Ask Erin: Starting Your New Year Right
by Erin Sharplin Love
Is one of your goals for this year to get more organized? If so, you are not alone! Getting organized is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. We all have good intentions, but unfortunately, the resolution to find order in our lives is the one we are least likely to keep because we simply do not have a good plan to execute the promise.
To make sure you don’t become one of the statistics, I’ve created an organizing checklist for each month of the upcoming year. Each checklist contains tasks, along with tips, on how to complete each task efficiently so you are less likely to become discouraged during the organizing process.
Set your yearly goals – Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a successful entrepreneur, setting goals is an important part of getting things done. Rarely does a goal happen if you don’t commit to it. Write it down so it becomes real to you; then keep the list where you will see it every day. Feel free to add to the list monthly.
Clear out the holidays – Try not to procrastinate on putting away your holiday décor and gifts . Hopefully, you already have a convenient storage spot, but if not, consider large, clear, plastic bins! They are economical, stackable, easy to see through, and keep dirt and critters away. Finding space for the new gifts might require clearing out old or unused items.
Organize your photos – I will bet that you took a lot of pictures over the holidays, but haven’t even thought about organizing them right away. Instead of letting the pictures pile up on your phone or camera, print them as soon as possible or set up a “Christmas 2014” folder on your computer. You will thank me later!
Start preparing for tax time – If you haven’t already, now is the time to set aside a separate file for tax-related paperwork that will be arriving in the mail. You can also start organizing your receipts and statements for the past year so they will be ready for your tax preparer.
Reorganize your master bedroom – The master bedroom should be a place of complete relaxation for you and your significant other, so take time to declutter and organize the space this month. Clear out anything that is weighing you down and that you don’t love. Consider changing your bedspread or duvet cover – you wouldn’t believe how good it feels to make this slight change. Remove anything that might be hiding under the bed, and clean thoroughly so the relaxing energy has room to flow.
Toss any expired medication – I think the medicine cabinet is one of the most overlooked areas in a home. I suggest taking time once a year to toss any medication that has expired, and then make a list of items that need to be replaced, such as band aids, hydrogen peroxide, pain relievers, etc. Pharmaceutical research suggests that expired medication might not pose a life-threatening risk, but the potency of an expired medication may be weakened and, therefore, will not cure your ailment.
Organize your closet – The beginning of a new season is the perfect time to organize and clear clutter from your closet. Be sure to take note of what you need to toss from seasons gone by and what you need to add for the upcoming season. Shopping without a plan can backfire on you, so keep your list handy for those spur- of- the- moment outings.
Prepare for and complete spring cleaning and decorating – Now is a great time to create a spring cleaning list. Take note of what chores need to be completed and whether or not items need to be purchased in order to complete the chore. I also suggest creating a “mini zone” by corralling all cleaning and organizing products into one area or tote, so when you get ready to tackle your spring cleaning, you will have everything in one spot! It will also be uplifting to begin decorating for the upcoming Easter season, so break out the cheerful bunnies and pastel colors. *Note – This is a great time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors and check your carbon monoxide detector.
Declutter you home office – If you don’t already have an organization system in place for your home office, there is no time like now to create one. Make sure to consider your lifestyle and needs when putting a system in place for this area, or it will be sure to become a disaster zone again. My top tip is to stop clutter at the door by tossing any junk mail before it even enters your home.
Clean out your refrigerator and pantry – Like the medicine cabinet, your refrigerator and pantry can quickly become engorged with expired and ruined products, so take time, at least once a year, to give this space a thorough cleaning and detoxing.
File your taxes – Thankfully, you prepared for this task in February, so pull out your files and complete any paperwork that is still lingering before completing the tax-filing process.
Get organized for the summer – Begin planning your summer goals now! The kids will be out of school soon, so you’ll need to be prepared with some fun activities and treats.
Make a plan for completing outdoor organizing projects – For instance, how is your garage or outdoor shed looking? If it needs some maintenance, May is the perfect month – not too hot or too cold. Be sure to create a list and mini- zone so you will be prepared when that small window of time opens for you to begin this project.
Document your school routine – What worked and didn’t work for you and your children this school year? It will be in your best interest to decide what needs to be changed so the new school year can start stress free! For example, would scheduling homework time sooner or later avoid bedtime hassles or make after-school activities more enjoyable and less rushed?
Organize your child(s) room and/or playroom – Get rid of anything your child no longer uses or needs. Remember, the closets are more than likely full of clothes she has outgrown! *Tip – Create a “summer fun” basket for each child that is filled with his/her favorite outdoor games and paraphernalia. When the time comes, all she will need to do is grab and go!
Clear and prepare your outdoor entertaining area – Collect all grilling utensils, plastic serving pieces, beach towels, and anything else you use for this area on a yearly basis. Replace anything that you have run out of or that no longer works for your needs. Now you are ready to plan your first summer party!
Corral all of your child(s) artwork and school papers – Create a space dedicated specifically for these items. I suggest customizing filing totes or baskets for each child. Once the basket is at its capacity, ask your child to help you get rid of any items he isn’t attached to.
Declare independence! – Schedule fifteen minutes each day of this month to tackle a clutter hotspot in or around your home – Need an idea of where to start? Drawers are the perfect spot!
Prepare for Back-to-School – You should have already assessed what worked from last year and what didn’t, so now all you need to do is get all school bags and supplies purchased and in order. And, take that last summer trip, too!
Organize your car – This is a task that should be handled once a month, but if you can find time only once a year, August is the perfect time. Go over every hotspot that you can think of and create a storage system. For example, purchase a folding cargo box for the trunk of your car or the back of an SUV to store jumper cables, shopping items, and toys to keep the kids occupied on long (or short) trips.
Prepare for fall sports – Most children are in some sort of school sport, so create another mini- zone so you never leave home without an important accessory again!
Evaluate your fall décor – Now is the time to prepare your fall décor. Does anything need to be replaced or fixed? If so, take time to do it this month.
Organize a shopping list – I can never stress enough the importance of shopping with a list! It doesn’t matter if you are grocery shopping, convenient-store shopping, or clothing shopping, creating and sticking to a list will save you time and money in the long run; so this month, create a master shopping list for each store you frequent.
Check in on your goals – Remember the goals you set at the beginning of the year? How are those coming? If you’ve” fallen off the wagon” a bit, make the commitment to begin again and with renewed fervor.
Organize the coat closet – Make sure everyone is prepared for winter by checking for correct sizes and worn-out clothing. If you don’t have a “coat closet,” create a space near the door for cold-weather items.
Prepare for Halloween – What will the kids wear this year? Will it be homemade or purchased? Make a shopping list for what needs to be done NOW so the date doesn’t sneak up on you. Don’t forget to start buying candy, too!
Schedule seasonal photos – Photographers tend to book up during the holidays, so book your Christmas card sessions ahead of time!
Begin holiday decorating and decluttering – Get rid of and replace any broken items or those things you no longer love and use; then create a plan for completing the decorating process.
Organize a menu plan – Get ready for the fast-approaching holidays by creating your menu plan early in the month. What will you bring to Thanksgiving dinner this year? What about Christmas dinner? You should also prepare for unexpected guests by creating frozen meals that are easy to pull out and pop in the oven.
Refresh the guest room – Be sure to begin washing bed and bath linens so that they are fresh when your guests arrive. It is also a nice idea to set out a few toiletries (toothbrush, mouthwash, soap, lotions) that they might have forgotten to bring themselves. I love organizing these items in a cute apothecary jar or basket, and then set it on the bathroom counter.
Finish your holiday shopping – I suggest doing this at the very beginning of this month if you haven’t completed it yet! Remember to make a plan and a list, but don’t forget to attach those holiday coupons and specials to it.
Consider your goals for the new year – Maybe you could start a journal or notebook that will help keep you on track for 2015.
Let go of ten things – As a final task, I challenge you to take a walk through your house and notice any items that you haven’t used in the past year. They could be duplicate appliances, collectibles, clothing, shoes, décor items…anything and everything is open for consideration. Now, grab a bin and place at least ten items in it. If you aren’t totally sure you want to donate or trash these items, try storing them in your attic for a few months. If you don’t think about or remember these items by this time next year, out they go! Then you can begin the whole process again.
Getting organized is an extremely cleansing and uplifting experience if done correctly and at your own pace. Hopefully, this checklist inspires you to start 2015 with an organized bang!