As winter wanes away and spring begins to gleam in the distance, I always find myself wanting to simplify my life, to give my house a fresh start, to ditch the clutter and begin again. I’m sure this has much to do with the sheer quantity of time I spend in my house in the winter months. I get overwhelmed by how much stuff I have around and anticipate how much more stuff I’m likely to accumulate in the next ten months of the year. The urge to purge is strong and relentless.
At the same time, the desire to “start fresh” and to “simplify your life” can seem a bit overwhelming. How do you start fresh? Where do you start from?! The famous “KonMari method” is widely popular, but it involves a major life-overhaul which takes major time. Now that the holidays are over, most of us are back in full work/school/life swing, and our free time is precious.
So if you want to reduce the clutter in your life, here are some quick tasks which you can accomplish if you have twenty minutes or an hour to spare. You’ll get a “quick fix,” and hopefully the satisfaction will help spur you on to further achievements!
01. Clean out your mug collection.
When I first got out of college and got my own place, I started buying mugs and apparently never stopped. Don’t get me wrong, mugs are great: they’re cute, functional, cheap, and an easy way to make my home decor feel “mine.” They’re an easy gift to give/receive, and over the years I’ve accumulated over 20 mugs. But I only use two of them with any regularity. My roommates were in similar boats, so a few months ago we did a major mug clean out, and it was fantastic. It took us about 20 minutes to assess the mugs we used, the mugs we still liked, and mugs that had served their purpose but no longer “sparked joy.” Goodbye clutter, hello kitchen storage!
02. Go through your linen closet.
I just looked through my linen storage and realized I’m hoarding random top sheets that I haven’t used in years. One was my grandmother’s, which I was keeping for sentimental reasons—but of course that’s not the purpose of a sheet! Another I grabbed from a lost-and-found giveaway in college and have apparently moved with five times since. I have a couple towels that are fraying and bleached out which I never use because they’re not “nice.” But I’ve been keeping them “just in case”—don’t ask me in case of what! So take 30 minutes (or an hour or two, if you’re in a larger household!), and take stock. Do you have old, worn-out sheets that you no longer need? Old towels that have served their time? Let yourself say goodbye to these items, and replace them if necessary with a quick run to TJMaxx or Home Goods, which always have great deals on linens.
03. Jumpstart your winter wardrobe clean out.
There’s no better time to assess a seasonal wardrobe than in the middle or at the end of that season: you remember what you wore and what you didn’t wear, you know what fits, you know what you like. Start paying attention to your habits and tastes now before it’s time to switch over to spring! If you want a little extra help, or if you live where the weather stays relatively the same all year and so don’t have these “seasonal” wardrobes, try Hilary Rushford’s “Ribbon and Record” method! Rushford uses this method to diversify outfitting, but she also recommends it as a way to evaluate what you do/don’t wear without setting aside a whole day to try things on.
Basically, you put a ribbon on one of the far edges of your closet and move clothes from one side of the ribbon to the other as you wear them. (For folded items, place a piece of cardboard or sheet of paper on the top of the pile or front of the drawer and move items to the other side as you wear them.) This is a simple way to assess what pieces you actually wear with regularity and what pieces you do not. It’s easy to deceive ourselves about what we like and wear, and this little trick makes it easy to see the truth.
This process will save you the day-long task of trying on all your clothes, trying to combine things in new ways, and the like. Let your daily dressing do the work for you! After three or four weeks, assess what you haven’t yet worn, and make a trip to Goodwill. Rushford notes that there may be items you haven’t worn which you choose to keep (formal items, investment pieces, etc.), but the process should reveal a lot that you can happily get rid of. Your closet will be less cluttered (as will your mind!). Plus, you’ll have space for a few new spring things when the time comes.
04. Re-organize a small space.
Bathrooms, front porches, closets—these are defined spaces that can be de-cluttered quickly without requiring a major overhaul of your life and home. Take a few minutes to look over the space, see what you’d like to trade out for new or different pieces. In the bathroom: old soaps that you can toss? Bottles that can be combined? Shampoos that you tried and didn’t like? Burned-out candles that can be replaced with a new, fresh scent? Can you eliminate some counter-clutter? Front porches: are there pots of dead plants you can toss or replace? Shoes that have piled up? Cobwebs you can hose off? Furniture that’s broken? Closets: what are you saving that bag-of-bags for? Are there wrapping paper rolls that should be tossed? Random articles of clothing people have left behind?
05. Take things down.
Since the new year started, I’ve found myself feeling a bit trapped in my bedroom. I live far from my family and many of my closest friends, so I generally like to have pictures of them around and about. Some are pasted around my mirror. Others are strung on a cute clothes-pin line. I also have postcards from various trips artfully placed on the walls—or so I thought until recently, when I began to feel like I was living inside a memory-box, not a peaceful bedroom. So take a few minutes for a room (try your bedroom, work room, or living room) to evaluate what walls feel cluttered. Strip them down, and add back only the things that currently spark joy. Hold on to any photos or mementos that are special to you—maybe invest in a photo album, scrapbook, or small memory box to store them in. But giving yourself a blank canvas to work from is key to re-creating a space you enjoy being in.
These are just a few ideas for mini-(re)organizational tasks that can help you simplify your life in achievable baby steps. Getting rid of physical clutter is a great beginning to eliminate mental clutter too. Happy simplifying!