Get Serious About Spring Cleaning

By Helen Kornblum

Queries from the Curious:

“I’m serious about decluttering and spring cleaning this year, but I need some guidelines to help me make decisions about all the stuff we have. How do professional organizers help clients overcome their reluctance to pare down?”

Great question! The answer will fling back the curtain, revealing the magic tricks of professional organizers. Organizing power consists of good questions that ask clients to make judgments about personal belongings. Pick the ones that appeal to the little voice inside you and please, answer honestly.

A guide to getting organized

As you clean up and clear out your space, ask yourself these questions to help determine what to keep and what to toss: 

– What is this thing? If you don’t know, you probably don’t need it.

– Does this thing work? Keeping broken items doesn’t fix them. Kitchen utensils that don’t do the job aren’t helpful.

– Have I or another family member used this in the past year? Don’t cheat by saying you would have, had you known where it was.

– Will it be needed on a definite date in the future? Caution: “Someday” is not a day of the week.

– Do I love it? Does it love me back? These questions apply especially well to clothing and shoes, no matter how much money you may have spent for them.

– Does this item serve a worthwhile purpose in my life? It might have been a good idea when you bought it, but it might not be now.

– What’s more important to you: the item itself or the space it occupies? If you don’t have enough room to keep everything, something has to go.

– Why are you saving it? Hardened bath gels, yellowing stationery and old perfumes won’t improve with age. Use it up or give it up.

– What memories does this thing prompt? If there’s no genuine emotional attachment to an old item, is it really worth keeping?

– Was this a gift that you never liked? Don’t let unwanted gifts hold your space hostage. Regift or donate them.

– Has it been replaced by a better, more efficient model? Saving the old model while using the newer version doesn’t make much sense if space is limited.

– If you saw this in a store, would you buy it again? A powerful question that often puts you face to face with our truth!

– Is it stored in a good place? This is a trick question. The item may be beautifully stored but it’s still a waste of space if you don’t need it or use it.

– Does the thought of parting with the item make you feel guilty? It was so expensive, it was your grandma’s, you really loved it. Notice all the past tenses. That’s all in the past now. Move it out so you can move forward.

– Does it represent who you wanted to be or who you are now? Craft supplies and kitchen equipment are often clues to hobbies that never materialized. It’s okay to let the bread machine go. Who needs so many carbs nowadays?

Save these questions so you can move yourself from a cluttered past and present to an enticing future with room to spare.

Helen Kornblum is a life coach and organizer in Gainesville, FL. Find her at Her specialty is coaching teens and young adults who have ADHD or ADD.

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