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Spring cleaning? How about spring leaning. What’s that supposed to mean? The sun comes out. Trees are turning green. Daffodils, cherry blossoms and red buds are making an appearance. It makes us feel young, fresh, ready to start over.

We get this grand idea to clean out the garage, then we want to rearrange the kitchen, get new patio furniture cushions, or buy some sandals, get our toes done. All that sounds great, except that it takes work. A lot of work. We feel inspired by the freshness around us, but once we get started, the mess becomes too much to handle, so we toss it back where it was and pretty much get nowhere.

Why does this happen? I’ll tell you why….because we don’t know how to let things go. We pull all these things out of boxes, cabinets and closets that have been living deep inside the abyss of our living room, bedroom, storage room, basement and garage, much less the kids’ rooms or the kitchen pantry. We wax nostalgia and instead of simply acknowledging the item to let it go, we embrace it again and think we must find a place for it. Next thing we know, we’ve got even more things out in the room than we have space for, and we already needed to lean-out.

So let’s breakdown some spring leaning projects:

1) BOOK COLLECTION

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Over the last week, we’ve been converting a home office space into a music rehearsal room. Our kids all play instruments in a rock band, and they need a place to practice. Guitars, basses, drums, sheet music and a keyboard were scattered throughout the house. The drum set in one bedroom was not accessible to everyone who plays drums. The guitars were in cases wherever the cases were set down last, not really having their own place to reside. Uninspiring to say the least.

So we made room by removing a bookcase. Surely we can find another place for all those books. The shelf was looking junked up with other things, too. But as soon as we emptied the shelf, we had a huge pile of books with nowhere to go.

The set of cabinets upstairs already housed some books, but most of those were for the kids. We needed a place to house travel journals, language books, favorites, Christmas must-reads, and some family books. My youngest daughter is the only one that would care anymore about the books her sisters read, so we brought her into the project to select what SHE wanted to read, not what I thought we needed to save for her. She was through those books in no time and easily halved them. We didn’t question a thing and packed them up to be donated.

Now we have room to store the chosen books in the cabinets, so we organized them into language, travel, seasonal, and ones to be read by my daughter later. There’s no doubt where they are, and it’s easy to find them.

2) A CHILD’S ROOM

A child’s room can be a fairy tale or a nightmare, depending on how you manage the toy collection. As a child grows, he grows out of certain toys, grows tired of others, ignores something that was brand new just last month, but that’s natural. His brain is developing, and once he finishes figuring one thing out, his natural curiosity looks for the next best thing. All of a sudden, the bedroom is toy-maggedon, and there’s no way out.

Back when we had a younger sister to hand things down to, it was a lot easier to box things up and bring in a new set of toys as the older girls grew out of things. They always knew the items were just down the hall, so nothing seemed to leave the house….unless it was the youngest child’s toy that finally lived its full life 3 times over through 3 kids.

So how do you tackle this overwhelming situation? Try this:

a) Line the hallway with empty boxes and containers.

b) Take every single toy out of the room and sort like items into the containers and boxes in the hallway.

c) Look at the near-empty room. It feels so much bigger, doesn’t it? Where should the dolls go? What about all those Polly Pockets or Legos? Think about the sets of toys that should stay together and how much space is available for each thing.

d) Show your child the intended home for the toys. Get her excited about the dolls’ clothes being in this drawer, and the stuffed animals can all live here. Be realistic and let her know that this is all the room you have, and that according to the pile in the hallway, you can only keep about 1/2.

e) Have a child in mind who your kid knows personally who doesn’t have many toys. We picked a child my daughter adores and decided to designate many things to her. It made my daughter feel so good to know her special things were getting a new home with someone she liked. It makes letting those items go much easier. Think about it. Doesn’t your mother or grandmother try to give you something every time you visit? She just wants someone special to have the things she has a hard time letting go of.

f) Next bring one container at a time from the hallway into the bedroom. Have your child sort through it, placing each item into giveaway and keep piles. Depending on the child’s age and maturity level, only do this as long as your child is willing to cooperate. After about 3 or 4 rounds of this, that may be all you get today.

g) Repeat this exercise every day or every other day until the entire job is done. Try not to overwhelm your child, but use the sorting as an incentive for something else the child wants to do. Try to make this as least stressful as possible. You’ll get done much quicker and with less tears.

h) Sit back and look at the masterpiece you’ve created when you’re done. Take pictures. Celebrate it. Believe me, you’ll have to do it again in a year or two if not sooner.

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This set of drawers now holds all the stuffed animals my daughter owns. She used to have 4 times this many in her room.

3) KITCHEN

I want to do an entire series on the kitchen alone because there’s more than one thing to think about in our kitchens. Not only should we organize to make cooking easier and faster, we should also eliminate a lot of unhealthy items from our pantries and refrigerators. Our habits are dictated by our surroundings, and the only way to make better choices is to buy, sort and arrange things for optimal use, storage and consumption based on our existing lifestyles that dictate how we react to our surroundings.

What are meal times like for you? Kids are hanging all over. The mail is on the stove. The sink is full of dirty dishes, and the dishwasher hasn’t been run yet, but it’s full. How can you possibly cook dinner in that environment, much less make a healthy meal and enjoy the process?

Let’s think through this:

a) First off, run the dishwasher and hand wash what you can in the sink to make some room. Then clean off the counters and stove of anything that shouldn’t be there. Having a clean slate to work with makes a world of difference.

b) If you drink coffee, think about all the things you need when you make coffee. Now find an area in the cabinets that will hold all those things and put them in the same area. The coffee maker should be on the counter in the same area. Do you need 20 coffee mugs? Really? Go ahead and get rid of some mugs while you’re at it, and if mugs in your house are like they are in mine, that’s hard because we usually buy mugs as souvenirs, and we hate to give up that type of memorabilia. If you can re-purpose a mug into a pencil holder at work or a toothbrush holder in your bathroom, do it. Then get rid of the rest and don’t look back.

c) Plates and glasses should be easily reached and not too far from the dishwasher, as they are the most used items.

d) Unique pieces that are not used very often can go into higher cabinets.

e) Pots and pans can go under the stove or near it.

f) Spices don’t have to be out on the counter if there’s little counter-space. Have something easily transportable that you can pull out of the pantry all at once, or make up a great all-purpose seasoning of your own and get rid of several small containers at once.

g) Do you really think you’ll ever use that tray that’s been under the buffet for 14 years and has never been pulled out yet? I know. Aunt Susie gave it to you, and how could you part with it. You think your daughter should inherit it, but why? Just so she can put it under her buffet and never use it? Part with it. It’ll be okay.

Envision how you want your spaces to feel, look and perform. Imagine dinner time in a de-cluttered kitchen. Think about how easy it will be for your child to clean up her room when she knows where everything goes. Go pick out a book to start with your child after you’re done. They’re right over there in that new area you organized. How convenient! Isn’t the reward for spring leaning much greater than what you’re giving up?

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Storage room project – my pride and joy project, only to be destroyed and made into a bathroom later this year. Ahhhh!

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