See if this sounds familiar: Motivated by your New Year’s resolution to declutter, you binge-watched “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix in January and dutifully thanked a few pieces of outdated clothing and random kitchenware that no longer sparked joy in your life. You may have even inspired your significant other to part with some well-worn socks and your children to say goodbye to a small selection of toys they’ve outgrown.
Then, sometime between Groundhog’s Day and today, your eagerness to “KonMari” your entire home waned as the number of items on your to-do list grew. Now that it’s spring, the increase in activities for the family — soccer practice, baseball games, playground playdates — means a decrease in desire to stay indoors and tidy up. Besides, who has the time to clean?
Before you hit the season running, it’s important to evaluate what you’ve accumulated over the winter and decide what to do next. “Spring is a great time to pause,” says Rachel Rosenthal, an organizing expert in Bethesda. “Without stopping, your house will become a breeding ground for continued clutter.”
Rosenthal recommends that busy parents schedule spring-cleaning sessions as they would doctor or dentist appointments so that they don’t get “pushed to the side when weekends get busy.” However, you’ll want to be realistic with your time to prevent the process from becoming overwhelming. “Start with 30 minute chunks at a time and then give yourself a reward,” she suggests.
Before attempting to tackle a decade’s worth of clutter in the basement, Rosenthal advises families to begin in spaces that are more manageable. “Starting in the easiest place will give you motivation to continue,” she says. The kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms will be less daunting than, say, the garage.
And when Rosenthal refers to “families,” she means the entire family. Involving your children teaches them that tidying up “is how you live, not a just a one-time event” and sends the message that “we are an organized family,” she explains.
Katherine Reynolds Lewis, author of “The Good News About Bad Behavior” and a certified parent educator with the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP), agrees that it’s important to include kids in the cleaning process.
Participating in chores, Reynolds says, gives them “a sense of themselves as capable and mattering to the family.” When children put away their toys, for example, they immediately feel a sense of accomplishment and can see how their effort helps out the family.
After you block off time to organize the kitchen and task the kids with checking the expiration dates on everything in the pantry, you may feel tempted to stock up on bins and baskets. However, Rosenthal recommends completing the decluttering phase of the spring cleaning process before running to Target or The Container Store. Once you’re ready to shop, look for products that can help you create organizing systems rather than ones that simply match your home decor. (And remember, always measure your spaces first!)
Although every family’s organizational needs will be different, below are a few of Rosenthal’s favorite products for creating a tidy home.
- Drawer dividers allow you to neatly separate items by category in bedroom dressers and kitchen drawers. Clear shoe boxes make it easy to find what you’re looking for and can be stored under the bed, on shelves or in a closet.
- Vertical file folders are ideal for categorizing mail and preventing important paperwork from getting lost in piles.
- Hanging sweater bags create additional vertical space and are a handy way to store board games, hats and gloves, purses and, of course, knitwear.
- Shoe organizers that hang over the door can be used in kids’ bedrooms or bathrooms to hold hair accessories and small toys.
Rosenthal understands that decluttering can seem like a chore for those who haven’t done it before, so she encourages families to think of it as a way of life instead. “Spring cleaning is just part of the process,” she says.