When it comes to New Year resolutions, starting with a few small steps is a great way to kick off 2020.
Clearing clutter from your home not only creates space you never knew you had, but it can also help relieve stress (as you revel in all things neat and orderly), make you more organised, and bring a sense of calm (rather than chaos) to your life.
As an added bonus, you can also do some good by passing on things you no longer need to someone else who does, or recycling items that would otherwise end up in landfill. Try these simple steps around the home to refresh and reorganise your surroundings – and make this year one of your best, and most productive, yet!
Do you really need all those kitchen appliances taking up space in the cupboard? Honestly?
1. Audit your appliances
Are there appliances you're not really using that are taking up space in the cupboard? Perhaps that bulky ice-cream maker or a blender gathering dust, or an unwanted Christmas gift you know you're never going to use?
CHOICE kitchen expert, Fiona Mair, says many of us own kitchen appliances that we don't really need. Brush them off and donate to charity stores – just make sure the store accepts the appliance you want to donate, and that what you're giving them is in good working condition.
2. Swap, sell, or pass it on
A good rule to follow is – if you, or the kids, haven't worn or used something for more than a year, it's time to let it go. A good wardrobe declutter (or clear-out of the toybox) can be therapeutic, and you could help someone in need, or even make a bit of cash, by passing on clothes using resources such as Freecycle or buy, swap, sell groups on social media.
If you don't have enough storage in place for your wardrobe (stacking boxes for your shoes, for example, or hanging racks), head to stores such as Ikea, Kmart or Howard's Storage World for affordable ideas.
If your children haven't used a toy over the past six to 12 months, it might be time to pass it on.
3. Clear out your cleaning cupboard
We test hundreds of everyday household products in our labs, including many cleaning products such as sprays, detergents and floor cleaners. Some products marketed for different purposes are essentially the same thing, and many don't even deliver the results they promise.
Shockingly, many products, including most floor cleaners and some multi-purpose cleaners, fail to outperform plain water. And our recent tests of surface cleaners reveal there's virtually no difference between multipurpose cleaners and kitchen sprays. This means you can sometimes dump multiple products (and purchases) in favour of just one.
"Scores are comparable across kitchen and multipurpose cleaners, so our takeaway is that they're all essentially the same thing," says CHOICE cleaning product expert Ashley Iredale. "You don't need to buy 57 different cleaning products – just use the same one for everything."
4. Get rid of unsafe products
While you're busy decluttering, keep an eye out for products in your home that are unsafe, particularly for children. For example, we've found that many common household products contain unsecured button battery compartments. These can lead to children swallowing the batteries, which can be hazardous. In fact, a worrying 10 out of 17 common products failed our safety tests. Because it's not illegal to sell unsafe products in Australia, there could well be other unexpectedly dangerous items in your home, such as cots, bunk beds and other children's and baby products.
5. Go paperless
Got mountains of paper bank statements or bills sitting around that you mindlessly stick on the fridge or forget to pay? Save a few trees and go paperless to get digital bills sent directly to your inbox. Even better, set up standing direct debits so you don't miss payment deadlines. It's easy to do if you call your provider or visit their website.
Or, for important mail where a paperless option isn't available, scan or take a photo on your phone and file it away digitally (then dispose of the mail securely). This works for receipts for purchases too – when in store, ask if receipts can be emailed to you so you can keep electronic records, as long as you're happy to give your email address.
6. Clean out the fridge and stack it properly
You've been avoiding this haven't you. If you have oyster sauce that expired in 2015 sitting on a shelf in there, leftover Christmas ham that's getting funky, or a chutney you thought would be perfect for a cheeseboard but you never used it, get rid of it. Recycle the bottles or use the jars for storage. Then, give it a good clean. Once your fridge is as good as new, make sure you stack it properly to reduce food spoilage and cut down on energy bills.
7. Invest in reusable containers and plastic alternatives
Reduce the space taken up by both plastic waste and food waste by investing in a good range of reusable containers and plastic alternatives.
These include beeswax wraps or reusable food wraps instead of cling film, or glass jars and reusable containers you can use to store leftovers so you throw less food out. Small reusable string produce bags mean you don't have to pick up plastic bags in the supermarket or fruit shop. And if you have space, a compost bin will reduce your food waste further (which means you could use a smaller rubbish bin).
8. Don't be (too) sentimental
Of course, you need to make space for precious mementos such as photo albums or family heirlooms. But make sure you're keeping things because they really mean something to you, not just out of obligation. Your three-year-old probably won't notice if you don't keep every single one of her daycare artworks, and that dinner set from Grandma Sue you never use could find a much better home with someone who might make the most of it.
Make sure you're keeping things because they really mean something to you, not just out of obligation
9. Recycle, repurpose or donate old tech
Getting rid of old computers or mobile phones is easier than it might seem. Just ensure you wipe any devices of personal data before you get rid of them.
Or, find new ways to repurpose old tech you thought you no longer had use for – hand down old iPhones to kids who are ready for their first phone, for example, or learn how to upgrade your hardware. You can also donate old laptops and devices to some charities, such as those for refugees or disadvantaged youth.
10. Get the cleaning gloves out
Did you know you're supposed to clean your mattress (to vacuum up dust mites) at least once a month? And that you should regularly clean your washing machine and dishwasher?
Don't worry, we're not great at remembering to do this stuff either. But the fact is, cleaning and maintaining large home appliances is essential to ensure they last as long as possible.
Our guides to cleaning and maintaining your oven, washing machine, mattress and dishwasher can help you keep on top of things. You can also set up a calendar of reminders on your phone. Or, if you can, you could enlist a cleaner to take of it all for you.