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Spring to life

Project ideas and inspiration from Good magazine

Struggling with spring cleaning? As you clear and clean surfaces, reward yourself with some simple revamping tricks. Here are some tips for an inspirational seasonal re-jig.

Some of us embrace the task of decluttering and cleaning with enthusiasm, while others find it one of the hardest things to do. What if I throw out something potentially useful? How come it’s my job to tidy up after everyone else in this household? Where do I even start?

Refurbished cubby holes

Cupboard with retro wallpaper backs

Cupboard: Save glass jars from pantry staples until you have a matching set. Soak the labels off and use them to store spices, pulses, tea or other perishables for a cohesive look. Screw-top lids are often better than plastic containers at keeping out weevils or pantry moths! Tall white jugs, milk jug, mugs on third shelf and white bowls from French Country Collections; pale green ceramic milk bottles and travel tea mug from Iko Iko; white mugs on second shelf from Citta Design.

Given the everyday ebb and flow of a home, things naturally tend to stray from order to disorder, and for those of us who are collectors, crafters, or simply just very busy living, things can easily get out of hand.

At the extremes of feminism and chauvinism, a lot of bunkum has been said about housework. Fact is, some of us are instinctively organised and don’t mind cleaning – some will even admit to enjoying it! Others are messy by nature.

Old cubby holes

Whitewashed cupboard

A whitewashed cupboard

Cubby holes: These two scruffy wooden cubby hole boxes were bought online for a very modest price. They were given a new life with a thorough clean using warm soapy water and a pot scrubber. Once they had dried in the sun, the boxes were painted with Resene Lustacryl semi-gloss waterborne enamel tinted to Resene Half Drought. One set was used to store art supplies (left), the other for an artful arrangement of sewing bits and bobs.

“Housekeeping is neither noble nor ignoble, it’s practical,” says Sandra Felton, bestselling author and founder of the hugely popular support group Messies Anonymous. At a basic level, it’s about creating a living space for ourselves and our families. For some of us this starts with reclaiming spaces in our home that have been lost to chronic mess.

Whatever your disposition, the annual spring clean offers us a chance to refresh and revitalise our surroundings. It’s the season of the year to do more than simply clean up after yourself or others. It’s an opportunity to clear out spaces, rediscover surfaces and reassess what’s currently not working in terms of flow and maximising space.

Notebook for to-do list

Refurbished table

Notebook: Lacking motivation? Make a to-do list and reward yourself by ticking off items as you go. Research shows that accomplishing set goals gives us an “efficacy boost”, helping us feel good. Source: Psychology today.  Table: Go for a soft, natural look by rubbing down that old table and coating it with a beeswax finish.

And the good news is that once spaces are cleared and cleaned, even somewhat, we can enjoy getting creative with these fresh new places.

Don’t aim for perfection. If you’re a naturally messy person, you may feel as though you can’t clean things unless you do it perfectly. Fact is, there’s no right or perfect way to clean something.

Think of the maxim ‘something in, something out’ and let that be a motivating principle. If you were to add a shelf, cupboard or other item of furniture, what would it be? Now might be the time to reinvent a piece of furniture with a fresh coat of paint. Perhaps you can better arrange what you have or repurpose an item from elsewhere in the house.

A retro map of New Zealand

Colourful bookshelf

Room with vintage map: Maps make aesthetically pleasing wall coverings as well as being satisfyingly educational! Think second-hand – this one was a steal on TradeMe. Vintage anglepoise table and floor lamps are a British design classic. Keep an eye out for replicas or pick up a newly rewired retro model from antique stores such as La Vitrine. Boxes, magazine files, folders, pens and blue and green notebooks from Kikki-K; small notebooks from Iko Iko; cushion from Citta Design; pencil holder from Collected; hourglass from French Country Collections; lamp from La Vitrine.  Bookshelf: If you’re not painting the shelves, wipe down surfaces with an eco-friendly cleaner and a well wrung-out cloth Only put back those items you want to have on display, clustering your most attractive collectables on the upper shelves and more practical items lower down – or elsewhere! Group books into clusters of similar colours for a less cluttered look We used Resene testpots for the coloured backgrounds. Testpots are ideal when you only need to cover a small area and fancy experimenting with bold new shades Treat yourself to stylish new storage boxes or repurpose large shoeboxes with a coat of paint. Use these to store unsightly items such as DVDs or stationery Only keep the best games! Completed puzzles can be taken to an op-shop or school gala, or swapped with friends for a new one to try. Silver candlesticks, silver photo frames, magnifying glass, glass baubles and vase from French Country Collections; ceramic origami crane and dinosaur from Collected; blue glass bird and ‘Aroha’ bowl from The Poi Room; blue and white boxes from Kikki-K.

Try starting with the room you spend the most time in – or the space in your house that bugs you the most. That way you’ll get results you can appreciate every day, inspiring you to do more.

Feeling overwhelmed? Think of your challenge as creating an oasis in a desert of mess and muddle. Make it a priority to maintain that oasis, then as you’re ready, add another and another.

As you work your way through your home, consider the difference between clutter and collectables. As organisational expert peter Walsh says, it isn’t just the stuff in your cupboards. “It’s anything that gets between you and the life you want to be living, whether it’s in your home, in your head, in your heart or on your hips.”

Tidy and refurbished cubby holes

Bookshelf before painting

Bookshelf before painting 2

Develop a healthy passion for clear surfaces; first create them by clearing horizontal surfaces of clutter. Cleaning things with warm water and a pleasant-smelling eco cleaner is easy when you have space to work in.

Pay attention to what is being kept. Is it beautiful or useful? If functional, are these items collected together in a practical way (for example, Lego in a rummageable suitcase, stored under a child’s bed). If beautiful, are they on display and arranged in complementary clusters – for example, by shade or colour?

Reward yourself as you go. Verbally congratulate yourself, post a picture online for friends to see, or treat yourself to a moment in the sun with a freshly brewed cup of tea.

According to Peter Walsh, the secret to successful decluttering is this: “You will never get organised if you don’t have a vision for the life you want. Ask yourself, ‘Does this thing create that vision or get in the way of that vision?’ If it does, hold on to it with all your life. If it doesn’t, why is it in your home?”

Step-by-step instructions

Bookshelves can become dumping grounds for all sorts of miscellanea and bits of junk. Here’s how to give them a makeover!

Step 1:  Remove everything. Find a home for it elsewhere or put everything in a banana box to keep the mess contained.

Step 2:  Take a hard look at the the shelves. Is it time for a new colour?

Step 3:  Lightly sand shelves, wipe with a soft cloth and give them a new look with cool neutrals and a splash of fresh colour. We used the neutral Resene Black White and added zing with Resene Citrus, Resene Pelorus and Resene Chelsea Cucumber.

Top tips

Words Sarah Heeringa. Styling Rebekah White. Photography Tony Brownjohn.

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Good magazine projects
Wanting to tackle a project at your place but only have a weekend to spare? Get inspired with these projects from Good magazine. Reclaim and upcycle with paint.

View Good projects | View all projects


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Colours shown on this website are a representation only. Please refer to the actual paint or product sample. Resene colour charts, testpots and samples are available for ordering online.   See measurements/conversions for more details on how electronic colour values are achieved.

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