Spring cleaning: how to declutter and get organized

WATCH ABOVE: Global News spoke with Brooks Palmer, author of the “Clutter Busting” books about helpful tips for spring cleaning.

TORONTO — Spring is here. And for many, the start of the season is synonymous with spring cleaning.

“It’s something about being able to open the windows and have this freshness and clear away a bit of the clutter that accumulates,” says Deanne Kelleher of kAos Group, a Toronto-based company which offers organizing services.

Where do you start?

If you’ve let things get a little away from you, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Kelleher recommends thinking about what job will have the most impact and starting there.

“Pick something that will give you a sense of accomplishment and make your day easier – which is usually bathrooms, closets and kitchens,” says Kelleher.

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“Those are the three things that can really affect us negatively.”

The key is to focus on one at a time, though. Kelleher says some people will “crack open all the windows and they start in a kitchen drawer, move to a closet, and then start the bathroom. And they never finish what they start and always end up saying ‘I can’t do this.’”

Once you’ve chosen what area you want to tackle first (step one), she says it’s important to come up with a plan (step two). Maybe even put it in writing and share it with someone to make yourself more accountable.

A key component of your plan: set a realistic time-frame for your project.

“A whole kitchen organizing can take eight hours. And I’m actually not kidding,” Kelleher warns.

She adds that something smaller like a drawer can be done in as little as 10 to 15 minutes.

Another part of the plan: figure out the tools you’ll need. Those can include anything from garbage bags and boxes right down to duct tape and markers for labelling.

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WATCH: Lifestyle expert Sarah Kelsey showcases a variety of products that make storage and organization easy and simple.

Sorting through your things and grouping like items together using mason jars, cut-up cereal boxes or business card boxes is something Kelleher calls “containerizing.” It’s a de-cluttering task meant to save you time and calm your mind.

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“It’s being able to easily access the things that you know you have and trust the places that you’ve created to keep them are working for you.”

What not to do

“I think the biggest mistake people make is being overzealous about getting it done, and not realizing how much time it really can take,” Kelleher says.

Starting spring cleaning on an empty stomach or if you’re tired is also a recipe for disaster, according to Kelleher.

When you do get going, don’t be wishy-washy with what you’re going to toss, says Brooks Palmer, who coaches people via Skype on “clutter busting” and has written two books on the topic.

“There’s no maybe piles. It’s good to remember that. ‘Maybe’ means ‘no.'”

“Because all you have to do is think of something that’s really important to you and you think, ‘do I want this?’ And the answer is ‘yes.’ There’s no uncertainty about it. When you say ‘maybe,’ that’s a great red flag to indicate it’s fallen out of your favour.”

Overcoming emotional attachment

Emotions are a big reason we hold onto things we don’t really need, experts say.

“It feels like if you let this go, you’ll lose the memories or the feeling you got from that. But my experience is when you let some of those things go, it creates a space for new things to come in,” Palmer says.

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That means it may be time to ditch the jeans that maybe are a couple sizes too small now, and make room for some fresh pieces you’ll actually wear.

“We all have things in our closet and drawers that we feel sentimental to, or cannot bring ourselves to get rid of,” says Edmonton’s ‘Fashion Guy’ John Chwyl.

“I have always suggested putting tags on each of your hangers and when you wear the garment, remove the hanger. Then in about three to four weeks, depending on how many times you have, if you still have a tag on the hanger, you need to get rid of it.”

Emotions are a big reason we hold onto things we don’t really need, experts say.

Just start…a calmer mind awaits

The hardest part is getting started. So don’t procrastinate — that in itself can add more stress to your day. You’ll feel better once it’s done.

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“And there’s going to be resistance, it’s not like ‘oh boy, I can’t wait to get rid of stuff all day long today,'” admits Palmer. “It’s a little overwhelming and it can be intimidating. Until you start. And then…it gives you energy actually.

“People start to enjoy the process because it feels good to let things go.”

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