Sticking to a budget can sometimes mean spending more time at home. Whether you’re inviting friends over to avoid hitting overpriced bars, cooking your own meals instead of takeout, or just getting your nesting on, you’ll want to make your home the kind of haven that will convince you a night in is actually fun. Next time you have an extra 15 minutes to spare, try one of these tiny tune-ups for a happier house. (Bonus points for the semi-smug productivity high that comes from getting to cross quick tasks off your to-do list).
1. Tackle your junk drawer bit by bit. Choose three objects in it and either get rid of them or find a permanent home in the house for them.
2. Print and frame one treasured photo. I can’t be the only one who eagerly “stocks up” on IKEA and Target picture frames and then promptly puts off hanging them up for months.
3. Set up an outbox for things you might want to toss. This genius Apartment Therapy creation can be a literal box, a free corner of your closet, or any other small unused space that can serve as a purgatory for stuff you’re not sure you need anymore but don’t have the guts to throw out yet. Whatever you put in the outbox has to stay for at least a week. After that, you can choose to keep it, throw it out, or leave it for another week. The outbox has magical powers to take away junk’s emotional hold over you and transform it back into ordinary unneeded crap.
4. Dust off your windows. Give a quick Windex touch-up to every window in the busiest room in the house.
5. Speed declutter. Run around the house and remove the clutter from every surface you can get to in 15 minutes — that means doing more than just moving the clutter pile to another part of the house where it will keep festering. Put every object back where it actually goes! If it doesn’t actually go anywhere, considering tossing it in your new outbox.
6. Sit down and make a rough plan of your meals for the next week. When you’re at the grocery store next, you’ll know exactly what you need so you won’t find yourself with an overpacked fridge or out of ingredients and tempted to order delivery on a night you’d planned to cook.
7. Take stock of your makeup or jewelry. Make a quick sweep of any products or pieces you don’t use anymore. Put the favorites you use every day in a designated space, like a tray on your dresser or right next to the mirror you use to get ready. Rearrange whatever’s leftover so it’s sorted by product, but don’t overthink it — this is just a quick tune-up to keep your motivation going, not a deep clean!
8. Make labels for what can be found in any drawers, bins or shelves in the house. Knowing exactly where things belong makes you more likely to store things out of sight instead of piling crap on your bedroom floor out of fear you’ll “misplace” it.
9. Put away any ongoing projects left out. I have a tendency to make “staging areas” for things I’m working on but haven’t gotten to yet, like skirts I want to hem or ripped-out magazine articles I want to read. All this does is make my house a mess and stress me the hell out over (mostly insignificant) things I haven’t gotten done yet. If you do this, put that crap away, even if it’s unfinished, and just add it to your to-do list so you’ll get to it when you actually have time.
10. Tidy up your fridge. Throw out anything in the fridge that’s spoiled or smells weird. Wipe down the shelves.
11. Spruce up your entryway. Give a once-over to your foyer, mudroom, or, more likely, that two-foot stretch of hallway that morphs into your living room – whatever serves as your main entryway. Do you have a place to put muddy shoes? A place to hang coats? Find a designated space for all the stuff you typically bring with you when you come home like junk mail, magazines, and shopping bags. If they have a set place in the house, you’re less likely to toss them on precious coffee table/kitchen counter/desk real estate when you arrive home exhausted and just want to unload everything you’re carrying.
12. Make a home for the special stuff. All those wedding invitations, ticket stubs, pamphlets, and random wallet-sized pictures of your niece that invade your home may not be actively useful, but they’re special to you. You feel guilty tucking them out of sight but you’re probably not a crafty suburban mom, so you’re not going to get around to scapbooking or decorating with them anytime soon either. Instead they just sit around creating weird, baggage-filled clutter. Find a cute unused basket or other storage container around the house and fill it with memorabilia you’d like to save. Set it out someplace visible for guests to go through it like they would a photo album, or tuck it into a closet shelf to keep it for just yourself.
13. Give your bookshelf a quick reshuffle. Switch up your books’ organization by color, genre, author, size — try one you’ve never done before.
14. Assess your guest stash. What do you have on hand for when unexpected visitors drop by? Do your guests require wine, tea, coffee creamer, an extra set of sheets, Cards Against Humanity? Think about your entertaining style and the tastes of the people in your life, and make a list of what you’d like to keep a constant supply of for hosting. If you don’t already own something on that list, carve out a space for it in the house so it doesn’t create clutter when you eventually buy it (when your budget allows, of course)!
15. Set up a space for a hobby or task that makes you feel frazzled. For me, this is ironing. I have a tiny ironing board that can be folded and stashed in my closet, and for some crazy reason I keep my iron on a shelf on the other side of the room, so every morning is a frenzied dance of digging out the board, setting it up, and haphazardly attempting to make my clothes presentable without burning myself. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just set up a corner of my bedroom for ironing and put everything in one place? The same could be said for a hobby you enjoy enough to keep the materials accessible 24/7 instead of stored in a closet or cabinet. Maybe you’d like to set up a sewing table, a desk for drawing, or corner for your yoga mat to stay permanently splayed out. Whatever makes your home happier and more functional!
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