Ahhhhhh it’s my favorite time of year! The sun is shining, birds are chirping, there’s a slight cool breeze outside, and pollen hasn’t quite made its debut. Yup–it’s Spring Cleaning time. Call me nuts, but I LOVE this way of cleaning. It’s a sort of release of stress and energy for me. It’s the time of year I can finally go through our random crap in the closets and drawers and throw everything we don’t need away while sanitizing every corner without any excuse.
Michael and I have come to realize in this chapter of life that we just don’t have enough room for everything. Especially if your baby’s things seem to take up most of your space. When you’re living in a tiny apartment, things like a junk drawer or a holiday decoration box just don’t make it easy. So, we are striving to live like minimalists (or at least attempting to, anyways) and thin out our closets and personal items as we go.
Just recently I visited my parents’ house in St. Louis with Bug and one of the days I was there I decided to fill about 10 garbage bags full of random junk that used to belong to me in my old bedroom. It came to be quite the surprise to my parents when they came home from work, but I assured them that this was not only a good thing, but that they were simply just junk waiting to be thrown away. Although I had thrown away so many old shoes, jackets, nick-knacks, and other random items, I still feel like there is too much stuff in that room and the next time I visit I will probably fill even more garbage bags.
But, one thing I remember my mother telling me is that she said she would like to minimize her own closet and go through all of their stuff and get rid of some things, too. But, it isn’t easy because you don’t know what you might need and will want to keep. So, here’s a list of tips to my mother and anyone else who struggles with this–because this used to be my problem, too. Until I had to move all of our stuff into a tiny storage unit in Idaho, I had the hardest time letting go of many many things that what I thought were “important” or sentimental. But, it really is easy to do this once you have made the decision to change your closet and yourself. Once you have made that decision, this list of tips will help with the rest.
So here it goes:
1. Pick a time.
Make sure you are leaving yourself plenty of time to get this job done. Say 5-8 hours tops (any longer than that, the job will seem endless and tiresome. Don’t make this an unbearable chore for yourself). For me, the best time to do this task is first thing on a Saturday morning. That way you don’t feel like you spent your entire day organizing and cleaning and you still have some time to do other things. See # 9.
2. Grab a bag.
This gives you that extra push to get started! As soon as you shake open that bag of garbage, your first initial thought should be, “Okay, what can I throw in here?” So, go ahead and throw away immediately anything you know is junk. Once you have rid yourself of these items, it’ll get easier to narrow down the ‘maybe’ pile. See #4.
3. Make a goal and stick to it.
Seriously–this is probably the hardest step in the whole minimizing process. It’s one thing to make a list of plans and rules, and it’s a whole another experience to actually sticking to them. If you are unsure, you can borrow my own list of rules:
- Throw away anything that doesn’t fit now. I mean it. No ifs, buts, or whens. Even if you plan on losing weight or you fear you might gain weight–chances are it will still not fit you or it will go out of style by the time you do. Exceptions to the rule: pregnancy clothes and old sentimental baby clothes you used to wear that your mother kept all these years for.
- Throw it away if you wouldn’t buy it off the rack in a store in its current state. This includes all clothes that are faded, torn, ripped, shrunk, stained, out of style, etc. To help make it easy for yourself, ask yourself, “Would I sell this to a friend?” Chances are the answer would be a resounding “No.”
- Multiples of the same item? Break it down to 1-2. Exceptions to the rule: socks, undergarments, and even some camisoles.
- If you haven’t worn it in the past year, chances are you won’t wear it…ever. Period. So get rid of them. Some helpful tips like the ‘40 Hanger Closet‘ or the ‘Reversed Hanger Trick‘ might help with this rule. Exceptions to the rule: pregnancy clothes.
- If you have a pile of things to donate–do NOT go through it again!
4. Make a pile.
This step is kind of up in the air for some cases. I would normally tell people to make a pile for garbage, a pile to donate, a pile for ‘maybe’ items and a pile for keeps. With these four piles, it will help you organize and literally see how much you are getting rid of. If your ‘keep’ pile is vastly larger than your ‘donate’ or ‘garbage’ pile, then you need to rethink your situation. If your ‘maybe’ pile is rather full, then that means you are getting better, but not quite there, yet. And if your ‘garbage’ or ‘donate’ piles are pretty piled-high, then you know you are on the right track!
Let me break it down for you on what these piles should include:
- Garbage Pile–Pretty self-explanatory. Things that are going to be thrown away into your garbage can outside.
- Donate Pile–Things that are still in great condition or never used (like they still have the price tag on). Make sure you locate a place to donate, like Goodwill or Deseret Industries. For baby or kids’ clothes, I’ve found it best to donate to Once Upon A Child.
- Maybe Pile–This is a special pile. Treat it with respect. This is neither the throw-away pile nor the keep pile. This is a second-chance pile for things you don’t necessarily use all the time, but you think you might use it within the next year.
- Keep Pile–Also treat this pile with respect. This pile is set aside exclusively for things you know you are going to be using day-to-day.
However, with my past experience with organizing–my pile of things to donate always somehow gets thrown back in to the pile of things I want to keep simply because my weaker side decides that I really need to keep those things in the end. If this sounds like you and you struggle with sticking to your own rules, be like me and eliminate the temptation. Personally (and don’t judge me) I don’t even have a ‘donate’ pile. I just strictly keep to a two-pile minimum including a ‘garbage’ pile and a ‘keep’ pile. If you feel like you need to modify this list of piles, feel free to do so. But, remember: stick to your rules!
5. Follow your own rules.
I could not emphasize enough how important this step is. It is so easy to slip and say, “Oh! But this was given to me by…” or “What? I’ll look great in this dress if I only lose 10 lbs!” Be strict with yourself. Trust me, in the end you’ll be glad you did. If it helps, give yourself a little break every once in a while to get something to eat or drink and then go back to work. But, make sure you finish the job. Don’t start a project like this and don’t see the end of it. Be sure to limit your time working on this because otherwise it will feel overwhelming and you’ll never want to do it again. Again, stick to your game-plan and don’t back down!
6. Tie the knot.
Once you have made your piles–tie the knot! Tie that knot on that garbage bag to make sure you don’t get into it again. Don’t sift through the donation pile and second-guess your decisions. Don’t do this to yourself! You’ve worked hard, so don’t undo it. And make sure you tie that knot twice!
7. Make it pretty.
Once you have finally sifted through your things and you are down to just your ‘keep’ pile–pat yourself on the back!! Congratulations–you’ve got the hard part done! All that’s left is to make your room pretty–this can be done by going and washing your clothes, organize them by color and vacuuming the bottom of your closet. Try even getting rid of any scuff marks by using a magic eraser. Do whatever you feel to make your closet nice and comfortable as if it were a brand new wardrobe.
This is in case you have made yourself a donating pile. Now that you have organized and cleaned your closet, throw those donation bags into your car and go!
9. Go shopping.
Treat yourself to buying some new hangers or tote bins would be nice to make your closet even more pretty and organized. Or even buying yourself a new shirt or pair of shoes would be a great way to reward yourself. Go on–you deserve it!
10. Enjoy it.
Don’t just get the job done and move onto another project–sit back and stare at your closet! Enjoy every second of this accomplishment. Many people would envy how organized your closet is. This is a moment to celebrate for. Because now that your closet is organized, most likely your life is going to feel a lot more organized, calm, and collected. You will spend less time getting ready in the morning and you will feel happier in life in general.