The First Steps to Home Improvement – Clean and Declutter

As Spring approaches, advertisements abound for purchasing new furniture, blinds, curtains or home decor items to brighten a home’s interior. Many home interior articles address redecorating a home, but fail to mention that the first steps in home d├ęcor should be cleaning and decluttering. Doing these two steps results in a more serene, harmonious environment, thus, in and of itself, brightening a home’s interior. Also, after decluttering and cleaning, new items purchased will look more appealing than in an overcrowded, dirty room.

If there isn’t enough time to clean and declutter everything, then pick the most cluttered, visible, or used area. Note on a calendar dates and times available for tackling this project and divide into segments for different days–two hours to go through books, one hour to pare down magazines, another for clothes, etc. Pick up free boxes at grocery and discount stores, and purchase plastic bins for storing items. Make five piles for the clutter:

1) keep for this room
2) move to another room
3) throw-away
4) donate
5) can’t decide.

Begin sorting through the piles of books, clothes, newspapers, etc. Don’t stop until finished. Once finished, place the items in the free boxes and purchased bins. Store your “can’t decide bin” for no longer than two weeks. Then, make a decision what to do with the contents. Once these tasks are completed, decide how to keep the room decluttered. All family members need to be instructed that in order for the room to remain neat and organized, everyone must pick up their stuff and put it where it belongs.

If mail, sweaters, and shoes are left in the room, find a permanent place to keep these. For instance, a storage ottoman works great for keeping an extra sweater or throw blankets handy. Designate an area near your exit door for sorting mail; place a wastebasket and filing baskets for outgoing and “to be filed mail” nearby. This allows sorting mail into groups: toss, mail, and file. The mail in the filing basket can then easily be moved to filing cabinets. Place a note on the entry door, “Shoes off at the door.” If the room has end tables with drawers, these work great for storing remotes and reading materials.

When finished decluttering, if walls need painted or wallpapered, pick a date and time on the calendar to do this. Once completed, Spring cleaning can begin. Polish and vacuum the furniture, and clean the floor. Wash throw rugs. Dirty curtains, blinds or window shades should also be cleaned. Feeling really ambitious? Clean the windows, ceiling fans, lamps, and overhead lights. Now, set a few silk flowers, plants, or candles around the room strategically enhancing corners or tables–don’t go overboard or the room will look cluttered again.

Now that decluttering, painting, and cleaning have been accomplished, it’s time to purchase bookcases and shelves. Home Decorators online store sells a variety of bookcases starting as low as $69. Place all of the books, DVDS, and CDs; saved in the “keep for this room” box or bin to these. Magazines can be transferred to rectangular or square baskets purchased from home decor or craft stores, such as Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.

Having a system for sorting and storing items, and placing notes to remind family members where items should be stored, can prevent a room from becoming cluttered. If the budget doesn’t permit purchasing new items, used ones can be obtained through classifieds (online and offline), thrift stores, consignment stores, antique and estate auctions. Antique and estate auctions in the area can be found at Go to their website, enter in a zipcode specifying the farthest distance to travel, and enter a keyword, such as “bookcase.” Hit enter, and voila! A calendar pops us listing all auctions for the month in the area you chose.

Another option, if skilled at carpentry, is constructing bookcases with free plans you can download from several websites–just do a search.

Repurposed items can also provide storage. For instance, a twin bookcase headboard sitting on top of a desk, provides excellent storage for CD’s, computer books, mailing labels, paper and notebooks. A coat or two of paint to match your desk or room decor will give the headboard the look of custom shelving.

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