Addition by Subtraction: The Benefits of a “Fall Cleaning”

One of my favorite activities during a year is spring cleaning.

After a long winter of being stuck inside and intimate with our possessions, the arrival of warm spring weather makes me throw open the windows to let the breeze blow through and just start tossing accumulated junk. I usually wind up with enough stuff for a yard sale, along with boxes of items to give to Goodwill and to mail out via PaperBackSwap and other such online trading services.

When I’m done, the house usually looks empty – much more spartan than it once did.

This has several interesting effects.

With less stuff in my home, I’m happier. I find that, time and time again, I don’t miss the stuff that I toss. At the same time, I enjoy the cleanliness and orderliness of what remains.

I also have more free time. I spend less time on regular cleaning and maintenance of the things I have and I spend less time trying to find things when I need them.

Even better – it saves – and earns – me money. Cleaning out the vents and moving the furniture away from the vents reduces home energy costs, as does unplugging any items that we rarely use. At the same time, I usually earn a fair amount – directly and indirectly – from selling off the extra accumulated stuff that we’re no longer using.

Truly, it’s addition by subtraction – by removing things, I make my life better.

Over time, I’ve come to love that “spring cleaning feeling” so much that I try to do a big cleaning every few months. For example, as soon as I hit my upcoming book deadline and turn in a manuscript, I intend to spend a few days doing a “big clean” at our home. Here’s what the plan looks like.

Empty out all of the closets and storage spaces and evaluate the things that are there. Sure, some seasonal items need to stay, but many of the items that get stuffed into closets are simply items that aren’t used any more. If that’s the case, sell them, swap them, or give them to Goodwill. Then, re-pack the closets and storage areas so that it’s easy to find things.

Go through all clutter collectors – and toss as much of the clutter as I can. The built-up magazines have to go, as do the junk envelopes and other materials in the clutter collectors in your home. Go through each area where clutter builds up and deal with every item. If you’re thinking, “Well, I might someday…”, trash it, because, quite honestly, you won’t.

Clear all vents – and make sure none are obstructed. Obstructed vents are a sure way to reduce the efficiency of your home’s heating and cooling efforts, increasing your energy bills. I check each vent in our home during a cleaning, moving any obstructions and cleaning inside the vent.

Thoroughly clean everything. This usually takes multiple days, as I go from room to room and scrub everything down carefully. I shampoo the carpets, mop the floors, and wash the walls (in some rooms). At the end, the house smells great.

Invite some friends over. Once everything’s clean and more spartan, have a small party. It’s the perfect time to show off your living quarters – everything’s clean and uncluttered and smells good, too!

This weekend (or next, or the one after that), consider doing a fall cleaning. Empty out your closets, sell off the things you’re not using, and freshen up your home. Not only will you earn some pocket money from the things you sell off, but you’ll save a bit of money on your energy bill and make your home a lot less cluttered and more inviting to guests.

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