It’s easy to think of reasons to avoid spring cleaning (or cleaning and neatening at any time of the year, really): It’s time-consuming, tiring and often frustrating. It reminds you that you’ve totally bailed on your New Year’s resolution. It reminds you just how tiny your closet really is. But there are also reasons to embrace de-cluttering. Leah Ingram’s “Toss, Keep, Sell!” ($15, Adams Media) casts the eternal chore in a new light — a lucrative light, as a matter of fact. Filled with DIY tips for reducing junk, reorganizing essential belongings and selling the possessions you’re ready to part with, Ingram’s book reveals that even short bursts of cleaning can reap major payoffs. The New Hope, Pa.-based author and blogger (Suddenlyfrugal.com) shared her clutter-clearing philosophies with Express.
Why do you recommend quick, intense cleaning sessions rather than a major overhaul?
The little steps will add up. You have to be nice to yourself and realize that you didn’t create this clutter problem in 15 minutes, and you’re not going to fix it in 15 minutes. But [spend] 15 minutes [cleaning] once or twice a day for a couple of weeks and you’ll be shocked.
Which common household items make good organizing tools?
Hooks. We transformed our mudroom from a dumping ground of sports bags and cleats and field hockey sticks into a space that you can actually walk through, simply by putting up hooks on three walls. Just getting stuff up off the floor — even if it’s not perfectly organized — can go a long way toward making a space act and look more organized.
Which organizational supplies are worth spending money on?
A label maker, as silly as that seems, can really help get you organized because there’s something about a neat and tidy label on the front of a bunch of boxes that makes things look better. My husband used a label maker to put labels on all of his dresser drawers. It makes putting away laundry a whole lot easier. It’s not pretty, though — House Beautiful will probably never come to my house and do a photo shoot.
Also, if you know that you’re going to donate items on a regular basis or have a yard sale, invest in a couple of big Rubbermaid bins to hold things you’re going to give away. You can keep them in your car. That way, they’re not cluttering up your home.
Do you recommend holding yard sales to get rid of clutter?
I recommend them with a caveat. It’s very easy to spend a lot of time organizing a yard sale at your home or in your neighborhood — from setting up to pricing — but not [easy] to get a good return on your investment of time. So, I advocate finding an organized yard sale, flea market or antiques market where you can buy a table.
It sounds counterintuitive, but if you spend $10 or $20 to buy a table at a yard sale that somebody else has organized and somebody else has advertised, it is well worth your time. But be honest with yourself. If you’re selling crap that’s not going to bring you the $20 that you paid for the table, then just donate your things to a good cause and take the tax write-off.
How does de-cluttering your home contribute to its value?
It’s pretty simple: When your home is cluttered, when your closets are full, when your basement is packed to the rafters, it makes your home look smaller. It easily turns off would-be buyers because they don’t want to know what you’ve stored in the basement, they don’t want to know what kind of shoes you wear, they don’t want to see pictures of your family; they almost want a clean slate.
Paring down your belongings can be really tough, though. How do you convince a skeptic that it’s worthwhile?
You have to think about the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Every house sells now on the Internet with lots of pictures. You have to make your home look good enough for the photographs that your real estate agent is eventually going to want to take.
If you de-clutter your home now, not only are you going to have less stuff to pack up when you do sell your house, but you might actually save money on moving. With fewer items in your house, you might not need as big of a truck or as many movers.