Recently, I spent a gorgeous spring day hermetically sealed inside my house to protect my delicate nasal passages from allergens. My confinement led to some unexpected spring-cleaning with unexpected benefits.

I tackled my home office, a corner of my bedroom organized for maximum inefficiency. I tossed. I shredded. I unburdened my tiny work space of years of receipts, notes and magazine articles I had clipped for inspiration only to lose in a haze of good intentions. By day's end, the office was spotless and I felt alive! Apparently, the sight of a clutter-free desk put a twinkle in my neatnik husband's eye. He liked that clean office. A lot. Let's just say the equation looked a little like this:

Clean office + Appreciative husband = Most enthusiasm since Great Garage Cleanout of '07

So it got me thinking about how other common spring-cleaning chores could my improve the relationships in my life. Fortunately, professional organizers love lists almost as much as I do, so I had plenty of fresh ideas for cleaning up my relationships.

Washing windows + My 81-year-old mother = Incident-free Sunday dinner

Of course, my mother notices the hard water spots on my windows left by the sprinklers. Her raised eyebrows and furtive glances tell me so. Once during a visit, I left the house for five minutes. By the time I got home, my mother, who recently spent months in rehab for a broken hip, had the stepladder out, placed it on an uneven dirt surface and was attempting to clean the windows herself. But, if I washed those windows before the next family dinner, we could all eat in peace, without need of stepladders, raised eyebrows or ER visits.

Vacuum refrigerator coils – Demanding help from my children = Leverage at mealtimes

It's never occurred to me to vacuum my refrigerator coils, but I saw this on so many helpful spring-cleaning lists, I thought I'd give it a try. And, the double benefit is the guilt I can turn around on my kids when they refuse to help. The request for more milk can now be answered with, "You didn't vacuum the fridge coils, so I'm not getting you any milk." Who knew vacuuming would lead to such healthy communication between parents and kids?

Scrubbing patios, driveways and walkways x Number of neighbors who drive by and notice = No more complaining about the barking dog

There's nothing like sprucing up the outside of your house to quiet complaining neighbors. Making a big production out of improving the overall property values on the street could be the best way to buy us a few months' grace period for our barking German shepherd. I may even rent a power washer and get a year's free barking if I offer to do the sidewalk of the guy next door!

How do/will you spring-clean your relationships? Comment below.

Lian Dolan is a mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, writer and talk show host. She writes and talks about her adventures in modern motherhood for her website,, and her weekly podcast, The Chaos Chronicles.

How to get rid of the clutter in your home and your relationships


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