How To Do Spring Cleaning

We all find ourselves, at some point in life, with too much stuff. We purchase, inherit, and are given gifts of material things. We think we’re going to use them. We hope we get our money’s worth. We hold onto things with sentimental value. But there comes a time when we have to face the truth: it’s time for some things, maybe a lot of it, to go.

This traditionally happens in the spring, when people open their curtains and windows, take a deep breath, and look around at all the dust and clutter that accumulated during the dark winter months. Ergo the term, “spring cleaning”.

So, given the universal nature of the problem, how do we approach it as individuals? Here is a mental scenario that helped me, and may help you, too.

Imagine this: you receive a phone call from a friend, who breathlessly tells you that there’s an exciting opportunity for you overseas. The catch is that you won’t have time to relocate in the usual sense, i.e., pack boxes with dishes, linens, furnishings, and clothes, and have it all shipped to your new location. You have to pack two large suitcases with all the clothes you’re going to take, and you’re going to leave your current residence for someone to rent out as a furnished apartment. And you’ve got two weeks to do all this.

The new tenants will bring a few personal items with them; all they’ll need from you is the basics. In the kitchen, a few pots, pans, dishes and glasses, silverware. In the linen closet, a couple of sets of sheets and pillow cases. A little more than the bare minimum, but not much more than that. Not a lot of junk on the shelves. Absolutely no clutter. Some things have sentimental value. Put them in a box and put that in the attic, or get them ready for storage or pack them in your suitcase with your clothes. Remember: you’ll still have the memories even if you don’t have the things.

Regarding your clothes, you’ll need to take your best basic wardrobe: the quality items that are versatile, comfortable, and stylish. The list should start with your favorites: “This is my favorite dress. This is my favorite pair of jeans. These are my most versatile shoes. This is my favorite shirt. This is my warmest sweater. This is the best jacket…”

Next, you’ll pull out the two suitcases. Not just in your imagination, but really, pull them out. Fill them up with what is really the core essentials of your wardrobe. You should be able to dress for dinner and dress for hiking. Pack everything up and close the suitcases. That’s what works for you. That’s what you need to live. That’s the refined and streamlined collection of the essentials that you need for you to look good and feel good. Good.

Now, look at what remains in your closets and your drawers, the stuff on your shelves. That’s extra. That’s not essential. That’s waste, and it can be a serious drag on your spirit.

Give it to family or friends. Give it to charity. Get rid of it.

You’ll feel so much better when you do.


PS – Oh, yeah, unpack those suitcases. You’ll need something to wear tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “How To Do Spring Cleaning

  1. Aaah, a familiar post! My husband and I are in the midst of collecting items for a yard sale. We loathe yard sales, but a lot of it is not really things that one would donate to charity or a homeless organization. It’s amazing what one accumulates over the course of time.

  2. A topic near and dear to my heart! You didn’t say how this relates to old money, but I believe it does. My husband and I both easily qualify as old money. He’s fifth generation old money and I’m fourth generation. We have both always been what many people today would call minimalists. We have small wardrobes of high quality, comfortable and versatile clothing and we have no clutter in the house.
    I don’t know if this comes from years spent away at school, our love of travel, the knowledge that if we need something we can simply buy it, or most likely, having been raised in a way that emphasises education and character development over material possessions and saving and investing over buying a lot of “stuff”.
    We probably could meet your “two suitcase challenge”. We don’t buy stuff “just in case”. My motto is: store it at the store. The retail industry has made it very convenient to buy whatever you need or want. They will store it for you (at no charge) until you need it; in the mean time you keep your money. And if it turns out you never need it, you never have to pay for it.
    Thanks for this excellent post. Too much stuff can be a burden. I hope others heed your words of wisdom.

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