I’m suing February.
OK, I know. It is the shortest month of the year. Fine. But other than that, it’s rude. It’s dreary – the fun and excitement of the holiday season have faded away. Yet, holiday credit card bills are showing up (rude). It’s cold (rude). It’s gray (you know). Its dark (again). It’s windy here in the midwestern part of the US, and it’s snowy and icy. I don’t know how it has the nerve to show its face year after year. Spring and Summer seem a long ways away. And to top it off, this year, once again, many of us are hibernating in our homes to stay as healthy as we can.
This year, in order to not go completely stir crazy, I’m going to* accomplish some things that have long been on my “to do” list. It’s the perfect time to tidy up, clear out, and refresh the home. And I'm doing all of this without spending a lot of money.
*notice I didn’t say “I’m going to try”? Nope. I’M GOING TO.
Here are 14 ideas to inspire you. Choose one or several that seem manageable. I recommend starting with the old-fashioned writing of an actual list on an actual piece of paper. Post it where you can see it every day. Refer to it weekly and decide which one you'll do. Plan ahead and schedule time each day or week to tackle an item or two. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find checking a chore off your list results in a fabulous sense of accomplishment!
1. Organize & Donate
· Kitchen cabinets – organize dishes, flatware, kitchen towels, utensils, etc… and eliminate duplicates (how many sets of measuring spoons does one need?), as well as those that are unneeded or unused.
· Pantries – toss expired food, wipe shelves
· Bathroom Cabinets – bye-bye to old product and medicine
· Linen Closets - Extra towels? Donate to an animal shelter!
· THE BASEMENT!! (for the very brave and energetic)
· THE ATTIC!!! (great for snow days when you’re really stuck inside)
· Bedroom dresser drawers and closets – homeless shelters always need socks
· Home offices – check with your local schools to see what they might need
· Bookshelves (see #11 below)
· Storage spaces
To make this as stress-free as possible, set small, attainable goals – one kitchen drawer or cabinet. One or 2 dresser drawers. One medicine cabinet or linen closet. Commit to one hour a week. Invite your family to help. Donating clean items in usable condition to a local charity will teach your kids a wonderful life-lesson: giving feels GREAT.
This combination of organizing/donating may be time-consuming, but the sense of accomplishment you will feel is worth the time – even if you just get to one or 2 of the above list.
Pro Tip #1 – some charities will do free “porch pick-ups” – check with yours to see if this is an option.
Pro Tip #2 – be sure to get and keep charity receipts in case you can take as a deduction on next year’s taxes.
2. If you haven’t already (no judgment here!), take down and neatly store Christmas and Hanukkah and other holiday decorations and décor. Clearly label each bag, box or plastic bin to make next year’s holiday decorating easy.
3. Replace the bare spot left by your front door’s Christmas wreath or other holiday decor with a bright door sign or flag. Opt for a Spring “welcome” sign, or another colorful pattern. Check out some unique, budget-friendly options I’ve designed here: https://www.mariannixon.com/indoor-outdoor-decor
4. Challenge yourself! 30-day and 100-day challenges are popular in my line of work (for example: “paint 30 birds in 30 days”) and in the fitness world. I myself signed on to a 30 day fitness challenge in January, and I tell you, there is nothing better than checking “exercise” off my list each day. Find a challenge that inspires you – or make one up yourself! Enlist a friend or 2 to join you. Again – I find it’s extra rewarding to physically check accomplishments off a paper list, but you do you!
Now I’m toying with doing a 30-day sugar cleanse, but I’m making no promises on that one….
6. Refresh the entryway to your home. Place a new doormat on the front porch or in the foyer (or both!). I love designing fun all-season welcome mats, as well as holiday-specific versions. Available in 3 sizes – perfect for a giant front porch, entryway, or a condo’s hallway. See doormat designs here: https://www.mariannixon.com/indoor-outdoor-decor
7. Think summer! One of my favorite projects each winter is to start my summer garden indoors. I use a seed-starter kit like the one here https://amzn.to/3rcpbC7. It sits on my kitchen table in a south-facing window, and I love to watch the progress and growth day after day. This is an easy DIY project to do with your kids. Year after year, I look forward to this - it’s so rewarding to watch plants grow from seeds. Seeds are usually available in the big box stores starting in February, or search Google for “seed catalogs” to find unusual or organic options online.
8. Update the look of your home with a few inexpensive accessories. No need to take down walls or buy new furniture – just swap a few items each season, and your rooms will take on a fresh, new look.
a. Replace the throw pillows on your living room, family room and man cave furniture. Go for light colors and bright patterns. Same goes with blankets. Check out some Spring designs here: https://mariannixon.threadless.com/home/throw-pillow
b. Treat yourself to a new duvet cover for your bed. This is the biggest bang for your buck, as your bed is probably the largest, most prominent piece of furniture in your bedroom. To make this update budget-friendly, I use solid-colored sheets and pillow covers that will go with any patterns your choose for your duvet. See some duvet options here: https://mariannixon.threadless.com/home/duvet
9. Bake a little something for your mail carrier, UPS or FedEx person, trash people, or neighbor. This is another wonderful DIY project to do with your kids - both the baking and the delivering – show them (and remind yourself) how great it feels to give a little something to someone for no reason at all. Brightening someone else’s day will also brighten your own.
10. It’s my 100% unscientific theory that our eyeballs become immune to what we see every day. There’s zero data behind this theory, but I stand by it. Invest in a few art prints and frames, and you can easily update your wall décor with the seasons. Choose a frame that opens easily, and stack 2 or 3 prints inside. When it’s time for a change of décor, open that frame and swap the current print with one you’ve stored. Budget-friendly and eco-friendly, as you’re using the same frame year-round. Check out loads of print options (from florals and abstracts, to inspirational quotes, to sports and city skyline art) here https://www.mariannixon.com/art-prints-for-home-and-office.
As for frames, this* is one of my favorites: https://amzn.to/3tmzaYk (seen in the center, below)
11. Remove drapes or curtains. When the weather does eventually warm up, I take all the curtains down, wash and store them until the Fall.
12. Treat yourself! Buy a bunch or 2 of grocery store flowers or a couple live plants. Place in your living room, powder room, bedroom. Flowers are NOT just for special occasions! If you don't want to care for real plants, faux succulents are the next-best thing. Someone I know (ahem) has only fake succulents in her home (ahem).
13. If it’s not too terribly cold where you are, add a porch flag or garden flag to the front yard. I’m in Chicago, and have I mentioned? It’s GRAY. Some days it’s like I live in an old-timey black and white movie. For this reason, I started designing flags that are in line with my home décor style. A little pop of color goes a long way. Check out my designs here: https://www.mariannixon.com/indoor-outdoor-decor. Oh, and don’t feel left out if you don’t have a porch, yard or garden – these flags can go on your front door, in a window, or even be displayed as wall décor. Affordable and eco-friendly, as they’re reusable year after year.
14. Do you have a Little Free Library in your area? After you’ve cleared your bookshelves of books you'll never re-read, pack them up, and fill the shelves of your neighborhood free library for your neighbors to enjoy. This is another win-win – someone else gets hours of enjoyment from a good book, AND your shelves are tidy! Enlist the whole family in this one!
Let's show February who's boss. It can't and won't get the best of us! Completing of any one of these projects will provide a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and that alone will cheer us up and brighten our spirits.
Let me know which of these ideas you find inspiring, and share your ideas with me! We can make it through the winter - we've done it before, and we'll do it again. I'll keep you posted on that lawsuit. ;-)
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