It's the season of renewal, growth... and Spring Cleaning, of course.
When I was a kid, I dreaded Spring Break. Instead of taking a vacation or hanging out at the beach, my family spent the entire week deep-cleaning the house: scrubbing literally every surface, shampooing the carpets, oiling wood, disinfecting beds, laundering curtains, sorting toys, emptying every cabinet and drawer to clean and assess its contents. A whiff of Pine-Sol or Murphy Oil Soap instantly takes me back to polishing mirrors and wishing I were on vacation. It wasn’t torture, exactly… in retrospect, while I surely would have jumped at the chance of a Spring Break trip instead, the week had gratifying moments.
Spring Cleaning taught me the power of resetting a space and letting go of things that no longer serve a purpose. It gave me the chance to reacquaint myself with things I had forgotten about, and it introduced me to the fun of rearranging furniture and creating new organizational hacks and giving new life to old things. It reminded me of what abundance exists in simply having a place to lay your head and call your own. At the most basic level, this practice also gave me satisfying visual proof of my hard work.
Clutter makes me feel anxious, so these days, I set aside a little time for daily maintenance to keep my spaces tidy and ideal for relaxing and recharging. Once a week, I open all the windows and play music while I clean the bathrooms, vacuum, change the sheets and tend to my plants. And about once a month, I dedicate a day to improving one area of my home (because who has a whole week?) or a specific project.
Recent home improvements include converting a coat closet into a pantry to free up space in my tiny kitchen, creating a wall hanging with an old dowel and excess yarn to dress up an empty space and decorating my coffee table with rocks and plants I already had to prevent clutter from collecting there. These have made life a little more comfortable and are nice to look at, too.
Quarantine gives us the opportunity to accelerate our home improvements—and actually enjoy them as soon as they’re done. If you want, once-a-month projects can become once-a-week projects… but the ambiguity of our situation means you shouldn’t feel pressure to complete them within a certain time frame and can take your time to enjoy the process and do a thorough job. The best of both worlds.
How do you get started if you’ve never done anything like this before? One method is to remember these three Rs: recenter, refocus, reorganize.
Recentering keeps your ultimate goal in mind so you can narrow your sight instead of feeling overwhelmed by everything you’d like to accomplish ever.
Start by figuring out what would make your favorite (or least favorite) space in your home more comforting. Imagine yourself coming home after a long day out and needing to relax. Where’s your go-to chill spot? What do you like about it, and how would you change it? What helps you unwind? Music, plants, books, a breeze? Is the space too busy to let your mind wander, or do you enjoy having a lot to look at and touch? Do you have bare walls you wish were decorated instead? Is it difficult to find the remote control when you want it?
Refocusing is about taking a bit at a time and making some changes in one area to see progress and be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor as soon as possible.
Once you’ve determined what’s most important to your space, start a to-do list of things you can do yourself to begin shaping the area into your ideal picture. Limit the list to things under your control; for example, if you rent and are not allowed to paint a preferred color, maybe hanging a textile or removable wallpaper is an option. Or if you’re dreaming of a new sofa but don’t have the budget right now… would a sofa cover or throw pillows be a temporary improvement? By focusing on things you can accomplish yourself, you’re bound to feel some satisfaction as you mark off to-do list tasks.
A.A. Milne said, “One of the advantages of being disorganized is the joy of discovery,” but that’s probably about it. Disorganization is such a drain on our energy and focus. Have you ever felt the frustration of lost keys or missing paperwork that you need right away? Fortunately, there are many ways to get organized (more ways to feel good!), and usually they can be done while watching a movie, listening to music or chatting with friends.
Pick one simple thing to organize at a time: toys, books, records or (if you’re ambitious) computer files are some ideas. Use the same recentering exercise to determine your organizational method. For example, if you’re organizing spices, imagine yourself cooking and reaching for what you need… how would you most easily find what you need? Would you prefer them to appear alphabetically or by type of cuisine or something else? Books can be organized by genre, author or color. Once you’ve settled on a method, sorting and rearranging becomes quick work. Make sure you include sorting options for donations so you can purge as you go.
Repeat this process until your space comes together. Give your organization staying power by committing to putting things back where they belong after use.
Don’t forget the most important part of improving your space: taking the time to kick back and soak in the goodness.
April Carter Grant
Originally from the rural Midwest, April has worked as a creative in the advertising, gaming, travel and beauty industries. An avid walker and sometime runner, she lives in LA with a young son and spazzy dog.