A child cleaning the glass with a paper towel

The Case for Pre-Spring Cleaning

For some reason, out of all four seasons, spring is reserved for cleanups and cleanouts. No one really knows why. Maybe it’s rooted in an ancient practice inscribed in a stone tablet somewhere. Maybe it’s because, in the northern regions of the world, people have fallen out of love with the items in their homes after staring at them all winter while cooped up inside.

I’m usually down to clean and purge unwanted items 364 days each year. I take Christmas Day off to make a gigantic, glittery mess. But, for some reason, as soon as the wrapping paper settles each Christmas, we get a glimpse of the Marine Corps side of my husband. He breaks down all the boxes, hauls bags of crumpled paper out to the trashcans and takes his neatly stacked piles of gifts upstairs to put them away. This is amplified when I buy him clothes for Christmas. He puts the new clothes away and pulls the same amount of old clothes off their hangers to create a pile of giveaways.

This Christmas, as has happened every year before, I was peer-pressured into giving up my one-day vacation from organization and cleaning to keep pace with my husband — failure to do so could jeopardize the safety of my clothes hanging vulnerably in the closet, inches from where he is making drastic cuts to the inventory. I can’t take that chance.

I might drag my heels, but am I ever really upset about a chance to get organized? No (as I hug my label maker), and I don’t see the point in clogging up precious square footage with stuff we don’t need, use or even like any more. If you’re not naturally motivated to purge, clean and organize like I am (or as my husband becomes each Christmas), here are some thoughts that may get you up and asking things like, “When’s the last time I dusted the ceiling fan, anyway?” or “Why do I still have my prom dress — it hasn’t fully zipped or been in style since 2003?”

  • If you have kids in school, spring is crazy. Here come the field trips, standardized tests, yearbooks, picture days, sports and spring break vacations. We don’t need to add cleaning under their beds to the agenda.
  • New stuff in, old stuff out. When you’re moving all the holiday gifts into their new spots, you might as well move the things that are no longer working for you out.
  • When the weather has you stuck inside, you might as well clean! We all know that as soon as the temps start to warm, no one wants to stay inside…until summer comes with its triple-digit temps. Ick.
  • Three letters: PCS. If you’re moving this summer, it’s time to get serious. Start in January and move through one room at a time. Toss stuff that is broken, missing parts, too small, worn out or just “not you” any more. I would caution you not to get rid of things that seem out of place or useless right before a PCS. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve gotten rid of something and immediately wished I had it back when we got to a new house. You can also deep clean each room as you clean out – that way the official moveout cleaning is a little less intense.
  • And, speaking of PCS, if you just completed one, chances are the remnants of it can be found in the back corner of a closet somewhere. I typically have everything unpacked in 72 hours — photos hung, cabinets full…everything. But there is always one straggler box or bag. This PCS, it was a vacuum-sealed bag of scarves. It had been buried in the back of the closet for seven months under a mound of my husband’s gear. It’s finally off the floor, and now that it is I can’t believe I spent seven months tripping on it every time I walked in the closet.
  • Cleaning out at the beginning of the year gives a sense of accomplishment right out of the gate. Sort of like making your bed every morning, or my tendency to write things on my to-do list that I’ve already accomplished just for my own pride.

Pick a room or a closet — perhaps the one whose clutter is driving you the craziest at the moment, grab yourself a trash bag and some cleaning supplies, and get in there!

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