Spring cleaning means tossing unnecessary stuff, or passing it on through a donation.
Spring cleaning can be an overwhelming task, and not due to the dirt and grime. Many people find the challenging part to be dealing with all of their stuff.
Debra McCann, of Smyrna, is a professional organizer and the owner of Organizing Outside the Box LLC. She helps home and business owners get their stuff in order.
“Clutter doesn’t just take up room in your house, but in your mind, as well,” she said. “Most of the time, people have so much stuff that they just don’t know where to start.”
Tackling the stuff
The task of spring cleaning starts to loom long before the mop comes out. Taking care to do mindful shopping can ultimately save time, money and space.
People often buy too much of a particular item, thinking it will save them in the long run. This, according to McCann, is the biggest issue she faces. Take wrapping paper, for example.
“I’ve had people who have had, easily, 5- or 6,000 rolls of wrapping paper because they got it after Christmas on sale,” she said. “Maybe you saved money, but now you’re paying an organizer to take care of it.”
People also tend to buy too much in the way of cleaning supplies, she said.
“I myself tend to buy reusable things, where you buy the container once … and just buy refills,” she said. “I like to think about the footprint I’m leaving behind.”
McCann also finds most people to have too many kitchen accessories.
“They have a lot of specialty stuff for the kitchen,” she said. “So many tea pots, coffee pots, [different] cake pans.”
It all takes up space. McCann recommends buying items that have more than one use, like cake pans that, when turned upside down, can double as serving bowls.
In the kitchen, check the expiration dates on everything, from the fridge to the pantry. Toss what’s expired.
When it comes to clothes, McCann asks her clients three questions: Does it fit? Is it damaged? Is it a style you will wear? If the answer to any is no, toss it or donate it.
“If you have 18 pairs of black pants and lay them all out and see that one pair is torn, two zippers are broken and three don’t fit, you’ll know that if you get rid of them you’ll still have a dozen left,” she said.
A few more tips:Create what McCann calls a “parking lot,” or a space where you can keep odds and ends. “If you don’t have a place for something, you’re just going to keep moving it from one space to another,” she said. “[Designate] a box or container as a ‘parking lot.’ If you find a key, a cord, a puzzle or game piece or something, and don’t know where it goes, put it in the parking lot.” Save the memories, not the stuff. “If something has sentimental value, like kids’ artwork, take pictures of it and make a photo album out of it.” That way, it’s neatly organized and taking up far less space. Give useful gifts. McCann finds teachers, especially, often find themselves with tchotchkes given as gifts that they feel bad about parting with. Next time you’re shopping for a gift, consider items that do more than just take up space, like decorative soap, a personalized bag or a gift card.
Visit McCann’s website at organizingotb.com.
Passing it on
Hiring someone like McCann means they’ll dispose of all your unwanted stuff for you. But if you’re doing it yourself, why trash something you don’t need that could be perfectly useful for someone else?
Fortunately, there are places that will gladly reuse and recycle your stuff. It’s important to make physically taking your things to these places part of your spring cleaning checklist – otherwise, all that junk will end up in your trunk for a very long time.
Goodwill and the Salvation Army are two well-known places to take usable surplus, including unwanted furniture and old appliances that still work.
The Delaware Solid Waste Authority handles trash and recycling. There are full-service stations in Georgetown, Felton and Wilmington. Another full-service station will open in Newark this summer. These stations, and 12 more statewide, take recycling. Far more than glass, plastics and paper can be recycled nowadays.
“A lot of people, when they clean out stuff, they don’t think about our programs,” said Mike Parkowski, DSWA Chief of Business and Governmental Services. “When it comes to electronics, they may think electronics means computers, but we recycle stuff like microwaves and blenders too. We even take vacuum cleaners.”
All recycling through the DSWA is free. Trash, which ultimately ends up in a landfill, can be disposed of at 85 cents a ton, or a $7.50 minimum.
Even better, the DSWA hosts special recycling events, weekly and at many locations, so people living nearby can dispose of certain items at no charge.
Visit dswa.com for hours, locations and special events.