Ah, the rites of spring! Easter, gardening, baseball, the hockey playoffs….and spring cleaning. Yes, cleaning! This is the perfect time to do it – when you are motivated by the fact that it took you 17 hours to gather your paperwork together for your CPA (another rite of spring, albeit a depressing one). Here are five tips to get you started. Your home may not be ready for a Southern Living photo spread after this, but at least you’ll get rid of a little bit of that clutter. And you don’t even have to go outside and beat a rug with a broom!
- Start small. Declutter…one small space at a time. Cleaning out all your kitchen cabinets can take days, but cleaning out your utensil drawer can be done while you’re waiting for water to boil for pasta. Tackle one small job every couple of days and you won’t feel like you’re facing a Sisyphean task. Throw away, give away, recycle! Keep a plastic bin in the garage for things you no longer use that are still in good shape. When the bin is full, make a donation. Organizations like the Vietnam Veterans of America will pick up your donations (www.scheduleapickup.com), or you can drop them off at the organization of your choice. Get a receipt, so that when that “other” rite of spring rears its ugly head next year, you’ll have another possible deduction.
- Tackle your mail every day. The kitchen counter in our house becomes a catch-all for bills, junk mail, magazines, and advertising flyers and it can stack to the ceiling if it’s left alone to breed. Buy a box of inexpensive manila folders and a marker and create folders for things you need to keep: Bills to Pay, Correspondence to Answer, Coupons, Things to File, etc. Every day, throw away or recycle the junk mail. If your personal information is printed on the discards, shred them. Organize the rest in your newly labeled folders. Keep a pad of post-it notes handy to make notes on the items that need attention. Then, when you get ready to pay bills or respond to invitations, you can grab one folder instead of that whole stack of clutter!
- Organize your collections. Once upon a time (last week), I had a box that I threw all my loose recipes into. Every time I needed a recipe, I had to go through the whole stack to find it. It got to the point where it was easier to just eat out. I bought an inexpensive binder, a pack of clear plastic sheet protectors, and a set of dividers. I organized the recipes by category, so now I have a cookbook instead of a headache. If you have a laptop, you can scan your recipes and organize them electronically, but I have found that I am too messy when I’m cooking to have my laptop in the same room. (Cooking sherry + Electronics = Disaster.)
- Get your books and magazines under control. Gather up the magazines you have read and pass them along to your friends or to a charitable organization such as a women’s shelter, or simply recycle them. Load up your paperback books and either donate them to a charity book sale or exchange them at a used book store for store credit to buy more books! (OK, I’ll admit, this last suggestion doesn’t actually reduce your clutter, but at least you get some new reading material out of it.)
- File, File, File! Did I mention filing? Don’t panic! You don’t have to turn an entire room into an elaborate home office. We have an upstairs den where I have a desk in the corner and a closet for my files. I don’t even have a file cabinet; I use inexpensive plastic boxes designed to house hanging file folders. The boxes are itemized by category (banking goes in one box, insurance in another, etc.) Once you’ve sorted your mail (see item 2 above), take the “Things to File” folder to your home office and do it! Fortunately, there are ways to cut down on paper (ask me about our “Paperless” statement option), but there are certain things that have to be sent by mail. Even though I love talking to our clients on the phone, it’s much easier on YOU to make a folder RIGHT NOW for 2012 Tax Documents so that when they start coming in, you’ll have a place to put them so they don’t get lost. Then, next spring you can just call me to discuss baseball or the hockey playoffs. It’ll be more fun for both of us.
Are you inspired? I sure hope so, and if you do feel like beating a rug after this, it’s a great upper body workout – I’ve done it!