As temperatures begin to thaw, spring will seemingly soon usher in a period of renewal and reset, and with that comes spring cleaning.
A 2010 Washington Post article said after the winter months in the 1800s, lighting homes with whale oil or kerosene and heating with wood or coal left layers of soot and grime in every room.
Warmer months allowed women to throw open doors and windows and deep clean the house. Susan Strasser, a historian who wrote “Never Done: A History of American Housework,” told the Post the tradition has likely kept up to this day because people seem to open up with the change in seasons as days become longer and warmer.
Jane Eyestone of Eyestone Concierge, a management service, said professional organizing and decluttering is just one aspect of the business, which ranges from house-sitting to acting as a personal assistant.
Eyestone said spring cleaning not only can be physically challenging, it also can be emotional, so she shared with The Mercury tips to help tackle those chores.
Divide and conquer
Eyestone said it’s easier to start cleaning if you go section-by-section rather than pull everything out at once and becoming overwhelmed. She prefers to set a timer, usually two hours a time, and dedicates herself to cleaning, organizing or switching out seasonal décor in a particular room.
During that time, she assesses items by how dated they are and what condition they are in before considering whether it’s time to replace them.
Eyestone also recommends sorting belongings in three categories: to keep, to donate and to throw out.
“It’s easy if you keep it in those three categories,” she said. “Don’t overthink it.”
For the items you decide to keep, Eyestone said to ask yourself how often you use that item. If the answer is rarely, box it up, mark it and allow yourself to store it in the back of a closet or shelf and keep your regularly-used items front and center for easy grabbing.
Do the hardest task first
You have more energy when you first start cleaning, Eyestone said, so use that motivation while you can to take on the most difficult projects like closets or garages.
“Those are big tangles and they take a lot of energy,” she said. “I just kind of gently bring (clients) about like, ‘I’m not here to judge. I’m not your mom telling you to clean your room. I am here, let’s do this.’ Once we get started and they have someone walking them through it, they’re like, ‘I had no idea this was so easy or doable.’ … I just want you to love where you live, so let’s make it convenient.”
If it feels like too much at one point, it’s OK to take a break and come back to it later, she added.
“We just don’t know how much it really takes emotionally to get those big tangles pulled out,” Eyestone said. “We do get bogged down with this stuff and it’s hard, so tackling it and having someone who isn’t so emotionally involved helps move it along.”
Create some distance from your belongings
That emotional connection also makes it difficult to let go of items. To help with this issue, Eyestone said to pull out everything that you’re unsure of whether to get rid of or not. Collect all those “maybe” items and put them in a box or trash bag and store it somewhere out of sight and out of mind.
After 30 days, challenge yourself to remember everything you put inside. If you can’t, Eyestone said to ask yourself whether that item is something you really need.
“If it’s out of my house or it’s in a different setting, am I inclined to keep it or am I inclined to let it go?” she said. “Once I get it out of the house and away from the flow of ‘Oh, I’ll just keep this for the memories,’ I’m more inclined to let it go.”
This method may help with paring down children’s old clothes or toys, but Eyestone said it’s OK if they want to take back one or two things to keep.
Thinking about how your old belongings may bring joy to or help a new family also can help saying goodbye easier, she said.
“It’s really important to give things a chance to bless someone else’s life instead of just holding on to it,” Eyestone said. “Sometimes that’s through a garage sale, a thrift shop, or through posting on a marketplace. However it is, just allow it to bless someone else’s life if you’re done with it.”
Clean a little each day
For maintenance, it’s better to pick up little things each day than letting items gather into a daunting pile.
Eyestone uses a laundry bag or tote to collect all those knick knacks, and she will regularly clear it out and put things back in their place. Since those items are sitting in one spot rather than strewn around the room, it leaves spaces looking less cluttered in the meantime.
“Normally I pick up books, I’m picking up shoes, I’m picking up those magazines, the mail from yesterday and getting it all off the couches, off the sofas, off the ottomans, off the different areas of the home,” she said. “I’m getting it all put back in one spot so I can get it sorted and put away. Then I’m not running nonstop to get things back and forth from different parts of the house.”
Try not to overthink the tasks at hand and have fun with it, Eyestone said.
“We just need to relax a little bit on ourselves,” she said. “It’s where we live, and I have to remind myself that my visitors and people around me remember a happy home more than they remember my boxes that are all perfectly labeled.”
Eyestone said she likes to light candles and play some music while she sets aside time to clean and reorganize. Find an organization method or process that works for you, she said, but personally she prefers to organize things for comfort rather than meticulously mark every jar or shelf.
“The vibe of my home is really important to me, and I’m not a convenience store,” Eyestone said. “I have no interest in that kind of sterile environment where everything is so labeled. Sometimes I do want to get a label gun and just go crazy, but (think about) what is comfortable and what keeps the flow of our family moving and fun?”