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Starting the New Year with Simplifying

Decking the home is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, we break out the stockings, ornaments, Christmas books and other relics that have been collected over the years. They give our home a cozy feel and go perfectly with our Christmas music and undending supply of sweet treats.

But there comes a point when we’ve had enough sugar, right?

That’s how I feel about the festive look, too.

During the days between Christmas and New Year’s, I started feeling that itch to simplify, de-clutter and otherwise rock my world with the promise of a new year and a clean slate, but much stronger than ever before. Since I’m definitely not a minimalist by nature, this is a definitely shift for me. But I suppose it’s just one more step along the journey toward a simpler, more natural lifestyle.

After all, less stuff leaves more room for living life.

I thought I’d share my goals for simplifying and a few helpful resources with you and then I’d love to hear about your goals and experiences in the comments.

My Plan of Attack

From Paper to Digital

One of my biggest sources of clutter is paper. I’m currently learning to use Evernote as a place to store all kinds of things that normally clutter up my home, such as:

  • photos of my kids’ artwork (so I can then recycle it guilt-free!)
  • recipes/articles clipped off the web rather than printed out
  • documents I want to keep track of
  • recipes from magazines that clutter up my kitchen counter
  • important notices that come home from school

I don’t have a fancy desktop scanner (just a printer/scanner), but I’m going to start scanning as much paper as possible in order to clear some horizontal spaces in my house and significantly slim down my home management notebook.

Toys, Not Junk

One of the biggest lessons I’ve been learning lately is how bogged down, uninspired, and overwhelmed kids can get when they have too many toys. We are trying desperately to pare down our toys and even children’s books, so that we’re left with only the toys that not only are loved by our children but also enrich and inspire their creative play. 

While we did take a good-sized bag of toys out of our playroom before Christmas, we still want to tak more out. We’re sending some toys to the grandparents’ house as an alternative to getting rid of everything that we don’t want in our home.

Minimizing the Bookshelf

I think I’ve mentioned this here before, but I am a bit of a book hoarder. Well, as I type this, my husband is helping me eat my frog and I am finally starting to go through my many boxes of books that have been cluttering up our garage (I have way more than I’ve ever had shelf space for).

I’m trying to really choose to keep only books that I will either read again, that my kids will read, or that I might want to reference someday.


As I mentioned on Sunday, two of my favorite resources for know why to simplify and more importantly, how, are Tsh of Simple Mom‘s books Organized Simplicity and One Bite at a Time. Until tonight (Wednesday) at midnight, you can still enter to win a copy of One Bite at a Time!

Another great book that I’m currently devouring is Simplicity Parenting, which isn’t simply a how-to but also an awesome why resource for families who want to see their children transformed by the power of less.

What are you hoping to simplify or de-clutter this year? Do you have any helpful resources to recommend?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Nicole, these are my big ones, too–paper, toys, and books. And I’m resolving to learn to use Evernote in 2012!

    Good luck with your Big Three this year! And thanks for the encouragement to help me tackle mine.

    • Nicole

      So glad I’m not alone here…I look forward to seeing how it goes for you! 🙂

  2. brie

    i’m also going through 52 bites – LOVE it! we’re in the process of setting up and decorating our home, so i’m really hoping to do that intentionally and NOT add clutter!

    and i love using the pomodoro technique to get difficult jobs done!

    • Nicole

      Thanks, Brie, I’ll check that out! Have fun setting up your home!

  3. Audrey @ Mom Drop Box

    Oh yes… holiday decorations were a bit too much for me this year. I took them down the day after Christmas, and then began to declutter. So far I’ve tackled our trunk-style coffee table & my jewelry box- two areas that don’t often get a lot of attention. I’m slowly working on decluttering the toys. I also love Tsh’s book as a resource.

    • Nicole

      I did the jewelry box last year… I wear my stuff much more now that I can find what I want and see what I have! 🙂

  4. Kara E.

    This topic was right on time for me. I just cleaned out the main bathroom of extra stuff that started taking up precious space (you know, those beauty items that don’t get used on a daily basis). I’ll probably work on the kitchen, our hall closets, and my clothes (closer to spring) next.

  5. Tamara

    I hae to admit, my Christmas decorations are still up. I’m hoping to get them down this weekend, especially since I have a birthday party the next weekend.

    Decluttering is one of our family goals for the year.

    • Nicole

      Parties always help me get going on home organization projects! 😉

  6. Andrea

    Going through your books?! Wow! I’m impressed. I’ve gone through the kids toys before Christmas and gave bags & bags away. I’ve gone through my closet and also given away…but my books? Even those books that remain boxed up and never get unpacked each time we move? I know I should, but I don’t know if I can! And yes, I also have issues with paper…You’ve given me something to think about!

    • Nicole

      I know, I’m still shocked with myself. Even if I pare down a little bit it will be an improvement! 😉

  7. Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable

    Definitely time to do something with all of the paper documents:) I have wanted to do this for a while and you just reminded me! It’s on the to-do-list now…thank you:)

    • Nicole

      You’re welcome! I definitely recommend checking out evernote to help with the paper. Good luck!

  8. Rachael

    My husband and I are certified to be foster parents but still waiting for our first placement. It’s driving me crazy to have a ton of toys (most given by loving, supportive family!) for ages birth through 5 or 6, because we have no idea what we’ll need. It’s all thrown into our little-used office, which has become a dumping ground. My simplifying resolution is to sort out the well-meant-but-not-right-for-us toys (plastic and noisy, mostly), and put the rest away, neatly, in the basement!

    • Nicole

      Those “well-meant-but-not-right-for-us toys” are definitely the most challenging to deal with!

  9. Successful Woman's Resource Center

    I have already made several sweeps through our books, however I think it is time to do so again!
    I also deal with lots of paper clutter and learning to use Evernote more and more. I even use it to take sermon notes on Sunday instead of writing on space provided on the bulletin, as I felt the need to keep the bulletins!
    Horizontal surfaces have always been a problem for me, but I am constantly getting better at keeping them clear, or at least clearing them off on a weekly basis!

  10. Katie

    Simple Mom’s publications are too Mom oriented, it drove me crazy. For a general look at decluttering I recommend The Joy of Less by Francine Jay or the 100 Thing Challenge for a look at what we can do without.

    • Nicole

      Thanks for the recommendations!

  11. Sami

    We just overhauled our garage this week! Stuffed the trash cans full, and the mini van was packed to the brim with thrift store donatons!! Exhausted but happy. I’m also reading simplicity parenting! It’s great!

  12. Sami

    Oh, and amazons book buying program is super easy! Just google it, I just sent off 3 boxes myself. 🙂

    • Nicole

      Thanks for the idea! I was wondering what I would do with them all once I set some out to get rid of.

      • Sami

        It’s supposed to be for textbooks, but I was surprised at what passed for a “textbook!” I just tried them out and they took a bunch. I was happy, but just know they are a little choosy. 🙂

  13. Diane Balch

    I always found reducing the number of toys my kids had to be the hardest task.
    I say keep the toys that are the simplest. The ones with the least bells and whistles. The ones that inspire creativity and/ or social interaction: arts and craft items, dress up, puzzles, building blocks, dolls, manual vehicles etc. Then rotate them, because what a kid loves best today, he may be bored with tomorrow.

  14. Rebecca

    I recommend the store “Half Price Books” as a way to sell used books, DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes or even cassette tapes (retro!) – you don’t get a lot for them, maybe 50cents to $1 per book (childrens books even less) but if you have a few bagfuls it can add up to a little bit. I cleared out my basement book boxes and made about $30 – used it for a treat as a reward for clearing out clutter. Bonus, they take everything, (they recycle what is un-sellable) so no lugging home the remnants.

  15. sara

    i can’t say enough about – put in the ISBN number and it gives you results from 25-44 book-buying websites, including the heavy hitters like b&n and amazon. it’s amazing the difference in price for some of the more popular books or textbooks.
    the leftovers get donated to my local library for their book sale or anyplace i can find.
    throwing away a book seems like bludgeoning a baby seal.

  16. kristine

    I’ve been wanting to go through our books and all of my crafting supplies.

  17. thefisherlady

    I am doing exactly what you write about today… so far it has been two days of simplifying/ decluttering… and photos of everything I want to remember but not have as clutter! Yay! Feels good!

  18. amandaginn

    I loved Simplicity Parenting. It empowered me to make some “difficult” changes to our home life, and equipped me with a response for those who don’t understand all the parenting choices we make.

    Tackling toys and clutter today!

  19. Ryan

    Great advice! Life is so much easier when you simplify and get rid of clutter.

  20. Trista

    Where do you take your toys to donate? I’m needing to get rid of some of my little guy’s toys. I think it’s pretty bad when even he at nearly 3 years old is leaning into his toybox saying “So many toys!” (He was trying to find something and couldn’t find it.)

  21. Pete

    Hi Nicole,
    Great post. I’m trying to simplify at the moment. I’ve tried in the past, I attempted to get rid of all our old magazines, I even started a tumblr of scans of my favourite pages. but it turned into a hurdle. I think I’m just going to have to take the to the doctors surgery or something.

    We gave away all but our most important books when we moved back to Australia from London. We ended up leaving a lot of them on busses with little postits on them saying how much we enjoyed each one. (This was the most enjoyable parts of moving)

    But Toys… Oh my god, toys not trash is spot on. We make a lot of toys from paper and these can be recycled but there is just a never ending stream of toys for our two little boys. The idea of a toy box at the grandparent’s house is awesome. I am definitely going to make that happen.

    @Trista, I don’t know about where you live but in Australia we have local toy libraries that you can donate to. Maybe you have something your area?

    Evernote is super rad!! Look into emailing notes with tags in the subject line. I do this with my receipts. Makes tax time a lot easier

  22. New Year Resolution Sermons

    Great goals for the new year! Thank you for detailing your approach, many often get daunted by this task. Now those people will know how to go about it.

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