Starting Out Fresh: Organize Your Family for the New Year

The new year symbolizes a fresh start and resolutions, and in Japan it is also custom to clean, de-clutter and organize to prepare for this new beginning. As I have been recovering from the Christmas and birthday excitement after my sister-in-law left last week, I have been busy at work getting ready for the new year. I didn’t start intentionally to keep with Japanese tradition, rather it was the holiday clean-up and getting re-organized that snowballed into my latest laundry list of projects.

Although I did not finish all of my tasks before the ball dropped on New Years, I am only half Japanese so it is OK that it is bleeding into the new year. Right? This has been a great way for me to regroup after an extremely busy fall of traveling and holiday festivities, and as long as I keep on the maintenance work throughout the year, my house will look great! Getting caught up on my blogging and back on a regular schedule is definitely on my list, and below are some things I have been and will be doing as we start the new year.

Archiving. I have been spending many hours this past week going through our digital photos over the past six or seven years and sorting and organizing them on my computer. Although they were once organized, I needed a better organizational system and after transferring photos from CD-ROMs, thumb drives and other sources over the past couple years as we consolidated our photos, they needed some clean up! I also took photos of old letters, cards and memorabilia over the past decade or more that didn’t need to be kept and stored and organized these on my computer.

Next on my list for the year in this category? Finish (ah-hem, start) the baby scrapbook I started for my daughter ions ago and start one for my little guy! I have actually been looking into digital scrapbooking as an option since I have been archiving so many of my photos and it seems so much less time consuming and it doesn’t take up space or need to be moved from duty station to duty station…any experience with this?

Change the batteries in all of the fire alarms. The new year is a good time to remember to change and test to make sure they are in working order, although I know many families that do this at Daylight Savings Time as an alternative. It’s a small price to pay to ensure your little one’s are safe in case of an emergency. It would also be a good time to make a family emergency plan or run a practice drill of what to do in a fire or other catastrophe.

Clean and store baby gear. Now that my little man has turned one *sniff sniff* I know that he will not be using his baby swing and other gear so I scrub it down and move it to the garage. It’s amazing how much extra space you forgot you had in the house after some of this is cleared out. One day when we are past having babies in the home I will take back my garage, but in the meantime I will tuck these things away in anticipation for the next little guy or gal.

Declutter toys. The holidays likely added to your stash of toys and this is the perfect time to go through and assess what toys have been outgrown, forgotten and can be stored for the next child or passed on to someone who will give them the love they deserve. Give them a scrub down and consider a toy rotation system. I am sort of in the middle of moving in this direction. You can have multiple bins of toys that rotate to keep things interesting and to keep clutter to a minimum. It also makes your closets or play areas look nice and neat. Although clear bins reveal their contents, consider using labels for either clear or colored bins so that there is no question about what toys go in which bins. “Blocks”, “Stuffed Animals”, “Dolls” and “Trucks” make it clear for everyone in the family and babysitters where things go and add a picture or icon to help your pre-readers get involved in clean up.

Go through all the kid’s clothes, take out anything they have outgrown and store them in labeled tubs. I have a large plastic tub for different size ranges such as 0-6 months, 2T-3T and so on. I typically make larger laminated labels with velcro backs for larger tubs (pictured, left), and use a label maker to label containers around the house. Anything that doesn’t fit in the tubs (after setting aside my favorites, of course) is given to friends, family or donated. I also take the time to reorganize their clothes in their closets and drawers, and since my daughter loves to get dressed on her own I make sure she can reach what she wears the most.

One idea I have subscribed to per recommendation of professional organizer Lea Schneider is to keep a hamper, bin or bag inside the kid’s closets to toss in clothes as they are outgrown. Then you only need to make time every few months to go through all of them before purging or storing them and this gives you a designated area to toss the clothing in the meantime. And don’t forget to sort through all of your maternity, skinny, fat or husband’s clothing as well. Hopefully you don’t go through sizes as quickly as your kids (unless you’re going down, and if that’s the case I applaud you), so this can probably just be done once a year.

Sort cleaners and toiletries. Have conditioner bottles sitting around after the coordinating shampoo has run out? I am embarrassed to say I had two bottles sitting around for two years. And why was I holding onto them again? Perhaps I have a inner hoarder being suppressed! Go ahead and pass on, recycle or actually use your unused or forgotten lotions or cosmetics before purchasing anything new this year.

Sort through your cleaners, toiletries and who knows what else that may be lurking under your sinks or in your linen closets. I had a number of things in my guest/kids bathroom I am finally parting with and will be going through some more things this week as I strive for a cleaner, clutter free, simpler life. It is a hard feat with kids and my love for stuff, but I optimistically strive for a simpler, greener life where I seek quality rather than quantity and make smarter purchasing choices!

Sort through cloth diapers. Do you have sized diapers that have been outgrow? Styles or brands that find themselves in the back of the drawer time after time? Clean them, store them, swap them or sell them. This would also be a great time, before storage, to give them a good soak, stripping or stain treatment so they are fresh, pretty and ready-to-go for the next baby who uses them. Bath tubs are great vessels for bulk soaking and stripping! And after you’re done maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a reason to rationalize adding a few new beauties to your stash this year. I will keep my fingers crossed.

Unsubscribe. I have been working on this big time this week as my email accounts have been overwhelming me the past few months. If it’s a store I haven’t shopped at in months I unsubscribe and if it is a place I’d still like to be in the loop for sales on occasion, I update my preferences to reduce the number of emails I receive. Although it only takes a second to delete emails, I think this will help with my sanity and keep my inbox from being too cluttered with junk that overshadows the other messages.

This list is not in any means exhaustive, but hopefully served as some inspiration or reminder for you. Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment for additional organizational ideas or inspiration!

{If you enjoyed reading Starting Out Fresh: Organize Your Family for the New Year I would be tickled pink if you left a comment. To read more about my green(er) parenting aspirations, advice and adventures be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed or get updates via email.}


By Emi Stapler. I am a cloth diaper advocate, green parenting blogger, mother of three and a military wife who enjoys sharing my motherhood adventures and advice. Follow me at The Cloth Diaper Report on Facebook, Twitter @TheCDReport , Google +, Pinterest and Instagram.

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  1. I am right there with you Emi! With the new baby coming I have been in power organizing mode. My husband thinks im a nut getting stuff ready for the baby and I still have 7 weeks to go. But i just had to remind him that im not getting any smaller and doing stuff on top of caring for our 2 year old is getting hard! You should see the pile i have going to the thrift store, it’s impressive! My plan has been doing 1 room at a time then it doesnt seems so overwelming.
    Happy New Year my friend!

    • Oh my goodness, only 7 weeks left?! Pregnancy just flies by when it’s someone else. 😉 Yes, take it one room or one closet at a time. The trouble with having kids is once you’ve FINALLY finished the whole house you’ve accumulated or outgrown more stuff and it often feels like you have to start all over again. Happy New Year!

  2. I am so excited for you Emi!! 7 weeks?

    I am waiting until Spring to do all my organizing. We keep all our stuff in the attic. It is not heated and really unorganized and you can’t get to it without a huge ladder. So for now I am just forgetting about all that junk and will have a huge cleaning day in March LOL!!

    This is a fabulous post!

    • And I was talking about the commenter Darcy’s pregnancy, I wrote the wrong name. Wish I could edit my first comment LOL!!!

    • Oh an attic! I think we TECHNICALLY have one above our garage, but we have never opened it or ventured up there since there is no ladder and we don’t have a tall enough one. If we were living more permanently here, an attic could be a scary black hole for me!

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