How to (realistically) spring clean

Lauryn Bolz

The time has come for the fabled concept of spring cleaning to sneak its way back into our consciousness. It is a social obligation many of us middle-class Americans share, and it results in deep guilt if we do not take the nod from springtime to purge our suburban homes of all earthly desires.

Additionally, being cooped up in quarantine may make you a little antsy to change up your living situation. Personally, I’ve grown so sick of looking at the same three rooms for a month that I’ve been tempted to throw everything I own onto the street, along with my ripped-out hair, and completely restart. 


However, a simple declutter can make you feel new and fresh just the same without the pain of getting rid of all your beloved belongings.

Before we begin, let me make one thing clear; “stuff” is not bad. “Stuff” is a sign that you’ve lived, that you’ve collected and that you’ve created. Making a happy home does not mean you live in a minimalist alien dome-like something from the ending scene of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” (Do you ever wonder what they keep in those neatly placed cabinets? Seriously, you’re in an acid-induced alien space dream; why do you need cabinets? I know everyone is probably distracted by the floating fetus, but Kubrick, I really need some answers.)

What I’m trying to say is that it is possible to make your home clean and nice without purging it of all signs that a human being, an overgrown hairless monkey, does, in fact, live there. 

If you’re looking to unpack your cluttered closet, tidy up or simply breathe some new life into your space to match the spring air outside your window, here are my amateur college student tips on how to switch up your home this season.


(Illustration by Rachel Macias | The Collegian)

After all of my chatter about how it’s good to have stuff, I will make one very important distinction; hoarding is not good. This may seem obvious, but take a look into your closet right now. You have eight fluffy Urban Outfitters jackets. Sure, they are all different pastel colors and have different levels of wear and general fluffiness, but this is completely unnecessary.

Give the minimalist movement all the crap you want, but there’s something to be said about the positive effects of limiting the amount of clothes you have. Though there aren’t any real psychologists jumping to give proven research on how your trendy millennial capsule wardrobe will bring you never-ending happiness and prosperity, owning copious amounts of unneeded and undisplayed items can be connected to anxiety and depression. 

It seems like I’m making a hasty generalization, but think about how it feels to miss your alarm clock and suddenly being faced with quickly finding an outfit in a closet that looks like it can swallow you whole. 

Trust me, you don’t need to hold every T-shirt up to your eyes and philosophically consider if it brings you joy to evaluate what you have and if you need it. 

I like to simply think back to the last time I’ve worn said T-shirt. If it’s been over a year, I tend to toss it into the donate pile. If it’s been a month or so, I keep it. Of course, this does not need to apply to formal attire or your grandmother’s wedding dress, but you may want to ask yourself what you’re doing with your grandmother’s wedding dress.


(Illustration by Amy Noble | The Collegian)

So, now that your home looks like it’s been torn apart by a tornado and you’ve tried your best to “neatly” stuff your unwanted clothing into bins and trash bags, the question is what to do with all of it.


Goodwill may seem like a fine place to drop off your items and feel OK about yourself; the word “good” is even in the name, after all. I’m not going to completely glaze over all the great things this company does, but they are often built upon some shady morals and corporate greed. This article explains this in more detail and suggests that there are better places to bring your goods. 

Some of your old goods can bring a lot of hope and happiness into the community. Domestic shelters for abuse survivors sometimes accept gently used clothing, and I Support the Girls collects donated bras and wrapped menstrual products to distribute to people experiencing homelessness or financial insecurity.

We are college students, after all, so Plato’s Closet is a wonderful option because you can easily drop off your slightly outdated, slightly worn clothing and get some cash in return. Some facilities also donate the clothes they don’t buy from you to local shelters and churches. Ask around at your nearest location.

Recycling doesn’t just relate to giving things away, however. It also means finding a new place in your home for things you already have. Dig through all of your old textbooks for the ones that look the oldest and most scholarly, and place them on a bookshelf. Display your family antiques that have somehow been passed down to you. Frame your artwork, even if it’s not your favorite, and decorate your walls with it. 


(Illustration by Katrina Clasen | The Collegian)

After spring cleaning, even without ridding yourself of everything you own, your place might look a little plain, outdated or drab. The final step in my oversimplified instructions on how to spring clean is to put a little life back into your space. This can be done by adding some new pieces or by adding some extra tidiness to what you already have.

I believe the best way to liven up a space is to add art. Functionally, it is useless, but aesthetically, nothing brings light, love and happiness into a space like a new wall print, tapestry or squiggly vase. Pick up a book of impressionist paintings, pick one you like and order a cheap print. Stalk Instagram artists and support ones you find appealing by buying the artwork they slave over. Or stop at a thrift store or garage sale to find something funky. 

And as my last word of advice, I will offer you three of the simplest yet most powerful words known to humankind: The. Container. Store. It’s a beautiful haven of neatly stacked productivity-inducing tools. Just a visit to the cleanly organized store or slightly overwhelming website makes you feel this aura of care — no — love. 

The Container Store wants the best for you, and they will give you all the containment-based goods to make you your best, most organized self. Do yourself a favor, and invest in this beautiful, inspiring company, and in a few short business days, your home will be completely transformed into a tidy haven of functional plastic bins. Container Store, I thank you. 

Lauryn Bolz can be reached at or on Twitter @laurynbolz.