With the flip of the calendar comes an opportunity for a reset. January is as good of time as any to hit restart, to “start anew,” to wipe the slate clean. Here are 9 quick ways to start organizing your life in the New Year.
Say Goodbye To Yesterday. And by yesterday, we mean JUNK. When Santa came, he brought clutter and unwanted toys. He left mess and chaos. Say goodbye to it all! St. Nick left an emphasized look on just how much STUFF you have, especially if you have tiny humans under your roof. Now is a GREAT time to de-clutter and decide what you are ready to part with. There are many charitable organizations that will gladly accept your unwanted items, so make sure to look into donation options before tossing them in the trash.
Clean Closets. Purge, purge, and more purge. I don’t know about you, but my closets are a disaster. From the game closet to the coat closet, to my closet in my bedroom. And don’t even get me started on my kids’ closets. I have no idea how they got to be in this disastrous state, but something has gotta give. Again, looking for a charitable organization to donate to can be the icing on the cake. Did you know that several organizations come to your house and pick your used items up free of charge? The Give Back Box Program allows you to box up your items using a recycled box (and thanks to Amazon Prime, we all have extra of those!).
Check expiration dates in the pantry. Seriously, you’ll thank me. I have spent each and every winter break of my adult life going through my pantry and pitching items that have no business being in my home. The seasoning salt that you have packed up and moved to 4 different states since college? Pitch it. The box of 40 cent toothpicks that is falling apart and you’re constantly finding toothpicks on the ground? Pitch it. The half-opened pancake mix that you vividly remember using the prior winter? Pitch it. It is alarming how quickly expired goods can add up. By ridding of yourself of pantry items that are no longer good, you’re setting yourself up to see what you have on hand and save money in the future.
Meal Planning. You’ve all heard how much money meal planning can save you, but gosh darn it, it’s hard. The Type A person that used to live within me before the days of being a mom made it easy. The constantly running around, the never ending errands, and the endless to do list makes it more challenging in my current position as a working mom. That said, we do try (most weeks at least) to formulate some kind of a plan. I have gone through many different phases of meal planning, and they are as follows.
- No plan – Just open the fridge and hope for the best
- Weekly planning – Taking inventory of what we have in the freezer/ refrigerator/ pantry and setting a menu based off of the items that already exist. Grocery shopping for the other necessities
- Monthly planning – I got this idea from a friend and have loved it. This is a TON of work up front, but makes the month much easier in the area of meals. I create a menu for the entire month, typically using our staple meals each 1-2 weeks so there are plenty of copied meals. I then create a list of grocery items that can be kept for the month and do bulk shopping. Bulk shopping leads to part prep and part freezing. Then, I do much smaller grocery shopping each week to purchase items that can’t be stored all month like fresh produce. Again, this is a lot of work up front but oh, so joyous in feeling like the month isn’t being constantly spent re-planning and grocery shopping. Once it is set, it is set. To be honest, if your family doesn’t mind the same recipes again and again, you could re-use the monthly menu 12 times and be done for the year.
Check yourself. Ask yourself if you are in a job and/or career that you love. It is never too late to make changes, be it big or small. If you’ve been clamoring for a role change or feeling left out over a promotion, use your big girl (or boy) words and have a conversation. Are you striving for an option that you aren’t yet qualified for? Research what you need to attain in order to reach that next step. Talk to the right people, build your connections, take an extra class. The motto here is to not only want your dreams, but to go after them. Don’t settle for enough if you want more.
Find the right calendar for your family. Have you always used a paper and pencil calendar system, but are toying with the idea of switching to an app? Try it. Have you adapted an online calendar service but find yourself missing the tangible touch of a planner? Go back. Whatever you’ve been thinking about, let your heart guide you and TRY IT. Do what feels right, but make a pledge to organize your family events in a way that makes sense with your lifestyle. At our house, we have adapted a 3 calendar system. That, coupled with nearby storage for each of our kids, brings organization to a world of papers and schedules and reminders. Our huge calendar is color coded and lists all of the activities, plans, travels, and parties for each family member. Then, we also have a large monthly calendar that is mostly used for my deadlines. I organize what needs to be done and by when, so that I am able to visually see what is coming up next. Lastly, we have a weekly calendar where we write reminders and “to do’s.” Examples of what goes here includes homework assignments, notes about special days at school (thank you, random “pajama” and “backwards clothes” days!).
Family Goals. The budget meetings are never fun to have, especially at home. However, January is a great time to sit down as a family and set goals for what you would like to do and where you would like to save your money. At our house, we would love to plan a trip to Disney AND I’d like to save for a new camera. Our son would like to go back to Canada to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame again, our daughter would like to go to New York and visit Max and Gidget (The Secret Life of Pets, duh!), and our toddler has grand plans to return to the luxurious Boston Wharf Hotel and watch the boats come in. In summary, if we don’t set some realistic goals, time allowances, and savings, we are going to have some crushed souls at the end of 2018. Things don’t have to be set in stone, but January is a great time to start the conversations (and necessary savings). We’ve recently outlined our “big” trips that we’d like to take and set relative dates to each. Now it is time to start saving those pennies!
A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words. There comes a day when our friends and family will have nothing more than pictures and videos to remember us by. As someone who has been on the receiving news of that knowledge, I know all too well the importance of making the time to take photos. Once you take the photos however, comes the hard part: Organizing. Organizing pictures is going to look and feel very different for different people. Some people use printing services to print their photos out and store them in photo albums. While I love the tangibility of this option, it takes up a lot of space and can quickly become outdated. We have gone towards digital storing, and use a triple back-up plan. We have two WB 1 Tb. external hard drives that we frequently back-up on, in addition to using the cloud-based storage services of Google Photo that backs up instantaneously. What I love about uploading our photos to Google Photo is the fact that they are always easily accessible. I can search by people, location, date, and/or keyword to find the photos that I need. When we are talking about thousands of photos spanning over a decade, this sure beats individually sorting through each and every folder.
Go Paperless. Oh, the papers. We are drowning in downed trees at our house and I’m running out of bins and folders to put them in! Each day, my three children come home from their respective programs with artwork, schoolwork, and notes. Each day, our mailbox produces bills, letters, and ads. So much paper, everywhere! Last year, we decided to go as paperless as possible at our house. It was a sad moment for me when I realized that it just wasn’t possible to continue keeping every beautiful crayon-smocked paper that my beloved children scrawled upon. It hurt my heart at first to place those beauties in the recycle bin, but now, it just feels good. We rely on Evernote to house everything that would normally cover our counters. Each of our children have their own “artwork” folders, and we lovingly take photos to store there throughout the year, categorized by calendar year. Evernote’s options in the premium version even allow you to access your documents when away from WiFi, if that is important.
A project that I have committed to starting (and completing) throughout 2018 is a 52 Week Photography Challenge through Shoot Along. I am also participating in the Photo a Day challenge, which you can see on my Facebook page. Follow along or better yet, join me!