Project 1: Mudroom and entry.
If you haven’t done it yet, it’s time to put away the last of the flip-flops and beach bags to make room for the boots and backpacks.
- Launder beach towels and stash them away for the season. If a pool is part of your life during the off-season (lucky you!), keep these items accessible but tuck them away in a spot like the linen closet. Or keep them in a bin or beach bag in a storage space. Take inventory: If you have way more towels than you used this summer, consider donating a few. If some look like they don’t have another summer left in them, donate them to an animal shelter or repurpose them as cleaning rags.
- Take an inventory of summer sports equipment and donate any items your kids aren’t using anymore. Put aside the things they won’t need until next summer.
- Shake the sand out of beach and pool bags, then use the bags to stash beach toys, badminton sets, goggles, swimsuits, bocce balls, snorkels, sunscreens and flip-flops. It will help you keep your summer things together. Move everything to your long-term storage space until you need it again.
Project 2: Makeup and toiletries.
Work on this drawer by drawer, shelf by shelf, bin by bin. Begin with a wastebasket, a donation box and several shoeboxes next to you.
- The shoeboxes are for grouping similar things together: first aid and pain-relief medications, the things you use on your face, hair products, dental items, everything you pack when traveling — you get the picture. You’ll eventually group similar items together when you’re putting everything back in an organized way. And from now on you’ll know where to find everything and when you need to replace something. When these items are kept haphazardly all over the house, you wind up with five half-empty boxes of Band-Aids you can never find when you cut your finger.
- Check for expiration dates on everything from makeup to medicine. Toss outdated cosmetics, samples, nail polishes and razor blades.
- While sun protection is important year-round, put away the all-over sunscreen sprays and sticky waterproof stuff you use at the beach or the pool in the aforementioned beach bags you’re going to stow. Again, check expiration dates.
- Decide just how many samples swiped from hotels you truly need. Donate the unopened products you’re never going to use and start using the ones you like immediately. Plan on trying one every night, or donate them to your kids’ dress-up kits.
Project 3: The kitchen.
Out with the gazpacho and popsicles, in with the hot soups and cocoa. This is a project you may want to break down and work on over a number of days.
- Clean out the refrigerator. Get rid of crusty condiments and expired foods and give the whole thing a good wipe-down.
- Attack the cabinets and drawers. Look for mixing bowls, small appliances, gadgets, utensils and tableware you never use and put them in the donation box. Put summery items like melamine tableware, picnic supplies and tablecloths into deeper storage to make room for the slow cooker and school lunch supplies. Put the items you don’t love in the donation box. If you’ve been hoarding wrapped plastic utensils, give them to the next driver who delivers food to your house.
- Organize the pantry. Take everything out, do an expiration date check and wipe down the shelves.
- Make room on bulletin boards, and if you tend to post things on the fridge, attack that area too. Take everything down and put it in a neat pile with the recycling bin next to you. Review each invitation, certificate and to-do list and enter it on the calendar or contact list. Rehang anything that’s still pending.
Project 4: Kids’ artwork.
Plenty more is about to come home from this year’s art classes, so you’d better make room.
- Designate the amount you can save — say, one plastic bin or one drawer or one large scrapbook’s worth.
- Go through everything with your kids — keep the pieces that mean the most to everyone and toss the rest. You can document artwork with your digital camera or scanner as you go so you won’t feel as though the work you’re tossing will be gone forever.
- Turn it into a project. Collect photos and scans in a digital book, create a scrapbook of original works or buy a bunch of inexpensive frames and mats to create a children’s art gallery wall.
- Designate one bin or a large scrapbook and keep only what can fit. You can always keep copies of the rest digitally.
- Make this curation process a yearly tradition when new art projects start coming through the door. Kids will be excited to show off their new works and be more willing to let the old stuff go.
Project 5: Digital detritus.
I like that you can do this project on the fly. Cleaning out your phone or tablet is the modern-day equivalent of cleaning out your bag in the waiting room when there aren’t any good magazines around.
- First, imagine that your laptop, smartphone or tablet was destroyed. What would you be sad to lose? What aspects of losing it and starting over would make you feel relieved? You now have a guide for what to back up and what to ditch.
- Photos can take a long time to organize but can be done in increments whenever you need to kill 10 minutes. Delete the ones that you don’t like or are repeats. Upload the ones you want to save to your favorite photo-organizing site or the cloud. Organize your digital albums and make sure they’re backed up. From now on, try to get in the habit of deleting unwanted photos the night after you take a big batch or right after you return from a trip.
- Go on an “unsubscribe” tear. Sort through your clogged email in-box and unsubscribe from the sites that no longer interest you, over-eager coupon senders, dangerously tempting sales announcements, businesses that are always begging for a Facebook “like” or Yelp review and other digital junk mail.
- By now you know which apps you find useful. Get rid of the rest. Remove any icons you don’t use on a weekly basis from your desktop. Look through your bookmarks and delete any that aren’t important to you anymore. While you’re in there, reorganize your bookmark folders.
- Go through your Google drive. Because a lot is shared with me that I might need someday but will hardly ever open in the meantime, I’m a big fan of the star button. Star anything that’s important to you. From now on when you enter the drive, you’ll go straight to the starred items and ignore the rest of the clutter. When a document is no longer important to you, take its star status away.
- Realize that if you keep up with all social media platforms, you won’t have time to do anything else. Did you try Snapchat and realize you would have loved it when you were 12 years old but now, not so much? Have too much of an attention span for Vine? Haven’t tweeted since 2011? Ditch the apps you don’t use and keep only the ones that are particularly useful or enjoyable to you.