But what about our homes? There is a long tradition of spring cleaning – as the phrase itself shows – and this time of year saw furniture scrubbed and polished, rugs beaten outdoors, hearths and chimneys swept and windows cleaned. In these modern times, we have far more material wealth and with that comes a great deal of extraneous clutter! So a good spring clean for us 21st century folks is also about getting down the charity shop with all the things we’ve been hoarding. Many believe that clearing your clutter has health benefits – the ancient art of Feng Shui is based on the premise that our environment is reflected in our general wellbeing. So a cluttered and messy home equates to a sense of stagnation in our lives and health.
1. Freshen up with a lick of paint – There’s nothing like a lick of paint to spruce up a space. When choosing the right colour for a particular room, it can be useful to take into account colour therapy – different colours have different effects on our moods. Blue, for instance, is calming and relaxing but also useful for communication. Yellow stimulates mental activity and promotes confidence. You can find out more about colour therapy here. It is worth seeking out an eco-paint company; not only are these paints better for the environment, they also don’t contain toxic chemicals meaning they’re safe to use in all areas of a family home. Have a look at the selection on offer at Nigel’s Eco Store here.
2. Fill a box with all the things you can’t yet part with – If you’re holding on to things for whatever reason – sentimental or the hope that they’ll be of value in future – put them all in a box and tuck it away in the loft. Revisit the box in a year’s time and see if you can name the contents without opening it – chances are, there’ll be plenty of things you can’t remember, and if they don’t make it in the memory grade, it’s time to let them go.
3. Get canny with storage – A good storage system can completely revolutionise a room, especially a child’s bedroom. Sort your child’s toys into categories and place them in labelled boxes for easy access. Storage boxes can easily be made and decorated with your children – ask at your local supermarket for cardboard boxes and decorate them with paints and paper (see if you can get off-cuts of wallpaper from your local DIY shop for a chic look) to create a totally unique storage system that matches your décor. A storage system can be applied throughout the whole house, creating a relaxing sense of order and making it easier to keep tidy. Think of the time you’ll save when trying to find the camera charger, for instance, if it is stored neatly in a labelled box.
4. Pull out the furniture and clean all the nooks and crannies – If your usual house clean involves running the hoover over the visible bits of carpet, it’s time to pull out the furniture and get into those corners! You likely find that item you’ve been searching for as well. Clearing out dust and debris from underneath sofas and beds is an important part of freeing the energy up in that room. Another benefit of shifting the furniture is that you might decide to put it all back in a different place and enhance the essential feel of the room. Moving furniture around can help release areas of stagnation too, areas where you end up plonking junk and stuffing bits of unopened mail.
5. Clean the windows – With just an old newspaper and some vinegar you can clean even the dirtiest of windows. It’s impressive what a difference simply cleaning the windows brings to a room, allowing light to literally stream in through sparkling glass. A ball of newspaper lightly dipped in vinegar and rubbed over the windows cleans without smearing (though you’ll probably want to open the windows to release the fish and chip shop smell). I tend to let the windows in our house get pretty cobwebby and grimy so every time I give them a good thorough clean I’m amazed anew at the world outside! If you want to do the traditional style spring clean, taking all the curtains down and washing and ironing them is part of the ritual for the serious spring cleaner…
6. Create a donation circle of children’s clothes and toys with friends – Get a donation circle going with friends who have children of different ages. Invite friends to pass on their kids’ outgrown clothes and toys to the parent with the child/ren the next stage down, and so on. Within my circle of parent friends, there are a lot of boys so we get to see the clothes and toys being loved on and on through several different families. Clearing out your child’s drawers and toys helps you to realise just how many they’ve outgrown and frees up lots of play space.
7. Skill swap – If you’ve got lots of niggling jobs around the home you can’t tackle yourself, check out Local Skill Swap or Swapaskill. Here you’ll find skilled professionals and non-professionals willing to share their skills in return for some of yours. So if you have a penchant for algebra and could help out with someone’s child’s maths homework, you might be able to swap that for a bit of gardening advice or plumbing expertise. If you can’t find anyone to help, either check for helpful how-to videos which seem to abound online, or suggest to a group of friends who also need things done that you donate an afternoon to helping each other out – a few hours’ help with their decorating job in return for a couple of hours’ moving old furniture out of your garage…everyone’s a winner!
8. Get a cleaner – Okay, this is obviously a luxury but sometimes when you’re a time-stressed parent with too many things to do and lots of cleaning jobs mounting up, if you’re really pulling your hair out, hire a cleaner. Most cleaners charge approximately £10 an hour and if they stay for 2 hours, that’s £20 to get your house to a standard you can manage it and it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Once the toilet’s been scrubbed and the shelves have been dusted, you might feel able to tackle the big clearance jobs rather than just feeling like you’re drowning in a sea of dirt. It’s radical, but it is an option so don’t beat yourself up if you feel like this is just what you need!
9. It just takes one! – Many of us have duplicate household items, perhaps because we can’t bring ourselves to throw the old one out, or in case we lose one. Check out your kitchen drawers for any doubling up of kitchen utensils and sort out those you really don’t need (be realistic – if you do get around to having that bake-off you’re always talking about, get your friends to bring any extras needed). Go through your wardrobe and linen cupboard with the same eye: although the linen is obviously an area where you’ll have several of most things, don’t con yourself into keeping duvet sets you never use.
10. Create free-flowing energy pathways in your home – Clutter in doorways and on stairs and thoroughfares in the house creates more than just trip hazards. Feng Shui experts suggest clearing pathways throughout your home to allow the free movement of energy. Look online for the Feng Shui Bagua – this is a grid that shows how the different areas of your house represent areas of your life such as prosperity, love and relationships and health. You might be surprised to discover that that cupboard you never get around to sorting out corresponds to an area of your life that is stagnating (I certainly was!). Free up space, clear out those cupboards and you might just find that things start flowing again.