Clean Sweep for Spring - Decluttering, reorganizing for 'feel-good' space

May 9, 2014 

Rebekah Hoffman
Contributing Writer

A kitchen countertop covered in so much clutter that there’s no space to cook. A closet stuffed to the gills with clothing yet you can find nothing to wear. Endless searching and rising panic when something important - whether it be your car keys, the recipe for your Aunt Betty’s special potato salad or your child’s field trip permission slip - goes missing at the critical moment.

We’ve all faced problems resulting from the way we manage our stuff. But maybe this is the season you can finally take control of your stuff instead of letting it control you.

Get energized for success

Spring is a time we often feel reenergized and motivated to tackle projects. This makes it a perfect time to declutter and reorganize so both your home and your heart feel light and free.

“Organizing works best when you feel inspired to do so. With longer days and warmer weather, spring can be a great time to find this inspiration,” said Aby Garvey, organizing expert and owner of the Edwardsville-based online organizing company Simplify 101.

Understand clutter to defeat it

Garvey said clutter is a much bigger problem today than it was several generations ago largely because we have more space for it to accumulate.

“We have bigger houses, bigger closets. And with the space, we have so much more stuff,” she stressed.

Sometimes our emotions get tangled up with the stuff, making it difficult to part with. Garvey noted that people often hang onto things for sentimental reasons, a sense of obligation or guilt about being wasteful.

“The key is for each individual to understand their own reasons so they can move forward.”

Start with low-hanging fruit

When embarking on an organizing project, the best place to start is with something devoid of a lot of these emotional entanglements - a junk drawer or a bookcase, for example.

Then, start by looking for the obvious “low-hanging fruit,” Garvey advised.

“The first thing you want to do is let go of the things you no longer use, need or love,” she said. “This can make the process less overwhelming, and you will sometimes find you then have sufficient space available to keep other items you may be on the fence about.”

Impose the dollar-value rule

However, if space dictates the need for additional cuts, defer to a dollar-value rule.

“Some things cost more to replace or, in the case of sentimental items, may be irreplaceable. Set a value threshold so you can make quick decisions.”

She cautioned against keeping too many sentimental items.

“If things are that important to you, don’t just stuff them into a cardboard box. Do something with them (i.e. display on a shelf) so you can enjoy them.”

Garvey said displaying things that have real meaning to you may also make it easier to let go of a random knickknack you picked up on a whim.

Lead by example

But what if it’s your husband/boyfriend/child/roommate’s clutter that is driving you up a wall?

“(Their clutter) may drive you crazy, but it can be very important to them. It’s important that you start by decluttering your own stuff to lead by example.”

Let success beget more success

That feeling of accomplishment you’ll get when you declutter one space can fuel your enthusiasm to take on another area. As your confidence increases, it will get easier to tackle bigger tasks that are more emotionally charged.

Establish new habits to stay organized

But getting a space decluttered and organized is only half the battle, according to Garvey.

Old habits landed you in a state of clutter and disorganization and will, in time, return you there unless you replace them with new habits that will help you stay organized, she stressed.

Take that kitchen countertop you just worked so hard to clear. It likely got to its former messy state because it was the default surface for everyone in your household to leave items: the mail, your purse and sunglasses, the kids’ backpacks, etc. The long-term solution to the problem is to change the “just drop it on the counter” habit to a better one.

Set up a drop zone

In this case, establishing a household drop zone can be helpful, she said.

Place it near where family members enter and leave your home, perhaps in a hallway, foyer or mudroom, and equip it so it will work for you, with hooks, bins - even a decorative tray.

“As an extra bonus, it can also help everyone get out of the house on time in the morning.”

Learn more via online classes or personal coaching

Since leaving the corporate world 10 years ago, Garvey has helped thousands of people cut clutter and get organized through her online classes and personal coaching. Check out all her offerings at

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