Ah spring. The time for fresh starts and spring cleaning. Although I try and keep up with everything year round, I like to go extra hard in the spring in preparation for the brutal Texas summers. I want everything as streamlined, minimized, and light/airy as possible. So here’s my spring to do list (and hopefully you get some ideas as well)!
I would consider myself a minimalist. I’m not extreme about it but I am pretty ruthless about what I keep in the house. But as a family that cooks a lot, the kitchen is where I break my rule on not having overly specialized/single purpose items. I relegate these little gadgets to one drawer (except for the two appliances listed). Your list might look very different than mine… but be very thoughtful about the kitchen gadgets you do keep. Don’t keep things that will only be used once a year or in a wishful/just in case scenario. Or items that you hate using because they are bulky/a pain to clean. To me, minimalism is not about having anything but about keeping the items that are used often and make life easier. Here are the items I personally keep around.
Milk Frother: I seldom buy tea/hot chocolate/etc. from a coffee shop as I prefer to make them at home. It’s cheaper, produces less waste, and I can get exactly what I want. Wins all around. However, because I don’t use a fancy machine to make these things (just a kettle or on stovetop), my drinks lack the wonderful frothiness found at the coffee shop. This tiny, inexpensive milk frother does the job.
Citrus Squeezer: We are frequently in need of freshly squeezed lemon or lime, whether for a margarita, a cake, or in hot water when sick. Frankly, I just suck at squeezing lemons… barely getting any juice out of them and then resorting to using 2- 3 times the number that a recipe calls for. A citrus squeezer makes the job easier, faster, and less wasteful.
Apple Slicer: This is one of those items that you do not need to have if you don’t eat sliced apples FREQUENTLY. However, in our household, that is not the case. Our dogs eat apples, I eat apples, my husband eat apples. Always sliced. With peanut butter. This item is a time saver for us.
Dough/Bench Scraper: Some people consider the humble dough (or bench) scraper a single use item. I disagree. I use this to, yes, scrape dough but also to transfer veggies from a cutting board, clean flour/sugar off the counters while baking, and to cut/portion out pieces of dough.
Meat Thermometer: As someone who has gotten food poisoning from chicken, I can wholeheartedly say that it is an experience I have no desire to ever repeat. Hence. The meat thermometer. I also use this while baking cakes and frittatas.
Potato Masher: I like mashed potatoes. Both sweet and regular. I have yet to find a way to mash potatoes with forks (or another household item) that lead to a consistency I enjoy. Therefore, the potato masher stays.
Now for the appliances. I don’t think either of these are must haves (even for me). However, I enjoy them and they make life a bit easier. If I didn’t have the space for them, I wouldn’t hesitate to give them away. But, for now, they stay.
Bread Maker: I don’t think making your own bread is the only zero waste way to get bread. It’s actually less wasteful to get freshly baked bread from Whole Foods (or wherever) and stick it in your own bag straight from the bakery. Making bread at home means that I have to get flour, sugar, salt (all package free) and yeast (in a glass jar). However, the resulting bread is divine. Basically, I keep the bread maker because of the sheer joy of eating warm, freshly baked, low ingredient bread at home. I think that’s a pretty good reason to keep it around.
Rice Cooker: I’m Asian and I also enjoy cooking different Asian foods. And rice is a large component of many Asian cuisines. As an Asian, having a rice cooker is a part of life. I have never lived without one! Can I make rice on the stove top? Yeah. Do I want to? Nope. My compromise is that I have a much smaller rice cooker than the one I grew up with.
Have you heard of the Feng Shui idea that moving 27 items can change your life? I think “change your life” might be a bit of a stretch BUT moving 27 items can get you out of a rut, make you feel less stuck, and just allow for better energy in your home. Moving can entail both getting rid of things or shifting an item’s position in your home. This is something you should do at least seasonally. I find that it allows you to evaluate the items in your home consistently and ask yourself whether you still need it/love it/want it. And sometimes moving an item can make it feel “new” in a way. Here are the items I tend to move around the house on a seasonal basis (some of these (such as laundry) are done weekly).
Candles: recycle or reuse empty glass jars; move candles to different spots on your coffee table or kitchen counter.
Coffee table books: restack your books or trade out books from your bookshelf to coffee table.
Cook books: donate the ones you no longer use; reorder the ones you keep.
Throw blankets and pillows: shake them out; run them through the dryer; move them to the opposite end of the couch.
Photographs/Artwork: switch out the prints in your frames; move a painting to a different room.
Baskets: move your catch call or blanket basket from one corner of the room to another.
Benches: swap the entryway bench with the one in front the bed.
Small plants: reorder the plants/succulents in the patio and bathroom.
Fruit bowl: move the bowl to a different part of the kitchen.
Lamps: swap/move floor or desk lamps to a different spot that allows for light to hit in a new way.
Toothbrush: ditch old toothbrushes or brush heads.
Laundry: put up any clothes that are still sitting in the basket; do a load of laundry with whatever is sitting in the hampers.
Seasonal bedding: swap out heavy blankets for lighter ones or vice-versa depending on the season.
Old pens/writing utensils: send old writing utensils to Pen Guy Art.
Bags of items to donate: take those bags of unused items that you’ve collected to the donation location of your choice.
Electronics to recycle: take old batteries and electronics to local electronics recycling center.
Trash cans: empty these out.
Duplicate items: add to donation bag or re-sell on eBay or Poshmark.
Single purpose items that are never used: add to donation bag or re-sell on eBay or Poshmark.
Pet beds and toys: shake these out; give them a wipe; move them to a different spot on the floor.
Small electronic device like an Apple TV: wipe these down; move over a few inches or to other side of the tv.
Tsotchkes: donate ones that don’t “spark joy”; move the rest to other spots in the house.
Mugs: donate ones that don’t “spark joy”; rotate the rest between mug holder and cabinet.
Coats/outerwear: rotate order in coat closet.
Canned food: take unopened cans to local food pantry.
Snacks: take unopened snacks to local food pantry; compost stale or expired items.
When it comes to purging your home, dealing with sentimental items can be the toughest. We hold on to items as a way of holding on to a memory or a person… when really, the memory is within us. And, yes, sometimes it’s nice to have a tangible item to remind us of something or someone but there are ways to keep stuff that are truly wanted, store stuff in a less obtrusive way, and purge items gracefully. So let’s break it down by the most common sentimental items people collect.
You probably have boxes and albums of old photographs from pre-2005 and the dawning of affordable digital cameras. SCAN THESE PHOTOS (see options on how to do this here). Not only will you have ALL your photos in one place (the cloud) but you can also organize things beautifully and not worry about ever losing these memories. After doing this, feel free to keep significant albums (wedding, baby, etc.) on a shelf but get rid of all the unorganized boxes.
Home movies on VHS or 8mm tapes
Before getting rid of my family’s old VCR and camcorder — I bought this little gadget. And then spent months running it in the background while I worked to convert every single home video from my childhood. I backed up all these digital videos in Google Drive. This was a time consuming process but it was so, so worth it. These videos are now so easy to watch on my computer (and share with family members!) and I was able to take BOXES of tapes to my local electronics recycler.
I’m not going to tell you what items you should or shouldn’t keep from your wedding. This is your call. Just know that you can donate or sell most wedding items to another lucky couple — this is especially great for decor items. (You can even sell your wedding outfits if you wanted to!) We rented most of our big items so what was left was small decor pieces, outfits, my wedding bouquet, and a guest book. I donated the decor and kept the rest. The bouquet has been preserved and is a memento at my parents’ home and the outfit is stored in a small plastic container (my outfit was a sari so it took up little space) in my closet. The guest book is on display along with a wedding book (that I created with Artifact Uprising) on a dresser in our home.
School artwork, homework, certificates, cards
Scan the stuff that really matters. If you really want to keep physical copies of some stuff, commit to only holding on to things that can fit in a slim art portfolio (I like these because they can slide in easily behind a bookshelf). Recycle the rest.
Trophies are one of those things that I’m all for getting rid of. They take up so much space all while collecting dust. Trophies are also expensive to purchase and are wonderful items to donate to schools and nonprofits for re-use. I called our local Goodwill and they said they take them as well.
Childhood stuffed animals and toys
If you can bare to part with a good chunk of these, do it. Take a picture of it before you do. Donate or give away to a child you know. If there are some you want to keep, relegate to one (and only one) plastic tub.
Speaking of “the plastic tub” — I strongly believe that each member of the family should have one of these that they can use to store those sentimental items they really want to keep. No judgement. But one tub. That’s it. For example, my tub has some favorite stuffed animals, baby clothes, and yearbooks!
I tend to talk a lot about the physical “stuff” that comprises our lives. But these days — there’s also a TON of digital stuff. And while it doesn’t take up physical space in your home, it does take up much needed mental space. Digital clutter is one of those things that hums in the background and ultimately becomes a distraction… whether it be the incessant notifications taking you away from dinner, the mindless opening and closing of the Facebook app on your phone, the unanswered email that’s on the back of your mind, or the time it takes you to sift through 10,000 photos to find the one you want to share. So let’s pare down and then maintain your minimized digital life. If you decide to do this all at once (which I actually do recommend), pour yourself your favorite beverage, turn on some music, and make this tedious task a bit more bearable.
The pare down: Nowadays, it’s easy to have files on both your computer and your cloud storage of choice (I use Google Drive for everything). I recommend consolidating all your files to cloud storage — that way it can be accessed across devices and you don’t have to back things up on to an external storage device. So, first off, delete all the files you don’t need or use. Then, upload everything on to your cloud storage of choice. Take this time to organize these files within folders (ex: work, travel, purchases, school, health, etc.) so you spend less time looking for important documents. If there are some super important documents you’d like saved on your computer as well, go for it, otherwise… delete!
The maintenance: As soon as you download or scan something to your computer, decide what you want to do with it. Is this something you will need longer than a month? If so — upload it to the appropriate online folder. Otherwise, delete as soon as the file is no longer useful.
The pare down: Like files, your digital photographs are most likely spread across your computer (from the separate digital camera days), online photo storage, and your phone. Again — I recommend consolidating all your photographs to your cloud storage (I like Google Photos). First, delete any duplicate (nope, you don’t need the 10 photos of your dinner from various angles), blurry, bad quality photos. Upload photos from your phone and your computer to your chosen online photo storage. Take this time to organize your photos by month/year, season, event, trip, etc.
The maintenance: I think most people take photos on their phones these days so set your phone to sync with your cloud storage/automatically backup photographs. Once a week, make sure your photos synced online, delete any unwanted photos, and then delete the photos off your phone.
The pare down: Delete songs off your computer you don’t listen to or don’t want. Keep only the ones you really want or that you won’t be able to listen to on a music streaming service.
The maintenance: Use a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music! Listen to whatever you want, whenever you want without storing anything on your devices.
The pare down: At this point, your files, photographs, and music should be mostly off your computer and only the ones you want should be organized in the cloud. Right? Okay. So this next part should be easy. This is the time to delete programs and applications on your computer that you no longer need.
The maintenance: Be mindful of the programs you download on to your computer. Every 6 months, delete any programs that went unused.
The pare down: This one can be tough for many. So baby steps. If an email is over 3 months old and you still haven’t opened it (or opened it and never responded or taken action on it). Delete it. Start fresh. Now, delete all promo and newsletter emails. Delete all social media notification emails. Go through the remaining emails and file them in appropriate folders (accounts, purchases, travel, personal, etc.). Star (something I do in Gmail) or file emails that need a response or action taken on. Now, turn off email notifications from stores and social media. You can check the sites directly for updates or promotions. This also reduces the urge to impulse shop or check your social media accounts too frequently.
The maintenance: Respond to or delete emails in a timely manner. Check email when you have time to actually take action/respond… that way, you only read the email once opposed to reading it, deciding to respond later, then having to re-read the email at a later time in order to respond. Hopefully, you’ve also turned off email notifications for unneeded things (promos, Facebook comments) to reduce the amount of emails coming in.
The pare down: First, delete the social media accounts that don’t make you happy or are not of use to you anymore. Keep 2-3 accounts that you really, truly love. For example, I had no more use for Twitter or Snapchat. So I deleted them and don’t miss them at all. I kept Facebook (for events), Instagram (for inspiration and to share my travels), and Pinterest (for more inspiration). Really think about what you use social media for and keep the accounts that align with that. Let go of the rest.
Now, curate. Remove “friends” or accounts you follow that make you feel crappy, you “hate follow”, don’t inspire you, or that you have no interest in. Remove that one acquaintance from college that you went to a club with that one time and never spoke to again. Or that high school classmate you haven’t seen in 15 years who is always trying to sell nail wraps or essential oils. If you want to keep someone around but don’t want to see their 5+ posts a day — keep them as friends but unfollow their posts so they don’t show up on your newsfeed. Download a productivity extension like StayFocused — I have it set to time my Facebook usage to 5 minutes a day max. Pick the social media sites that you can tend to go down a rabbit hole with and set a time limit. Also — delete the Facebook app off your phone. Seriously. This way you stick to the 5 minute time limit since the productivity extensions only work on the browser. And you’ll stop doing the app open/app close/app open/app close game. After a few weeks, I promise you won’t miss it.
The maintenance: Be thoughtful of who you friend and follow online. Think through any new, shiny social media accounts and whether it’ll add to your life in some way. And — don’t disable your productivity extension — stick to the time limit!
The pare down: Delete all the apps you no longer use (i.e. that one image filtering app you tried that one time) or the apps for the social media accounts you no longer have. For remaining apps, turn off notifications unless it’s a mission critical type thing (for me, the only app that I have notifications for is my work Slack — and even then, I only get notifications during work hours and only if I’m tagged directly). This will also really help your battery life. Organize your apps in to folders (travel, tickets, home, social media, etc.).
The maintenance: If you download an app that you don’t end up loving, delete it promptly. Keep your phone updated. Keep your notifications to the bare minimum. Be mindful of the time spent opening apps and using your phone when with others (or when there are other things you could be doing).