Short on time to tidy up before Chinese New Year’s traditional spring cleaning? Don’t want to miss this ritual, so you can usher in good luck for the year ahead? Don’t fret!
I’m a pro at this (see my bio, below), and can assure you, this list of 20 small areas should take you no more than 15 minutes each to declutter.
Why? There are no sentimental items on the list, so you can make quick and easy decisions without getting stuck. If you think some areas might take you longer, you can always break them down into sub-areas.
Imagine how much lighter you’ll feel by the time Chinese New Year arrives, if you tackle one or two of those areas a day. Ready to get started? Set your timer for 15 minutes… and go!
- Expired food: This is a no-brainer, right? Why would you risk making yourself sick by consuming expired food? Break down this area into fridge and pantry sub-areas, if needed.
- Plastic food containers: Have you noticed how plastic food containers quickly multiply?! Get rid of the containers and lids that are damaged or stained and smelly, as well as any lids without matching containers or containers without matching lids.
- Mugs, cups, glasses and/or water bottles: Get rid of the ones that are cracked, damaged or missing lids. To help you define how many you should keep, take into consideration your family size, the maximum number that are out at any point of time, the size of your parties, etc. Save the ones that match your tableware and any favourites. The rest can go!
- Cooking utensils: Get rid of those gadgets that serve only one purpose and you hardly use. There’s a lot you can do with just a knife and chopping board! It will save you time when prepping and cooking food, if you can easily access your indispensable tools.
- Makeup: Did you know that cosmetics have expiry dates, too? Don’t risk irritating your skin or worse, and get rid of makeup with a change in texture or bad smell. Check this infographic for beauty products expiration dates.
- Medicine: Dispose of medicines that have expired, look old or damaged, you don’t use or are unsure how to use. If you throw the expired medicine in your dustbin, make sure your children or pets won’t be able to access them, by emptying unfinished bottles in the sink.
- Linens: Get rid of ones that are torn and stained. Set a number per family member and keep your favourites. Break down this area into bedlinen and towels sub-areas, if needed.
- Sleepwear: Get rid of ones that are stained and torn. If you wear pyjama sets only, get rid of any random pieces.
- Workout clothes: Get rid of ones that are torn and stained. Ideally, you should keep only ones for the activities you currently practise. But, if something falls into the “aspirational clutter” category for you, just move on.
- Lingerie and/or swimming attire: Get rid of ones that are torn, stained, with faded colours or stretched elastic bands, etc. If you wear sets only, get rid of any random pieces.
- Socks: Get rid of single socks, and ones with holes, that are scratchy, that are too tight or too loose.
- Belts: Get rid of those that are damaged, no longer fit you and no longer match your lifestyle or fashion style.
- Scarves: Get rid of ones that are torn, stained, with faded colours, out of shape or no longer fit your fashion style. If you still have too many, sort them by colour, fabric/thickness, size/shape or whatever category makes sense to you. Keep your favourites in each category.
- Outgrown clothes and/or shoes: Put away ones that are still in good condition, that you like and can be handed down to a younger sibling. Label the container in which you will store them with gender and age group, so you know when to bring it down again.
- Broken toys and/or missing critical parts: Did you know that the average 10-year-old child in the U.K. owns 238 toys, but plays with only 12 daily? Make yourself and your child a favour, and get rid of those that are broken and missing critical parts – and will likely never get fixed.
- Old newspapers and/or magazines: What’s the point of keeping old newspapers and/or magazines, unless you keep them as a neatly organised collection? Otherwise, if there’s a specific article you want to read or recipe you want to try, tear the page off or take a photo of it, and recycle the rest. (Tip: You can also download all of The Finder issues for free here.)
- Outdated travel guides: I know books can be difficult to let go of. But amongst books, travel guides are usually an easy category to part with. Let go of those that are outdated and related to places you won’t be traveling again to anytime soon. A travel guide can always be borrowed when you need it, and there’s plenty of information to be found online.
- Paper piles on your desk: Get rid of the trash. Sort the remaining papers into a “to do” pile and a “to file” pile. Put each pile into a folder and those folders into a magazine holder, if you have some readily available, on your desk. Paper piles always attract more paper and end up as clutter. Download my free Get Organised & Beyond guide to taming paper clutter.
- Pencil holder: Sort writing utensils into categories: pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, crayons, etc. Trash the ones that no longer work (make sure to test them). Keep only two to four in each category. The extras can go into a box or zip-seal bag into one of your desk drawers for future use, or donate them, if you really have too many.
- Desk drawers: Get rid of the junk, the empty packaging, the cables of devices you no longer own, the expired medicine, etc., etc. Return any items that don’t belong in your desk to their proper homes.
About Nathalie Ricaud
French expat Nathalie Ricaud is a professional organiser and founder of Get Organised & Beyond. She helps families who feel overwhelmed by all the stuff they’ve accumulated in their homes, or by all the activities they’re trying to fit into their schedules, establishing systems so they can create and maintain an organised and peaceful home and make time for meaningful things in their life. In addition to the hands-on work she does with clients, she is also the author of a blog and a speaker at events on the topic of clutter and organisation.
By Nathalie Ricaud, January 2019
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