For many of us, social engagements were sparse over the past year. With vaccines now readily available, guidelines for social distancing and mask wearing have been relaxed. Many of us are cautiously optimistic that this summer will resemble a more typical year. We may be eager to travel, entertain and enjoy outdoor activities again. The following decluttering and organizing tips can help get you started.
1. Get Ready for Overnight Guests
During the pandemic, hosting out-of-town guests probably wasn’t on the agenda. Now, since vaccinations have made travel safer, family or friends may have scheduled a visit.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a guest room, it may have been repurposed as a home office, classroom or exercise studio. Using a room for more than one purpose is a fine option, especially if you don’t have houseguests frequently. However, you may need to devote some time to sprucing up the space for your next visitor, especially if it was used for other activities. I recommend removing anything that doesn’t belong in a guest room, such as school and office supplies or exercise equipment.
For some people, the guest room may have become a dumping ground for extra home supplies. Amid the uncertainty of the past year, many of my clients bought an overabundance of paper products, nonperishable food, over-the-counter medicine, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. Consider finding another home for these items and attempt to use up your stash before buying more.
I suggest taking an inventory of your guest linens a few weeks before guests arrive. If bedding and towels are overly worn, consider replacing them if your budget allows. Some animal shelters accept donations of used linens. Wash the sheets, put them on the beds and set aside clean guest towels. Vacuum and dust the room.
Also take a look at the toiletries you may have saved for guests. Some of my clients keep hotel-size shampoo and bath products in quantities so large it would take years to use them. If this is true for you, consider donating excess items to a homeless shelter.
2. Clean Up School Supplies
Whether your children participated in distance learning or went to school in person, encourage them to clean up their school supplies.
If they used a backpack, clear it out and put it away for fall. Recycle old schoolwork, saving just a few special projects. If you’re sentimental, consider photographing the rest of the items and then recycling. Get rid of broken crayons, dried-out pens and other unusable supplies.
If kids were able to play sports in your area, don’t forget to address sports bags and equipment. Wash uniforms and clean off cleats and gear. Fill your child’s bag with clean uniforms and supplies for the next season. No one likes opening a sports bag to find a mildewed towel or stinky shoes.
3. Spruce Up Your Outdoor Space
Consider tidying up your outdoor space now so you can be ready to entertain on a whim this summer. Sweep your patio or deck and thoroughly clean your barbecue. Dispose of broken planters, garden tools and hoses. Remove any spiderwebs and dust from outdoor furniture.
If your budget allows, consider shopping for new outdoor furniture. Even the addition of a colorful umbrella and new outdoor cushions can make a space more inviting.A small patio table and chairs can become your summer morning coffee spot — this can be an ideal way to feel like you’re on a mini vacation.
4. Take Inventory of Party Decor and Supplies
Most of us haven’t been to large gatherings or parties in over a year. If you’re feeling ready, perhaps it’s time to host a few festivities of your own this summer. Think about reviewing your party supplies so you can see what you need.
To get started, remove all party items from their storage locations around your home and take inventory of your stash. Unpack each box and place everything on a large, flat surface, such as a dining room table. (Be sure to first protect the table with a blanket or towels.) Then separate your party items by category. For example, place candles in one group and paper products in another. Toss anything that’s stained or broken.
Consider removing any stray items such as a few leftover napkins from your daughter’s princess party or several paper plates from your sister’s baby shower. Store these items with your everyday plates and napkins so they can be used. Think about donating any tabletop decor, candleholders or other party decorations that you don’t plan to use again.
Once you’ve decided which party supplies to keep, create a container for each event. For example, Halloween party things can be stored together in one bin. Generic party items, such as tablecloths, serving platters and candleholders, can be stored together in a generic party box. Label the outside of the container and store it in the garage or basement, away from your everyday things.
5. Review Your Suitcases and Carry-On Bags
If you’re planning to travel this summer, consider taking inventory of your suitcases and carry-on bags. I recommend pulling everything out of storage and reviewing your supply.
Test zippers and closures and inspect bags for rips or broken parts. Consider tossing any bags that are damaged. Wipe off the exterior and interior of the remaining bags with a mixture of warm water and mild dish soap. If possible, place suitcases outside to dry and air out. Before putting them away, towel off the bags to make sure they’re completely dry.
Often clients own more suitcases than they can actually use — it isn’t unusual to purchase new bags and fail to get rid of the ones being replaced. Think about donating excess luggage that’s in good shape.
6. Prepare a Grab-and-Go Bag
Consider prepping a beach or pool bag filled with sunscreen, towels, goggles, hats, water bottles and toys. Keep the bag in a handy place so you can quickly be on your way to enjoy the sun and water.
7. Dust Off Your Outdoor Toys
If you’ll be hosting parties for the first time in a while, now is the perfect opportunity to pull out some of the outdoor activities that have been collecting dust for the past year.
Cornhole, bocce and other lawn games can be great ways to liven up a gathering. However, there may be some backyard games and toys sitting in cold storage that your children have outgrown or simply didn’t enjoy. Consider taking stock of your stash and determine which have a place at your next event and which you should part with.
Even if you don’t get to all the items on this list, try to get out and enjoy a less restrictive summer. We all need to catch up with friends and family and enjoy the socializing we missed last year.