Stuffing things away in closets is not cleaning.
To have a truly clean home this spring, you might want to think about organizing and de-cluttering as much as possible before getting down on your knees with a bucket and scrub brush.
Whether it’s rounding up all the medicines in your house and keeping them in one locked spot or finally organizing all the loose papers in your car’s glove box, there are lots of spots where you could probably be a little more organized.
To find strategies on how to attack those spots come spring cleaning time — and how to find places you didn’t even think to organize — we turned to a couple of Maine’s professional organizers.
“I like to think of a professional organizer as a personal trainer for your stuff,” said Dawna Hall, who has clients in southern Maine and uses the business name Organize ME!
DON’T TAKE ALL DAY
Hall has some very specific ideas for spring cleaning and organizing that don’t necessarily take a lot of time. For instance, she recommends taking everything out of your kitchen “gadget” drawer and putting it in a big box somewhere. Anytime you really need something from that box, put it into the gadget drawer after using it.
After a year, Hall says, whatever is still in the box is probably something you don’t need.
Bonnie Dewkett, who does business in Maine under the business name the Joyful Organizer, says there are ways to make spring cleaning and organizing less daunting. Lots of people attack cleaning and organizing as a whole-house exercise. But cleaning and de-cluttering all at once would be overwhelming to just about anyone.
So Dewkett recommends organizing in 10-minute spurts. Pick a spot, set a timer for 10 minutes, and stop when the timer buzzes.
“This makes the session less daunting, and most people move faster during those 10 minutes,” she said.
THE CAR — YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Both Dewkett and Hall say spring is a good time to organize your car, which is not an area most people think that much about organizing.
But as Dewkett points out, most of us will probably be in our cars more in the spring and summer as we take day trips and vacations. So now is a good time to organize and update first-aid and repair kits in your vehicle, and make sure all your glove box paperwork — registration, car repair records, maps, etc. — are in order and easy to find.
Hall suggests strapping a CD organizer to your car’s visor and using it for any slips of paper you want to keep handy but neat, such as dump passes, coupons, business cards and the vehicle’s registration card. Anyway, who uses CDs anymore?
Hall says that because a family’s car is such a great collector of stuff, it makes sense to institute a “no empty hands” rule. Anytime anyone gets out of the car to go in the house, they need to grab something and either put it away in the house or throw it away.
If your car lives in a garage, spring is a good time to clean its home too. For one thing, the nice weather allows you to spread things out in the yard.
Hall suggests taking everything out of the garage and arranging items in categories on your lawn. Think of your garage as a big-box department store, she says, and arrange stuff in categories like Lawn & Garden, Home Improvement, Sports or Car Care.
Then create zones, by category, in the garage. Attach as many things to the walls as you can using hooks or Pegboard. Shovels, rakes and even bikes can be kept out of the way with hooks.
OUT OF THE CLOSET
Closets are great collectors of stuff, especially stuff we don’t use very often. Hall says you should take an honest look at your clothes closet this spring and locate anything you didn’t wear all winter. Then donate that item to the charity of your choice.
Dewkett says it’s important to have one season’s worth of clothing in your closet at a time. That way, you are less likely to have items linger unworn or unseen amid all the clutter.
She also suggests visiting a store to buy closet organizers, especially the ones that let you use the back of a closet door as a space for shoes, belts or other accessories.
BE ORGANIZED, BE SAFE
Spring cleaning time is a good time to go through your home looking for medications that are expired or that are stored somewhere unsafe, Hall says. Get rid of expired medications.
(Some medications may require different means of disposal — check out safemeddisposal.com for information.)
Safety is not only a goal of organizing, it’s something you need to consider while cleaning and organizing your home.
The Home Safety Council (homesafetycouncil.org) puts out a list each year of spring cleaning safety tips. Here are just a few:
• Only carry loads you can see over, and always keep one hand free to hold railings or banisters.
• When cleaning out closets or areas, always keep stairs, steps, landings and floors passable. Pile your stuff on a chair, table, etc.
• Never leave standing water in large buckets unattended.
• Wear gloves and masks when using chemical cleaners, and never mix them. Keep windows open for fresh air.
• Never use gasoline to clean anything, and never store gasoline in your home. Gasoline vapors can ignite with a small spark.
• When cleaning out cabinets, take any products you find with “caution” or “warning” labels and make sure you store them in a locked or secured space.
• Look for tripping hazards and take care of them, such as tucking electrical cords behind furniture and out of the path of foot traffic.
• When using a ladder to clean anything, make sure the rungs are dry first. On a step ladder, don’t stand any higher than the second rung from the top. For an extension ladder, don’t stand any higher than the fourth rung from the top.
For more information on organizing, go to organizemaine.com or thejoyfulorganizer.com.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: