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Spring cleaning advice for Loudoun residents

Courtesy photo. Spring cleanings often has more to do with de-cluttering and organizing.

It’s that time of year. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the air is clear, and your house is … a little funky. You shouldn’t feel too bad. The winter was long and cold, and it was easy to accumulate a lot of clutter while you huddled for warmth under your Snuggie. Now that you’re ready to come out of hibernation, though, what do you do with all this stuff?

The answer to that question has spawned an entire industry — the little-known field of professional organizing — and its veterans have a few helpful tips to give as you embark on your spring cleaning escapade.

“Spring starts to pick up, and people are thinking of putting their homes on market,” said Maria White, professional organizer and founder of Enuff with the Stuff in Loudoun County. “Or they’re just downsizing or decluttering. Spring energy motivates people. You’re tired of being cooped up in your home, surrounded by stuff. Spring cleaning, it’s a real thing. The sun is out. You can open the windows and breathe the fresh air. People have this motivation to declutter. For many people, however, that motivation can fade in the shadow of a tottering junk pile. The key, say the experts, is to compartmentalize what can be a challenging task.

“Start small,” said Janet Schiesl, who founded Basic Organization, which serves the Northern Virginia area, in 2005. “Pick an area of your house, a room or even part of a room that you want to concentrate on. A lot of people get overwhelmed with large projects and the amount of time they take.

“Let’s say you want to clean your kitchen. Focus on just the countertops at first, then move on to the upper and lower cabinets. If it’s the office, focus on the top of the desk in the office, nothing else, and then do the drawers.”

While it is productive to divide your task into smaller, less intimidating steps, it’s important to keep the end game in mind as you clean.

“Always have a goal in mind,” said Schiesl. “ The goal may be, ‘I’d like to organize my kitchen so I can manage making dinners for the family five nights a week.’ Always work towards that goal you’ve created. While you’re working and making decisions, you can ask yourself, ‘How is this helping me get to my goal?’”

But as anyone who’s ever gone on a New Year’s diet or started a summertime fitness regimen knows, reaching your goal is one thing. Staying there is something else entirely. The key to maintaining a clean space isn’t constant run-throughs with the Swiffer or weekly vacuum raids. It’s planning.

“When people say, ‘I’m going to clean my garage,’ what they really mean is, ‘I’m going to organize my garage,’” said Schiesl. “Everything needs to have a home. As things come in, assign them homes. The countertop, the desk top, the coffee table, is not a home for your items. If it’s not important enough to have a home, you need to ask yourself: is it important enough to keep?”
Maria White agreed.

“If you don’t create designated home for things you’re cleaning, you will struggle with, ‘Where do I put this?’” White said. “Make sure the homes you decide are shared with the rest of the family. Say, ‘Hey, this is the home for mail, this is the home for backpacks, this is the home for office supplies.’ You’ll know where to find an item if you know where to return it. It’s not always practical to put things away immediately, but if you always have a designated spot, then when you do clean up it takes no time at all. You don’t have to think, ‘Where do I put this today?’”

For those who don’t feel up to tackling the task of home organization alone, there are professionals are on call.

“People are busy and on the go,” said Janet Hanchuck, owner of Loudoun Home Consulting, LLC.

“They’re juggling so many facets of life. They do not want to spend their spare time organizing their office and setting up files, or clearing out the garage or closet. Help is available. The National Association of Professional Organizers (napo.net) is a growing industry with over 4,000 members because of this increasing demand. Professional organizers help clients reduce stress, eliminate the clutter, and take control of their lives.”

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