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Clever spring cleaning tips

From the April 2010 edition
1. Out with the cold in with the hues!
It's time to clean out our closets and get ready for spring and summer.

Get yourself into a mindset that you are setting up a boutique just for you. The clothes in your closet should be the clothes you wear and love. They also should be the clothes that fit you. If you're hanging clothes that are too large or too small, box them up for now and see where you are size-wise next year. If the clothes are still too large or too small, don't peek inside the boxes, just donate them and take the tax write off.

Try putting outfits together and taking digital pictures of them. Make sure you include accessories such as jewelry, shoes, purses, belts and scarves. Print the digital photos, hole-punch each one and slide an o-ring through them. Hang the o-ring from a hook or hanger and you'll always have ideas on how to get out of the house quickly and stylishly.

2. Go vertical!
Many people forget to use wall, closet and door space. We're so used to binning everything that sometimes it makes sense to just hang it up.

For instance, hang up pegs and hooks to hang coats, backpacks, totes, leashes and purses. If used in a family room, these same hooks could hang the lightweight blankets your family cozies up to, or in the bathroom for your everyday towels. Also, using vertical storage in a closet, whether hanging from a hanger or attached to a wall, will keep things nice, tidy and out of sight.

3. Do some clever clustering in the kitchen.
Cluster all the tools necessary to make lunches each day or cluster all the accessories required to do baking such as bowels, mixers, measuring cups and baking soda. This will save you time by not having to walk across the kitchen or open up numerous cabinets and drawers.

4. Set a timer while decluttering and do not accept any interruptions during this time.
Let the phone go to voicemail, don't answer the e-mail that just came in, and avoid all distractions that don't pertain to your decluttering effort.

5. Break the job down into smaller pieces.
Organizing a room full of stuff can be overwhelming to say the least. I prefer to work in a clockwise manner. I enter the door and immediately break the room down into 12 sections representing one o'clock through 12 o'clock.

I begin by organizing and cleaning just the 12 o'clock to 1 o'clock space. If I can't move forward that day, I keep the area I already organized neat and tidy and I know exactly where I need to begin the next time I'm able to conquer this task.

6. Store winter garb.
Not only do we put away our winter clothes, but our coats, hats and mittens need to be stored as well. First, be sure everything is washed or dry cleaned so that you are ready for next year. Sort through your coat closet and see if there is anything you can donate.

I store all my hats, mittens and scarves in a clear plastic 3-drawer container. Each person has their own drawer for this purpose. I either keep the drawer in the bottom of the coat closet or I store it in the basement. Coats can stay in the closet if there is room. Consider storing the coats in hanging storage bags to keep them fresh and out of the way.

The quickest tip to making your coat closet appear organized is to have all the same hangers, not a hodge-podge.

7. Our cars also benefit from a nice spring clean.
Begin by gathering everything that is trash. Next remove all the items that don't belong in the car and put them away. Wipe everything down on the inside of the car and vacuum the interior. Lastly, put everything back in the car that belongs there.

There are so many wonderful products to help keep your car organized such as a cargo tote, a hanging office organizer, or media storage.

8. Spring is also tax time.
Decide which bills you want to keep on hand for historical purposes and box them up by year.

Most credit card companies will send you an end of year statement which means you can shred each of the individual statements you have on hand. Many of your bank statements also are consolidated. If your cable, home phone and internet bills are the same each month, then there is no need to hold onto your statements. Only keep the changes, such as price increases, so that you have bargaining power when you go to make changes.

Purge as much as possible but be careful to shred anything with personal information on it.

9. Purge reading materials.
Books, magazines and catalogs tend to gather heavily during the holidays and for those of you who do not go through and purge them regularly, now is the time.

For books that you've read, but you're not going to re-read, consider logging them onto www.bookcrossing.com. It's a website dedicated to logging your book and leaving it in a public place for someone else to pick it up, read it and journal about online about. It's a great way to track where you're books have been.

Magazines should be purged monthly or as a new issue comes in. If you haven't read this month's issue, odds are you probably won't get to the one four months ago. Same goes for catalogs. Many catalogs are outdated within two weeks. If you have a computer you'll find more styles online as well as the opportunity for better pricing and potentially free shipping.

10. Spring is the time to spruce up the garage.
Put away the snow shovels, sleds and snowmen kits. Do quick bike checks, making sure the tires have air and are ready to go.

Take inventory of the fertilizer, plant food and tools that you have on hand for the spring and summer planting season. Utilize www.craigslist.com and www.freecycle.com for all the items you are ready to let go of.