Spring Cleaning: 5 Tips for the Organized Home

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Spring cleaning can either be the best, or worst, part of the new season. On one hand, it’s a chance to declutter and refresh your living space. Plus, it can feel good to tackle those projects that you’ve been meaning to get to all winter. But a laundry list of to-do items and junk drawers filled to the brim can make the process feel overwhelming.

To help you, we sat down with two of Chicagoland’s leading organization experts to get the inside scoop on combatting clutter and streamlining your space. Their advice: be intentional, let it go (guilt-free), and give everything a place.

#1: Start with a List

No surprise here, but Chicago-based home organizer and decorator Mikayla Bernstein starts every organization project by making a list.

“I like to go through the whole house to get a high-level look at what’s going on in a client’s home,” she says. “Then we make a plan to rock out room by room.”

To mimic Bernstein’s approach, start your spring organization by walking through your home and jotting down everything that needs to be addressed. Then prioritize to create a plan of attack. Another pro tip: Start with the easiest room first, says Bernstein. It’s a motivating way to kick off your organizing project and make the entire experience feel more manageable.

#2. Let Go of the Guilt

For Irene Lo, founder of Simply Organized in Glenview, effective organizing means being decisive about what to keep, what to toss, and what to donate – which can be trickier than it sounds.
“A lot of people are so fearful about letting things go,” Lo says. “I tell my clients not to keep things out of guilt or because they think they might need it someday, down the road.”
One way to combat the guilt is to donate items to a charity you connect with – which, as Lo explains, can go beyond traditional donation centers. If you have a love for animals, for example, you might have pet supplies, office supplies or even furniture that you could donate to an adoption center.

It’s also a good idea, she says, to explore what organizations can re-sell. To that end, Lo says she often encourages clients to visit a local thrift shop or Goodwill and see first-hand what’s being resold. Then, you can work together to sort items and categorize them into donate and trash piles.

#3. One and Done

Another pro tip from Lo: lean into her “one touch rule” mantra.
“When you come home, instead of dropping your things on the kitchen table, immediately put them away where they belong so you only touch them once,” she says.

That means hanging up keys, stashing coats and bags in the closet, and putting water bottles in the sink. Create a spot where you keep everything you bring in and out of your house daily.

“I’m a big believer in having a drop zone in the kitchen. I have a lovely basket that I keep right by the door to corral things like spare change, receipts, wallets, sunglasses – you name it. That helps me keep less clutter around my house. Also, everyone knows where the things they need to grab and go as they walk out the door are.”

#4. Give Papers a Place

To that end, Lo says, consider setting up a system for managing papers – mail, school forms, newspapers, bills, everything.

“A lot of my clients struggle with paper management and organizing,” Lo says. Alongside the drop zone, she recommends creating a system to organize important mail and store bills that need to be paid.

#5. Stay in the Zone

Getting organized is one thing. Staying organized is another.

“For most people, once there’s a system in place, they can follow it,” Bernstein says. “Labeling things for different zones and categories can help you visualize your organization system.”

Once everything is organized and put away, Bernstein recommends making labels to remind you where everything goes – and she means everything, from where dresses hang in the closet to where mixing bowls are stashed in the kitchen.

“I’m always reminding my clients that being organized doesn’t mean you have to be perfect 100% of the time. It’s just about being more efficient, so when you’re ready to do a quick clean-up, you know exactly where things go.”

Are you planning a spring cleaning – or organization – project? Share your tips below!

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