Urge to Purge: Simple Strategies for Winter Cleaning

Sorting clothes by color or style helps you easily find the duplicates that can be donated.

Once the holiday decorations are put away, I am always by how much clutter I’ve shoved in drawers and closets. Like many others, as I put things back in order, I have a strong urge to purge. Why wait for spring? These long cold months provide the perfect opportunity for true winter cleaning!

Purging does not have to be as ruthless as Marie Kondo’s “tidying up” can feel, but it should follow the same principles. For example, the reason for doing it should be clear to you. In my case, I look at my winter clean-up from two perspectives: I am giving myself room and space for more good things to come into my life, and I am letting others have what I no longer use or need – I can part with things more easily if I think, “It is someone else’s turn for this now.”

By taking the time to be thoughtful in your approach, a winter clean-up can even be fun! Here are four simple strategies for an easier winter clean-up:

  1. Clean by category – Rather than trying to do your whole closet at once, try just going through one type of clothing. For example, sort through all your jeans or blouses. Pull everything from one category out and lay it on the bed or in a large enough space where you can see it all. It is easy to see the duplicates then and recognize patterns in your shopping that could help prevent clutter later. For example, when I did this recently I found I had 7 or 8 French marine type tops – the white ones with vertical navy blue stripes. Go figure! But now I am much more aware of how I am drawn to this style and can (hopefully) restrain myself when shopping.
  2. Clean by space – One source of embarrassment to me is how completely ridiculous my “junk” drawers are. I have four drawers in the kitchen that hold what some would call “junk”, though I can say that two are probably semi-organized. At least I know when I open them that I’ll be able to close them again, and that what is stored inside is there for a reason. The other two? Both are “catch-alls” – places where things I don’t know what to do with go to die. I have no doubt that there is a better way to organize all this stuff, so I will take all four drawers and empty them on the table, where I can sift through everything and organize it by drawer, and see what can go or be stored somewhere else entirely. My guess is that I’ll gain at least one whole drawer of space this way!
  3. Clean with fresh insight – I realized when I had some work on the house done recently that my most disorganized spaces had one thing in common. When I moved in four years ago, I had put things I didn’t know what to do with into cabinets or drawers wherever, resulting in certain storage areas where nothing could be found easily and nothing made sense. Rather than just reorganize what was there, I pulled it all out, and thought about each item, asking the questions, “Do I really need this? Will I use it? Can I live without it?’ I looked at what remained with fresh eyes and then rearranged it in the same spot or in places that made more sense, and where I was more likely to remember to use it!
  4. Clean with patience – Your home (and mine) did not become disorganized and cluttered overnight, and to expect it to become clean and uncluttered that quickly is to set yourself up for failure. Rather, use the long winter months to really look at your possessions, ask those three questions, make a trip or two to the Container Store for storage solutions that will work for you, and take a break when you need one. Make a game of it – a cup of cocoa, some music, and those junk drawers are waiting!

New Year, New You? A Different Resolution

Woman looking at mountains, making resolutions for her New Year
Let’s make a different sort of resolution this year!

The first weeks of January are filled with articles about New Year’s resolutions, setting goals, and making promises to yourself – all of which will help you start the New Year on the best foot possible. Many of them have the same title as this piece does, in fact! Setting resolutions begins with the premise that there is something lacking in the existing you. By setting the right resolutions, you can become a new and improved version of yourself.

Like most people, I like the idea of starting fresh, of having a clear jumping off point for starting something new. But this year I noticed that when people are asked about their New Year’s resolutions, they often look outside themselves for something to add to their already full repertoire of things to do or be.

But what if we look at ourselves and like what we see? Would looking within at the start of the New Year and just celebrating what we love about ourselves actually make a bigger and better difference in the year to come than setting yet one more resolution that we are likely to break?

So, I’ll start …

I love that I make time each day to take care of myself. I may not always work out hard or skip the sweets, but every day I exercise in some way and eat healthy foods, too.

I smile at myself each day, a habit I got into a while back and that I find really does lift my mood and make me feel optimistic about my future.

I am taking more risks than I ever have before, and finally focusing on what matters most to me – family and friends; meaningful work; and my home as nurturing a place as possible, not only for others, but for me, too.

This year, I am not setting any more resolutions. I already know what to do – I have set the same resolutions for my entire adult life! Instead I am going to focus on what I already do that is good and whole and true, and just try to do more of that each day. I think 2020 will be a very good year for me!

Deciding to Go Gray: Is There a Silver Lining?

Going gray can be a beautiful thing!

To go gray, or not to go gray… that is the question. And is there a silver lining to the answer?

“I’ve always said that gray hair looks good on everybody but yourself. To me, it makes me look old.” ~ Kenny Rogers

I have colored my hair since I was in high school. At first it was just for fun: a little Sun-In here, a few highlights there (until Sun-In turned my hair a bright orange… and those goofy caps where the hairdresser had to pull tiny strands through the little holes all over your head became… well, just goofy.) When I started finding gray hairs in my thirties, I used grocery store boxes, lemon juice concoctions and pricey salon services. By my forties, I began all-over coloring in earnest. I liked experimenting with my hair, and seeing what I looked like as a redhead or a brunette, when my natural hair color was a dark blonde.

Now in my fifties, keeping the “skunk stripe” at bay has required a trip to the salon every three weeks! While I don’t think my hair clashes yet with my face, I have grown tired of spending a couple of hours every three weeks essentially trying covering up the person I am becoming. In other words, if being gray is inevitable, is it better to keep fighting it or just learn to accept it and maybe even love it?

“I want to be who I am now. I rock my gray hair because it is a blessing. I colored mine for many years, but I’ve gotten compliments from so many men and women about being brave enough to sport the gray. I even wear it on the cover of my record. I am comfortable in my skin and I want listeners to feel that as well.” ~ Regina Belle

I started planning for this change because I wanted it to be gradual and to not have super-obvious roots. (And all along the way, I have maintained the right to go back to full color if I don’t like it.) But the process I chose has been gradual and easy. I started by lightening my hair to a more platinum shade very gradually for a few months each time I had the roots touched up. At the same time, maybe every other month, my stylist added platinum highlights. Now I could see what it would look like, too, because it was so light in areas that i could imagine it silver. I was getting lots of compliments, and actually began looking forward to the change. Apparently my old color really didn’t match my face as well as I thought it did!

After a couple of months, I stopped using permanent color and started using a platinum toner all over. Then just a purple shampoo to help blend in where the roots have grown out. With about two inches of outgrowth now, it is pretty well blended. I will continue to get highlights ( I think) every three months or so until it is fully grown out. I am excited to see the finished product!

The silver lining to all this? It feels good to just relax into being me. And if I end up looking like the woman in this picture, I will be just as happy, too!