Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning Tactics on How to Mindfully Sort and Donate Your Old and Happily Keep All That Makes You Merry.

Most people fall into two categories—those who can’t wait to spring clean and those who feel daunted by the mere thought of it. But regardless of your level of enthusiasm, homes require decluttering every now and then. But where does either party start—and how? Does your place need to be combed through from top to bottom or does time simply need to be set aside to tackle the biggest problem areas? (We’re looking at you, closets.) Can a clean home really welcome in more energy that ripples into other aspects of your life? We dig deep with home organizing expert Kate Englebrecht, of Call Kate Tidy in Denver, to learn how to keep your home in order well past this spring.

Being a professional organizer sounds like a fascinating job. How did you first get into it?

I was in my mid-twenties, still in college with no direction for graduation, in a job that wasn’t a good fit, and with a car payment for a car that didn’t make me happy. So, I discarded all of them at once. Feeling a bit lost at sea, a girlfriend of mine called and said I should start a personal concierge business. This was back in ’05 when that industry was booming in other major cities. At first I thought, no way, I could never run a business! Then I told another girlfriend of mine who was also a graphic designer and she thought it was the best idea ever. So she designed my business card for free and told everyone in the North Highlands neighborhood of Denver. My business took off overnight, literally. 

You use the Marie Kondo method, right? How does that work?

Yes, I do and it’s the most efficient way to keep your home organized. You tidy by category starting with clothes followed by books, paper, miscellaneous, which is the kitchen, bathroom electronics, etc., and ending with sentimental items. You don’t keep things out of guilt or obligation, you want your things to support the life you’re living, you want to be surrounded by joy!

Once you’ve completed tidying your home, and it only holds the things you love and want, then the maintenance is simple and easy! Everything will have a place for you to find it and put it back, and an added bonus to the method, you practice gratitude on a daily basis for your home and everything inside of it—including yourself.

Organizing an entire house can feel overwhelming! Where do you recommend people start?

I highly recommend starting in your closet. We begin and end our day in our clothes, so we are most familiar with this category. Clothing is representative of how we wish to be seen in the world. If you have a lot of clothes that you don’t like, then this could color your mood and attitude; if you have very few clothes then maybe you have a minimalist mindset. How you clothe your body also can set the precedent for how people view you. Most of my female clients at the beginning of tidying clothes say they have nothing to wear and at the end, they feel like they have more choices than they did when we started. Isn’t that crazy? They have less clothing, but they have more choices!

Do you have any tricks for what to do with the items in the undecided pile?

I call it the “maybe pile,” and it should be saved for the very end of each category. For example, when you're assessing your clothing, you will have three piles, which are the keeps, the gos, and the maybes. Thoughtfully fold your go pile and put them in bags for donation. 

Next, hang up all of your keep items, fold and put clothing in drawers, and at the end, assess your maybe pile. Nine times out of ten the majority of that pile will go. When you are assessing the maybe pile, the most important thing to remember is to trust the message that comes through when you're holding the item. If that t-shirt from the ‘80s says it wants to go, then honor its wishes and put it in the donation bag, and vice versa. What you're actually doing is letting go of a version of yourself that no longer serves you, and on the flip side you’re keeping a version of you that needs to remain in your life.

Let’s say we want to organize a kitchen pantry, do you break it into steps? How would you go about doing that?

A kitchen pantry has to be completely emptied all at once and while you are emptying it, make categories, i.e. breakfast items, canned goods, condiments, etc. At the end, you'll know exactly what will fit where because you'll see what you've kept after throwing away the things that have expired and you no longer want. I highly suggest cleaning all the shelves, vacuuming all the nooks and crannies and giving it a fresh start. Also, don't buy any bins until you know exactly what you're keeping because returning things to the store can be just as overwhelming as dealing with clutter!

What’s your greatest challenge helping people get organized?

Their attachment to the past most of the time will keep them from letting things go. They think if they let a particular item go then they are letting that part of themselves go and it will be gone forever. Some have a fear that they will need the item in the future and not having it and then missing it will cause stress. To date, I have not had one client regret any of the items they have discarded.

What’s one thing you wish people knew about tidying up?

There are so many things I wish people knew about tidying up, but the most important thing I want them to know is that there’s freedom in letting things go. I call it the shiny new car feeling and you'll feel it all throughout your body. You'll have a fresh outlook on life and you'll have the energy and inspiration to keep your home tidy. This newly found energy and inspiration will then spill over into other parts of your life as well, there’s nothing like it!


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