Project Simplify 2013

About Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Every year I get the itch—you know that itch. It comes when the weather warms and you’re ready to get outside, but you first want to get your insides in order. If you’re up north, like me, it’s not warm enough yet to play outside without gear, but as soon as it is, boy howdy—you want to savor every minute of outdoor time and not waste a minute of it neck-deep in dusting.

But I’m originally from Texas, so I also know what it’s like to revel in the gorgeous spring wildflowers and want your insides to match the beauty out. Enjoy your home with the windows flung open while you can, because you know what’s coming this summer.

Yep, I’m talking about spring cleaning. Around here on this blog, we take advantage of that season with Project Simplify. Four weeks, a task at a time, group accountability to make it doable and fun.

I’m going crazy easy on myself this year and telling you EVERYTHING you need to know ahead of time—including all the dates and projects. So? Here they are.

The hot spots

Hot spots are the areas where we focus during each Project Simplify. In the past, we’ve been specific—the pantry or the kids’ toys, for instance. But I feel like that’s too specific this year. Who am I to know where your energies would most benefit? What if you don’t have kids at home? So this year, I’m letting you interpret these hot spots however it works best for you.

1. Drawers and Shelves (week of April 9)

You know the ones… The drawers where everything gets crammed and forgotten, the shelves that you don’t want to touch because everything would fall. This week, you’ll tackle these. You’ll declutter, clean, and organize these little hideaways, whether they’re in the kitchen, the garage, the kids’ room, or—well, everywhere. Do as many or as few as you want.

Update: Here’s my before and afters!

2. That Pesky Closet (week of April 16)

Almost every home has that closet you don’t dare open when company’s over—or if it’s not a literal closet, it acts as one since it’s the storage nook that’s last to get attention. This week, you’ll declutter, organize, and clean that one closet you can’t wait to call useful again.

Update: Here’s my before and afters!

3. Piles (week of April 23)

Are they clothes? Papers? Items you think you want to donate but still need to work through? Mismatched linens? Books and magazines? Whatever they’re made of, we’ve all got piles, and we all wish they’d disappear. Well this week, they will. Declutter these piles, and they’ll either leave your house completely, or they’ll find the home waiting for them in your house. You’ll love crossing off this one.

Update: Here’s my before and afters!

4. That Put-Off Project (week of April 30)

Any of the three above could fall in this category, but you probably have one more thing you’ve been wanting to do forever. Organize your sewing and craft supplies? Process your file cabinet? Set up the backyard for spring and summer play? Organize the garage? Throw out old spices from the pantry? Or maybe even change a room from serving one function to another? As big or as small as you want, this week gives you PERMISSION to focus on this long-awaited project so you can CROSS. IT. OFF. YOUR. LIST. Doesn’t that sound heavenly?

Update: Here’s my before and afters!

Want in on Project Simplify? You can. There’s nothing to sign or join—you just… do it. Before you start, take an honest-to-goodness “before” picture. You’ll love seeing your “after” shots—so very motivating, trust me. Then, you post your photos however you want—to your Flickr account, Facebook, Twitter, your blog, Instagram, wherever.

If you’d like a button for your blog to get your readers involved—and to hold you accountable for participating—copy and paste the code below (adjust the height and width as you like):

Project Simplify on Simple Mom
<div align="center"><a href="http://theartofsimple.net/project-simplify-2013/" title="Project Simplify on Simple Mom" target="_blank"><img src="http://theartofsimple.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/ps13.jpg" alt="Project Simplify on Simple Mom" width="300px" height="250px" /></a></div>


How it works:

Every Tuesday in April, I’ll show you my before-and-after shots of that week’s hot spot. All week long, you can add your before-and-after pics to that post, too. Join in on every hotspot, or do just one—whatever you like.

• If you’ve got a blog, publish your before-and-after pics there, and then post your link in the space provided at the end of each Simple Mom post. If you want to play along via Instagram, use the hashtag #ProjectSimplify, and your photos will show up in the post as well. But for everything else (Flickr, Facebook, whatever), just add a link to your photos in the comments.

• No prizes this year—well, except the pride and joy of crossing something off your list and finding a few sparkling corners in your home. Giveaways are tiring, and honestly, they’re not why you’re participating anyway. You want to declutter some of your hot spots, and I do, too.

Project Simplify 2013 on SimpleMom.net

If you’d like a bit more hand-holding, you can try out my first book, Organized Simplicity, which this week is loosely crafted after. It guides you through ten spots in your home and helps you declutter, clean, and organize them—but first helping you think about the home you really want.

This is the one Project Simplify post before we begin next Tuesday, so now’s the time to ask all your questions! Have any? And are you IN?


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  1. I am in! Already making my list of what I am going to tackle each week.
    Jenny Lynn´s latest post: My Vegi Trick

  2. Been waiting just for this… Thanks Tsh!

  3. I love knowing what the spots are ahead of time! I was always so eager in years past, waiting to find out what the next spot would be! I’ll never ever forget that your project simplify led me to find mold in the back of an overstuffed (Seattle) closet!
    Archer´s latest post: Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

  4. I’m IN!

  5. Great plan! I am in!
    Elizabeth´s latest post: Poinsettia Blooms

  6. Oh, how I need this as I prepare for a move this summer! I’m in!
    Cari´s latest post: Currently

  7. Yeah! I’m off work this year and finally get to be IN! I have already started, part of the nesting before baby #3 came!!

  8. Sounds great! Looking forward to decluttering in time for the summer season. Such a cathartic process…perfect for this time of year (though it’s still freezing here in the UK at present – boohoo!) Will be fun to join you all in the process. Thanks Tsh!

    • Oh, it still ebbs and flows here between warm and freezing, too, so I understand. Glad you’re joining in!

  9. I just requested your book at the library! I can’t wait to check it out! A cluttered home is so hard to live & love in.
    Mary A´s latest post: Mommy Resolution #12

  10. I’m in!
    Fly Mom´s latest post: Simplify 2013

  11. Yeah! This is always my favorite series of the year. I love seeing everyone’s photos, and I’m always astonished at how much stuff has managed to accumulate in our house even though I try to declutter often!
    Plus, this is perfect timing since I’m in my 3rd trimester ;) Gotta feed the nester with organization!
    Megan´s latest post: Kitchen Remodel: Things I’ve Learned

    • Uh… yeah, me too. I think it’s a good reminder that decluttering is a process and not a one-time thing to cross off the list. Otherwise I’d despair… :)

  12. I’m in! I’ve been waiting for this. :)
    Rebekah Lewis´s latest post: Project Simplify

  13. I am in! Really like the idea of the drawers and shelves – I know exactly where I am headed!

    • Awesome! I’m still debating which ones to do… I may do several little spots around the house.

      • I guess its kind of 3 areas in one – its two large cupboards with shelves and drawers (and sort of like a closet because there are doors to hide the shelves). These cupboards hold the vast majority of the toys and art supplies in our house and we want to get rid of them – the cupboards that is. If I CLEAN then out (rather than just organize and tidy them) then we can get something smaller and the kids will actually be able to play with everything in them. So excited!

  14. I’m so excited! A new house has my organization list a mile long. Let’s do this!
    Jessica @The Mom Creative´s latest post: Project Life Tuesday: Week 9

  15. I’m IN!!
    Faith´s latest post: Q & A (with Ella)

  16. I’m in! I was just trying to come up with a weekly task list on my own…what a great plan to be able to do it with everyone! And your first week is exactly where I wanted to start. (No where to put things away if the drawers and shelves are full! :o)

  17. I love the specific ideas and direction. It makes me feel like I’m joining a party and not doing a chore alone. Thanks!

    • Totally. It sorta is a party. A nerdy one, but still fun. And the aftereffects are a lot more fun than a usual party. ;)

  18. I am in! Excited!

  19. I am in! I love how you make it 1 thing a week- so people like me aren’t totally overwhelmed. We are expecting a baby in November and we live in a small house. I need to clear things out and make room, and this is perfect!

    Kate´s latest post: Just wanted to share..

  20. I’m so needing an extra push. Thanks

  21. In December we started purging and the piles of “do we donate or save for a yard sale?” have been sitting in the hallway and in our bedroom for 4 months! Oh, I’m so in on this. It’s time to get those piles moved out. Thanks for the push, Tsh!

    • I have those sorts of piles, too… We moved into a semi-remodeled house in July, so you can imagine the stuff still left around here, especially with a book deadline and then a knee injury. It’s crazy town around here!

  22. In! The “Put-off Task” alone is worth it. So many of those around here…
    Christina´s latest post: Literary Primacy and Literate Primates: Book Club and the Social Reading Habits of the Stocking Simian Community

  23. Yehaw! I’m totally in! Thanks, Tsh.

  24. avatar
    Deborah S says:

    I am in, this is going to be fun. Love it

  25. Oh yea!! Totally doing this one! I’ve been seeing other “Spring Cleaning” challenges or projects but I need something simple this year because of all the big home projects going on currently and during this summer. :)

  26. Oh, yes! I’m totally in – I just wrote down all the tasks for each week. So nice to have a week to accomplish each thing!! This a a great idea. Thanks for the prompt!

  27. Maybe I missed it, but is there a printable I can tape to my wall next to the calender? Thank you, Ma’am! :)

    • I haven’t made a printable for this year’s, but I can if enough people want one. What would you like in a printable?

  28. Yea! I’m so happy for the encouragement this provides. How did you know? Those four spots are perfect for me!!

  29. I’m in and sharing over at my blog !! Making my to-do list now!!
    Krista´s latest post: Spring Cleaning- Project Simplify- Organization for the Disorganized

  30. I’ve already been working on #1 and #2. As far as #3, it is the paper that gets me!! I can’t wait to tackle #4 and complete my project. :)
    Stephanie @ Mrs. Debtfighter´s latest post: Saving Money By Using Less

    • Yeah, I’m having a hard time deciding WHICH piles to tackle, not so much IF I have piles. Paper’s definitely one of them…

  31. I’m in and will be using that button as a reminder. I’m doing A to Z on the blog, but can Instagram like a mad fool! The before shots may need a terror warning. :)
    Amy Tilson´s latest post: B is for Books

    • Ha! Well, I’ve seen it all. Plus, you can always watch an episode of Hoarders before you begin, and you’ll probably feel a bit better. ;)

  32. This is so perfect Tsh! I especially like the area specific, but not completely specific goals. I need this and looking forward to participate for the first time.
    Kamille@Redeeming_table´s latest post: Kumquat Olive Oil Celebration Cake (Practices of Eating)

  33. Thank you for this! I am pregnant right now so I am in full nesting mode! Let’s see if I can make it to the end of the 4 weeks before baby comes!
    Vera´s latest post: Miss Maggie Rabbit(s)

  34. I’m in! This may just give me the kick in the pants that I need to get some areas cleaned up! :) Thank you for the motivation!

  35. I love this project. I did it last year and it was so satisfying. Taking the pictures, sharing them, reading all the other posts – it really was awesome to feel like this was a group project. I was so pleased with my results.
    Since then I’ve moved into a new house and so have new closets and shelves that haven’t ever really gotten in shape since we moved in. I’m really in need of this project. I DO have a question though:
    -What advice do you have for all those clothes?? The “these don’t fit, but they are so nice I hate to get rid of them” and the “this just needs a little mending and eventually I’ll get around to that” or the “my kid outgrew this but kid no.2 (or 3 or future unborn kid) might need it so I’ll keep it” – you know all those clothes that you really don’t wear but just keep on keeping?? That is a BIG storage issue at my house and I just can’t seem to stay on top of it! Help!!

    • Well, you can dig around in the archives under the “organizing” category because I’ve talked about a bit in past posts, but my short answers (for my family) are:

      1. If I haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. (Exceptions are maternity, which I kept in a box and in the garage.)

      2. I put up clothes my kids can’t currently wear in boxes labeled by gender and size, and store them in the upper shelves of their closets. Then I go through them about twice a year, usually at the start of the warmer and cooler seasons. If no one can wear them, out they go. (Exceptions are super sentimental items, but I can count on both hands the amount I’ve kept for all three kids.)

      Does that help? Basically, I’m much more of a purger than I am a keeper, but that’s my personality.

  36. I’m in too. Our bedroom closet is a disaster zone (it’s mainly my fault b/c my hubby is neat as a pin). Thanks!

  37. This will be my third year of participating! Those are great hot spots – I definitely need to address them all. :) Thanks!
    Mystie´s latest post: Chore board contents

  38. I’m IN too!
    Recently bought your book Organized Simplicity on iTunes and have put a date in my diary for a Car Boot Sale – hooray! (here in the UK, we don’t really do ‘yard sales’!). So hoping to add tons more things to GET. RID. OF. …PERIOD! As I work full time, I really only have Saturdays for the major declutter jobs so my weekends are looking pretty frightful right now – hence I could use the accountability! But I just know it will be SO worth the effort in the long run!

  39. I have stood on the sidelines long enough! I’ve read about this, looked at the photos, and all that and now I’m ready. I am in need and craving some organization. As you mentioned where, images immediately entered my mind. The gunk that’s on the tracks from a spill (before we moved in!) on a spice roll-out shelf, the “coat closet” which has become so much more, the pile of stuff we’ve been meaning to sell on craig’s list in our garage and finally, the reading room (used to be a formal dining room) needs a few updates to make its identity known to the world.
    So thanks! I am sure other ideas will pop into my mind as I go, but I’m really looking forward to this.
    Lana Wilkens´s latest post: The World’s Advice

  40. Ooooh I LOVE this idea!!!!

  41. I’m in and ready to de-clutter!
    Meghan´s latest post: Project Simplify…I Know You Wanna!

  42. My birthday falls in the middle of April, and I am closing in on 20 lbs lost- a great time for renewal , appreciating and loving some nice clean, open space! look forward to it!

  43. avatar
    Katherine says:

    I’m in!! I started a project called 40 things in 40 days. It means making a list of everything that needs to be cleaned or organized in the house and doing 1 thing on each day. This is my speed right now. A lot of what is on the list is a part of your project simplify weeks.

  44. I’ve been doing a whole series of projects . . . 52 of them, 1 per week. This will fit right in, so I’m joining the fun! :)
    Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake´s latest post: 52 Projects in 52 Weeks: Week 14

  45. I am in Australia so it’s not a spring clean as it is a fall clean for me :) happy times :)

  46. Omihek, it’s like you’re me, but way cooler. Even down to being from Texas and now living in the North! Well, Northwest, to be more specific. :) I’m so down with this.

  47. Oh you have no idea how I need this… do-able projects!!! I just had such a galactic fail at an organising project that was way to huge to contemplate!!! I am looking forward to small manageable things to sort out without worrying about wether they are blog-able or not. Sometimes you just have to get things done!!!
    se7en´s latest post: Se7en + 1 Reasons Why We Just Don’t Declutter…

  48. avatar
    Rebekah Labell says:

    Love it – I’m in!

  49. I am in! #1&2: utility closet and cupboard above. #3 clothes for donating piled in the corner of my bedroom. #4 baby #3′s first year baby book. (She’s 6!)

  50. Oh yes…I AM IN! I’m living in a teeny tiny bedsit and it’s gotten a bit outta control! So this totally works for me. I have another friend making noises about getting organised…I think I might just send her a link on facebook! Lets do it!
    Ursula´s latest post: Unlikely Lenten Youtube Goodness

  51. I’m in! This is perfect timing for me as it will turn into a moving project rather than a Spring cleaning project. Our lease is up the end of this month.

  52. I am in for sure! It’s also a Fall cleaning here in South Africa, but it is always the right time for decluttering.
    Anchen le Roux´s latest post: Being Green

  53. avatar
    Hillary says:

    I’m in!

  54. I’m in as well! I honestly don’t have that many drawers, but I need to come up with a system for my shelves.

  55. Count me in! I am managing to keep up with every day cleaning but clutter…..it is that thorn in my side. I clean under it, and around it but rarely do I feel inspired to deal with it so this project is just what I need to gain some motivation.
    Victoria´s latest post: Simple Tools For Setting Up An Effective Mobile Office: Anywhere

  56. I am in! Need to really de-clutter to find more space for all the homeschooling materials (started more than a month ago and the supplies are already growing).
    Felicia´s latest post: File Folder Games

  57. I love spring cleaning, but I have to admit that I’m a bit of a cleaning addict year-round. It keeps me sane to put things in order. I’m always telling my kids, “Clean house, clear mind!” Well, except for the laundry room–that’s an ongoing mountain of (clean) clothes that could use some serious help getting to proper destinations!
    Happy to have found your blog–always glad to find like-minded moms around the blogosphere!
    Joy @ Joyfully Green´s latest post: Instantly Greener: Create No-Tech Zones in Your Home

  58. Hmmm…my comment got eaten. I’ll restart:
    I love spring cleaning, but I must admit that I’m a bit of a cleaning addict year-round. I’m always telling my kids “Clean House, Clear Mind!” The laundry room is my Achilles’ Heel, though–ever-growing piles of clean laundry that need help getting to their destinations!
    Happy to have found your blog–I always enjoy reading like-minded bloggers!
    Joy @ Joyfully Green´s latest post: Instantly Greener: Create No-Tech Zones in Your Home

  59. Hmmm…my comment got eaten (two times?). I’ll restart:
    I love spring cleaning, but I must admit that I’m a bit of a cleaning addict year-round. I’m always telling my kids “Clean House, Clear Mind!” The laundry room is my Achilles’ Heel, though–ever-growing piles of clean laundry that need help getting to their destinations!
    Happy to have found your blog–I always enjoy reading like-minded bloggers!
    Joy @ Joyfully Green´s latest post: Instantly Greener: Create No-Tech Zones in Your Home

  60. avatar
    Constance says:

    I’m in, too.
    This just comes at the right time, as my decluttering/simplifying has stalled lately and I need to get back on track and finish off what I begun and even do some more…and hopefully will with all this team-action. I’m looking forward to that!
    Greetings from Berlin, Germany.

    • I’m in. I did it the first year with a group of friends (we just shared our before/after pics amongst ourselves), but haven’t since. It was actually a huge turning point in my life, and a big step toward becoming a minimalist. And a “hello, neighbor” to Constance in Berlin above, from Rosie in Luxembourg, Luxembourg.
      Rosie´s latest post: We’re Calling it Castle Park

  61. avatar
    Meredith says:

    I’m dying to join you… but I’ll see what I can do. In the throes of the first trimester with my 3rd child and working full time. It’s driving me crazy that I’m not getting anything done! Ahhh….

  62. OH good! I am looking forward to doing this. Must simplify with moving internationally soon!!
    Alaina´s latest post: Tornado Rememberance

  63. Man, I would love to, BUT

    We’re heading to Africa to pick up our new daughter in about 6 weeks and a simplifying project (as needed as it is around here) might just put me over the edge of the clff.
    Preparing to travel across the ocean with my three kids & hubby to meet my fourth is a bit overwhelming.
    Scratch that: I’m totally rearranging project simplify and it goes like this:
    Week 1: Adoption files (cleaning it out, gathering important papers)
    Week 2: Miss Sunshine’s new wardrobe dug out from crates thrown up in the attic back when my others were small.
    Week 3: A closet–hmm, oh, I’ll put away all the snow/cold gear by the back door–that’s sort of a closet.
    Week 4: That put off project? well, I think that’s all of them. So in lieu of that, I’ll get out the luggage and start packing.
    Thanks, Tsh. Because this 5 minutes of thought, really just took a load off!
    Sammy Beuker´s latest post: Oh, those eyes!

  64. Totally joining you! WOW! it’s crazy. We’re on the same page. Already started this past week without seeing this post. too bad I didn’t take any before pics :). Will try to post some with other projects. FUN!

  65. I’m in! (And I, I can’t pin down why, but I love that you aren’t doing a giveaway with it!)
    Karla Archer´s latest post: Perspective

  66. I’m in!! (and I can’t pin down why, but I love that you aren’t doing a giveaway along with it!!)
    Karla Archer´s latest post: Perspective

  67. avatar
    DellaDelano says:

    I’m in!!!!! Thanks for the ideas on where to begin. I truly love being guided when it comes to things I tend to put off….

  68. avatar
    Korinthe says:

    We are about to move house for the SECOND time in three months, with two small kids… I barely had time to clutter the drawers and closets yet! But we are moving back into our original house, and I’m giving lots of thought to the old hot spots and taking advantage of the fact that they are all empty at the moment. I’ve already scheduled the VVA to come and pick up in two weeks!

  69. I’m in. but the first thing that definitely needs to be crossed off the mental list…..procrastination ;/

  70. avatar
    Michelle says:

    I am in! Yippeee. Thank you for posting this. Great motivation!

  71. I’m in, I need to figure out where to start!
    aimee´s latest post: this week in work

  72. Yay! Let’s get organized!
    Alysa (InspiredRD)´s latest post: A quick health update…

  73. avatar
    Jennifer says:

    Came over on Alyssa’s shoestrings. Count me in too. Great timing!

  74. Love This! Just what I needed for me and my family.
    I included a link to your blog in my most recent post:
    Steph Weibring´s latest post: keepin’ it simple

  75. Phew! What a de-cluttering work out! I would love to take part, though I only found out about this today. I know my junk drawer needs some major organization. And today a bunch of stuff fell off my closet’s top shelf…. so I HAVE to get that fixed.

    Oh, and I found you from Simple As That. ;)
    Samantha´s latest post: April Kindness Package

  76. do you have a home page? It is hard to find what is your last post. Trying to follow the photo series….

  77. My goal this year is all about organise & declutter, but I sometimes all behind, so this will be a great help, thank you so much

  78. I’m SOOOOOO doing this!!
    I really need this for my home. I’ve been trying to de-clutter the house but I need a lil more inspiration… a big ole kick in my butt!
    Lizzie Sanchez´s latest post: Wordless Wednesday

  79. Also a Texas girl, and let me tell you, the weather beckons! 78-84, sunny, northerly breeze. Rain has come and gone in Austin and everything is lush and green. But yesterday my hall/ coat closet called and I got busy while the baby napped. I even broke out my hubby’s power tools. And I must have opened that door 100 times to admire a job well done. Thanks for the post! Next week: the kids’ chests of drawers–time to cull old clothes and see what they need for next year. Oh, but the call of the wild(flowers)…

  80. I chose a few different spots for my project simplify. The most major being our storage shed.

    Amy´s latest post: project simplify: the shed.

  81. I heard so much about this project and was a little curious, so I decided to stop by. So glad I did, and now I know what’s going on! Although I’m a bit of a neat freak and do manage to keep the house clutter-free most of the year, there are still a few places (especially closets, drawers, etc.) that could use some sprucing up. And with a 3 year-old running around the house I’m sure there are plenty of other areas I’ll find that needs work too… Thanks for sharing your weekly plans with us, it gives me that extra motivation to get the whole house in order now!
    Crystal Mercado´s latest post: Smashbook: Our Love Song

  82. avatar
    Chrissy Blake says:

    I always mean to organize things better, but I don’t usually accomplish much with it. I do organize things while I do my spring shopping, though. The basic rule in my family is you clear out the old to make way for the new and organize your drawers and closets while you are at it. The kids and I cleaned out our closets this weekend before heading down to Berlington Coat Factory for some new spring clothes. We saved a bunch of money on our new outfits and the house is looking better too.

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