In spite of being cooped up for months due to the pandemic, with spring in the air, there is often a sense of renewal, fresh air from outdoor activities, and that either welcome—or dreaded—“spring cleaning” activity. If you always swore that if you had a month at home you would finally clean your closets only to find out you were only fooling yourself, now is another chance to clean and de-clutter.

Here are some spring-cleaning tips I’ve learned over the years:

Start with a plan. Consider: will this be a one-day project or will it last a week, or even a month? Can I do this myself, do I need to enlist family and friends, or pay someone?

Try these easy things first you can do by yourself:

  • Clean out the medicine cabinet. Get out that magnifying glass and check out those expiration dates. If a date is in the rear-view mirror—or you if you’ve been hanging on to some that you thought you might need again in the future but haven’t—it’s time to get rid of them. (Be sure to dispose of them properly.) And how about the dozens of tiny shampoos and soaps you have been hoarding from your travels for years? If they are still good, donate them to the Armed Forces. If not, just throw them out. Old makeup and lotions? How about that bottle of Jean Nate from 1950? Time to toss those, too.
  • Clean out the pantry. If you have a pantry where you can only see what is on the front shelf, be prepared for what is hidden behind! Ancient jelly jars, expired soups and spices, rice with itty-bitty bugs—dump them all. You want to start anew by purchasing some inexpensive lazy Susan’s that can spin these products by a turn of the wheel so you can see—and use—what you have.
  • Clean out the refrigerator. You know the baking soda you put in your fridge to freshen up and remove odors five years ago? It is no longer effective—trust me, I know from experience! Throw out the ounce of parmesan cheese you were sure you would use the next time you had pasta. Do the same with the leftovers that are showing some green (and it’s not St Patrick’s Day). The half-cut onion at the bottom of the produce drawer—don’t even think about it. You will feel so much better looking at clean shelves that you can start to fill up all over again, I promise.

A word about clearing the clutter

Decluttering is all about making room in your home for the things that truly matter—and getting rid of anything that doesn’t.

My personal rule of thumb: If I haven’t needed it, known it’s there, used it, worn it, or cleaned it in two years…then I do not need it anymore! At age 66, I know I’ll never wear those 6-inch stiletto black shoes again! Do I need 14 coats in the hall closet? Nope.

Decide what is meaningful to you and part with the rest. You may need to start with ‘keep,’ ‘don’t need,’ and ‘maybe’ piles, but if the ‘keep’ pile grows much larger than the ‘don’t need’ pile, you may need the help of a friend or loved one to nudge you in the right direction!

Spring cleaning is a good time to re-evaluate the safety of your home

  • Eliminate area rugs from rooms and hallways. They are the number one cause of falls among the elderly.
  • Install grab bars in the shower and toilet area.
  • Check expiration of fire extinguishers. What? You don’t have one in your home? Get one and know how to use it—now!
  • Post emergency information in a very conspicuous place, such as on the refrigerator. This should include an emergency contact name and number, the name and phone number of your primary physician, a list of your most current medications, and a living will or POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form (if you have one). Place all documents in an envelope that says OPEN IN CASE OF EMERGENCY in big red letters.

When you need help with spring cleaning

  • Make it a family affair! Invite any and all willing family members and friends to deep clean and de-clutter a room. They can tag-team it to make it more fun. Give them guidance and parameters (dust, vacuum, wash floors, etc.) and then make (or order) a great meal to celebrate a job well done. Windows or glass door cleaners get an extra dessert!
  • If you are willing to pay… There is always an organization that will do anything for anyone…for a fee. For example, the National Association of Productivity & Organizing prices range from $80 an hour to $1,000 for an entire house.
  • As a last resort… may I suggest what I did when becoming overwhelmed with the need for deep-dive cleaning and decluttering in my basement? I MOVED!!!!!!!!

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