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Its that time of year again.  The tulips and daffodils are poking out of the ground, the trees are budding, and everyone is ready to get outside and shake off the cobwebs of winter.  Just remember- your house could use a good airing too!  We don’t need to go the extremes of a century ago, (they dismantled and cleaned even some of the furniture) but it is a good idea to clear some things out, and make sure you have a house that will make the coming-and-goings of warmer weather simpler.

Basic items you may find useful include vinegar, cheap shampoo, baking soda, your favorite essential oils (we love grapefruit and eucalyptus),  a good non-toxic  cleaner,  cleaning rags, garbage bags, music you like to listen to,  boxes or bags for donations to charity, and a feeling of abundance.  (If you can recognize the multitude of blessings you have, you will think more clearly and be more objective about what you truly ought to keep and what is excess.)   This project is not just for Mom.  Get the entire family involved.  Little ones can refold and sort linens, use a whisk broom, help carry smaller items as you clear, or wipe down lower surfaces.  Once they can read labels easily, allow them to organize things by size, color, or type.  (No toxic substances should be handled by young children.)  Bigger kids can learn to scrub (even in the corners), clear, and sort.  Everyone in a family should be a participant in maintaining a clean and tidy home!

Start in the room that needs the least amount of work.  (If your bathroom needs a good scrub, and a few shelves straightened, start there.)  The more quickly you have one room sparkling, the more motivation you will have to keep going. Do the next area that is not too bad, and so forth.  If you can do a drawer or two, or a closet, or room a day, you will get done fairly quickly without being chained inside when the weather is good. Set some goals, and get to it!

In the bathroom, use the vinegar (with essential oils added if you desire) on shiny surfaces and tile.  Buff glass dry with crumpled newspaper; use cotton rags for anything else.  Cheap shampoo is great for anywhere body oils collect.  Clean your tub, your combs and brushes, even ring-around-the-collar with it.  If you need something with just a bit of a gentle abrasive, baking soda is your friend.  It also is a great deodorizer.  Pour about half a cup down your drains followed by a cup or two of vinegar.  Stand back and watch the action!  The foaming will help clear your pipes, and freshen them. Polish the hardware.  If your toilet bowl needs a good soak, use good quality denture tablets.  Let them sit overnight, swish in the morning, and most stains under the waterline will be gone.  Sort your linens.  Clear and wipe down any shelves or cabinets.  Check your medications for expiration dates.  As you finish, take a minute to enjoy what you have done!

Clear out one cabinet or closet as a time.  Touch each item long enough to decide if you need/want it.  Does it fit?  Do you use it?  Do you hate it, but it was a gift?  Keep the good.  Donate the unnecessary.  Toss/recycle the trash.  Have a day when you gather the toys, games, and other playthings.  Mend the boxes.  Do you have all the pieces?  Put all the Legos/blocks/toy soldiers in their own container.  Doll stuff needs a central home.  Are there games you just never play?  Puzzles you have never put together?  Schedule a time to do so, or donate it!

As you dust, take EVERYTHING off the surface.  Clean it.  Then put back your favorite things.  Only re-place those things that add to the look of the room or serve a purpose.  If you had too much on there to begin, don’t put it all back!  What would look better somewhere else in your house?  What items need a nice box or basket to be stored neatly?  What do you no longer need, or which items are not adding anything to your life?  Donate them.

As you clean, have a box or basket for items you need, but they belong somewhere else.  Whatever lives in a different room, put in the box.  Don’t leave where you are currently cleaning; you may never finish the job.

Paperwork can be the most time-consuming and frustrating part of any organization project.  If you have file folder, a sturdy box, a recycling bin, and a way to shred or burn anything with personal information, you can take an afternoon and just plow through it.  This may be the one area where family help is not a good idea.  Put a system together for paperwork, finances, etc. so that it can be maintained.  I have five file drawers where all of my household, school-related, financial, or personal paper lives.  Give your older children and teens a box of their own.  Help them create a system for papers, certificates, pay stubs, letters, etc.

Your children can, and should, help you go through their rooms.  What do they no longer need?  What have they stashed under their beds, or in their drawers?  Clear it out.  Sort it.  Put back what really matters.  Help them share in the excitement of having created a clean, organized, fun place to be; help them learn to share their excess with others who need what we take for granted.

If money is tight,  take not needed (but still nice) clothing, toys, or other household items to a consignment shop for resale, or box them up and hold a yard sale this summer.  If you talk with your extended family, neighbors, or friends you will often have enough to create a good-sized, therefore better attended, sale.  (Just be sure to have a system to keep track of how much money goes to each family.)

We do not need to have a professionally decorated house, or a lot of money in order to live in a pleasant, inviting space.  Clean it up.  Clear it out. You can fashion a refuge from the outside world where people want to be with a little elbow grease and lots of love.  Happy cleaning!

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