Have you been participating in the annual ritual of purging, scrubbing and polishing that is “Spring Cleaning”?  Or do you, as with other times of the year that provide excuses to be hyper-motivated and get more done (think New Year’s resolutions, holiday prep, fall garage sales), shake your head and shrug it all off?  For many it’s just a nice thought – good for Aunt Ethel who still irons her sheets and maybe Martha Stewart, but not a realistic part of YOUR life.  But according to the American Cleaning Institute, the popularity of the ritual is on the rise, with 72% of respondents in a 2013 survey reporting that they participate in some sort of spring cleaning.  Clearing closets and drawers ranks high among the activities listed.

While I have often preached that getting organized is something that should be considered any time of year, I do think spring is one of the best seasons for lightening our collective loads.  After a long winter, so much of the stuff that surrounds us seems tired, dull, unused or unloved.  There is, also, an important distinction between Spring Cleaning and Spring Organizing – the latter, done correctly, makes the former much easier.  But for many of us, just getting started is the toughest part.  Where do we begin, and is it even worth it?  If you need a few reasons to spark your de-cluttering inspiration, read on…

Reason #1:  You can’t really clean when there’s clutter.  How many of us have cleared a space in our kitchen or bathroom and been shocked at the dust and crud lurking underneath everything?  Dust happens.  You may think you can get to your surfaces, but when the magazine collection spills over your bedside table, the floor around it, under the bed…there’s no way you’re getting to all of the dust bunnies and dirt.  At least not without a lot of unnecessary effort.  Many house cleaning companies won’t touch spaces that are covered up in odds and ends, because picking up or pushing things around wastes time that should be spent disinfecting or scrubbing.  So if cleaning is truly the goal, scheduling a date with yourself to clear out unneeded items is the first important step.

Reason #2:  The weather really IS perfect.  Energy levels are up, and motivation is easier to muster when there’s more sunshine.  If you haven’t been able to park the car in the garage in a while, taking a day to sort through the old paint cans, sports equipment, and the boxes that haven’t been opened since you moved in can go a long way towards making extra space.  Crank up some tunes, have your water bottle handy, and be sure to have lots of extra trash bags and boxes ready for the discards.  Investigate your local recycling options for potential hazardous waste (pesticides, fertilizers, etc.) so you can feel good about disposing of those items correctly.

Reason #3:  Hey, you’ve lost some weight since the holidays – good for you!  Now you need to get rid of some of those less-flattering pairs of jeans, because there’s no way you’re going back in them.  Schedule a whole weekend for the closet.  Pull everything out – yes, everything – and start making a pile of the too big, the unworn, the faded, and the torn (not to mention the cute-but-uncomfortable shoes).  Make decisions ahead of time about where you will donate what you aren’t going to keep, and take it straight out to your vehicle for dropping off (or schedule a pickup from one of the many charities who will come to you).  Invest in some quality, slim-profile hangers to increase space and keep the clothing you do want hung properly (remember, the floor is not a storage space).

Reason #4:  Um, ok, so actually…maybe you didn’t lose weight.  Or save more money.  Or follow through on any of your hopeful New Year’s resolutions.  Instead of beating yourself up, recognize that getting more organized can be the perfect foundation for kick-starting goals that have fallen by the wayside.  A recent study conducted at the Cornell Food & Brand Lab showed that women who spent time in a cluttered kitchen consumed more unhealthy snacks than women hanging out in a neat, organized one (on average, 56 more calories in a 10-minute time period).  De-cluttering and organizing adds to feelings of control and well-being, which in turn frees you up to focus on other aspirations.  And did you know that the average American home has at least $56 in spare change floating around?  Go find it!

Reason #5:  You won’t have to deal with it in the summer.  The heat and humidity won’t hold you back, and you’ll be prepped and ready for spontaneity (or even the unexpected summer illness).  You’ll be able to grab whatever you need for a picnic, hike, or trip to the pool in record time.  And as you head out for vacation, wouldn’t it be nice to pull your house together quickly before you leave?  Going to the beach will be so much more relaxing when you know that whoever is pet-sitting won’t have to paw through your whole pantry looking for the cat treats.  Coming home is that much nicer, too, when surfaces are clear and you can actually see the floor (and the cat) when you walk in.

Are we getting warm yet?  It’s not too late to catch the organizing fever and clear out at least some of your spaces.  Make a plan, calendar it, and get ready for a lighter, brighter, more organized spring!