Declutter, clean and organize: 6 tips from the pros

With spring in the air, many people's thoughts turn to cleaning out the closets and getting rid of the clutter that's accumulated over the past year.

How to get a head start on organizing — and how to keep things organized

OK, so maybe you're not as excited about spring cleaning as this guy — but getting it done can be rewarding. (Elnur/Shutterstock)

With spring in the air, many people's thoughts turn to cleaning out the closets and getting rid of the clutter that's accumulated over the past year.

However, it can be a daunting task to dip into the piles of boxes and closets full of unworn clothes.

So daunting, sometimes, that people turn to people like Susan Borax — co-founder of Vancouver organizing business Good Riddance — for professional help.

Borax shared some of her spring cleaning tips on CBC Radio One'sB.C. Almanac.

1. Forgive yourself

One of the hardest parts of a major cleaning effort is getting started in the first place. That's why Borax says the first thing she tells clients is to forgive themselves for the mess.

"It's counterproductive to go back and revisit old crimes," she said.

"It's much more productive to say you've decided to do something about it. We're here to give you help, so you can help yourself."

2. Begin with the end in mind

To focus your cleaning and organizing efforts, Borax suggests starting with a clear vision of what a particular room will be used for before diving in.

"Try to determine what the purpose of the room is first," Borax said. "Then you declutter, then you repopulate it with those things that you would use in that room."

Don't wait until things look like this before cleaning up that clutter. (Submitted)

3. Organize for the present

One of the biggest challenges with clearing out clutter, Borax says, is that people tend to place a lot of sentimental value on things they no longer have a practical use for — and understandably so.

"[Possessions] represent people's personal history," Borax said. "That's why there's so much anxiety and so much resistance to wanting to do this."

Borax recommends organizing for the person you are now and will be in the future, rather than focusing on the past.

"A lot of the hobbies and activities, the clothing, the styles and things that may have interested you 10, 20, 30 years ago don't necessarily have any application to your life anymore," she said.

4. Don't declutter unbidden

While it can be tempting, Borax urged eager cleaners to avoid any decluttering efforts on behalf of other family members or cohabitants — no matter how good your intentions.

"It really is a violation," she said.

Instead, Borax recommends leading by example and beginning with your own belongings.

For parents, she recommends involving kids in the cleaning process, making active decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of, perhaps with an incentive like keeping the profits from a yard sale.

Spring cleaning can be a good opportunity to delete gigabytes of old photos and unused apps, freeing up some space on your phone.

5. Don't forget the digital

These days, there's more to worry about keeping tidy than just your physical surroundings.

Angela Crocker, author of the book Declutter Your Data, says spring cleaning can also be an opportunity to tackle an overflowing inbox or a full phone or hard drive — which she says can be just as taxing as cleaning an actual room.

"Email and photographs are really emotionally charged," Crocker said. "There's a lot that goes in."

If going through thousands of old phone photos seems like too big a task, Crocker recommends taking a proactive approach when shooting in the first place.

"Rather than worrying about the hundred-thousand photos that are in your computer, just start with the ones that you have from today going forward," she said.

"You might take four photos of your delicious lunch… maybe you only need to keep one."

6. Keep cleaning all year round

While the arrival of spring is a good opportunity for a big cleaning push, Borax says it's important to remember that organization is an ongoing process.

"It's not a once in a lifetime thing that you do," she said. "It's something that really does require vigilance."

"New stuff is going to come in all the time and, also, you're going to fall of the wagon."