Spring into Decluttering
It is technically Spring in Chicago however at a chilly 28 degrees it definitely still feels like winter. This is the perfect time to declutter and organize for Spring so you can enjoy it when it actually arrives....in May!! This can feel like an enormous task however I have broken it down for you into 30 different tasks. Each task will take about 5-10 minutes. Totally achievable and by the end you will have done 5 hours of organizing! Do them in order or an order that works for you. Do one a day or more. Just begin!
Let's start in the Kitchen my favorite place in the house. But I'm not asking you to do the entire kitchen in a 10 minutes. That's crazy talk! How about 5 tasks or 50 minutes!
Task 1: Refrigerator/Freezer. Empty everything out. Put freezer items in a cooler so they stay cold. Compost or discard old food. Wipe down shelves. Put back food. Got more than 10 min? Go for gold and remove the crisper and door bins for some extra deep cleaning.
Task 2: Under the Kitchen Sink. A wasteland for grocery bags, random cleaning supplies and the occasional flower vase. Empty it all out. Return items to their appropriate homes. Wipe down cabinet and cover with heavy duty liner for extra credit.
Task 3: Food Storage Containers. Tops with no bottoms or bottoms with no tops make putting leftover or packing lunches a pain. Pull out all your food storage containers and find their mates. No mates, then recycle. Most plastic containers can be recycled, so can glass containers!
Task 4: The Pantry. No one likes stale chips. Empty everything from your pantry, you'll be shocked what you find lingering in the back! Check expiration dates and freshness of opened products. Compost or discard old food. Wipe down shelves. Group like items together and put back into pantry.
Extra time/extra credit: Before you put items back remove them from their packaging and put in clear bins. It is much easier to see what you have when items are out of their packaging. It also makes for a more visually appealing pantry. Clear pantry bins can be found at Target and The Container Store. They are great for small items like granola bars and apple sauce pouches or larger items like boxes of pasta. Decanting pasta, rice, cereal, etc. into clear plastic or glass containers is also a great way to keep food fresh and see what you have. This process doesn't need to break the bank. You can use cleaned out pasta jars, Mason jars or purchase new canisters. There is a beautiful option for every budget!
Have fresh items that your family no longer eats or did you purchase something in bulk from Costco and you have to much? Donate these items to your local food pantry. Find a food pantry near you here.
Task 5: Utensil drawers. These are a MAGNET for clutter. Just about everything but utensils gets put into these drawers. I recently cleaned out my kitchen in preparation for this post. I found wine corks in EVERY drawer! Empty drawers, vacuum out the crumbs and wipe them down. This is an excellent time to sort through your utensils and get ride of broken, stained, melted and bent kitchen tools.
In just five days your Kitchen is clutter free! Toast your accomplishment with a glass of wine. Do Not toss cork into your utensil drawer ;-)
Task 6: Linen closet. Every person in the house need two sets of towels and every bed need two sets of sheets. A beach/pool towel for each family member. Use this great tutorial to learn how to fold a fitted sheet. Everything else is extra and doesn't get used. Donate old towels and blankets to a local animal shelter.
Task 7: Laundry room. A home to mismatch socks and wrinkled shirts. Recycle the mismatch socks by either using them for dusting or by dropping them off in your local donation bin in a bag labeled "recycle". Pull out the ironing board and finally iron those items so you can get them back into your closet where they belong. Clear our any laundry or cleaning supplies you are no longer using. Click here to learn about safe disposal of cleaning supplies.
Task 8: Make-up. So many of us are using expired make-up. Some so old that we have no clue when it was purchased. This infograph from make-up guru Bobby Brown and ELLE magazine breaks down how long you should keep different make-up items.
Task 9: Medicine Cabinet. Empty it all out. Check expiration dates and dispose of all expired medication. In Chicago you can drop off expired medication at these sites. If you don't have access to one of these sites the FDA recommends the following method for disposing of medicines in the trash: 1) Leave medication whole (don't open capsules or crush pills) and mix them with an inedible substance like kitty litter, dirt, or used coffee grounds. 2) Place the medication in a sealed container like a plastic bag. 3) Toss the container in the trash bin. 4) Cross out your medical information on the prescription container, and toss that in the trash too.
Task 10: Bathroom Cabinets. Similar to the kitchen sink it can become a catch all for everything bathroom related. Empty the contents and remove items that belong elsewhere. Wipe down and line the cabinet with heavy duty liner. Sort the contents and group like things together. Discard any expired products. Clear stack-able storage binsare great for under the sink storage. Don't forget about extra storage on the cabinet doors. These items can give you more space inside your cabinet!
Clothing, like the kitchen is not just one task. Each category of clothing can be handled the same way; gather, sort, edit and put away. When editing don't think of what you are getting rid of but rather what you are choosing to keep. This change in mindset can be very powerful. Set aside items that need repairs or alterations.
Task 11: Shirts/Blouses/Sweaters. Sort by long sleeve or short sleeve. Crewneck, v-neck, turtle neck. Lightweight or heavy.
Task 12: Pants/Shorts/Jeans. Unless you are pregnant or had a baby within the past year don't keep the skinny jeans. You may one day fit into them but chances are when you do you will reward yourself with a new stylish pair. Dress for the body you have today!
Task 13: Dresses/Skirts. Give yourself permission to let go of the bridesmaids dresses! Yes they cost you a fortune but we all know it will never be worn again. Refinery29 has a slew of great ways to re-sell or donate dresses.
Task 14: Activewear/Swimsuits. Spandex has a shelf-life. To much time in the dryer can leave activewear misshapen and saggy. Get ride of anything ill fitting or more importantly ill smelling!!
Task 15: Shoes! You may believe in fashion over function and that fine. Keep what you love and what you wear. Let go of shoes that may have cost you a paycheck but no longer fit your style or your life.
You've made it 1/2 way!! Keep going! Don't stop now!!
Task 16: Undergarments. If you sock doesn't have a mate, let it go! If the underwire is poking through, let it go. If is frayed, if it's saggy, if it give your visible panty lines, let it go!
Task 17: Purses. Cleaning out your everyday purse is a must. It's scary what you'll find at the bottom. I once found a petrified string cheese in mine! Once you've cleaned out your every day purse take a moment to clean out other other purses in your closet. You'll be amazed what you will find. Usually a good amount of loose change and cash! Also a ton of pens, occasionally some jewelry, sunglasses, stale gum. Keep the treasure, toss the rest. Assess if you want to keep the purse. If you are finding receipts from 2014 maybe it's time to let it go. You can re-sell designer purses locally at Luxury Garage Saleor online yourself using ebay or sites like Tradesy or The RealReal.
Task 18: Kid's Clothing. 10 minutes per child. As we move into a new season clean and put away clothing that is in good condition and can be passed down to a younger sibling, friend or donated. Items that are worn out can be put in a bag labeled "recycle" and dropped off at your local donation center. Check what clothing you have on hand for the upcoming season so you know what you need to buy. Refold the keepers and put away.
Task 19: Toy room. I strongly recommend doing this when the kids are out of the house or asleep. Otherwise every toy is a favorite and you won't be able to get ride of anything. Use the 10 minutes to get rid of the obvious clutter. The plastic toys that came home in a birthday party goody bag or happy meal, anything that is obviously broken or that your kids are way to old to be playing with. The plastic party favors and broken toys go straight into a garbage bag. Donate or store (for younger siblings) the toys they are too old for. Take another 10 minutes and do a second clean-up with your kids.
Task 20: Crafts. 10 minutes on Pinterest plus a trip to Michael's and your craft supplies are on overload. Here is where you need to dig deep and determine if you really are a crafter. If you are not give yourself permission to let go of all or most of those craft and diy supplies. There is a great organization called Upcycling Colors that collects leftover/used art, craft and school supplies. They recondition them and give them to schools in need. Make sure the supplies you do keep are in good order by testing all the markers (great job to give to your kids) and throwing out the dried up paint, stamp pads and glue. Store other materials like pipe cleaners and pompoms in zip-top bags.
Task 21: Pet supplies. Whether furry or scaly pets require a bit of organization too. Check expiration of pet food and treats. Discard anything that is old or discolored. Donate items that your pet no longer likes or need to your local animal shelter.
Task 22: Books. Nothing makes book shelves look more organized than arranging them by color. You don't need to make them into a rainbow but grouping like with like makes for a beautiful bookcase. Or try this bold trend and display your books backward.
Used books can be donated to a local resale shop or neighborhood free library. School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education (SCARCE) in Glen Ellyn will take books for any kind. Great place to take old text books.
Task 23: The mail. This is an excellent time to clear out what has piled up and start a system to keep the mail under control. Take the mail you have and sort it into 3 piles; 1) important items that need to be save (ie. tax infomation) or payed. 2) documents to be shredded and 3) recycle/trash.
Set yourself up for future success by taking a few minutes each day to sort the mail into these same three categories; important, shred and recycle. The shred and recycle can be done daily. Take care of the important mail weekly.
Decrease the amount of junk mail that comes into your house by cancelling catalogs on Catalog Choice.
Task 24: Coat Closet/Mud Room. Nothing says spring cleaning like putting away your winter coat. Unfortunately in Chicago if you do it too early you'll end up having to bring it back out again. Clean and pack-up your winter gear. Only put away gloves that have mates and still fit. Clear plastic bins are my preferred method for storing seasonal clothing. Hand down or donate winter gear that is still in good shape but no longer fits. Some people think they should wait until next winter to donate winter gear but there is no time like the present. Let they thrift shop do the storing, not you. Clean boot trays and set them aside until next year. Bring out the rain coats and check your stash of umbrellas for rainy spring days.
Task 25: Music Collection. CD collection but no CD player? Upload CDs to the cloud an donate the physical CD to your local library.
Task 26: Electronics. Old cellphones, DVD players and cameras can all be recycled or upcycled. Cell phone can be traded in for new phone or donated to organizations that help soldiers. FreeGeek Chicago responsibly recycles and refurbishes computers and computer-related hardware in any condition. Ava Recycling has a number of locations in the Chicago area to donate old electronic and tube TVs.
Task 27: Bedroom. Your bedroom should be an oasis but most likely it is pile upon pile of laundry to be folded, laundry to be taken to the dry-cleaners and magazines to be read. Start de-cluttering by removing and re-homing items that don't belong in your bedroom. Start each day by making your bed. A made bed sets the tone for an organized and clutter free bedroom. Fold the laundry. Put the dry-cleaning in the car. Recycle magazines that you have already read.
Task 28: Your car. Does your car look like a trash can? Sometimes mine does too. Start by clearing out all the trash, gear, water bottles and anything else that shouldn't be kept in the car on a day-to-day basis. Declutter daily by bringing in the coffee mugs and water bottles and recycle the La Croix cans. These car organizers can help.
Task 29: Sports equipment. Start by sorting equipment by sport. Edit out items that are broken, flat and no longer fit. Organize the remaining equipment by sport and by child if applicable. This three compartment bin from The Container Store is a great way to keep sports equipment organized.
Task 30: Email. Too many emails, most of them junk. Take 10 minutes to clean out your inbox and unsubscribe to promotional or unwanted email.
Congratulations! You made it! 30 task complete, 30 steps toward a clutter free and organized life!
Need more help eliminating the clutter? Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org