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The joys of spring cleaning! (Yes, you read correctly...)

Birds chirping, lawnmowers sputtering to life, and the sound of vacuum cleaners whirring away through opened windows...wait, come again? While this may seem like a rendition of 'One of these things is not like the other,' these are all, in fact, part of the cacophony of spring. While nature brushes off the drowsiness of winter, so too, do we take time to brush off the dust and accumulated clutter and welcome not only the turning of seasons, but a chance for yearly renewal of the space we call home. Now, this renewal can come in many ways, but, for myself and many others, spring is a golden opportunity to get your things in order. No more piles of paper accumulating on desks, no more winter clothing in circulation, no more excuses! It's spring and it's time to clean! Now, for many of you, this may well be a task that strikes fear, exhaustion or maybe even an unpleasant burn in your heart. For me, however, it's a necessary time to wipe the slate clean and have a fresh start, whether it be through simply cleaning, organizing or planning for the upcoming active and outdoor season. It's with this in mind that I bring you some of my top indoor secrets as you blaze the trail for your own spring cleaning.

Spring cleaning tips:

1. Categorize your cleaning: Take all the tasks that you want to get done and group them in similar buckets. These buckets can make it easier to tackle and can make any related shopping and organizing more efficient. Additionally, if you're like me, you can drill-down these lists with subtasks. So, for example if you have "clean garage" as a main bucket, different parts of the process such as "go through moving boxes in garage storage" or "treat oil puddle" could go under the main task. While it sounds like busy work, it actually helps you understand how to incrementally tackle such a big project. Martha Stewart has some helpful suggestions for shaping this list as well. I'm not afraid to admit that I've actually made a spreadsheet for just such a list. (For all of you out there saying "Lo-ser"...point taken.)

2. Don't bite-off more than you can chew: Make sure that you get a list of your primary "problem areas" to work on, prioritize it and then gauge the amount of time it will take to achieve (and be HONEST!) Don't overload yourself with granularity, because that can quickly kill the impetus to get cleaning (unless you are me - see Tip 1). Keep it high-level enough to not get discouraged. Taking a few hours a couple weekends in a row can go a long way to making your efforts more productive and keeping your sanity intact.

3. Think in three dimensions: Allow yourself to get really creative with storage. Don't assume that storage always means something you have to tuck away out-of-sight. I've found with CD's, photo albums and other assorted things I can store them in inexpensive, but aesthetically-pleasing baskets from IKEA made to fit into a cubby-style bookshelf. Not only does it add texture to the room, but it hides and slides - meaning I can keep tons of stuff in them and simply use them as I would any other drawer. Other storage options that pass the "aesthetics test" are old-style trunks or antique footlockers that, with a cushion, can double as seating -both can be found at estate/garage sales. (Ok, to be honest, I have my girlfriend to thank for those suggestions...ones I delightfully took with gratitude, I might add!) Even wall shelving on which you can put some visually appealing legal boxes (they make those nowadays, y'know) can be a great way to organize without having to take up ever-precious closet space.

4. Goal-set: So, while I may love to make sure things are clean and tidy, I also need some sort of incentive to make sure it gets done. There's no better time than spring to leverage fun outdoor activities as goals for getting through the drudgery that can be cleaning and organizing. Want to head to the lake for a hike with the family this weekend? Great -just make sure you've gotten through things that need to go in your file folders first. Maybe you want to attend an outdoor concert on an upcoming weekend? Who wouldn't? Just make sure that you've tied some aspect of your "to-do" list to it. No progress on the list, no concert for you. It sounds a bit juvenile, but I'm tellin' you, it works!

Spring cleaning may not be fun to get underway, but once you've given yourself a clear set of steps with which to conquer it, you'll be glad you started. Soon enough, you'll find yourself kicking back and filling your free time with all the wonderful things the outdoor season holds -with a clear mind and a tidy home.

What are your tips for spring cleaning? If you've got some secrets that help you get through it, we want to hear from you!

Cead Mille Failte (A Hundred Thousand Welcomes)

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