New season, new beginning

Spring is about new beginnings, and as the season changes, we often catch the bug to freshen up our homes, too.

“In Minnesota especially, it makes you want to think spring and start looking outside,” says Judy Malsom, clutter coach and professional organizer. “So you want your windows clean.”

If you’re looking to refresh a room, or simply get organized, there are plenty of ways to do it — just in time for spring.

Reuse what you have

The idea behind interior redesign is that you use the furnishings you already have, but in a new way. Becky Siiteri, owner of Rebecca’s Redesign in Arden Hills, says people can adopt that same idea in their homes this spring.

“You don’t always need to get new furniture,” Siiteri says. “You just need to get it in the right place.”

To redesign a room, start by emptying it of all furnishings — including artwork and furniture — to give yourself a clean palette to work with, Siiteri says. This may include working through some accumulated clutter. Let light in, and thoroughly clean the room.

When the room is empty, step back and assess it. If you’re not using it, try to figure out why. Consider how you want the room to function — what do you and your family do in the room, and what do you need from it? Also look at the shape of the room, and determine its focal point, such as a fireplace, television or large window.

Often, Siiteri says, it’s hard to look objectively at your own room. “I don’t think we can really divorce ourselves from our rooms, because they’re really a part of ourselves,” she says. If you can’t afford outside professional help, Siiteri suggests asking a friend for a fresh viewpoint.

Start rebuilding the room by placing the largest piece of furniture, such as the couch, across from the focal point. Then add lamps and the other furniture, working with them until you get an arrangement that’s functional and attractive. Remember that furniture doesn’t have to be pushed up against walls, but can put placed at an angle for more visual interest, Siiteri says.

Add plants to smooth out the rough edges, and use accessories to highlight key areas of the room, such as coffee tables and fireplace mantels. Keep collections of items grouped together, and make sure artwork is connected, whether through color or theme.

“The important thing is you bring in things that you love,” Siiteri says.

Finally, pick a color. Though it may seem like you’re working backward, it’s easiest to choose a wall color when you can look at all your pieces together, Siiteri says. Along with making the biggest impact, paint is the most affordable home improvement.

Get organized

Organizing and spring cleaning go hand-in-hand. Along with fall, spring is a great time to get organized, Malsom says, as people are looking outdoors and gearing up for summer.

There’s always a reason the clutter is there, says Malsom, who works out of her home in North St. Paul.

Often, she explains, it goes back to childhood. If a person’s childhood home was always a mess, chances are that person will end up a neat freak. But if a person’s mother was constantly cleaning, more than likely, that person will unconsciously rebel in adulthood and become a slob.

“Ninety-five percent of the time, that theory holds true,” Malsom says.

To start clearing the clutter out of your house, Malsom suggests getting the whole family involved in an organizing project. One popular spring project is the garage. According to GarageTek, which makes custom garage organization systems, 94 percent of garage owners store dangerous items in their garage and 60 percent admit to their garage being disorganized.

Malsom recommends setting aside two days to organize the garage, perhaps setting a date around a donation truck pickup. Label boxes “donation,” “trash,” “garage sale” and “not home” (for items that don’t belong in the garage).

Assign each family member a section of the garage. After sorting, shop for organizing containers. Process the labeled boxes, throw out the trash, and walk each “not home” item to its appropriate place.

“Once the garage is organized, homeowners find that they have a whole new living space for hobbies, an exercise/play area, even weekly poker games,” says David Speed, owner of GarageTek of the Twin Cities.

Inside the home, one major clutter culprit is paper.

Malsom suggests putting a paper shredder in the garage so you don’t even bring junk mail inside. Then, leave mail in a pile or basket and don’t process it until you have the time to look through it. Create a “home” for each type of letter, and bring each piece to its home when you process the mail.

Kids’ papers need a home too, Malsom says. Have them hang their backpacks in the mud room and put papers in their own individual file folders. This just looks better, Malsom says, and allows parents to easily go through their kids’ papers each night.

Yet the hardest thing isn’t getting organized, Malsom says, but staying organized.

“Like exercising or dieting, you have to keep it going, or you’ll go right back to gaining the weight,” Malsom says.

Follow the old adage, she says.

“Everything has a home, and everything needs to go back to that home on a daily basis. It sounds hard, but it’s not. If you take the scissors out, put them back. ... Organizing is a learnable skill.”

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