Spring Clean Your Life With These Straightforward Tips

Photo: Shutterstock/Design: Mia Coleman

Sure, you could organize your closet or see if cleaning your oven sparks joy this spring — but “spring cleaning” doesn’t necessarily have to mean breaking out the sponges. In fact, paying a little extra attention to your email inbox, taking inventory of your pantry, or rethinking your wireless plan will likely have you feeling much more organized in the long term. (And, could keep a little cash in your pocket.) So read on for ways to clean up your act this spring, and you’ll be feeling more put together all year long. 

Bulk unsubscribe from unnecessary emails 

Few things ruin a Monday morning like opening your inbox and finding 279 unread messages. While it may not take up any physical space, a cluttered inbox can have the same effect on your ability to focus as a messy desk. The good news is that most of that email (about 85%, most likely!) is spam or promotional emails. The first step to clearing your messy inbox is eliminating emails you definitely don’t need, like push notifications. There’s no sense in getting a ping on your desktop app, an actual notification on your phone, and one in your inbox every time you have a meeting, so make sure those are disabled. Then, take advantage of your email provider’s built in clean-up features for promotional emails: some will recognize marketing emails you don’t open and prompt you to unsubscribe with just one click, sans leaving the tab. There are also services that roll up newsletters and promotions to help you unsubscribe from a ton at once, but be warned that some of these apps and extensions may sell your info, so do your research before opting in. 

Silence spam calls for good 

If you’re a millennial getting a phone call, it’s one of two people: your mom or a telemarketer. Thankfully, minimizing interruptions from the latter is as simple as registering your number on the national Do Not Call registry. (You may still get telemarketers calling in the first 30 days, but after a month has passed, report any that trickle through to the FTC.) Then, block all spam callers who still make it through in your phone settings. While you’re there, you can also check if your phone has a setting to silence all unknown callers, which will send any number that’s not in your contact list to your voicemail. (Just make sure to add real places, like your doctor’s office, to your contacts, otherwise you may miss their calls.) For spam texts, don’t respond with the “stop” or “unsubscribe” feature unless it’s a legitimate business, and instead report it by copying the message and forwarding it to 7726 (A.K.A. S-P-A-M).

Nix IRL junk mail 

Not so fun fact: The U.S. Postal Service delivers 77 billion pieces of junk mail a year. Besides just feeling downright overwhelming, having a ton of catalogs, credit card offers, and local coupons delivered to you on the daily can create actual clutter in your home, too. (Not to mention local landfills.) Opt out of prescreened credit offers online (i.e., all those credit card and loan offers), and then use a similar process to get out of direct mailers (catalogs and coupons). After that, keep a recycling bin in your entry to toss unwanted mail immediately to keep it from piling up. Then, to make sure you don’t miss important stuff (like that birthday card from Aunt Jean), USPS also offers a service where they email you a roundup of what’s coming in the mail every morning, so you can see in advance if anything important is arriving.

Photo: Shutterstock/Design: Mia Coleman

Give your wireless plan a closer look

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spent about $99 a month in 2019 on their wireless bill, and that doesn’t include expensive smartphone “leases” or gimmicky insurance plans. Instead of sticking with one of the big carriers that have a hefty contract, switch to a low-cost option like Straight Talk to help keep more money in your bank account every month. Their unlimited plans start at just $45 per month*, and you can get a new Samsung Galaxy A51 for just $249.99. If you’d prefer to keep your own phone, you can do that too with Straight Talk — and take advantage of the same networks as the bigger guys, just for less.

Finally, finally set up a password manager 

Americans spend 12 days of their entire life trying to remember passwords — that’s longer than a typical vacation! A password manager will pull double duty by remembering these for you while making sure the passwords you create are actually keeping your info on lock. Before you set one up though, check to see if any of your regular passwords have been compromised, then set up two-factor authentication on your most important logins: bank accounts, email addresses, etc. Password managers are frequent targets for potential hackers, so if that freaks you out, you can also keep track of your passwords in a dedicated password journal. Old school, yes, but it’s actually the most secure option out there.

Pre-pack your travel toiletry bag 

Most travel may still be on hold for now, but if you have a dedicated toiletry bag sitting in your closet, packing it well before a trip will ensure you don’t forget anything when you finally can hit the road. Fill it with miniatures of your regular products, a toothbrush, and extra medication so you’ll be ready to go in no time. (Plus, it won’t take up extra closet space.) Beyond just traveling, having a bag like this is also recommended in case of an emergency. 

Set aside one hour to schedule all your recurring appointments

True story: It took me three MONTHS to schedule my eye doctor appointment this year. Like many millennials, I detest making phone calls and put off easy chores until the absolute last second, which in this case was after I wore the same pair of contacts for six weeks. Don’t be like me. Instead, carve out a one-hour block on a weekday lunch break this spring to make all your appointments for the entire year. Make a list first — physicals, dental cleanings, eye exams, the flu vaccine — and then start calling. You can always reschedule when the time gets closer if you end up having a conflict.


Photo: Shutterstock/Design: Mia Coleman

Take inventory of your pantry 

Part of the reason why restaurant kitchens are so efficient is because they not only have well-stocked pantries, but systems in place to keep them that way. Your home kitchen can stay just as organized with a simple spreadsheet that outlines your items, expiration dates, and how much you have on hand plus a weekly check-in before you do your grocery shopping. There are several templates online you could mimic, or set up your own spreadsheet that’s totally custom to your needs. To keep from getting overwhelmed, start small with just the ingredients and spices you use most often and need on repeat (think olive oil, salt & pepper, and the like). Then, once you’ve managed that, work in meal staples, like grains, beans, etc. Eventually, you’ll find yourself wasting less food, buying only what you need, and avoiding those moments where you need to make a last-minute grocery store run. 

Create a personalized entertainment guide 

Few time sucks are as insidious as trying to figure out what to watch (we lose 45 hours a year doing it!) or what to eat for dinner (5.5 days a year on that one!). At the same time, our friends and family are constantly throwing recommendations at us — which we usually promptly forget. Giving yourself a central document where you can quickly jot these recommendations down, even if it’s just a note on your phone, will alleviate some of your choice paralysis the next time you’re searching for a new takeout place. If you’re a hyper-organized person, you can even set this up in a spreadsheet like this, just make sure it’s accessible via the cloud so you can drop in suggestions in real time.

Set up a quarterly meeting to review your finances (with yourself) 

Tax season is an ideal time to hit reset on your finances, as you’re likely reviewing them anyway to file before April 15. First, schedule time on your calendar for a quarterly financial meeting, starting with the day you complete your tax return this year, then every three months after. During these solo check-ins, check your tax withholdings on your pay statements against the IRS estimator to make sure it’s on track, then adjust if needed (or set up a “payment” into a dedicated account if you’re a freelancer) to avoid a big surprise bill (or a big refund — there’s no need to overpay). Then, check out what’s in your 401(k) or other retirement savings accounts, and reassess your budget and monthly cell phone bill to identify potential savings. Set financial goals for the quarter (pay off a credit card, save for a major purchase, start an investment account, maybe? ) just like a major company would, and take the first steps to hit them. By next year, you’ll have fewer surprises and feel more on top of your budget.

*First 25GB at high speeds, then at 2G