It's easy to spend winter hibernating, wrapped in lots of clothes, eating hot puddings and drinking red wine, and letting things build up around the house. Now that spring is finally peeping around the corner, it's time to get sorted. But where do you start? Spring-cleaning might be traditional for your home, but the new season is also a good time to get your wardrobe in order and take a look at your eating habits, too, so you can head into summer looking great, feeling confident and knowing there isn't a huge mess to deal with when you get home.
Declutter your home
We all know we need to do it, but it can be the hardest thing to do. Unless you are super-organised or are living in a showhome, chances are the surfaces, cupboards and drawers of your home are repositories of clutter - collections of objects without a proper home, piles of paperwork, discarded toys and clothes, and a heap of stuff you "might need sometime" stashed in the garage.
Professional declutterer Natalie Jane of Be Organised says regular big clean-ups have their place but it is important to keep on top of mess around the home. Jane says "lazy clutter" - things not being put away when they're bought or used - builds up easily but can be kept under control with a bit of discipline.
Jane says paperwork is the number-one clutter build-up for many people. Despite the computer-age promise of a paper-free world, bills, other mail, notices and other bits of paper pile up.
Jane says people will feel much lighter after a good declutter and tidy as it removes the physical mess and the stress of worrying about it. "It's about letting go, not being too attached to things. Most of us don't need more space, we need less stuff. People have too much stuff they don't use, don't wear, don't love."
If you feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do, Jane says start small. Rather than face tackling the whole garage, start with one box or cupboard.
"It doesn't matter where you start, as long as you start. Start in the area that's bugging you the most - it might just be a small area or one shelf or a cupboard." Once you've done one thing, you might be surprised at how inspired you feel to go on.
To keep yourself motivated, Jane suggests putting on some favourite music and reward yourself with breaks at regular intervals - maybe set a timer for a coffee break every
You could also get a friend to help - but only if that person doesn't have hoarding tendencies that will enable your stockpiling.
And if the worst comes to the worst, you can always engage a dispassionate professional like Jane to help.
"People say to me, 'If you don't stand there, I won't do it," she laughs. "I love decluttering - I think it's fun - but I know not everybody does."
Jane also recommends getting a good label-maker so that once you have your stuff sorted, you can store it so it can easily be found again - by everyone in the household.
But don't buy new storage containers or shelving until you've had your chuck-out. You might be surprised by how little you need in your new clutter-free set-up.
Spring-clean your wardrobe
It's time to sort out what you've got to wear - if you can find anything amid the forest of hangers in your wardrobe and piles of jumpers clogging your chest of drawers. Stylist, makeup artist and Living columnist Michiko Hylands says it is time to start rationalising what you have - and what should go in the bin.
"You should do this before every season. This way, things don't get on top of you," she says. "You need to see what still looks good on you, what is appropriate for the season ahead and what you need to add, update or replace."
Hylands likes the idea of taking everything out of the wardrobe and drawers and starting with a clean slate.
"This can be incredibly daunting, so try working in sections. Start with your working wardrobe and the basics you use every day, such as T-shirts, tops and shirts, then move on to jeans, pants and skirts," she says.
And don't forget your underwear drawer. "There's nothing worse than having ill-fitting underwear with the elastic all loose."
Hylands has two underwear drawers, one with comfortable, 100 per cent cotton daily underwear and the other for pretty, super-feminine lingerie. "You deserve great underwear. It's the little things that count."
Then it's decision time. "First, if an item is marked or has holes, if knitwear has pilling or bobbles, or has become faded or misshapen then bin it. Be ruthless - it's never ever going to look good again, just face it.
"Think about your body shape, too. Does it work on you? Is it flattering?"
Hylands says it's time to get rid of anything you are saving to wear once you lose a couple of kilos. "You are that size and shape for a reason. Embrace it and learn what looks amazing on you and what doesn't."
If you have time, sell the quality pieces on TradeMe or donate them to charities such as Dress for Success or the Salvation Army. The rest can go in the clothing bin.
Then it's time to make everything tidy. Store anything that isn't in season so you have a clutter-free summer wardrobe. Hylands recommends hanging garments together by type: T-shirts, shirts, tops, pants, knits, and so on, and sorted by colour. While you're at it, she suggests doing the same with your shoe collection and your jewellery.
The great thing about having a wardrobe clear-out means there should be more space for new additions.
"When shopping, apart from the odd 'hot right now' fun, frivolous fashion piece, think about buying investment pieces that will work with everything else in your wardrobe and will last the distance,"
Hylands says. "Even if it's a bit more expensive initially, you will always end up getting so many more wears out of quality pieces than cheaper garments designed for only one season."
Freshen up your diet
Healthy Food Guide nutritionist, author and speaker Claire Turnbull says spring is the ideal time to break away from the unhealthy habits of winter and start getting some new, healthy behaviours in place for the coming summer.
Turnbull says it's easy to be tempted by "quick fixes" to get some weight off before bikini season. Instead, she recommends making small, sustainable changes to how you eat, which can be maintained through summer and beyond, "rather than lose some weight and then put it back on, like everybody does".
Her biggest tip for spring-cleaning your diet is to increase the amount of vegetables you eat - beyond the traditional five-plus a day.
To make it easy to eat plenty of greens - and oranges, reds and purples - Turnbull recommends having a vege snack box in the fridge.
"When you're chopping up the veges for dinner, cut up a few extra carrots, some snowpeas, a few mushrooms.
"Then the next day if you open the fridge looking for something to pick on, at least you eat that first. Same if you're making salad for dinner - make extra and put it in a container for lunch."
Turnbull says the second spring-cleaning goal should be making an effort to reduce the amount of processed food you eat.
"Try going back to basics, with oats for breakfast, or some unsweetened yogurt with a little bit of cereal on top. Rather than snack bars, have raw nuts and a piece of fresh fruit. It will save you money and be better for you."
Another positive step which many people may find difficult is increasing the number of alcohol-free days you have a week, says Turnbull. It's easy to fall into the pattern of having a drink every day over winter - think red wine by the fire - but she says it doesn't get any easier to cut back once the warmer weather and the festive season comes.
"It's whatever works for you, but many people find not drinking during the week is quite a good boundary."
And just when you're thinking all of life's pleasures are on the banned list, then there's coffee.
"Coffee for many people is a vice, a habit, a coping mechanism," Turnbull says. "If you have been increasing doubles to triples, and you're having six or seven coffees by the end of the day, see if you can start cutting back by a couple and replacing them with herbal teas or more water."
Rather than trying to change everything at once, Turnbull recommends making one small tweak at a time: trying a healthier breakfast one week, then adding more veges to dinner, for example.
But do something, starting with the fundamentals rather than trying something extreme in the hope of a quick, easy result.
"People need to realise that there is no one perfect diet that works for everybody.
"If you look around the world and see where people are living a long time, like Japan, they are eating lots of vegetables, less processed food, less sugar, and limiting alcohol.
"Beyond that you can get a bit obsessive and start producing rules and lists.
"But I think you can get results without having to be so extreme. You don't have to give it a label, it's just eating well."
Claire Turnbull and Sarah Cowley's 12-week Healthy Kick-start programme for summer starts in Healthy Food Guide and online at healthyfood.co.nz on September 14.