Less is More: 3 Tips to Spring Clean Your Life



Spring Clean Your LifeDo you find yourself surrounded with clutter? Try these three tips to spring clean your life and clear away some of the clutter.

Ahhh…Spring!  A time of re-birth, baby animals, green grass, flowers and budding trees; basically a season for renewal all around. Historically, spring was the time homemakers cleaned the winter coal soot off the wall coverings and fixtures of their homes. A deep clean on the inside of the home, no doubt, reflected the freshness of the season outside. Here’s my deep thought for you today: What kind of “coal soot” is covering your “insides?” Don’t worry—this isn’t about colon cleanses or detoxifying your diet. It’s bigger than that. I’m talking about clutter.

Clutter is all around us; our lives are cluttered with words, images, data, sounds and STUFF. Big stuff, little stuff, stuff we don’t even remember we have because it is buried under other stuff or stuffed into boxes of stuff. Clutter is our generation’s “coal soot.”  We bring it into our lives to fill a need, be it emotional or physical. But for some reason we let it stay long after the need has been filled. My challenge to you is to clear the clutter and spring clean your life.  Here’s how:

  1. Create a baseline.  Just like in budgeting or weight loss or any habit change, it’s difficult to make changes unless you have a good idea of what’s happening to begin with.  For example, assess your clutter. Is it mostly clothes, toys, papers, tools or books?  Start by bringing all of the same type of item together in one place.  Start small, say, with shirts.  Get all your shirts in one pile.
  1. Assess the value.  Now that you have all your shirts (or whatever item you’ve chosen to start with) go through the pile one by one.  Evaluate whether each item brings you joy.
  1. Keep, trash, donate, or sell.  Your number one goal is to only keep the items that are bringing you the most joy and the rest you can send on its way.  And it’s okay! There will be lots of items that have good use left in them. But if you’re not using them, do what you can to get the items into the hands of someone who will.

Less truly is more.  The tiny house movement really might be onto something!  When we own less, we have less to clean and less to trip over in the dark – just think of the health benefits!  Not to mention the potential to lift moods and bring harmony into a home; can you imagine a weekend without nagging your kids to clean their bedrooms? Fewer items to put away paired with habits of giving every item a “home” creates an opportunity for neatness.

Now, I’ll share a few cautions:

  1. Beware of the temptation of storage bins.  While the storage industry has made leaps and bounds in developing items that are fashionable and attractive, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need them.  After you’ve decreased the number of belongings, you might just realize you don’t need so many bins and pockets and cubbies to hide things in so your home has the appearance of tidiness. Tidiness is a natural result of owning less.
  2. Evaluate your buying habits and motivations.  As you are letting go of things you no longer need, think about why you purchased/acquired the items to begin with. If there are habits you need to change, apply those habits to future purchases and learn from the experience.
  1. Be kind to yourself. You’ll no doubt have some misgivings about the items you’re letting go of. The money spent on those items is gone, and guilt over making a purchase you didn’t necessarily use responsibly or no longer need isn’t worth it.

The feeling of a lifted burden is invigorating and refreshing. Kind of like spring… and cleaning the coal soot out.

This article was written by Rebecca Mills, Extension assistant professor in family consumer sciences and 4-H youth development


Kondo, M. (2014). The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. New York: Ten Speed Press.

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