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Eight spring cleaning jobs to help take your mind off everything else

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

You're stuck inside with nowhere to go for the foreseeable future and tired of binge-watching every new show on Netflix.

There's something you could do indoors to make your home a little brighter during these stressful times that could also have positive effects on your mental health: cleaning and organizing.

Spring is here and we're all stuck at home. Now is the time to tackle those projects we often don't have time for.

Spring — the first day of the new season was last week — is the time to tackle those projects that we may not get to throughout the year, a chance reorganize, downsize and hit the reset button in our homes. And with so many of us staying at home right now, it could be a welcome distraction. 

Fenton organizer Jane Hale of Jane Hale Organizing says in every crisis, there is an opportunity.

"And for those of us in isolation at home during this coronavirus pandemic, there are lots of opportunities to tackle some organizing projects we have been avoiding because we 'just don’t have time,'" said Hale. "Well now we do."

I reached out to nearly a half dozen local organizers, asking for tips on projects to tackle while we're all at home. Below are some of their suggestions — from tackling your shoe collection to organizing your pantry.

If you find any of these projects overwhelming — and especially given the climate right now — start small, suggests Hale. Set a timer for 30 minutes and see what you can get done.

"Rinse your brain and repeat as needed," said Hale.

1. Organize the kitchen pantry

Given that nearly all of us have done some serious grocery shopping to stay at home for the next few weeks, now may be the time to really organize where you keep your food so you know what you have.

Shelly Shallcross of We Heart Organizing in Troy suggests organizing both your pantry and your kitchen and fridge. Create zones for various types of food, suggests Shallcross.

One spring cleaning task: organize your pantry.

"Dig and see what you're working with," says Shallcross in an email. "Designate areas in your pantry for breakfast, meal starters (pasta, rice, canned veggies), snacks and treats.  If you haven't already done it, create a grab and go area for kids snacks -- items that are open should be put in front so they are eaten first and don't go stale."

Hale says pair similar products together and use storage containers to organize it all. Put small loose items together and take advantage of vertical space, she said.

"Can or spice risers and magazine holders are a couple ideas to maximize storage space," said Hale in an email. "Many inexpensive containers can be found at dollar stores, or maybe you have some around the house that could be re-purposed."

2. Rethink your space for now

With schools out and so many families underfoot, who says your formal dining room has to be dining room if you don’t use it? Make it a school zone to do schoolwork with your kids, suggests Shallcross. A den can be a game zone with board games.

“I recommend families assess how they are using their spaces and organize in a way that serves our current situation,” 

3. Create a donation pile

Now is not the time to go to the Salvation Army, but that doesn't mean you can't start downsizing that sweater collection you haven't touched in year. Go through your clothes item by item and put some items in a "toss" bin and the rest in a "donate" bin.

Organizing clothing in color categories or from light to dark can help with organization.

"Set up an empty box or bag in a closet or garage and place items there," recommends Shallcross. "It'll be easier to let go of individual items if there's a place to put them, breaking down what can be a daunting process into a more manageable task."

4. Tackle your paper problem

If you have piles of paper covering your kitchen counter, dining room table and office, now is the time to go through them. Go pile by pile — set a time if you find this task overwhelming, as Hale suggests — and put away the papers you want to keep and throw away the rest.

Betty Huotari of Logical Placement in Fenton recommends going through through your filing cabinet and giving it a thorough cleaning.

"Shred the items you don’t need any more," she suggests.

5. Change out seasonal clothes and go through your closet

Now is the time to change out your seasonal clothes, including hats, mittens and scarves. Make sure each mitten has a match.

Yes, it did snow this week but now is the time to put away those winter boats, coats, and gloves and bring out your spring clothes (or maybe do this in a few weeks when Mother Nature isn't so fickle). Shallcross says go through everything and make sure you have matches for mittens before you put them away (and check pockets too).

Hale suggests emptying out your entire closet and sorting its contents by category.

"See what needs repair, and what needs to go in donate or consignment bags," she said. "Remember that even worn or damaged textiles can be recycled by donation organizations. Try on everything (clothing and shoes) you haven’t worn in the last 6 months. If you didn’t already own it and saw it on a store rack, would you buy it?"

Go through the shoes you have and consider donating the pairs you don't wear to Soles for Souls, a nonprofit that helps those in need.

6. Downsize your shoes

Jen Heard is the owner of Clean Sweep Consulting in Oakland County and president of the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. One common spring cleaning task she does with her clients is going through shoes. She suggest gathering all the shoes that you no longer really wear but are still in decent condition. 

"These shoes can be boxed and sent to Soles for Souls," said Heard. "If you ask your local organizer, we get free postage to ship to Soles for Souls. There’s a national program currently running."

7. Do a deep clean

Spring cleaning wouldn't be spring cleaning without getting your hands dirty. 

Huotari of Logical Placement suggests divvying up tasks by day. 

Take everything out of your refrigerator and give it a deep clean.

"Windows one day, baseboards another, landscaping, raking the (garden) beds and lawns," suggest Huotari. "You can even have the kids help out."

8. Go through your makeup and photos

Believe it or not, makeup has an expiration date. Now is a good time to go through your makeup and weed out the lipstick and eye shadow you no longer use and organize the rest.

Heard says buy drawer dividers and clear bins -- Amazon has both as does The Container Store -- to organize your cosmetics.  And clean your brushes and sponges, she suggests.

Clear bins are a great way to organize cosmetics and other items in you bathroom drawers.

Photos are another item that often get ignored but could use a serious purge. If you have 10,000 photos on your phone but never print them up, consider creating a Shutterfly book. Shutterfly offers customized book templates; all you have to do is upload your photos or scan them.

Organize your photos "by child or event and then scan them electronically and create a hardcover book," said Huotari. "This can make a nice Christmas gift."

So now is the time to tackle some cleaning and organizing around the house. The benefits will be twofold: a better organized, cleaner house and a clearer emotional state. We could all use that during these uncertain times.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com