Article by: Laura Gaskill

With the shortest days (and longest nights) of the year, midwinter can certainly live up to its bleak reputation— but this season also encourages slowing down, simplifying and getting cozy. This January, take advantage of the momentum a new year brings to clear out clutter, start a healthy habit and make plans for the year ahead. Here are 15 ideas for a refreshed and revived home.

1. Do the postholiday cleanup. Pack up holiday decorations carefully for next year and give your living space a thorough cleaning to pick up stray pine needles. Break down cardboard boxes, gather wrapping materials to recycle and find homes for holiday gifts.

2. Buy flowers and light candles. Boost spirits on short winter days by lighting candles (real or battery powered), and indulge in cut flowers from the market or a new potted houseplant to freshen the air.

3. Create space to get some exercise indoors. Especially if winters are cold where you live, making a workout zone in the house can be a great help in staying healthy when you can’t get outside. Even a corner of a room cleared of furniture can be enough space for rolling out a yoga mat or working out with weights.

4. Give your command center a reboot. The spot where you drop items as you walk in the door can be a clutter magnet. Make a fresh start for the new year by clearing away the paper, old pens, rubber bands and other random items that have migrated into your command center. Clean the surface, remove old notices from the bulletin board and put up a new calendar.

5. Sharpen knives. Cooking with sharp knives cuts down on prep time and is safer, too. Take your kitchen knives to a pro to be sharpened, and maintain them between sharpening sessions with a honing tool at home.

6. Give your kitchen a healthy makeover. Making a resolution to eat more healthfully? Start by clearing those less-healthy options out of your pantry and fridge. Place fresh fruits and vegetables front and center, and put healthy-food prep aids, like a juicer or blender, on the counter where you are more likely to use them.

7. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. With more heater use and wood fires in the fireplaceand less opening of windows, winter is an especially important time to make sure those smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working. Use the test button on each device and change batteries as needed.

8. Clear clutter responsibly. If you are doing a new year’s purge of unwanted items, keep things out of the landfill and help others by donating gently used items to a good cause. For other items be sure to recycle responsibly — try the Earth 911 recycle search to find a recycling center that accepts electronics, paint, clothing and more in your area.

9. Gather home inspiration and set goals. Whether you’re thinking of remodeling or simply picking a new paint color for the living room, use downtime in January to do some research and make plans.

10. Plan your spring garden. Scoop up a stack of seed catalogs, a notepad and a pencil, and pour yourself a mug of tea 
— it’s time to sketch out ideas for this year’s garden. Drawing your plans on paper is a good way to keep things realistic (can you really fit five kinds of tomatoes?) and plan paths and hardscaping components at the same time.

11. Rest, relax and appreciate what you have. Take a cue from the natural world in winter and slow down this season. Get cozy at home and embrace simple pleasures like reading a good book, making a big pot of soup or indulging in an afternoon nap.

12. Protect pipes from freezing if you leave. For trips away from home in cold weather, leave your thermostat turned up enough to keep the house from freezing — the American Red Cross recommends setting the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees and leavingbathroom and kitchen cabinet doors open to warm exposed pipes. For longer trips away when the weather is expected to dip below freezing, have a friend or neighbor check on your home regularly, and show the person where the water shutoff valve is, just in case.

13. Inspect your home after winter storms. Make a habit of taking a walk around your property after big winter storms to check for damage from fallen tree limbs, ice and snow.

14. Take down and store exterior holiday decorations. Pack away the holiday lights and decorations for next year — use dividers to separate strands of lights to prevent them from becoming hopelessly tangled.

15. Help out the birds. Non-migrating birds have it tough in winter. Keep those bird feeders filled with seed, and set out water regularly (or invest in a heated water dish) to provide a water source when most of the water they would normally have access to is frozen.

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