Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Spring Cleaning This Summer

I have been in the midst of a major spring cleaning, and while it has been exhausting (I feel a little bit like the picture of Maximus above), it has been immensely gratifying. It also has had a significant impact on my spending this sale season. While I will pick up a few clothing sale items, for work, my desire to plot lots of purchases this season has largely been extinguished (indeed a very cost-effective side effect).

I should preface this by explaining what precipitated this bout of spring cleaning to begin with: over the years our garage has become radically overstuffed largely by the possessions of a wide variety of family members. Our garage is situated in our backyard, and it's quite inconvenient for the storage of cars. Therefore, it became a storage waystation for my mom's stuff when she moved and then my sister and niece's stuff when they moved. The items would either be reclaimed, repurposed, sold or donated. At first it didn't seem like too much stuff, but then my father died and his items, that needed to be sorted, took up residence in the garage. Our contribution to the packed garage was little more than gardening tools and sports equipment, and before we knew it we had to carve out pathways to get to our things. Notwithstanding the fact that such a packed space is a fire hazard (in fire-prone Southern California, no less), it is also at odds with my basic nature as a minimalist, and one look at that packed dysfunctional space became overwhelming and stressful, and I knew purging these things would be a daunting, lengthy and physically laborious task, but it  was clear to me that it had to be done. Its very presence stands in stark contrast to my tenet to have what I use and use what I have.

Therefore, the other day I decided to act, rather than continue to defer the inevitable purge of so many items. I checked with my family to see which items they wanted to keep, and then I scheduled pickups from multiple charitable organizations, contacted the city for curbside bulk item pickup (broken, unfixable, furniture etc.) and set out on this journey with the singular goal of achieving a functional clean space (filled with what we need, use, or to which we have a sentimental attachment). What I noticed is that I soon started to evaluate the contents of my house, and before I knew it every room, closet, cabinet and drawer was subjected to layers and layers of scrutiny. I purged expired beauty products, expired spices, freezer-burned foods, but also items that we simply do not use. Essentially, we are downsizing without moving, and while the piles of things leaving this house may suggest that we are getting ready for a move– we are not.

Also another thing that has really impacted me is rehoming things where they are really needed, and that will benefit people in need, rather than end up the the landfill. I have sought to donate toys, books, toiletries and clothing that are new, or in excellent shape to battered women's shelters and other charitable organizations where they will go to good use– rather than continuing to collect dust in my house and garage. While I am still in the midst of this colossal task, the progress can be visually gauged on a daily basis, and it is very gratifying– to say the least.

If you are considering doing something like this, to free up space or breathing room in your house, then it is worth a little effort to research the types of charities that you have in your area to see which align with your principles. If you have lots of bulky items to discard (old mattresses, broken furniture etc.), then it is worth calling your city to see if they provide a bulk item pickup service. In Los Angeles, residents are able to have bulky items picked up at no extra charge as often as they would like, and this has been an indispensable resource for things that are too damaged to sell or donate. For the items that you would prefer to sell, rather than donate, a good old fashion yard sale is a convenient alternative to listing individual items on Craigslist or the multitude of other selling apps or websites– since you can get rid of a lot in a short period of time.

Have you done any spring cleaning lately (in preparation for a move, or simply to declutter)? If so, what tips do you have? Where do you donate unwanted items? How do you sell unwanted items? How do you determine what not to get rid of for fear that you will regret letting it go? Please share your thoughts!


  1. Brava, Helen! I sorely need to do the same, but i lack the will. My basement that i would like to have sheet rocked is the repository for things belonging to family members who have died & stuff of mine that needs to go. Oh, some day!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Allison! I still have a long way to go, but it is already far less overwhelming. Even if you sort through a single box a month, before you know it your basement will be less cluttered.


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