An (organized) coat closet in a Georgetown home. (Darko Zagar/For The Washington Post)

The beginning of a new year always feels revitalizing, at least for a few days. But if there are bags, boxes, and papers from the past year still hanging around your house, the new year can feel a little less like a fresh start.

If you’ve vowed to de-clutter and organize in 2015, now is the time to begin. Don’t get bogged down in trying to decide which room or space should be your first priority; just pick a spot — even a small spot — and get to work. It’s better to start the new year with easy solutions than with empty resolutions. So here are a few project ideas that involve relatively little time and effort but are sure to leave you feeling both satisfied and motivated to do more.

1. Return unwanted holiday gifts.

Returning gifts is not fun — in fact, it’s kind of depressing. But if you’ve been ruminating about whether you like or need something you received, chances are you don’t. Stop trying to convince yourself. Return it to the store before the end of January.

2. Clean out your pantry.

The holidays can leave your pantry in total disarray, especially if you were hosting a large group. The best way to restore order is to remove everything, wipe off the shelves, toss expired items and then begin restocking. Categorize and sort items. Nuts, rice, noodles, dried fruit and other things that come in upright sealable plastic bags can be held together in long rectangular containers. Snacks for kids and lunchbox items should also be grouped together and put in bins to make them easy to find.

3. Scale down athletic clothes.

Most people who exercise grab the same two or three items for each workout, and all the other colorful but ill-fitting stuff they either bought on a whim or received as swag at a fundraising event goes unused. Take an inventory of your leggings, tank tops, sweatshirts, T-shirts and shoes. If they’re threadbare, toss them; if you haven’t worn them in the past few months, toss or donate.

4. Tidy up underneath the kitchen sink or bathroom vanity.

This is not a huge job, but it can be daunting. Not only are you not going to find anything fun in there, you’re also probably going to have to deal with a bunch of half-empty bottles filled with hazardous cleaning materials that you aren’t sure how to dispose of. But getting rid of many of those items properly isn’t that hard. In the District, you can drop off hazardous household waste at the Fort Totten Transfer Station every Saturday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. It will take things like aerosol cans, household cleaning products, bleach and drain de-cloggers. Check the Web site ( for a full list of acceptable items. In Virginia or Maryland, most counties have similar information on their Web sites. For Arlington County, for example, go to and look under “household hazmat”; for Montgomery County, search for hazardous waste programs on

5. Clean and straighten the coat closet.

The floor of your coat closet is probably dirty, and it’s hard to clean without taking everything out, so you might as well do just that. Clear the space, clean the floor and put everything you’ll need for the next four months back inside. Throw away orphan mittens or gloves; shoes that your children have outgrown should be donated or tossed. Boots you no longer wear should be donated if they’re in good condition. Hats, gloves, scarves and umbrellas can be stored in bins or in an over-the-door hanger. Put your coats on sturdy hangers, not flimsy wire ones that sag under the weight of wool.

6. Delve into a couple of mystery boxes.

Take three or four bins or boxes out of your basement, attic or garage and assess whether you still need or want the items inside. This is not as scary as it sounds. Usually people avoid looking at the contents of stored boxes because they don’t want to be faced with the tough decision of what to keep. But most of the time, the answer is immediately apparent. Your college textbooks from the 1990s are no longer necessary. Letters from your grandparents are okay to keep. Cassette tapes can be recycled. The ski jacket you haven’t worn in a decade can be donated. When you’ve determined what you’re keeping, take a moment to label the box correctly. As for the discards, try to get them out of the house within the week.

Sure, the cold weather makes us all want to curl up with a blanket and a good book. But why not put some of your time spent indoors to good use? Don’t wait to do spring cleaning and organizing. Get started now.

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