What to think about when you think about spring cleaning

Sort it: After a good clear-out, take care to shop mindfully

Many of us decide to tackle the annual spring clean at this time of year. Our homes can quickly become filled to the brim with stuff. From old technology to accumulated furniture and too many clothes, it can feel like we are running out of space. The knee-jerk reaction can be to throw out unwanted items but waste is something we need to reduce. Much of our unwanted household items such as furniture and clothes contribute to landfills.

So if you are planning a spring clean, here are a few things to consider before you go and order that skip bag.

Less stuff = less stress

Believe it or not, stuff causes stress: the stress that comes with wanting it, looking after it and trying to store it. An accumulation of things ultimately leads to a messy or cluttered home, which has a negative impact on our productivity, relationships and happiness.

Studies have shown that clutter competes for attention, which reduces the amount of attention you have for what you need or want to do every day. Clearing stuff and banishing clutter can feel good as it lessens this competition for attention and the feeling of overwhelm, leaving us free to think more clearly.


Stuff attracts stuff

Some stuff attracts more stuff. Our homes are one of the biggest culprits. One seemingly innocent purchase can lead to a litany of must-have accessories. The new sofa needs new cushions and a new throw. It can be an ongoing process of acquiring new things.

The way to avoid this kind of stuff accumulation is to plan what you need carefully and always look to see what you could reuse or reinvent.

If your furniture or accessories are dated, or won’t work with the new look, there are alternatives to throwing them out. Consider donating them or giving them away or, better yet, selling them. DoneDeal, Adverts and eBay are good options for selling unwanted furniture. Many charity shops will take used furniture too. And Freecycle is a brilliant online resource for giving items away; you’ll be amazed what people would love to get their hands on.

There are countless clothing resellers, from homegrown stores such as Siopaella, Ruby Ruby and Vintage La Touche to global marketplaces like Vestiaire Collective and TheRealReal. Stores like CEX will take unwanted tech from computer games to old phones for cash or exchange.

There are several benefits to getting rid of things this way rather than throwing them out; you give your old things a new lease of life and free up valuable space in your home. By extending the life of pre-owned items, you will also be reducing their carbon, water and waste footprints by about 20-30 per cent. And best of all you could also end up with a few extra euro in your pocket too.

Manage the stuff influx

Now that you have removed all your unwanted items, you need to stop unwanted stuff coming into the house. To help you control what comes into your home, make sure you have organised systems for storing things in the key areas of your home.

The kitchen, for example, is one of the most common areas that things get forgotten about, leading to duplication and items getting thrown out because they are past their sell-by date.

Maximise your fridge capacity with storage boxes designed for specific items and group similar items together. Storing things this way will make everything much easier to find, avoiding duplication and reducing waste.

Drawers trump cupboards when it comes to accessing and finding things easily. If you have only cupboards, consider investing in some turntable containers. These come in different sizes and are ideal for jams, condiments, oils and bottles of vinegar. They work like a Lazy Susan; you simply rotate the container to find what you’re looking for.

Consider carefully the things you bring into your home, especially if you’re prone to impulse buys. It’s far too easy to buy something now. Everything is available at the push of a button. From homewares to clothes, think about every purchase carefully. Can you use the item in multiple ways, will it last – and, most importantly, do you love it? The more versatile an item, the more useful it will be and the more enjoyment you will get from it. Shop mindfully.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant. @optimisedesign