Spring Cleaning Checklist: How To Know What To Keep And What To Throw Away Once And For All

You may not believe it based on the gloomy rain outside and the winter coats still in regular rotation, but spring is just around the corner, and with spring comes mandatory spring cleaning — whether you like it or not. As we reform our wardrobes for warmer weather, trees get leafy again, and flowers emerge where mounds of muddy ice seemed to have taken up permanent residence, our homes seem to beg for a similar revival. Months of winter hibernation have undoubtedly taken their toll, and a thorough clean-up is just what you need to clear your mind (and your space) in preparation for sunnier days. 

While a surface cleaning is a given (yes, you need to clean your shower grout and dust off those trudging radiators), the hardest part of an at-home revamp usually comes when you're forced to take a good look at piling possessions and determine what needs to go. From your wardrobe and vanity to your desk and random storage closet, the amount of crap you can accumulate in a year is truly remarkable. It's easy to fake-justify keeping that weird shirt you got for $10 five years ago and wore once, or that binder full of lecture notes because they're so meticulous, but these things no longer warrant a place in your life. 

Donating, tossing, or simply reorganizing your space can revitalize you and prepare you both mentally and physically for the brighter seasons ahead. The key to cleaning success is holding yourself to a hard set of rules. If anything in question fits one of these six descriptions, it simply must go. Be brutal.  

1. It's associated with weird memories

We all have these. Maybe it's a perfume from a weird time in your life, a terrible ex's shirt that you've held onto, or a dress you wore to a disastrous party. If it brings up memories that are anything but pleasant, get it out of there for good.

2. You haven't looked at it in years, and probably never will

I graduated high school nearly a decade ago, and it was only last year that I finally tossed the ridiculous number of notes, papers, etc. that had been uselessly boxed up in the garage ever since. While that's on the extreme end, I'm sure you have a pile of junk mail that never has and never will be opened. Byeee!

3. It's broken 

You are not going to get it fixed. You're missing the thingamabob you need to make it work. There's probably a reason you haven't fixed this thing yet, and it's because you don't really care about it. Unload it forever. Liberating, right? 

4. It's expired 

Do you want to know how many dried up mascaras I threw out last spring? I'm not telling, but it was definitely high into the double digits. When you replace something that's nearly used up, either finish it before opening the new one, or get rid of it right then. Whether it's makeup or food in the fridge or pantry, there is no room for expired goods in your life. It's gross and taking up precious space. 

5. You are NOT attending an obscurely themed costume party anytime soon 

I've held on to an absurd amount of clothes, shoes, and accessories because they would be perfect for some hypothetical occasion. Space cowboy party? Covered. '80s hair band costume? Check. Authentic late '60s hippie ensemble? Options for days. Unless you have very generous parents with closet space to spare or a storage unit, it's time for most of this to go. That said, don't feel bad about holding on to a few special things or vintage designer pieces that you'll regret losing later. 

6. It takes up space you could make better use of 

That antique cabinet you found a few years ago or hand-me-down leather chair might be cool, but they don't fit in your new apartment. If you can't make something fit in your space, it's usually best to say goodbye. You want to maximize your space while keeping it pleasantly livable. Sell it, give it to a friend, or donate it, and you'll feel much better. 

Images: Paramount Pictures; Giphy (6)

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