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Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Crowley and Leela Cyd

The 10 Most Important Things That You Need to Clean for the New Year

published Dec 26, 2021
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New year energy is our biggest seasonal reboot and I, for one, love to ride the surge of motivation it brings. From starting a nightly yoga habit to vowing to resume my morning walks, I’ve picked up many new resolutionary habits, even if I know most of them will fade by the time January melts into spring. 

But there’s another kind of fresh start boost that doesn’t involve sticking to new ways of doing things — and it’s arguably more impactful. It’s the push we have to simplify and declutter and let go of the old. There’s something almost primal, a genetic force, in making way for new things by physically clearing out the things from the past that weigh us down. 

As always when it comes to how we take care of our environments, there’s a metaphorical corollary to the physical actions we perform when we make changes to our surroundings. As we wrest order out of chaos, we gain a sense of control. As we clean junk out of our homes, we make space for the things that matter most not only in our houses, but also in our lives. 

Cleaning for the New Year, then, isn’t just about making our houses spotless. It’s a way to muse on the structure of our lives, an opportunity to tend to the setting that’s the backdrop of our day-to-day, the moments that make up the entirety of our home life. 

From the intensely practical to rituals steeped in tradition and culture, here are some of the most important things to clean for the new year. 

Credit: Leela Cyd

Maintenance on “nearly everything.”

Lauren of An Organized Life likes to start the new year totally fresh. She describes, “Before the new year, I will perform maintenance and cleaning on pretty much everything.” She outlines how she will do not only her appliance maintenance, but also “clean cars, deep clean quilts, wipe down baseboards, and clean windows.” Lauren feels like these activities “wipe the slate clean” and she personally likes to perform these tasks before welcoming the new year. 

While you may want to save chores like window and baseboard cleaning until it’s time for spring cleaning, appliance maintenance is an excellent new year task. Making sure that your oven, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, refrigerator, etc. are all in tip-top shape ensures that they will serve you well in the year to come and that they’ll last a long time in general. Check your manuals online for annual maintenance tasks. 

Air out the house.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ruth Ting, mother of two, enjoys a super-simple new year cleaning task: letting fresh air into the house. She suggests, “Airing out the house on a not-too-cold-or-wet day” because “things get stuffy and stale easily.” She’s right, of course. The combination of houses tightly sealed against the cold and the whole household cozied up at home more than any other time of year spells indoor air that could use freshening up. There’s nothing like a breeze of crisp outdoor air to make it happen. 

Organize closets.

Mother Rebekah North turns her attention to a more private area of the home and prefers to sort through closets to kick off the new year. “Organize your closets! Get rid of things you don’t wear and use,” she encourages. To be sure, a thinned-out closet gives the gift of more serene mornings every day of the year. For the greatest impact, be ruthless in decluttering your closet contents. Donate everything you can that you haven’t worn in the last year, including clothing, outerwear, shoes, and accessories. Keep only your favorite items that you feel good in. This way you’ll end up with a wardrobe composed of only items you love to wear. Doesn’t that sound great?

Kids’ closets are another major source of overflow, and cleaning them out feels so good. While January is still mid-cold season, you’ve probably discovered some coats or hats that no longer fit. It’s also a good time to thin out warm-weather clothes that won’t fit next season, if you haven’t done this yet. Save hand-me-downs that are in good condition for your younger children or pack them to donate. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Clean the blinds.

Ruth Mannix points out that a season of heavy cooking leaves a film of grease on window blinds. This veneer of oil is a dust magnet, and pretty soon your blinds are coated in a layer of grime that only a thorough cleaning can address. Her favorite way to clean neglected blinds is with a Magic Eraser. Tune in to a podcast or an audiobook and get to work on this tedious task that, once done, makes your whole home feel so much cleaner. 

Speaking of windows: Clean everything window-related.

Life coach Vanessa Yu also likes to focus on the windows in her home when it comes to a new year refresh. She explains, “Clean everything window-related for a fresh, new outlook in the new year: window panes, blinds, shutters, wash the curtains, etc.” This emphasis on windows and having a “new outlook” is an especially pertinent new year sentiment. 

To have a successful window-washing session, wait for an overcast day (that isn’t too cold). Too much sun can cause water spots. Try a white vinegar and water solution, with a few drops of Dawn to clean your window glass. Window tracks can be cleaned with some sprays of straight Mr. Clean, which is then sopped up with a paper towel. 

Donate kid toys and clothes.

Time to get rid of those old PJs, coats, and toys now that you’ve likely been inundated with a bunch of new ones. Bethany Pearce, expat mother of three living in England, finds it hard to let go of old baby clothes but knows that it will set her up for a simplified year ahead. She also plans to “go through all the toys we don’t use and donate them.” While it’s nice to clear out space before the holidays, it’s not always easy to declutter when we’re bustling around in December. Dedicating some time to sort out toys that your kids have outgrown and getting them out of your house makes it so much easier to enjoy the toys you do keep and gives you back the time and energy you would have spent shuffling through them, organizing them, and cleaning them. Tip: local Buy Nothing groups and women’s shelters are great places to donate.

Organize your books.

Mother of three Sarah Gallant kills two birds with one stone with her top new year cleaning task. She sorts through all her books and figures out what she wants to read in the new year. Not only is this an opportunity to pass along some books to donation centers or loan them to friends, but it also gives you a chance to plan ahead for a year of reading great, deliberately chosen titles. No more wondering what to read next! This goes for kids’ books too. Check in with your kids’ school or local daycares to see if they’re accepting new donations for books your kids may have outgrown.

Clean out the garage.

I can’t tell you how many times our weekend plans have revolved around cleaning out the garage, and I know I’m not the only one! The garage is where so many things that are hard to deal with or put away get tossed and forgotten. Because they’re out of sight, it’s too easy to put off handling them, and pretty soon there’s a growing pile of items that need to be fixed, sold, donated, or put away properly. Oh, and let’s not forget the collection of boxes that need to be broken down and put in recycling! 

Taking some time at the beginning of the year to address garage junk sets the tone for the whole year. I for one can attest to the fact that a garage that’s completely cleaned up has a far greater chance of staying that way than one that’s 90 percent done. Just like an empty sink that nudges us to put the mug in the dishwasher, a clean garage makes us loathe to mess it up. Cleanliness begets cleanliness. 

My favorite way to clean out the garage is to take out everything and put it in the driveway before sorting, purging, categorizing, and, finally, putting everything back. If weather permits, try this method. No matter which way you tackle the task, crank up the music, get the whole family involved, and plan a pizza party for when it’s done. 

Have your carpets cleaned.

If you have wall-to-wall carpeting or large area rugs, make an appointment to have them professionally cleaned. One close look will show that your rugs are much dirtier than you think they are. Cleaning them, getting all that stuck-in dirt and all those tougher stains out of your rugs, instantly brightens up your indoor spaces. Plus, cleaning your rugs lengthens their life. 

Get your dryer vents cleaned.

If you choose to maintain and service all your appliances, your dryer will be included. But even if not, it’s so important to have your dryer vents cleaned out. Every year, thousands of house fires are caused by lint build-up in dryer vents. In fact, fires caused by clogged dryer vents peak in January. Schedule an appointment to have a specialist come clean them out.