Love it or lose it: the 5 R’s of spring cleaning

The calendar tells us spring starts next week. Here in the Midwest, it’s already in the air. Of course, it could snow again, but in the meantime, the neighborhood is buzzing with leaf blowers, weed whackers and lawn treaters. And that’s just on the outside. Inside, it’s time for the ancient ritual called spring cleaning. Are you ready? Yes you are and here’s why.

Lucy, you've got some spring cleanin' to do.

You’ve got stuff you don’t use, haven’t seen in years, don’t even know you have. Rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it in a year you won’t use it. Get rid of it. You’ll feel better if you do. And I know whereof I speak.

When I moved from Las Cruces, NM to Valparaiso, IN last fall I watched three guys pack box after box of dishes, linens, books and other accumulations into nearly 100 boxes. I’d gotten rid of a bunch of stuff but still had more than 7,720 pounds of “things” that were packed, moved across country, stored and moved again. I’ve moved a half dozen times in about a dozen years and have gotten rid of unused things every time. Remember what George Carlin said about stuff?

” … A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody’s got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house … … you gotta lock it up. Wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you’re saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get…more stuff!” (Click to read the full text by George Carlin.)

There are things in your space that you just don’t love anymore, and I’m not talking about your roommate. Go through a sock drawer, pull things out of the blind corner under your kitchen cabinet, clean out a closet. Clean out the garage. Outdated clothes, pots without handles, golf clubs that continue to disappoint, old board games, books, you-name-it and you know you’ve got to get rid of it. Remember: if you haven’t used it in a year, you’re done with it. What to do with it? It’s easy. Here are my 5-R’s for spring cleaning the stuff out of your house. Ready?

1. Return: what have you bought recently that wasn’t “exactly right?”  That skirt is cute but it’s too long and will have to be hemmed. The shop vac was on sale but it’s really too small for regular use. Take ’em back. Don’t buy anything that’s not the perfect thing.

Better still is returning things people gave you, in a nice way of course! I once gave my friend Sondra a snapshot she fell in love with while going through my photos of the English Moors. She had it framed beautifully, and when she downsized, she returned this gorgeously framed little pic. I love it. She’s also given me CDs and books, wrapped in recycled paper. She could write a book on the Zen of Giving.

2. Repurpose: find another use for the thing that’s taking up space in your closet. Are you saving that holey sheet to turn into a baby blanket? I must admit I have. I’ve held on to holey sheets because I loved the way they feel – that is until my big toe found that thin spot in the middle of the night. It’s happened, and I’ve thought about a making a baby blanket. Right. I my spare time. Sigh. They’re going to Goodwill for the professional baby blanket maker to find.

3. ReStore: Habitat for Humanity operates ReStore (see link)resale shops in every state but North Dakota and Vermont. They’ll take everything but old computer equipment, the stuff that robbers leave behind. This is my favorite place to take unused stuff because proceeds go to help build homes, shoppers can find the perfect thing and there’s a tax deduction, if you need it. (Most charities will provide a receipt for tax purposes.)

4. Recycle: much of your unused stuff can go to recyclers, scrap buyers and the wearables can be donated to so many places – The Salvation Army, Goodwill, you name it. I know an artist who shops resale stores for silk to use in her felted scarves. Another looks for anything made of wood. You don’t use it. Recycle it.

5. Reward: when you’ve cleared another space, reward yourself by sitting in a peaceful place. Clearing out clutter at home is akin to clearing out your mind. Who was it that said, nature abhors a vacuum? Make space for new, good things to come into your life. No, not more stuff. More peace, joy, love, contentment.

When I moved into this house, I donated old appliances to the homeless agency and quickly learned they went right into an apartment for a new tenant to get off the streets for the winter. We have so much, we don’t even know we have. Get rid of the excess and hold onto the good feelings you’ll get. They’ll go where you go and you won’t have to pay for moving ’em.



2 responses to “Love it or lose it: the 5 R’s of spring cleaning

  1. i love your posts, but i like this one more than the others, so i read it all over again.

  2. Ah, yes! The “journey” toward peace is piece by piece! Trying to “walk the talk”!

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