Five Ways to Start Fresh in 2017

To the chagrin of my tech-savvy friends, I still use a paper planner. When I pull it out to schedule my next haircut or dentist appointment, I cover my minor embarrassment by telling the receptionist, “Yeah, I’m old school.” This also means I’m the girl who grabs a pen when she gets a Google invite, carefully transcribing the details into my daybook. So it’s probably not surprising that I enjoy the ritual of putting new calendar pages into my planner. For a moment, the year ahead is a fresh start – a flurry of clean white pages, unmarred and fresh.

While the calendar change is arbitrary in certain ways, it’s also an opportunity to set the tone for the months ahead. Put your best foot forward in 2017 by adding the projects below to your January to-do list. We think you’ll find that there’s something supremely satisfying in wiping the slate clean and beginning anew.


I recently ran out of storage space (again!) on my phone. This time, instead of deleting photos taken months ago, I did a rigorous audit of my apps. Goodbye to Crate & Barrel’s Wedding Registry app (I got married in 2014), Evertrue (I don’t even know what that is), Flipboard (ditto), my gym’s old app (I kept the new one), The Knot’s Lookbook (not looking for a wedding dress anymore), Headspace (meditation just isn’t my jam) and half a dozen others.

Next up? Phone numbers. I bet you’ll find tons of outdated contacts in your phone if you take a quick peek. Sure, I could keep Leo G.’s number in my phone, but I literally have no clue who that is. My sister’s mobile phone number from her trip to Ecuador several years ago? It’s gotta go. I don’t need her number from last year’s study abroad trip in Rio either. Ciao as well to Ella, Lindsay, Dan K., Jon K., Jason, Serif, Lisa, David Upstairs Neighbor, Alex at Binny’s, Sparky AKA Frank … the list goes on.

The phone cleanup is a great one for the new year because you can do it in stages. Delete a few apps while waiting in line or scroll through your contacts on your next bus ride. By the end of the month, you can check it off the list completely.

Junk Drawer

The repository of my household junk has somehow expanded into two junk drawers in the kitchen. One drawer is filled with batteries, light bulbs, flashlights, matches, wire, glue, electrical tape and some metal rods. The other drawer is filled with scrap paper, scissors, old remotes, random photos, instructions for my rice cooker, beer cozies and plastic sunglasses. Instead of cleaning out these drawers, my husband and I just keep stuffing more crap into them. I felt bad about this until I asked my sister if she had a junk drawer, and she quipped, “Drawer? Try a junk room!”

Okay, it could be worse. But it’s still pretty bad. This is the year I’m finally going to tackle those drawers. If I can reduce it to one drawer, that’s not terrible, right?

Take a look at your own junk drawers, rooms, boxes or closets. Think about all the extra space you could have if you set aside an hour or two to do a serious purge. Give it a shot and let us know how it goes.

Refrigerator and Freezer

When there are latkes in your freezer from two years ago, it’s time to face the fact that you’re not going to eat them. Yes, I’m speaking from personal experience here. The same goes for my freezer-burn-enhanced carton of ice cream, the plastic container of soup and half of a puff pastry sheet. And don’t even get me started on the expiration dates on all the condiments in my refrigerator – that’s just embarrassing.

Grab a heavy-duty trash bag and get ready for a ruthless attack on your refrigerator and freezer. Recycle the glass containers (if you can bear to open them) and toss the rest. Try to make it a quarterly habit to do a deep clean on the fridge and freezer, but if that’s asking too much, at least add it to your January fresh-start routine.


You knew this one was coming. Say goodbye to that blouse you’ve worn once, the jeans that were in style five years ago, your high school sweatshirt collection and the dress that’s two sizes too small or too big. I like to make three piles: things to save, things to toss and maybes. I do a little fashion show in front of the mirror with all the maybes – and most end up in the toss pile.

Pro tip: Invite over your most candid friend. She’ll ensure you don’t hang onto items that are clearly past their prime.

If you have clothes that are still fashionable and not too worn, try selling them online or at a resale shop. Otherwise, donate your items to Goodwill or a similar organization. You’ll get a tax write-off (if you use a free efile program, then there should be an option for this), and your clothes will find new owners. It’s a win-win.

Makeup Etc.

I’m notoriously bad at throwing out makeup. If I spend $25 on a tube of mascara, I intend to get every last drop out of it, dammit! But the reality is that some makeup has a short shelf life. Mascara and liquid eyeliner are the worst culprits; according to WebMD, these products need to be replaced every three to four months due to the risk of bacteria growth. Lip gloss should be tossed after six months, while liquid foundation and lipstick last up to a year. Powders are fine for up to two years. Do yourself a favor and conduct a quick inventory of your makeup. If you’ve been using some of your products since the beginning of Obama’s second term, it’s time to restock.

While you’re in the bathroom, take a few minutes to clean the lint out of your hair dryer. Am I the only one who doesn’t do this regularly? You’ll be amazed by how much better your hair dryer performs when it’s lint-free.


What are your top tips for starting fresh in 2017? Share them with us below!

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About Kelsey Schagemann

Kelsey is a former NCAA Division III cross country and track athlete who exchanged sneakers for spin shoes in her twenties. Hailing from the great state of Oregon (by way of St. Louis, where she spent her childhood), Kelsey has made Chicago her home since 2006. She can often be found at the helm of her daughter’s stroller, walking miles throughout the city. Her other favorite fitness activities include spinning, yoga, lifting weights and biking. As a freelance writer, Kelsey works with universities, nonprofits, websites and magazines (visit for more information). In her spare time, she enjoys trying new recipes, traveling with her family and keeping the library in business. Kelsey holds a BA in English from Kenyon College and an MA in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago.