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It's spring! Time to clean AND declutter

A less-junky home is easier to keep clean later on. Plus it can make you calmer.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 25, 2011 11:53AM

Why do we feel the urge to clean house each spring? This post at TLC Home says the idea is reflected in at least three different cultures (Iranian, Chinese, Jewish).

But "simple biology" may also be a factor.

"(We) find more energy as the days grow longer when spring arrives. After all, it's easy to allow a house to get a little gross around the edges when you're sleepy," writes Josh Clark of TLC. Post continues after video.

My own vernal ritual started today as a joint project: spring cleaning plus decluttering. In my living room is a growing pile of things I realize I no longer need. The more I look through my apartment, the more I find to give away.

How in the world did I end up with three copies of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"? Why did I rescue the radio discarded by a departing neighbor when I already have a radio?Into the pile.

Two pill organizers (both free from a drugstore). Two pedometers (both gifts). A smiling snowman cookie plate (from the "free" box at a yard sale). A jack-o'-lantern cake pan (clearance table, 10 cents).

Who needs so many fridge magnets? I picked off half a dozen and put them in a sandwich bag.

And books, books, books: some given to me as gifts, a whole bunch from library sales and yard sales, a handful left over from getting my university degree in midlife. If I'm never going to read them again, I figure someone else needs them more. Thus far I've filled three grocery bags, but my bookshelves still seem crowded.

These and other items are going to "Superfluity," my church's annual rummage sale. (Love that name.) They could just as easily have been sent to Goodwill or a couple of other local charity shops, or to The Freecycle Network.

'A lot less stuff to be moved'

Cleaning and decluttering are natural partners. Our houses can feel a bit overstuffed after holiday gift-giving and the post-holiday clearance sales. Heck, I bet some people still haven't put all the holiday table linens, dishes or decorations back into storage.

Storing, donating or pitching excess items makes cleaning -- spring and otherwise -- a lot easier, according to Susanne at the Hillbilly Housewife blog.

"There is a lot less stuff to be moved when you dust or vacuum," she notes, "and of course you also don't have to worry about cleaning any items that you have taken out of a given room."

I've already found that less clutter makes me feel calmer and more organized. Since I work from home, that's important.

Bonus: Today I found a few forgotten items that will come in handy soon (a gift bag, tissue paper, a mailing tube), and as I sorted through books to donate I realized that several would make excellent birthday or holiday presents.

Clean and green?

Of course, it's easy to be calm and happy right now -- I haven't started the heavy cleaning yet. When I do, I'll be in step with Brian Clark Howard at The Daily Green, who suggests avoiding harsh cleaning chemicals: "Even the biggest messes and toughest stains can be attacked effectively with baking soda, borax, lemon juice and other simple ingredients."

Not only is the no-fumes approach better for me physically (I have asthma), it's also the frugal choice. I already have vinegar from the dollar store and baking soda that was a two-for-a-buck drugstore special.

If you prefer to buy "green" cleaning products, Lynn from Organic Mama suggests reading the labels first.

"Unfortunately the terms 'green,' 'eco' and 'eco-friendly' are unregulated," she writes, "and can mean anything from truly natural with no synthetic ingredients to a mish-mash of chemicals with some natural essences thrown in."

Lynn also suggests avoiding antibacterial products, which she says "are linked by health officials to the rise in microorganisms that are resistant to antibiotics."
While I'm not a Martha Stewart groupie, the doyenne of domesticity has a couple of good spring-cleaning tips: Focus on doing one task at a time, and don't try to do everything in a single weekend.

"Create a realistic schedule," Stewart writes in this post. "And be sure to enlist the help of family members."

Sometimes being single is no fun at all.

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