Does spring cleaning have to be a thing? Are you into it? Do you love organizing and decluttering? I was invited to have a discussion on CBC Radio with Shawn Apel about this subject and much more.
My friends, we just had the Ice Storm of 2023. It left as quickly as it came, thanks to the change in weather. The freak storm caused so many branches and full trees to fall, and the cities in and around Montreal are currently cleaning up the debris.
Unfortunately, so much food was wasted because things went bad in fridges and freezers, and many lost power for over a week. However, there is a silver lining to this terrible natural disaster – the weather is glorious! The moment the temperature goes over zero degrees, Montrealers get excited, since our winters are long and very cold. As Canadian comedian influencer, Brittlestar, put it, Canada has four seasons; summer, fall, winter, and betrayal. Spring is a “hungover winter” so with the first sign of sunshine, we are outside, in t-shirts and shorts. We cling to the change in weather because it takes so long to get here!
With that said, I see spring cleaning as just that – getting my backyard ready to enjoy it as soon as possible. Cleaning off lawn furniture to get outside and enjoy the sunny days that are finally here is on top of my list. This season also has my boys and husband prepping the garden at the cottage. This has become a massive job now since their produce won prizes at our local fair last summer. Each spring, the garden gets bigger and better!
Visitors beware…or just meet me in the backyard.
But when it comes to spring cleaning the home, I have to admit…I’m not a fan. I love a clean home, and I love clearing surfaces and decluttering stuff, but like I mentioned, winter is long. I have no intention of using sunshine hours to clean the inside of my home. If you ask my boys, they may have a different view on how mama takes care of the house. I’m always reminding them to clean up their stuff, and get their laundry done and put away their dishes. But hey, these are life skills! I’m helping them become better citizens of the world.
All jokes aside, I have certain routines I perform around this time of year (almost every season) to keep the home looking good. Here are a few things I always tend to do when a new season is changing:
- Go through my children’s wardrobes – They are old enough to do that themselves, but they need a nudge to get things our of their closet that don’t fit anymore, instead of tossing them back in.
- Go through my clothes – The last few years have been exceptional with “casual wear”, but prior to the pandemic, I religiously went through my clothes and evaluated if I was still wearing certain items if they were still my favorites, or if I had outgrown them, both in size and style.
- Go through knick-knacks in the home – Things on all surfaces need to get checked. Are they in the right location? Do they belong somewhere else? Are we using said item anymore? Can they be donated or tossed?
- Deliver latest donation collection – We have a small bin in our garage that houses anything that doesn’t make the cut to stay with us. If the item is in good condition, it goes in the bin and we deliver it to our local thrift shops or organizations (for a great Montreal list, click here).
- Redecorate for the season – Yes, I have a bin for each holiday, so I can decorate the home a bit. My mom always decorated too, and I loved it growing up. It also helps us switch our minds to the current dates on the calendar. Right now, I have Easter decorations up, but they could also be simple spring décor or fresh flowers in a vase at the kitchen table. I also put some decorating pieces away and replace them with others. My minimalist friend calls them tchotchkes, but I love them (within limit).
- Freshen up our fridge and pantry – With our change of season being so drastic when it comes to temperature, it makes a difference in what you eat. Now is the time, when we can grab fresh fruits, and prep for lighter meal planning.
I’ll eventually get to the other stuff, like deep cleaning the cupboards, floors, walls, etc. but I will not be for a while. I just want to get outside!
What’s the hardest to let go of?
I was invited to speak with Shawn Apel on CBC Radio recently, and we discussed the harder things to let go of. He had Cara of The Passionate Organizer on to help listeners. Have a listen (I come on at 24:50):
As you can hear, I have had some help in this department, thanks to my incredible friend, Liz Cohene of Project Organize. Liz is a genius professional organizer, but she is also one of my very best friends. I know that has made a great difference for me personally. Having the profound loss of both my parents makes a difference in how I see items. In some strange psychological way, each item I let go of is like a small goodbye again. It sounds strange, but that is how attached items that belonged to my parents or that they gifted to me can be for me. It was Liz that suggested the temporary bins for treasured items. And I appreciate this option so much! I love displaying certain things over a period of time, and then packing them up for another time or passing them on if they don’t speak to me anymore.
Liz’s approach is full of compassion and care, and she has helped me see items for what they are and what they can be. She never pushed me to throw away items, but instead listened to me and helped me decide. I would love to say that my situation is unique, but it’s not – so many people are dealing with the loss of their parents, so this soft approach is invaluable.
As I mentioned in this chat, I have donated many items over the years. Right now, after working with Liz, the items that I have kept are special to me. I even have some items I’m holding on to for my boys when they get older (special things like my father’s watches). When the boys graduated from elementary school, they each wore a tie from my father’s collection that they chose. I consider that to be a very special and true way of honouring my Dad. If he was here, he would have helped them get ready, so this was a way of doing that in his honour.
Other ways of holding on to personal items
When we built our family cottage a few years ago, I had the furniture we kept from my parents reupholstered for our living room. We are so grateful for the furniture, and we made it into a style that suits us more. Some dishware is used often at the cottage as well, and I think of my mom each and every time I use those items. It’s like having her with me in the kitchen, as I prep food for my family – something she did with all her heart and taught me to do also.
When my in-laws moved back to Switzerland, my husband came across some incredibly beautiful wooden frames with dome glass. They were not being used anymore and no one else in the family wanted them. To honour a part of my husband’s family history, he had a collection of personal items professionally framed. It tells the story of his great-grandfather and how he survived a torpedo attack on a ship he was on during world war I. My husband has his first name…the frame has a place of honour in our home now.
And finally, when it came to clothing, letting go of my Mom and Dad’s clothes was hard. I have some of my Mom’s things that I wear. When I wear her winter coat, I told a friend it is like getting a hug from my Mom. Some of my Dad’s vintage t-shirts were passed down to my boys and they love them. And of course, you know now about the ties.
Separating people from things
Over the years, the conclusion I have made is that if you look at items and, as Marie Kondo says, they bring you joy, keep them. Whether an item is considered a tchotchke to some, it really doesn’t matter. Keep the things you love and enjoy them in your space. And when the feeling changes or an emotion comes over you to pass the item to a friend or donate it, go for it. One thing that has helped me, is writing about all of it. Describing an item that was important to my parents, or that was gifted to me by them, are a way of honuring as well.
As for spring cleaning and decluttering, if you didn’t read this yet, Marie Kondo stated recently that she has “kind of given up” on keeping her home perfectly clean now that she has three children…same, Marie, same. I think the point is, make your home work for your family and your season of life.
Now if you need me, I’ll be outside.
If you are looking for more inspiration on this subject, check these blog posts out: