Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Messy Girl's Guide: Spring Cleaning

This is how my playroom looked after I left her alone for 5 minutes!
 When it comes to spring cleaning or organization in general, things can seem overwhelming, even daunting (please Lord, I hope that's not just me).  Quite often when I used to think about cleaning out a particular closet or organizing a room the thought of the undertaking was enough to deter me all together.  By no means is my house a museum.  I live in the real world, and I have real kids who make a real mess.  They like to pull every toy off of every shelf and eat their snacks in every room. 

Let me also put it out there that I do not find cleaning or organizing relaxing.  At all.   I trust those people who say they do find it relaxing about as much as I trust the people who swear they never watch what they eat, never work out, and just happen to have rock hard abs and a shelf butt!  (Liars!)  I put the women who swear they feel even better pregnant than they do when they're not in this category as well.  (Super liars!!!)

As a reformed messy person (I started to "nest" when I was pregnant with Ruth and never really stopped, one plus of pregnancy), I understand how unappealing cleaning and organization can be to some.  And while I don't find it relaxing I do find it rewarding.  Here are my very basic building blocks for a solid foundation in organizing and cleaning your personal space:

1. Think small, very small.  I realized that a big part of what had been holding me back on certain projects previously was thinking that the task as a whole was too great to tackle in the amount of time I had.  I love a finished job, and the idea of spending the day organizing and cleaning and rearranging until every last thing is perfect is generally what I find appealing about the whole process, but most days I simply don't have the luxury of time (who does?).  I split up a job into small tasks and tackle one area of a space or one thing in the space.  (For example, clear out one piece of furniture or if that's too much, one drawer, but not every drawer).

2.  Give yourself a budget (for donating not buying).  I find that giving away clothing is a particularly hard thing for me to do.  First, because I really like the things I buy.  I have very specific taste which basically hasn't changed much over the years (I have certain items since about the 7th grade) so I have a lot of stuff.  Second, I have a lot of sentimentality towards the things I wear. I remember particular occasions or stories when I see or wear certain items.  The obvious giveaways (we have all succumbed to the passing trends, tube top anyone?) are always easy but its that next round of decisions that makes my head spin.  So I give myself a budget.  I look at my closet and I come up with a number of items that I must find to give away.  If its 10, I sometimes find myself agonizing over the last article but I always stick to the budgeted number, no excuses.

3.  Know where your items are going.  This is key for me.  I find that when I give items away to people or organizations that I feel will really use and benefit from them, I don't hesitate to part with things.  I recently gave a dress to a friend and saw her wearing it at a party.  She looked so stunning in it.   Seeing it being loved by someone else made me far happier than having it in my closet.  (The reverse is true also.  I have been the recipient of useful or needed things, most notably the bulk of Oliver's wardrobe.  That came from the always elegant Bonnie of BonniePark.  It makes us both so happy when I tell her how much use I am getting out of everything.  She also happens to have impeccable taste, so Oliver generally looks like he stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad).

4.  Clean with purpose.  If the purpose of general neatness and order is enough to motivate you that's great.  I usually find that when I have a purpose in my decluttering I fare far better.  Passover is coming which is a great excuse to pull out every last piece of junk in the house.  Other times I want to buy a new piece of furniture or rearrange a room, so I force myself to organize everything before anything gets moved or purchased.

5.  Finish what you start.   Do not move on to another task until you complete the one you started.  I speak from experience here.  Opening up every drawer in every room usually leads to one thing: a bigger mess!  You will never be able to finish and things may get worse than they were to begin with.  If you don't allow yourself to move on it will motivate you to finish what you've started.

Next Messy Girl post will include some of my tips on storage and the products that help me help myself :)

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