What is spring for the rest of the world is actually the start of summer for South Indians, but there is one seasonal trend that is worth following no matter what the climate: spring cleaning! Especially if you’re one of the many whose online shopping habits peaked during the pandemic.

You may have come across Marie Kondo via her book, The Magic of Tidying Up, or her Netflix show. Kondo’s method took the world by storm and ushered in a wave of articles about the virtues of minimal living. The KonMari method splits the entire contents of your house into 5 categories. You’re to tackle one category at a time, and to make the decision of whether to keep or throw, she suggests you hold that item in your hand and feel whether it “sparks joy” or not. This gentle, intuitive method has worked for many, but some of those who love to hoard may need a firmer approach.

Less is More
Ironically, in the pursuit of home organisation, many people’s first instinct is to purchase more items: containers, drawer dividers, label makers, etc. But the point of spring cleaning is not to shuffle things around to make them look neater, but to get as much stuff as possible OUT of your house! Perhaps you have a variety of kitchen tools that you picked up during a phase of culinary interest, but since having kids you’ve not had it in you to make the elaborate dishes that utilise them. Don’t hang onto things thinking you will use them some day. If it’s been untouched for a year, you’re unlikely to revisit it, so find someone who will actually use it and clear up that space.

The less is more mantra applies to children’s toys as well. The New York Times ran an article in April 2019 where the author Karen Barrow, a parent of 3 children, had Montessori teacher and author Simone Davies make over their playroom. Barrow was most surprised and pleased to learn that kids play more when there is less to play with! Davies kept out only about a third of the toys that were originally on display, and the children spent longer periods playing with one toy than before. “‘Kids don’t need as much as we think they do,’ Ms. Davies said.’They get more creative when there’s less.’”

Because of online shopping, lavish birthday parties, and child-focused exhibitions, our kids have more stuff than ever. Don’t be hesitant in paring down their collection to half of what it was. Involving them in the process will make it much harder, so it is up to you to figure out which toys are worth keeping. My cousin and her family had to stay with her in-laws for a couple months during lockdown, and she remarked that her two boys managed just fine with only Magna Tiles and Lego sets. As Davies said, think of this process as one that will encourage their creativity and minimise materialism.

Moving onto clothes, the easiest category to hoard. It’s never been easier to get a serotonin boost from a purchase, and social media has influenced the average Jane to think that she, like a celebrity, should never repeat an outfit! Fast fashion has made clothes cheaper than ever, and this combined with higher visibility for anyone with an Instagram account has our closets bursting. But just as children somehow play longer with less toys, I am certain that you will have more fun with fashion if you focus on having less items that are better quality. Browse through your closet and tell me this: how many of these pieces do you absolutely love, and how many were just a 6 out of 10 that you figured you would get some use out of? Now imagine if every single piece in your closet was a 10 out of 10. You could pull out any item and know that it makes you feel like a million bucks, rather than spend 20 minutes every day tossing aside the ones that are dated but might come back into style, that you got mainly because of a great discount, that need alterations which you will never get around to doing, and finally, the ones that don’t fit anymore.

I too am guilty of holding onto many pants and dresses with the hope that someday I will get back into them. Yes, we can achieve our desired weight if we are willing to put the work in, but sometimes the structure of the body changes, and we go up a size or two as we age. You don’t need to hold onto all of these old clothes as “motivation” when just one body con dress would do! Instead, I passed on all my itty bitty clothes to some younger women who could really enjoy them, and it felt great to release those expectations along with clearing up valuable closet space. As for making more of a fashion statement with less stuff, remember that accessories are enough to change an entire look, and for ideas on how to wear one item in multiple ways, follow some fashion bloggers like Pavitra Sagar @stylemuze or Komal Pandey @komalpandeyofficial.

Let’s talk about one of Kondo’s 5 categories: sentimental items. While clothes might be the easiest category to hoard, sentimental stuff is a close second. The current generation’s practice of intensive parenting has us believing that every memento regarding our children is precious and worth saving. Artwork, their first blanket, and even their baby teeth, which I have kept in a box, for what I do not know! Other things we save are love letters, greeting cards, invitations, ticket stubs, programs from Broadway shows, and knick knacks picked up on travels. Of course there are some special things we love to keep, and I am not asking you to obliterate all evidence of your kids’ early years! But be selective. Many parents hold onto so many things only for their adult children to quickly go through them one day and give them the sanction to toss it. Please don’t think you are throwing away the memory or the emotion along with the ephemera; the sentiment lives in your heart and mind as always, and does not have to be linked to a tangible object.

Normally a light article about spring cleaning wouldn’t touch on death, but I want to make one last point without being too morbid. If you haven’t yet experienced the loss of an elder or parent yourself, you may have had a friend who has, or seen the process in movies where the descendants are tasked with going through that person’s house and belongings. It is a painful process not only because of the grief, but because it is a gargantuan task to sort through a whole life’s collection of possessions and figure out where it all goes. Funnily enough, we work hard to make money to amass these possessions, but almost nobody remarks that it is a great thing for someone to leave so much behind. The reason I bring this up is because there is no sense in spring cleaning if you only run back out and fill up all the empty space again. It’s a challenge, but start thinking more about every purchase you make: do I really need this? Does it spark joy? Am I buying to assuage some other feeling or void? Instead spend your money on experiences, whether it’s a great meal shared with friends, a workshop on some hobby you’ve been interested in, or of course, a holiday! Happy decluttering, Provoke readers!

P.S. If you’re wondering how to responsibly get rid of things that are in good condition, you don’t have to look much farther than domestic help that work for you/your neighbours/in your office building. I periodically clean house and place everything in a suitcase near the back entrance, and my staff spread the word. By the end of the day, everything from toys to high heels to western outfits and kitchen items have been taken by people who are happy to use them or know someone who will.

– By Priyanka Acharya