Here in the UK, sweet-smelling blossoms are appearing on trees in every neighborhood, flowers are cautiously opening their petals, and the sun is bringing out smiles and dusters.
That’s right, it’s time for a good spring clean!
I can tell spring-cleaning fever has hit because several people have approached me and asked for tips in decluttering their overwhelming spaces.
But how hard is it to do a refreshing deep-clean when cupboards, drawers, and surfaces are storing years worth of memories, paperwork, duplicates, toys, decor, and gifts?
It’s enough to zap the motivation right out of you, right? And it eats away at your precious time and sanity.
But worry not, because I’ve got 5 mindset shifts to take you from cluttered to clean, and from chaos to calm.
I could give you simple decluttering tips, but the internet is full of those, and without the proper mindset to understand and deal with your stuff, it will just creep back and undo all your hard work.
Instead, I’m going to help you to spring clean like a minimalist!
If you’re struggling to get started, the most effective thing I can suggest is to start decluttering the area that has the most impact on you. By this, I mean the place or area that you will see and feel immediate results with and that will motivate you to carry on. It can be a whole room, a drawer you access daily, or a single shelf.
I know what it’s like to be drowning in so much stuff that it’s hard to get started. But by reading the following tips, I promise you will burst through into a fresh clean space where you can breathe!
1. Feel your intention
I can’t emphasize this enough. When there are no distractions, walk into a room in your home and feel how it is in its current state. Is it chaotic and frustrating? Depressing and draining? Does it remind you of work?
After that, take time to imagine how you want the room to feel. Calm? Relaxing? Creative? Nurturing? Write it down! If you’re more of a visual person, get inspiration from the internet or a magazine, just don’t feel like you need all the things in that picture to achieve the feeling you’re after.
Many books and blogs want you to envision the space and the things you want to have in it first, but I believe this should be the second step because we tend to imagine the things that society and the media convince us we should have rather than what we truly need.
By understanding what you want a room to feel like, you will have a better idea of what takes away and what adds to the feeling you want.
2. Remove one thing from your space… now!
There’s advice out there that will tell you to schedule a block of time in your
calendar to do some decluttering. While there’s nothing wrong with that approach, if you’re overwhelmed by the amount of clutter, it has the potential to become something you put off or reschedule over and over again. It looks like a job. Just one more to-do on your never-ending list. And what a monstrous to-do it is!
By removing one item (or two) from your space as you read this, you should feel an instant sense of lightness, like you just took off a heavy backpack, or put down a screaming, kicking toddler.
After all, that’s what stuff is like. It’s heavy both mentally and physically, and it demands our time and attention to an exhausting level we often don’t realize until it’s gone.
3. Surface Reset
I’m going to set you a small challenge here. Sit down in a room in your home and just relax for two minutes without your phone or any other kind of distraction.
Where do your eyes wander? What do you think about?
Do your eyes not know where to settle? Are you thinking of all the things that need dusting and washing? Perhaps you briefly noticed the things that belong in another room, or that you were so sick of picking them up, you wished they didn’t exist.
After doing this, I encourage you to go back to step 1 if you need to, and get a real sense of how you want the space to feel.
Now clear your surfaces.
Remove every object from every shelf and every side. Do not clean or dust the objects!
Now grab the duster and clean the surfaces. But wait!
Before you scramble to put everything back, notice how it feels without all the decor or other objects. How do the freshly revealed spaces and sparkly surfaces feel?
More importantly, how easy and fast was it to clean without having to lift and dust every single object?
Put back only what you truly love, or nothing at all if you want to experience a complete sense of peace, free from the worry and burden of physical objects.
4. Empty your storage
Francine Jay, who wrote ‘The Joy of Less’ said, ‘Your home is a living space, not a storage space’.
Think about it; how many seasons come and go that you spend hours searching for the perfect basket or storage unit that will finally solve your problems?
You haven’t won the lottery, but you can still buy bigger, better furniture with plenty of storage, right?
I used to spend hours online looking for bags or wallets that had ample space for my unneeded cards and stuff I traveled with, or for furniture that had enough cupboards and hidden compartments to stash my clutter.
Some websites even advertise their products as ‘the perfect solution to your clutter problem’. But this is a huge lie.
The more you have the more you want.
Then the less space you have, the less money you have, and the more stuff you buy to store your stuff. Then you have less time and energy as you have to maintain and organize all your stuff, and the cycle continues.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
But that’s what so many of us do. We’re afraid to let go or feel too tired to change things, not realizing that we’d have more energy if we dealt with or removed the thing that was stressing us out in the first place.
For me, storage is only for the necessary things that can’t go anywhere else. I have a family of 4 with 2 young children, so I store a carefully curated amount of toys, videogames that my husband and I love, technology we both use, a handful of hardbacks I go back to again and again, cables, college work, important paperwork, and clothing.
If something is there just because I can’t deal with it, just because it was a gift, or because I ‘might use it someday’, out it goes.
As a result, I have fresh, airy rooms with large open spaces that are much easier to clean and tidy.
5. That One Thing
If you’re like most people, you probably own duplicates of certain things. Kitchen cutlery, spatulas, an excess of tableware, pens, cables, bags…
Anything you have where something else serves the same function is a duplicate you likely don’t need and are taking up precious space.
You tend to realize this as you declutter your home and wonder how and why you have 2 electrical mixers, 3 hand whisks, and twenty USB cables.
Things get this crazy when we have so much stuff we don’t know what we own in the first place, so when we can’t find the spatula, we simply order another. Or we get bored and decide we need something new, but can’t bear to deal with, or forget to let go of the one we already had.
The best thing you can do is to only have one of each item (if you need the item at all!) and if you buy something new, immediately get rid of the one that is similar.
Imagine how easy it will be and how much simpler your decisions will become when you only have one bag you love to wear, one cherished pen to write with, one high-quality knife that serves all your needs, one special cup you enjoy drinking from, one small set of plates for your family.
For those of you who like to keep extras ‘just in case’ I assure you, that day in question will probably never happen, and all you’re doing is storing stuff for an imaginary scenario.
It’s a response rooted in fear and insecurity which the extra item doesn’t usually solve but offers a false sense of safety and abundance.
It’s also stupidly easy nowadays to get what you need with the tap of a screen or a drive to the shops. Fumio Sasaki in ‘Goodbye Things’ talks about treating our local shops and rental facilities as storage for the ‘just in case’ rather than stowing something we may not ever need and have never used.
I could go on forever with tips and mindset shifts to kickstart your spring-clean, but believe me, there’s no better antidote than starting today.
About the Author: UK minimalist mother of 2 who loves nature photography, simple living, and videogames. Find her at greencloverminimalism.com