Ultimate Spring Cleaning

(Photo by Alan Cleaver)

Is your house cluttered or dingy? Are you stuck in a rut? Do you wish you could cut out your bad habits? Is your world out of order?

Ultimate Spring Cleaning is a 30-day project to clean and declutter not only your house, but your life. Each day you’ll get a housecleaning assignment, an assignment that involves the world around you, and a project to clear your mind. You can start anytime with Day 1.

Spring is my favorite time of year: renewal of the world around me, improvement of weather, and of course, the opportunity to clear out the detritus of a (too) long winter.

Ultimate Spring Cleaning, however, is not just for spring, and not just for your home. I devised the Ultimate Spring Cleaning program to help you simplify and organize your surroundings, your world, and your brain. There are three “tracks” to Ultimate Spring Cleaning, and you can either perform them all at once or one at a time. It’s your choice.

Please ask questions if you’re stuck or confused, either in the comments of the post on the day in question or by e-mail. I will monitor both and try to help you out.

While you should get started on Day 1 (where there’s an extended version of this preamble), below is the master list of tasks, where you might find something to suit your immediate needs. Below that are frequently asked questions about Ultimate Spring Cleaning.

Day Your Home Your World Yourself
Day 1: Get Set Get cleaning supplies Opinion Detox (30 days) Sleep
Day 2: the Rubber Hits the Road Clean the Bedroom (4 days) Determine What You Want Throw Away the Past
Day 3: Closet Case Clean the Closet Crap Detox (14 days) Meditate
Day 4: Strike While the Iron is Hot Iron Your Clothes Plan Clothes Shopping Notice Details
Day 5: …in Bed Make Your Bed More Comfortable Look for Recipes Have Some Fun
Day 6: Kitchen Patrol Clean the Kitchen (5 days) Get Out Longer Meditation
Day 7: Elbow Grease Oven Cleaning Tips Make Yourself Lunch Relax
Day 8: Be a Gourmet Outfit Your Kitchen Look at Your Career Get Creative
Day 9: Carry On Carry On in the Kitchen Carry On Finding Your Way Carry On With Your Art
Day 10: Make Time Organize for Faster Cooking Cut Your E-mail Time What Do You Admire?
Day 11: Get Busy (on the) Living (Area) Clean Your Living Area (4 days) Write Down Your Day Kick One Bad Habit
Day 12: Plants or Pets? Plants or Pets? Cut Down Your Online Time Have Some Fun
Day 13: Goodbye White Walls Channel Your Inner Interior Decorator Meet Some Women Toss Your Porn Collection
Day 14: Lazy Sunday Finish the Living Area Phone a Friend Relax
Day 15: Bathroom Humor Clean Your Bathroom (2 days) Schedule Your Time Start a Journal
Day 16: What’s on Your Walls? What’s on Your Walls? Plan a Trip Get a Check-up
Day 17: It’s Shoe Time Clean Your Entryway/Closet/Shoes Add Back Some Foods Evaluate Your Fitness
Day 18: The Office Clean Your Office Area (3 days) Look at Your Commitments Stop Procrastinating
Day 19: File Away Create a Filing System Organize Your World Have Some Fun
Day 20: Clean Out Your Computer Clean Out Your Computer Consolidate Your Online Life Look at Your Finances
Day 21: Garage Wars Clean Your Garage (3 days) Showcase a Hobby Relax
Day 22: Carpet Crawlers Clean Your Carpets Have Lunch With a Co-worker Create a Home Gym
Day 23: Auto-tune Clean and Tune Your Car Learn a New Skill Get a New Haircut
Day 24: Fresh Air Clean Your Yard (3 days) Prepare (for) Your Taxes Do Something About That Face
Day 25: There Goes the Neighborhood Help Improve Your Neighborhood Save for Something Use Your Non-Dominant Hand
Day 26: Get Online Carry On in the Yard Write an Online Profile Have Some Fun
Day 27: One Last Look Make One Last Sweep Meet Some More Women Evaluate Your Progress
Day 28: Sell, Sell, Sell Sell What You Can Sell What You Can Relax
Day 29: Be Charitable Donate Plan an Outdoor Activity Get a Manicure/Pedicure/Massage
Day 30: The Last Toss Toss Make a Nutrition Plan Reward Yourself

Frequently Asked Questions:

I’m considering starting the Ultimate Spring Cleaning, but isn’t it a lot to do each day?

Yes, it is, but realistically it can all be done. Some of the larger items don’t have to be finished in a day, and others you won’t really finish for days, weeks or even months. We all have our own speeds and capabilities, and there are a number of ways you can approach the USC. The best way to approach it with limited time is to only do the “Your Home” tasks the first time around, then when you’re done with those, do the “Your World” tasks, then the “Yourself” tasks.

It’s not spring here. Is it too late to get started?

It’s never too late to get started. Just go to Day 1 and begin. The comments will be perpetually open and I’ll always be monitoring for questions to help you along. I’m working on a main page so that it’s easy to find and navigate the project anytime. The one thing I would suggest is that you start on a Monday, so that the rest and relaxation “tasks” fall on the most appropriate days.

Some of these tasks are too hard or boring. Can I do only the tasks I’m interested in?

I recommend that you at least do one set of tasks all the way through, but if you really want to do specific exercises, it’s better than doing none at all. And please, let me know via comments or e-mail if you have an issue with a task—I want to improve the USC so it will be even more helpful in the years to come.

I started, but then had to work nights on a major work project/had a weekend trip/it was my birthday. Is that OK?

Don’t feel bad about that. Things happen. There are two ways to handle it when “life events” interrupt: either work ahead to give your self “free time” (for example, if you can clean your bedroom properly in one day, that’s three free days before starting in the kitchen) or just suspend it and pick it up as soon as you’re back.

You keep saying “be ruthless.” What does that mean?

It’s a way of saying you often need to let go of your attachment to things. You could probably get rid of 75 percent of the stuff in your house and live without it just fine. We keep mementos long after they’ve lost their meaning, electronics long after we’re done fully enjoying them, and random stuff longer than it ever deserves to be kept. Clutter affects your mind negatively more than the usefulness of that stuff affects your mind positively.

I’m not telling you to go minimalist, but to be ruthlessly honest about your need to keep each item in your home.

Are you doing the Ultimate Spring Cleaning tasks yourself?

Yes! I started the USC myself in mid-May, because I need it as much as anyone. I’m going to add comments as I go along to let you know what problems I’ve encountered along the way, and I’ll also use the opportunity to tweak the tasks as I run into roadblocks or find helpful tips.

Finally, a reminder:

There are no rules. It isn’t a boot camp. If you’re cheating, you’re only cheating yourself, and you’ll know. If you need support in any way, send me an e-mail or leave a comment.