Springing into Place

Just in time for the season, southside pro organizers share insights

By George Piper

To paraphrase Lord Alfred Tennyson: In the spring, a person’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … organization and cleaning? OK, so maybe the English poet laureate’s prose never touched on spring cleaning. However, spring is the time people traditionally think about de-cluttering their homes or workspaces.

So why is the season of rebirth associated with the mundane task of cleaning? The reasons may vary depending on which cleaner professional you ask, but they are all steeped in health and new beginnings. “The origin of spring cleaning has been claimed by many cultures, for many centuries,” says Min Gates, owner of Downsize Maven LLC, a Greenwood-based organizing business that serves central and southern Indiana. Tied to the spring equinox, people cleaned out the winter mess of dust that built up when fires heated their homes.  Tidying up meant making way for good health and well-being. “Nowadays, it’s paper and clothes that retain dust mites that can cause severe respiratory issues, among other health problems,” Gates says.

As winter’s hold on us thaws, the warmer weather provides a good spur to get us in the cleaning mood, says Georgie Salazar, owner of the Bargersville-based Georgie’s Organizing and Decorating. “Everyone gets motivated to organize every aspect of their home, inside and out,” she says. “To get your home in a healthy place makes you feel better.”

Or it’s just a desire to declutter.

“Spring cleaning is a chance to air out the house and discard things you don’t need when the weather gets warmer,” says Laura Ecker of Victoria’s Organizers, a Speedway-based firm specializing in clients with chronic disorganization and hoarding tendencies.

Out of hand

Regardless of the origins of spring cleaning, there is something about the ritual — or being organized in general — that helps us feel good. Whether our messiness is brought on by other circumstances or just a part of our habits, we all could use a hand in bringing order to our lives.

“More often than not, many individuals fall into disarray during a devastating life event,” Gates says, citing family situations, health or money causing the stress. “It’s important not to judge the person by their current surroundings,” says Gates, who has more than 20 years in the business, including the last nine running Downsize Maven. “It’s important for them to understand how they got there so they can find the clear path to reach their goal of restoring order.”

Out-of-our-control forces bring added stress, Salazar says, and that can lead to clutter and disorganization. “Being organized and in a beautiful space does wonders for your state of mind and emotional health,” says Salazar, who founded her business in 2018. “If our space is in control, it becomes a safe haven.”

With chronic disorganizers, it’s important to realize there is no right or wrong way to arrange possessions, Ecker says. “Some people like things to be very neat and minimal with lots of empty surfaces, while other people are more comfortable where they can see their items in front of them,” she says. “Everybody thinks differently, and they have to find what makes them comfortable and efficient in their own home.”

Sometimes people have insecurities, such as a fear of running out of items, says Gates. This can create a wall of insecurity. “We’re more functionally confident when you know what we have and where it’s located, eliminating the impulse to purchase items we already have in the back of the cupboards but can no longer see,” she says.

Pattern of a place

The best part about getting organized and having your home in order, Salazar says, is that is frees up time for us to do the things we like to do. “Organized homes create discipline and a pattern to get mundane chores done quickly,” she says. “It also can be a very fun process as well as rewarding at the end. The results are truly amazing.”

Getting rid of unwanted or unnecessary items no longer means a one-way trip to the local landfill. Gates notes that people can locate myriad resources where they can donate items to assist others (think Goodwill or Salvation Army). Depending on the item, recycling or shredding facilities can help, or we can offer family or friends those items.

Organizers like Ecker, Gates and Salazar do more than straighten up cupboards and closets. “We assist individuals by teaching them the rewarding simplicity of restoring order to life,” Gates says. “Once order is restored, they begin to smile with well-founded, lifted self-esteem.”

Cleaning our own messes can be daunting enough. So what drives these professionals to get involved in other people’s chaos?

For Gates, it started at home, where she was taught at a young age to make her bed when the day began. “It’s the first accomplishment of the day in keeping the rest of the day in simple order,” she says. “My father was a great influence, seeing his carpentry tools in their proper place for simple and easy access.”

Those humble beginnings shifted into Gates helping organize and downsize possessions of family members and friends overwhelmed by collected treasures. She uses her years of experience to help others reclaim better physical and mental health through organization.

A friend recovering from double-knee replacement who needed help after moving into a new home gave Salazar the nudge she needed. “She really helped me see my gift and love for helping others,” says Salazar, who at the time was a couple of years away from being an empty nest parent and was looking for a new challenge.

Like Salazar, Ecker also found her niche after helping an older friend move and downsize her possessions. “Her family was too exasperated to help because of personality conflicts, but I had success,” she says, noting the experience helped her realize she could go into business as a professional organizer.

Calling in the pros

If you go the professional route, that’s OK. Ecker says the reasons clients call can vary: They are moving and need to downsize, a relative passed away or sometimes they are simply overwhelmed. Whatever the case, if they’re calling for help, they likely need it.

What’s important is not just helping them decide what to do with their items but getting them to a place where their home is a safe haven. “The key is helping them, emotionally, empathizing with them and truly understanding them to be able to get them to that healthy emotional state,” she says.

One step at a time

Although we might lack the skill or desire to jump into spring cleaning, our experts offer the following tips that anyone can use to help keep their space organized.

  • Schedule 15-minute sessions on your calendar, either a couple of times a day or a few times a week. Set a timer so you spend the time focusing on your goals and not the clock, and gradually increase the time to help you accomplish more.
  • When using a timer, take a break as soon as the time is up or when you start to feel frustration or fatigue. Stay positive, which will mentally help when you return to the area and achieve your goals.
  • When you declutter, get rid of items that are not in use.
  • Whatever you decide to keep, use well-organized containers and make sure you label them.
  • Starting small is OK. Rather than tackle the entire bedroom, start with one dresser drawer.
  • Clean up each area you organize before moving to the next one.