20 Things To Do Before 2020

It’s hard to believe, but we are less than three months away from the calendar turning over to 2020! As this new year is just on the horizon, I thought I would share some common things that perpetually stay on our to-do list, or chores we forget about. Get these (or some of these) 20 things completed before 2020 and start the new year with a clean slate!

{1} Make “that” appointment. We all have appointments that we push off because we don’t want to deal with the results or we just don’t feel like we have time to get it done. Your health is important, so make “that” appointment before the end of the year! Dentist appointment, routine well visit with your doctor, mammogram, or an appointment with a specialist you’ve been putting off. Perhaps it isn’t a medical appointment – you need a haircut you’ve been putting off, or other self care appointments.

{2} Finish a project. Anyone else start a project and lose steam? Or maybe your spouse started something and didn’t finish? Set aside time, and plan for it to get the project completed.

{3} Change the light bulb that’s been out. Is this just me, or does it seem hard to change out light bulbs that aren’t working? It seems like every time I noticed that light bulb, it’s an inconvenient time to change it. Set aside time to go around your house with fresh light bulbs!

{4} Clean the cobwebs off the ceiling. This is another task that seems like I notice at inconvenient times. It’s good to set aside time instead of doing it when you notice.

{5} Take the pile to the thrift store. I often have a pile for the thrift store that seems to quickly accumulate. The hard part for me is that it is in a storage closet in our garage, so “out of sight, out of mind.”

{6} Change the batteries in the smoke alarms. This task is so important, but may get left undone because it’s not a chore that noticeably needs to get done!

{7} Back up photos. You can do this onto Google photos, the Cloud, onto your computer, or onto a USB key. We unfortunately lost some of our digital photos because of a computer crash. I have now made it a habit to back up my photos in multiple places. My Google account is connected to the camera roll on my phone, so they automatically back up into my Google photos. I like to have them at least one other location as well.

{8} Dust your baseboards. This is a task that often gets forgotten. I like to “deep clean” one room per week in my house, meaning my baseboards get cleaned in each room about every three months.

{9} Clean your windows. This is another task that gets forgotten. I have to be honest and say our upstairs windows rarely get cleaned on the outside of the house because it scares me to get up on an extended latter! Maybe it’s time we hire someone to clean the outside of all of our windows! The inside of my windows get cleaned on the same rotation as our baseboards.

{10} Go through the pile of junk mail. I now have a “one touch rule” when it comes to papers that come into our home. I deal with them immediately. I didn’t always do this, and I know many people who have a stack of mail and/or papers that need to be dealt with. Set aside the time to purge those!

{11} Delete all the files that you downloaded onto your computer for temporary use. Whether it’s a photo someone sent you, or a form you needed to fill out and send back, our “downloads” folder on our computers can get cluttered quickly. Go through and delete all those items you no longer need.

{12} Take old/unused paint, chemicals, and batteries to a recycling center. These items can stack up in your garage or home since they are not easy to dispose of. I like to go every 6 months to dispose of these chemicals. Ask your neighbor or friend if they have anything as well to make the trip more worth it!

{13} Clean out the gutters. This is another task that we put off! Again, it can be difficult to do if you have a two story home like we do and need to get the extension latter out. This is another chore that could be hired out!

{14} Clean out the dryer vent. This chore is difficult to remember to get done since we don’t see the lint build up in our dryer line. It is something that needs to get done as it can be a fire hazard to let it go too long.

{15} Prune trees. This task is another that you may need to hire someone to do for you. If you have large, mature trees it might be worth paying someone who is skilled in this task to get done for you.

{16} Car care. Get the oil changed, routine car maintenance, car wash, or detailing.

{17} Put away summer items for the winter. Deflate and store pool items, take down hammocks or other storable spring/summer items, cover outdoor furniture for the winter.

{18} Declutter kids’ toys before the holiday season! I always liked to evaluate what toys my kids were not playing with or had outgrown before new toys came in during the holiday season.

{19} Change filters around your home. This is another chore that can be forgotten because we don’t see the dirt on a regular basis. Depending on what type of filters you have, this needs to be done several times a year. While you’re at it, vacuum and/or dust the vents!

{20} Power wash your porch/driveway/walkway! If you’ve never experienced the joy of power washing, you’re missing out!!

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. On the other hand, you certainly don’t need to do all 20 things! This is just an idea of those things that often get overlooked or put on the back burner. Get a few of these things crossed off your list over the next few months and start off 2020 with a clean slate! 

The Cost of Clutter

There are all kinds of excuses we use to not deal with clutter, but what if clutter has an effect on our physical and mental health? Some don’t realize the toll clutter takes on the mind and body. It’s worth the effort to declutter things you no longer use, and organize the remaining items for your health!

Merriam-Webster’s definition of clutter is: to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness. In the definition alone, we see that clutter impedes us and reduces our effectiveness. When our minds have to consistently process excess things in our environment, we are using brain space to process that input which makes us less effective.

Clutter is bad for your physical health.  It has been linked to cortisol production, the stress hormone. Research from a 2009 study out of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) has shown that women who perceive their homes to be cluttered tend to have unhealthy patterns of cortisol levels. Interestingly, men did not have the same cortisol response with regard to clutter. This could potentially be because women tend to take on more of the household chores even if they are also working full time. Clutter is also linked to lack of self control, resulting in unhealthy eating habits. According to a Cornell University study from 2016, stress triggered by clutter may also trigger coping and avoidance strategies, like eating junk food, oversleeping or binge-watching Netflix.

Physical clutter often leads to mental clutter. When our eyes are being visually overloaded, it takes away from our brain’s ability to focus on and process other tasks at hand. Many people don’t realize that clutter is this distracting to our brains. Other people may have the urge to straighten up a bit before focusing on some work that needs to get done. This is a natural tendency we have because subconsciously we know the clutter distracts us.

In my experience, clutter often leads to procrastination. You might be surprised to learn that I have not always had a handle on keeping our papers organized. Especially when my kids were young, it was a lot to keep up with and even now it is still a struggle. If you need to pay a bill, but in order to pay that bill you must dig through a stack of papers, books, and other miscellaneous items on your desk or table, you are less likely to just get it done. Simple tasks feel overwhelming when dealing with clutter.

Don’t get me wrong, decluttering doesn’t come without its own consequences. Getting rid of items can be equal to physical pain, especially for someone who attaches memories to or overvalues their items. But this pain is well worth the end result. The best way to avoid clutter in your home is to slow the inflow of items that are coming into your home. I have found, for myself, that purging is best done in small doses. Choose one drawer, or one shelf in a cabinet or closet today to begin the road to better health!

10 Areas You Can Declutter In Your Home

There are several areas in our home that we could evaluate our things and determine if we could let go. Here are 10 areas to consider and ideas on how to let go.

1) Multiples of one item. Having multiple of one item is an easy place to begin decluttering. While there are certain things you may want to have multiple of in your home (we have multiple pairs of scissors since they seem to disappear easily!), often times we don’t need those multiples we just accumulated them over time. An easy place to find multiples is in your kitchen.

2) Unused gifts. I think it is a universal feeling to feel guilt getting rid of something someone gave to you. Even if you are someone who doesn’t attach sentimental value to things readily, it is difficult. I’m sure it’s even more difficult for those who do attach sentimental value to items. When someone gives you a gift, that item now belongs to you. You can appreciate their gesture and experience the joy of the act of giving in that moment, but if this item is not useful to you or brings you joy then it is silly to hold onto it just because it was given to you. If the person who gave you the item would be upset because you didn’t use it or you gave it away – that is an issue they have, not you. Usually, your friends and relatives would not want an item they gave you to cause stress or clutter in your home. I think most people would rather the item that they spent money on would be given to someone else to be useful than to sit in a drawer or closet in your home.

3) Sentimental items (especially large ones). This is a tough one. Obviously we don’t need to get rid of all sentimental items. It’s okay to hang onto items that have meaning and remind us of events or times that bring back positive thoughts. However, we need to evaluate how many things we hold onto. Do you hold onto a napkin touched by your middle school crush? Okay, maybe that’s going too far, but you get what I mean. It’s okay to give yourself limits on what you keep as far as sentimental items. Choose a box or two, and keep only what fits inside those boundaries. Some items, especially large ones can be kept digitally by photographing the item(s) prior to letting them go. Typically, the picture of the item will bring back the same memories as the item itself. Also, if you have sentimental items that cause negative feelings, I would recommend letting go of those items. There is no need to hold onto something that causes you pain.

4) Clothing items that don’t fit you. Obviously there are exceptions to this. If you are pregnant or in the process of a weight loss journey it makes sense to have a variety of sizes in your closet. However, if you are holding onto a piece of clothing because you might one day fit into it, that is not a good motivator. Let go of those items and if you do lose the weight, you will be able to purchase new clothes that fit. On the other hand, if you have lost weight and are hanging onto clothes that are too big, in my opinion that’s not good either. You lost the weight, stick to your new healthy routines and you will likely keep the weight off.

5) Unused electronics. This could maybe be under the “multiples” category, but I decided to talk about it separately since so many of us have closets overflowing with old phones and laptops. Typically, when you get a new phone, computer or laptop, you don’t use the old one again. There may be a small chance that your new one breaks and you do need a “back up.” If you feel more comfortable having a back up, then just keep one. By donating these items, they maybe could get a new life for someone in need. Along with these items are all the cords that come with it. If you get a new item, it will likely come with the appropriate cords so you can send the cords along with the old items. Cords do seem to multiply, at least in my house! I’m sure at some point we purchased these extra cords, but this is another area to evaluate if you really need to keep these items. Even as a professional organizer, I have yet to convince my husband of this!

6) Pieces of unused furniture. This one is tough because furniture can be expensive. Furniture also takes up a lot of space. Look around your home to see if there is a chair, a side table, or a coffee table – maybe even a bed or sofa – that could go.

7) Toys! Many of us are fortunate enough to have very generous and giving family members and friends. That coupled with how cheap toys are, and how easy they are to acquire, leads to heaps of toys around our homes. I remember when my kids were young, toys seemed to seep into every room in our home. They already had designated space in our game room, my boys’ bedroom, and my daughter’s bedroom. Not to mention, we had a playroom lined with toy storage shelves with bins! I’m very thankful that my children had such giving and loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends. In hindsight, I wish I had chosen boundaries for their toys, and had them help with the process of letting go of old toys to make room for new ones. Often times, kids get overwhelmed with too many toy choices and end up gravitating toward electronics instead. I think having less toys promotes creativity.

8) Home decor. The styles and our tastes are ever-changing. It’s okay to acknowledge that and let go of items that no longer fit your home decor style. Often, we keep items because we spent money on it, and may feel guilt about letting it go. These feelings lead to overstuffed cabinets and closets filled with home decor we might use, but probably won’t. Be realistic about whether an item truly does bring you joy, or is beautiful to you, or if your judgement is clouded by the feelings of guilt. These items could be used and enjoyed by others instead of hiding in the back of a cabinet or closet in your home. An idea is to think about any family members or friends who would want certain items. I recently wanted to part with these miniature chairs I had in my home for many years. I have a friend who always commented on those chairs when she was over at my house, so I asked her if she would like them. She was happy to get them, which made it easier for me to part with them.

9) Extra toiletries or cleaning items. Do you keep extra toiletries or cleaning items in your home that sit at the back of your cabinet? Evaluate what you will actually use and get rid of the rest. As I have mentioned several times, it can be difficult to get rid of items you paid money for. However, if you are storing the items but not using them, it doesn’t get you that money back to keep holding onto them.

10) Paper, notecards, ect. Paper trails are probably the most difficult thing to declutter. I myself struggle with decluttering these items, and knowing what’s important to keep. Many bills can be sent via email and accessed online if you set that up in your account settings. Other paper items can be scanned and kept digitally. I recently learned about Scanbot, an app you can use to scan in paper items before discarding them. Same with kids papers and artwork. Consider scanning things in and keeping them digitally. If you would like to keep their original artwork, I put together a scrapbook for each of my children with their special artwork. Another area is note cards. Evaluate how often you actually need/send note cards to determine how many makes sense to keep around your home. Many of us send notes digitally, even birthday cards! You may be someone who likes to send tangible cards, and that’s great! Just evaluate how many you need around your home verses how many you own. 

This is certainly not an exhaustive list! There are many other areas in our home where we could reevaluate and declutter. These are just some ideas to get you started!

American Accumulation

One of the biggest obstacles in staying organized is the amount of items coming into our home. I’d like to think I am a relatively organized person, however I began to notice that really I had just become what I like to call an “organized pack rat.” Yes, I had boxes neatly labeled – but they were stacked high and I often did not open or look through any of those boxes.

A few years ago I discovered the idea of minimalism. Really, I have always been one to purge things. Once my youngest entered elementary school I began to find ways to purge things and organize the important things so they were on display and I could enjoy them daily. But, learning about this idea of owning less in order to live a more fulfilling life intrigued me. I began to read blog posts and watch YouTube videos from people who were pursuing minimalism and what that looked like for them. So, over the past three years I have been slowly decluttering my house.

Through some of the minimalist blogs and YouTube videos I began to learn about more important reasons to pursue a minimalist lifestyle, like the impact our consumerism has on the earth and on the people who make the products we purchase. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix, “The True Cost,” which was very thought-provoking. This documentary revealed some of the poor working conditions people in third world countries are experiencing in order for people in America and Europe to have cheap clothing. Not to mention how these factories are polluting the communities of these individuals, which is impacting their health. The fashion industry is number two in the pollution of the world, only second to the oil industry. Our planet has natural limits and cannot continue to sustain the impact consumerism has on it. It’s not just the clothing factories that are polluting the earth, but the clothing itself once it is discarded. According to the documentary, only 10% of clothing donated to charities are actually sold to a customer. The other 90% ends up in a landfill or shipped to a third world country to be sold there. Again, most of that ends up in polluting their communities. Many of the low-cost, fast fashion items are made at a price.


Back to accumulation… recently, after cleaning out my closet AGAIN I began to think about why I seemed to still have SO much stuff in spite of decluttering. It can be easy to bring home a new shirt here, and a piece of home decor there; but over time it adds up. My closet was an example of this. A couple of years ago I reorganized our closet, decluttered it and bought the number of matching hangers we needed for the remaining articles of clothing. I proclaimed I would do the “one-in-one-out rule,” but somehow that went by the wayside. My accumulation could not keep up with my decluttering! So, believe me, I know this is easy to do! And this was just my closet. There are so many areas of our homes that we are accumulating and not decluttering. What complicates things more is when you have other people living in your home. Spouses and children also bring things into the home.

This is embarrassing, but I have a feeling I’m not the only American who struggles with accumulation. THIS is a pile of things I recently took to the Goodwill. It was a pile I had been accumulating for the last three months until I could take it in, but this is still A LOT.

I decided that it’s best to not get rid of my husband’s and kids’ things without their permission, but I could make a significant impact on our home by decluttering my own things. This impact would be even more significant if I slowed the inflow of stuff. In 2019, I am choosing to do a “no spend” year, in hopes that by focusing on not accumulating our home will STAY decluttered. Once we declutter and slow the inflow, then organization has the impact we were hoping for. Organization systems set in place work best when everything has a home. It can be difficult to stay on top of incorporating new items if they come in faster than we can find homes for them. Of course there will be ever-evolving needs in our homes as our children grow and our hobbies change, but if we are intentional about the day-to-day things we allow into our home, it can have a lasting effect on the organization of our homes.

Minimalism and Staying Clutter Free

I really want to be a minimalist. I read books and blogs about minimalism, and it sounds so simple and clean. But as I stand in my closet and stare at my collection of booties, I know that I will never be a true minimalist. The principle behind minimalism is a good thing, but just like anything else, I’ve learned there’s balance and it’s okay to own more than three pairs of shoes. Now I am striving to only own what is useful or brings joy.

There are two keys to becoming more of a minimalist: 1)purge, 2)slow the inflow.Purging is fairly easy for me. I admit that there are times when I think about an item that I got rid of and thought, bummer I could have used that. But, the truth is, most of the time after it leaves my house, I have completely forgotten about it. One thing that I do in order to not feel as overwhelmed about purging is to pick a room each week and try to get rid of 10 items from that room. Sometimes I don’t reach the 10 items, but with the influx of stuff from my kids and free-bees, it can be pretty easy in some rooms. I take that opportunity to straighten things up and reorganize the area. I don’t do this every single week as some weeks are busier than others, but if you keep working your way around the house it will stay mostly organized and clutter-free!

Slow the inflow is the thing I struggle with. I like to shop. BUT, I have done different things to restrain my purchases. First, I don’t go shopping unless I need something specific. Next, I really try to stick to buying what I went in to purchase. That can be tough, especially at places like Target… we go in for face soap and toilet paper and come out with framed art work and that lamp you just couldn’t resist! I also have chosen to focus on quality vs. quantity, and finding things that will remain classics for several years. I love fashion, so I always have things in my wardrobe that may only last for a couple of seasons. Something I have done in the past which helps is to fast from purchasing clothes, shoes, and home decor for a set period of time (like one month). I have done a one month fast, two month, and three month! For 2019, the entire year I plan to do a spending fast from clothes, shoes, and home decor. Choosing to fast from consumerism allows for time to step back and really examine your priorities. I have realized during my past spending fasts that the inflow is what is truly keeping me from having only the things I love in my home. How about you? Does minimalism intrigue you? Or scare you?! Do you have tips on how to stay organized and clutter free in your home?