Spring Cleaning In 10 Steps…

Spring Cleaning In 10 Steps

Spring is here, and summer is just around the corner. It’s time to switch your living room curtains to those sheer pastels. Box up your thick, heavy sweaters. Pull out those shorts you’ve been waiting to wear and hose down those air conditioners. You’re planning season of fun, but first… how about a little Spring Cleaning?

A survey of 1,015 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, revealed that 66% of people participate in spring cleaning. Unfortunately, about 54% of folks get stumped on just how or where to begin. In fact, getting started is the number-one spring cleaning challenge. [1]  It’s so jarring, because so many of us live with “chronic clutter syndrome.” This is despite the fact that the average American home has grown 53%, (from 1500 sq. ft. to around 2300 sq. ft.) in the last 30 years. Eight hundred additional square feet of space in our homes, and self-storage facilities have still also grown to over 35,000 facilities nationwide. [2]

It’s like we can’t accumulate enough stuff. Meanwhile, we’re living in the eye of our clutter tornado, too overwhelmed to lessen the mess. It’s important to note, that clutter is not just about aesthetics. Clutter has a psychological impact on our emotional and mental health which causes us to feel overstimulated, overwhelmed, guilty, anxious and distracted.[3]  That’s why environmental wellness is so important.

So, how do we make this task more manageable?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed that over the years, the name Oscar has become associated with mess, dirt, etc. On the popular children’s show, “Sesame Street,” we met Oscar the Grouch who lives in a garbage can and loves trash. On the classic 1970s sitcom (and 2015 revival), “The Odd Couple,” Oscar Madison is our beloved mess-o-maniac, living in stark contrast to neat-freak, Felix Unger. It’s like everywhere you look, there’s an untidy Oscar, showing us how not to live.

So, to help me through my Spring Cleaning and motivate me a bit, I’ve put together a process with the following acronym, “ I AM NO OSCAR.”


1. Inventory – Take Inventory. We accumulate so many things that we rarely even have a clue of what we have and what we lack. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen friends and family go out and buy duplicates of things that they own but cannot find. I, myself, have stacked toiletries so far back in the medicine cabinet that I thought I needed what I already had and ended up with multiple body sprays, way too much lotion and an array of toothpastes. So take the time to account for what you own.



2. Assess – Evaluate for desirability and usefulness. We don’t need or even want most of what we have. Most of us just feel safer having it, in the event that we may, one day, far in the future, discover a longing for it and find ourselves forced to be without it. So, think hard about why you need something, why you want something, and whether or not you are keeping things because of their desirability and usefulness, or because of your fear.


3. Minimize – Discard what you can. We all have a thing we like to hoard – shoes, clothes, notebooks, memorabilia, etc. You are entitled to your “thing.” But most everything else, we can cut by half and still be fine. See if you can find a way to release, reduce, donate or dump a significant amount of what you currently keep. Create space for new things that will come along or simply for a more spacious, clutter-free way of life.



4. Nap – Sifting and sorting through what you have is hard work. Each thing that you struggle to let go of will trigger you emotionally. It’s tough to account for it all, evaluate it all, and learn to do without some of it. Give yourself a break so that you don’t burn out. Go to sleep for a bit and reset your energy so you can take on the rest.


5. OM – Om, pronounced, “aaah-oooh-mmm,” is a scared spiritual sound brought to us from the Hindu tradition. It is believed to align the mind, spirit and body. [4]   You may find this chant helpful as you move through this process. It’s challenging to rid yourself of things with emotional meaning; to dedicate time, energy and space to clearing your space and it’s no easy feat to create systems that will keep you structured. So align and recharge.



6. Organize – Create systems for what’s left. Use boxes and labels to make items easy to find. Sandwich bags make great organizers for small things. Shoe boxes do too. Line things up in size order so you can see as much as possible. Color code things that coordinate. Try to keep similar shapes or complimentary shapes together so you maximize use of small spaces.


7. Store – Find places for those things you don’t need to have readily available. Comforters and coats can go in bins and garment bags, under beds and in closet-backs. Vacuum seal bags help you get big things into small spaces. Sheds are great ways to store things you won’t need right away and chests are decorative and pleasant homes for those miscellaneous items you need, but don’t need to leave out.


8. Clean – Give surfaces, drawers, cabinets and closets, a thorough scrub. Dust can build up in the smallest and deepest of places, so conquer those crevices. Diluted vinegar helps to clear out bacteria, mold and other undesirables. If not, a damp rag takes you a long way as do some multi-surface wipes.


9.Arrange – Now that you’ve narrowed, systematized and cleaned, it’s time to put everything in its proper place. Arrange things so that they are easy to find, easy to reach and easy to keep clean. Ask yourself: What do I use most often? What will help me find them? What similar things can I keep together? What can be moved against a wall or mounted to create space? What things can go inside of one another? Figure out what works for you.


10. Relax – Lastly, relax and take a bow. You’ve made some tough calls, done some hard work and worked up quite a sweat. Take a well-deserved rest and enjoy your clean and calming environment. You’ll feel more at ease now, with less clutter and more choices easily available at your fingertips.

For more on Dinorah Nieves, PhD aka Dr.D, visit http://www.DinorahNieves.com


 [1] Gates, K. (2017, April 08). This Survey Reveals The Most Popular Spring Cleaning Habits In The U.S. [Infographic]. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from https://www.simplemost.com/survey-reveals-spring-cleaning-habits/

[2] Kantra, D. S. (2010, January 03). Chronic Clutter Syndrome. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from http://psychdigest.com/chronic-clutter-syndrome/

[3] Bourg Carter, S. (2012, March 14). Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201203/why-mess-causes-stress-8-reasons-8-remedies

[4] Reiss, R. (2014, January 23). The Meaning Of ‘Om’. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/kripalu/meaning-of-om_b_4177447.html


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Dinorah Nieves, PhD

Dr. Dinorah Nieves (aka Dr. D) is a personal/professional development coach and behavioral scientist, who helps others to become healthier,…

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