that you have a junk drawer (or two) that could use some attention. Commonly junk drawers become what they are because we need a quick place to cram the miscellaneous, leading to a space chocked full of random items that are rarely accessed.

So dump the junk -- lay it all out on your dining table and sort everything into small piles. Immediately toss anything you "forgot was in there" and that you don't need. Use an old ice-cube tray to sort and store small items like paper clips, rubber bands, tacks, etc. – whatever doesn't fit can be thrown out. Who needs 500 paperclips anyway? File away any important papers in a home office accordion file, and group other items together either with a paperclip or rubber band, or place them into a labeled envelope ("stamps and address labels") for easy reference.


Spring Cleaning Challenge #4:
Overburdened and under-organized linen closet.

Allot one hour; two if it's been awhile since you last tackled this dreaded task.

The Solution:
We all do it. You buy a new sheet set and cram the old ones into the linen closet. The old sets pile on top of the older and oldest until suddenly you have a collection of linens resembling a decade's highlight reel.

Empty it out. Throw every item from the closet into a laundry basket and dump it out onto your bed (you'll likely need to make a few trips). First, sort by item: flat and fitted sheets, pillow cases, towels. Then sort by needs and bed size: kids' room, guest room, master. Using a permanent felt marker, write a single-letter notation on each tag for easy reference. For instance, write T/F/Q/K for quick size reference (saves you the hassle of unfolding and folding) or write family member initials.

Finally, go through each individual pile: Any items that have stains or holes should immediately get tossed. A bit too worn but still in good condition? Unless you'd be willing to put it to use now, toss it into a "donate" pile – chances are even your seasonal items will be replaced with new ones when the next season rolls around. To stay organized, place each stack into its own individual storage box or basket, labeled for quick reference. That way, when you go to change bedding next round, you can just pull out that specific basket and leave the rest of the closet in tact.

Also on ShelterPop:
Green Spring Cleaning

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