Fiona Mason is a professional organiser based in Hobart. She loves to help people turn problem spaces into places they love.
It’s Spring! Sun and warmth are replacing cold and gloom, and we’re gradually emerging from hibernation. Some of us feel energised enough to start clearing clutter from our cosy caves, others want to be more organised, but the words “spring clean” fill them with dread.
I have a secret: they don’t have to. I can help you overcome that dread and make your spring an organised one. It all comes down to one simple word: “planning”.
Plans tell us what to do and how to do it, and make us far more likely to achieve our goals. It’s like cooking a delicious chocolate mud cake: some people can whip one up without a recipe and it’ll be perfect every time. But if you’re like me, you’ll need some instructions to get it right (and chances are, at one time or another, the people who can just “whip one up” needed a recipe too).
It’s the same with decluttering – you need to follow a plan. You also need to do the prep. If you don’t prepare for cake-baking by getting the right ingredients and pre-heating the oven, you’ll run into trouble. If you don’t get the ingredients and equipment you need for spring cleaning, you risk failing before you even start.
So how do you make a “recipe” for a successful spring clean? I’m glad you asked!
Step 1: Set aside the time
We live in a time-poor society, so unless you can set aside two solid weeks to de-clutter and clean, you’ll need to do it bit by bit. The good news is that there are 12 weeks in spring, and by setting aside some time each day, your average three-bedroom house can usually be sorted in 12 weeks.
Set the time aside as you would a doctor’s appointment: half-an-hour to an hour or two each day. Try allocating a room or area of the house to each week of spring.
Here’s a guide:
Week 1: Prepare
Week 2: Master Bedroom
Week 3: Kids room
Week 4: Pantry
Week 5: Kitchen
Week 6: Laundry
Week 7: Garage
Week 8: Garage
Week 9: Bathroom and ensuite
Week 10: Office/spare room/another kid’s room
Week 11: Family/dining room
Week 12: Lounge
Step 2: Prepare a space to sort
You’ve set aside the time, now you need to set aside an area for sorting. It might be a spare room, second living area, or spot in the garage. Clear a comfortable work space, such as a trestle table or a large desk.
Have a think about where the stuff you’ll get rid of will go. Which charities collect what in your local area? Do any local shelters have particular needs? Does your school or child-care centre need more craft supplies? What can be recycled? Spending a little time on this now means you’ll have a much easier time letting go of items later.
This week is also the time to find or buy equipment for sorting: large bags for donated goods, labels and markers to record what’s going where, ziplock bags, rubbish bags and maybe even a skip bin.
You’ll also need some large tubs for sorting. In your sorting area, set up a tub for:
items you’re going to keep in that room;
items that belong in another area of the house;
items you plan to sell;
items you plan to give away;
items you need to return to others/other places
Have a look at what storage you already have in your home. Consider existing drawers and cupboards, their layout, and what you use them for. Make a plan or draw a diagram that shows how you want the drawer/cupboard/room to look. Measure the space. What equipment do you need to get that look and make it user-friendly and organised? Tubs, baskets, shelf-dividers? Now stick the plan on a cupboard or wall of the room.
Step 3: Sort a room
During this week, sort one area of each room. For example:
Monday: chest of drawers/shelves in closet
Tuesday: floor/under the bed
Wednesday: bedside tables
Thursday: hanging closet
Friday: dressing table/bookshelf
When you’re doing the sorting, bring small amounts (a drawer or the contents of one shelf) from the room you’re sorting to your cleared space. Sort the stuff into the relevant tubs and only take the “keep” tub back into the room. Place the keep stuff back into the space – don’t organise it yet, just put it back – then take out the next small load.
At the end of a day’s session, take the items that belong in other areas of the house and put them in their allocated rooms. If the room has been completed in previous weeks, make sure you put things in their place. This part of the job gets easier as the house gets sorted.
The key to getting rid of stuff is to actually get rid of it! Place tubs with outgoing items near the front door and on the next day, when you’re out already, drop off a load or two. As you work, take photos of the “to sell” items. Then, in the evenings, you can post them to the relevant buy/sell groups/sites while watching your fav shows.
Step 4: Organise and style the room
Then comes the fun part: claiming back the space and making it look great. If you’ve done the hard yards during the week, this part can be a weekend treat!
Put the stuff back. Organise it according to the plans you drew up. Style the room the way you want it!
Step 5: Repeat
Keep following your plan over the remaining weeks of spring and you’ll create an organised, spacious, spring-cleaned home. Then, when summer hits, you can kick back, relax and enjoy, maybe even bake a cake to celebrate.
Fiona Mason is a professional organiser based in Hobart. She loves to help people turn problem spaces into places they love. She started her business, Ace of Space, after friends convinced her to put her amazing organising abilities (and addiction to Pinterest) to good use.