It seems as though we were a moment ago complaining about the ice of winter, with its bone-chilling temperatures, its penchant for shutting down roads and inducing us with cabin fever.
But just like clockwork, spring is here and summer will surely follow.
That’s how nature operates. Trees shed leaves in autumn, and new buds bloom in the warmth of spring, signaling, ah yes, that time when we clean. The house. The basement. The garage.
“It’s a natural thing to open the curtains and let the light in and enjoy the warm weather,” said Suellen Germani, owner of Creative Order, a professional organizing firm she founded in 2005. “With that comes cleaning. I don’t know if it’s an innate urge to declutter in the spring or something we’ve just been programmed to do.”
It all comes down to bringing order to our personal space, starting in most cases with the closet, Germani said. For some, that means stowing the winter wardrobe and replacing it with more seasonal fare.
“Whenever you do the wardrobe switch, it’s the perfect time to go through what you didn’t wear in the past season and decide what you want to keep or have live someplace else,” Germani said. “That can be donations, consignment or the trash for those things that have stains and tears.”
How do you decide what gets to stay and what doesn’t?
“If it doesn’t fit, it needs to go,” said Carleen Tabb, a personal stylist and founder of Cie My Style in Atlanta. “After that, you need to focus on style, discarding things that are dated.”
For instance, Tabb said, blouses with large collars and shoes with block heels or square toes are so yesterday.
And if you’re replenishing, versatility is key, she said.
“If you can’t wear it three different ways, it isn’t closet worthy,” Tabb said. “It will just hang there collecting dust.”
Germani, who in addition to providing organizational services also offers life coaching, said January, when people are making New Year’s resolutions, and spring are peak seasons when it comes to people wanting to purge and bring order to their lives.
After the closet, the home office, garage and basement should be top priorities because spring is also the time of year when many of us turn our attention to taxes, want to tidy up our yards, go camping, or begin planning those beach vacations. The garage is where we store tools and beach gear.
“When we come in as organizers, we help them get those areas tidied up and create zones for things such as gardening, camping supplies and sports equipment,” Germani said.
Clients, she said, are often embarrassed or they think she will be horrified by their space, but spring cleaning isn’t about being a neat freak. Even piles of paper and clothes might say clean to some.
“Being organized is being able to find what you want when you want it,” Germani said. “It often doesn’t matter how it looks to the person whose stuff it is.”
For instance, she said, one person might have a very low tolerance for visual clutter, and another one might not even notice it. In that case, it’s important to compromise.
“There’s also different organizational personalities,” Germani said. “Some who have low tolerance for visual clutter want to put things away in containers or drawers. Then you have those who are stressed out when they can’t see their stuff.”
Dr. Martha Bailey and her partner Joan Rau, who found Germani through the Decatur Business Association, are polar opposites.
“I’m very organized,” Bailey said. “Joan not so much.”
The Avondale Estates couple needed help merging their households.
“When spring comes, you naturally start looking at your house, but ours is many spring cleanings in the making,” Bailey said. “It’s certainly long overdue for Joan and I.”
Bailey said they’d tried unsuccessfully for a few years to get organized independently of outside help but failed miserably.
“We could not do that on our own,” she said.
After an initial walk through their home to determine the couple’s need, Germani was back recently to bring order first to their home office, then a spare bedroom and closets.
In the office, a game plan was laid out to install office shelving, recycle and shred papers and supplies that they no longer needed and find appropriate homes for the things that remained. In the bedrooms and closets, like items would be sorted together and then the sorting, organizing and discarding were done.
Although spring is normally the impetus for getting one’s house in order, Germani and Tabb say more and more of us are seeking to declutter our lives in every sense of the word. They say even the calendar can amass clutter, putting demands on our time and leaving little room for personal growth and recharging.
Many of us, however, are realizing we’re happier with less, Germani said.
“We’re finding as a society that things don’t necessarily make you happy,” she said. “There is more to it than that. When you get rid of things that aren’t serving you and keep only those items or time commitments that make you happy, then it opens up room and time for more creative outlets like writing or painting.”