I actually look forward to my spring clean. It’s an opportunity to not only clear out excess but to review; my changing tastes, my purchasing decisions, what held up and what did not. And then to adjust my patterns for the year ahead. I approach it with reflection and the goal of not having to spring clean as thoroughly in the years to come. I like to think of it more as “thinning out where needed”, and less as “getting rid of as much as possible”.
These are a few broad questions I ask myself as I’m cleaning out any space; the kitchen cupboards, my closet, my cosmetics cabinet, even my car.
Why re-evaluate, and de-clutter?
When I reorganize, declutter, or reimagine a space in my home, it usually comes about because I want to redesign it, or because it feels cramped. So I’m often analyzing the infrastructure of the space (cabinets, furniture, colours, materials, etc.) in addition to the items housed in it. I like to get it to a stage where it feels bare-faced, or stripped back of anything unnecessary. That way I have a better base to work with when planning how to revamp it.
What held up the most? What do you still love?
What are the perennial items that you constantly use, year in, year out, whether or not they are new or on-trend? What, in that pocket of your home that you’re cleaning out, is the most functional? What makes it that way? Was it the item that you spent a little extra on? Or was it that great find from a thrift store?
What did not last? What can we learn from those things?
Pay attention to the things that are no longer of use to you. Did they break? Were they cheap, or pricey? What was your reason for buying those things? Was it because of a sale or a perceived good deal? Was it because it was trendy? Or did you have them for a long time and they finally wore out? Were they worth your while? In my own life, I noticed I had a tendency to get rid of clothes after a year because they didn’t fit, didn’t hold up well, were a short-lived trend, or were not flattering on me and did not make me feel good. Reflecting upon this allowed me to come to the realization that I was buying into too many trends, too much fast fashion. I felt like I never had anything to wear despite owning a closet full of clothes. Once I noticed this pattern, I was able to change my buying habits. I looked at the total dollar amount of the clothing I got rid of each time I did a cleaning and worked out how many hours I had to work to pay for those items. It was eye-opening.
What did you have in excess?
Sometimes we accumulate things, thinking that we’ll make use of them later, or that it’s a better deal to stockpile. That can be true for some things, but it is not true for everything. We might forget we have extra, change our mind about whether we like something, or products may expire. Was it a good deal if it ended up getting thrown away? This is a big question I ask myself when cleaning out the kitchen cupboards, as I tend to buy multiples of the same products if I really like them or if I find a good deal.
What can be repurposed or renewed?
That old chair with the ripped cushion, that you left in the garage. The pillows that have fallen out of style. Your kitchen table, the colour of which has always bothered you. How can things like these be revamped instead of being replaced? There might be opportunities for DIY fixes, as opposed to buying a whole new item.
You don’t need to buy more things to become organized
Storage solutions can provide a good system of organization, but you don’t necessarily need to buy more “solutions” to get your home in order. I used to buy storage boxes, hanging racks, closet organizers, and all manner of things to catalogue my stuff. But then I realized that I was buying them to organize the stuff I didn’t really need in the first place and didn’t really use. That’s when I began doing these reflections every time I decluttered my spaces, to minimize the need to do so as much as possible.
In what area of your home do you do the most decluttering, and why? Let us know in the comments.
Freelance writer and photographer living in Toronto. She is the author and photographer of two cookbooks, Everyone’s Welcome (2019) and Allergen-Free Desserts (2015).