Every spring we get to the point where a good spring cleaning is much needed. Today’s episode starts a new series where we will be going through the acronym C-L-E-A-N to help us clean up, organize, and declutter all areas of our life. From our home, to the classroom or car. We are starting with the letter “C”: clear, classify, and categorize.

Spring Cleaning Series, Part 1 Transcript

Welcome to our spring cleaning series. Unlike the Essentialism book series, this is going to be full of small actionable tips to help you clean up, declutter, clarify, organize all of the things in literally every area of your life. We’re going to talk about examples from the classroom, to your home, to your personal life, to your devices, to your car, all of it is going to be covered in our handy dandy little acronym CLEAN. 

What’s going to be different about this series is if you’re listening to this live when it comes out on March 26th, then on the Wednesday episode, I’m going to be answering your questions about specific situations that you have and if you need help trying to tackle them. 

So if we go through this episode, for our first step of the clean process, and you just aren’t sure how to apply it to your situation, shoot me an email at hello@engineerdoeseducation.com, or a DM over on Instagram @engineerdoeseducation or @simplesystemswithsampodcast and we’re going to answer it for you. 

The answers to your spring cleaning questions are going to come out on the Wednesday episode. That way you can still tackle this step in the week by answering any of the little concerns or questions you have about how it might apply to your English classroom, how you do this, or if you have teenagers in your house. All of those things.

I also am really excited about this series because not only do I constantly need to do this, the goal is always for us to simplify and to declutter and to try to shift our mindset into something that is going to be easy. And what better way to do that than to do it in the springtime before summer. 

Gosh, can you just imagine a summer of less cleaning, less worrying, less looking for things, less being distracted, because we’ve managed to control it. And this time right now, I’m so pumped for you guys, and I’m so pumped for me. I just can’t wait for us to get through it. 

Backstory on the Acronym CLEAN

I want to give you a little backstory on the acronym thing. I consider acronyms and sketchnoting to be on the same level. Adding either a visual reminder or a simple way to remember something like with an acronym can be so powerful. 

The other day I was thinking about it, because there was a book I read back in 2018 called The Miracle Morning. It was about the things you should do each morning to have a more productive and efficient day. And the acronym that went with it was SAVERS. 

I remember that still five years later, trying to think it through. Okay, if I was going to add in one more step to my morning, what would it be? Oh, SAVERS! Those were some great steps. Maybe I should think back on it. 

So while I don’t anticipate you to think back five years from now and go, Oh, yes, CLEAN, this is the acronym. I do think that it’s a nice easy way to remember as you go through this in different stages of your life. Or if right now is not the time for you to be tackling this mess, and you don’t want to re-listen to the episode (which it’s always there for you), then you can remember the acronym whenever you are ready to tackle these spaces. So clean is our acronym C L E A N. 

Clear Off Flat Surfaces

To start off spring cleaning, we’re going to cover “C” of the acronym. We’re going to clear, classify, and categorize. I know I said I wanted an acronym to be simple, but if you remember even just one piece of that, I think you’re going to remember how we’re going to tackle today. 

So this whole week, I want you to spend time cleaning off the flat surfaces that you have. I want you to look at every flat surface in your classroom and in your home and see how much stuff there is on it. 

We talked about how inventory and the things that are around us can really mess mentally with all the things that are added to our mental To Do List. Everything that’s out, everything that’s looking at us reminding you to do something with that item.

Clear off, and clean off the flat surfaces. They only collect things because they’re easy. It’s so easy for you to walk into your kitchen and put down all of your stuff on the countertop. So what if we just cleared that off, and got into the habit of over and over again, putting those things away. 

Go through a good cleaning right now, where all of the spaces in our home one by one get cleared of everything that’s there.

It’s going to take a while, and I don’t actually expect that they’re going to stay clear this whole week. But one good clearing is going to give you a great idea of how we move forward. Because as we are clearing, we’re going to classify these things. 

As you run into something…like right now I’m looking at my desk in my office. I have a lot of stuff. I’ve been working on decluttering my office. I need a hole punch and binder things. So there’s stuff everywhere. 

I moved my flare pens into this nice little portable tote, and it’s on my desk. I have so many different printouts of the #75Simple Challenge that we just started, so that I could test and make sure those printables were ready for you. You can still find those here you’re interested in starting with us. 

So we’re going to clear these flat surfaces. That includes counters, floors, benches, your car floorboards and cup holders. It includes your desk at school, your kids desks at school. The top of the bookshelf. Everything that is just sitting on something else without a contained home for it to go to.

Classify the Items

As you go through the things you remove from the flat surfaces, you’re going to classify them, that’s the second part of “C”. 

We’re going to start with the easy one: trash. If you don’t need it in the long run, and it’s just kind of hanging out there, then we’re going to trash it. 

We don’t need the trash to sit on our flat surfaces any longer and just clutter it all up. Sometimes we don’t think it’s trash…yet. So instead of trashing it, we have to decide which room it would actually belong to. Which space should it go in? You’re going to create a little basket or a little bag for each of these areas. 

These are going to stay out as we go through this entire week, slowly clearing off the surfaces, and then maybe circling back around.  

Classify Items at Home

At home, you’ll have a bag, or a small bin, for different rooms of your house. Maybe one for your kids’ rooms, your room, the garage, the basement, whatever it might be. And as things keep appearing, you can sort them into who they belong to, or what room they should go in. 

Classify Items at School

At school, I would honestly consider doing a pretty similar thing. But you might have different categories that you classify things into such as: Lost and Found for student things, or things that weren’t put back where they should go. 

Maybe they belong in a different section of the room altogether. Or maybe they were just not fully put back. That is something though, if students were not putting things back appropriately, I would leave that in a bin so that they can be responsible for putting things back where they go. We do need to practice that with our kids sometimes. 

Then there’s also a constant category. Things that are constantly going to be put out and left in that one spot. That means that it needs a home in that area. So for right now put it in a cabinet or a drawer, right where you keep finding it. We will actually give it a permanent home and a later step. 

You are then going to have the things that don’t have a home. The things that you don’t think are trash, but you really don’t truly know where they belong yet. Give yourself an extra bin, and we’re just going to call this the “catch all.” This is for all the things that we just don’t know what to do with, yet, but we will find a way. 

Put Items Into Categories

Once you have gone and classified all the things that are out, we need to look at the categories of things. So pay attention to what bins fill up the fastest. What types of things are getting left out in those spaces? Think through if those categories of things are in one spot, or spread out. 

I’m going to use myself as an example because I have a weird obsession with collecting tote bags. I just think that they’re so cute, and then I’d never actually use them anymore. But I have a collection of like weekend or overnight tote bags in my linen closet in my master bedroom, in the hall linen closet, and then also in the basement with our luggage. There are also some in the laundry room where we take these tote bags to go. 

Realizing that I have them in all of those spaces also makes me realize how many that I have. So while you don’t necessarily have to collect them together yet, I would really make sure that you know how many multipliers you have. How many locations do you have to where it looks like your collection is not that big, but really it’s just multiplying the total number of items from that category. 

So when I thought I only had two or three totes because that’s all I was seeing on a regular basis in my laundry room, I actually have three locations of them, so I have closer to 10. I don’t need 10 tote bags. I am now aware of that. Just becoming aware and kind of taking in that data is all that I need right now. We will tackle it in a later week. 

Maybe right now you don’t have the energy to go through and do all of the steps with it. That’s totally fine. If you think you do, then you can trash some of them right now. 

There’s a lot to just be cleared off this week. To put into the categories, to classify it to figure out what things are worth it and what things aren’t. But having a clear counter, clear tabletops…walking into a space where clutter is not staring back at you on every flat surface (which there are a lot of flat surfaces), is going to feel like the big boost and kickstart that we need going into spring cleaning everything else. 

So I want you to tackle this in your home or apartment, in your classroom where again, you might have to get a little bit creative with how you classify the items that you clear off in what sections you create. Do this with your car. Not much is going to need to stay in your car. So most of it’s going to be able to come out. And also with any other flat surfaces that you encounter in your daily life in your routines. Whether that is a locker, a random cabinet and closet that you might have at school. Or if you help manage the children’s rooms at church. Whatever it could be, we’re going to work on our flat surfaces this week, in clearing them off. 

A Bonus Step

A bonus follow-up step that I want to put out there is that you can go ahead and wipe down and really scrub through and clean off the surfaces. 

I know that by wiping down my lab cabinets and my lab stations at school, I feel a lot better about what’s back there. And also my counters. I have this really nice smelling counter spray that I almost never use because there’s stuff everywhere. But once they’re cleared off, I’m going to town and my kitchen is going to smell heavenly. 

So take that extra little step. And then you’re going to feel better, keeping it clean over and over and over again as we go through the week. 

Again, it might get out of control as we keep going. You might kind of slowly see yourself start to fall off, but if you just keep these category bins out where you can classify everything in where they go, then having those bins is going to allow people to look for their own items in the bin and see how much they contribute to the kind of mess and clutter that is around on these flat surfaces. But it is also going to empower potentially other people in your household to help put them away. And we’re all here for that, aren’t we? 


That is just the first step in our spring CLEANing acronym. If you have any questions or any situations you think are unique, or something that you would like help with or even suggestions for what you think people can do to make this process a little bit smoother and simpler, please go ahead and send me an email either at hello@engineerdoeseducation.com or over at Instagram @engineerdoeseducation or @simplesystemswithsampodcast. I look forward to hearing from you. 

I hope that you are getting ready to start, or have already started your #75Simple Challenge. Check out episode 48 if you’re not sure what I’m talking about. I cannot wait until next time. 

If you missed the last post, visit the link below:

48: End of School Year Reset; The #75Simple Challenge


5 Steps to Simplify Your To Do List

Focus Blocks

Productivity Planner

Unit Planning Kit

How to Find Me


Instagram –  @engineerdoeseducation

Instagram – @simplesystemswithsampodcast


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Email: hello@engineerdoeseducation.com

Keywords: flat surfaces, clean, classify, declutter, simple, clearing, classroom, category,