This week I am writing to you about one of my all-time, favourite passions – spring cleaning! I know that not everyone shares my enthusiasm, but I’m betting that at least some people out there can relate and feel a similar sense of joy at the thought of cleaning all the way to the back of the pantry! I can tell you with 100% certainty, though, that Don does NOT share this particular passion of mine. Typically, when I announce that “spring cleaning is about to commence,” Don finds anywhere to be besides our house. He usually invents some sort of top priority project in the barn that is calling out to him. And I get it – I think most people either love or hate spring cleaning (I’m guessing there is very little in between on this topic). But I will do my best to convince everyone who reads this blog that they really should give it a try and do a good, old-fashioned spring clean this year!
First things first – before I start cleaning in earnest, I put on my work clothes and put my hair up. This is serious business and you have to dress for it! Next, I gather my basic cleaning supplies – old rags, paper towels, cleaning spray, Windex, gloves, swifter etc. – as well as perhaps the most important item – a big box for stuff going out the door. Then I pick one room to focus on first. It can get overwhelming to imagine cleaning the whole house, but I find that I can tackle an individual room in one go. And then finally, I get into the work itself.
Probably most people (who love spring cleaning) have their own method. A few years ago, the Life-Changing Magic Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo was all the rage, and many people were going through their possessions one by one to determine whether they sparked joy. While I admit that I did my fair share of talking to my possessions, I think that I am happiest when I combine tidying and cleaning with re-arranging! For me, it’s not just about the objects themselves, but how they fit into and help create space that makes the magic.
And magic is the goal. When I was a young child my mom would rearrange my room while I was at school. This may have driven some kids crazy, but I loved opening my door to a completely different room than I had left that morning. It made me see all my stuff – my toys, my books, my clothes – in a new light. That’s the feeling I’m still chasing.
So, how does this relate to cleaning? To be honest, it’s a bit of an organic process. I would recommend starting out slow. Pick a couple of drawers in your kitchen. Empty them out. Throw away anything that you can right away (old lists, dried-out pens, broken utensils), put anything else you are thinking of getting rid of in a box and then start loosely grouping the objects you want to keep into piles of things you think should go together. I like to clean as I go (give that drawer a wipe) and keep moving through the space. After a while, I tend to get an idea of how things in the space might shift: “Hmmm … when I get up in the morning the first thing I want is a cup of tea. Maybe I need to group all my tea stuff together into a tea station?”
And then when I’m starting to re-arrange (give my stuff a new home), I try to make that home as aesthetic as possible. Maybe I found some old tins lying around that are too nice to be kept in a bottom drawer and could sit on my counter and hold tea bags? Maybe all of my prettiest table knives can live in a jar by the toaster (ready to spread jam on toast)? But here is the real trick to the whole re-arranging/cleaning process. Unlike Marie Kondo, I am not a perfectionist. So, my most important advice is not to over-think it! The point here isn’t to go out and buy a bunch of new containers to help you organize (although you can do that too if you want), but just to spend some time in your space re-acquainting yourself with your stuff and seeing if the space can flow better. And as you are going along, throw away things that are broken and old and expired. And then put everything else that you don’t want or you don’t use into a box and straight out to your car to take to thrift!
I won’t lie though, there are tough decisions to be made. Lots of family members seem to deposit stuff at our house. So, every year there is a lot to go through. Plus, I am a bit sentimental. Sometimes I stress about whether I should keep every scribbled recipe, odd button, chipped teacup, old birthday card, and piece of art lovingly created by my grandkids. But the more I’m in the groove, the quicker I can make these decisions.
And at some point, after I’ve gone through every cupboard and drawer, and shifted enough of the small (and sometimes big) items in a room, the space starts to feel clean and fresh. This is the very best part of the process and as soon as you feel it you have to savor it! I recommend taking a break after you’ve finished a room and putting on the kettle. I love surveying my hard work with a cup of tea in hand, especially when Don is still in the barn finishing the very important project he is working on. While the cleanliness and order won’t last forever, that sense of satisfaction and moment of calm gives me a boost of energy that lasts weeks.
One last piece of advice: focus on the win! Don’t you dare look outside at all the yard work to be done. That’s tomorrow’s problem.