A fresh start: Recruit your family and give the home a scouring

Where to take old clothes

If you opted to clean out the closets, there are some great ways to recycle those items other than just trying to sell pieces at second-hand stores or giving items to Goodwill:• Soles4souls.org — distributes old shoes to over 40 countries.• Letmeplay.com/reuseashoe — Nike will turn old sneakers into basketball courts, tennis courts, running tracks and playground terrain.• ExcessAccess.org — matches donations of household items with non-profits that need them.• DressforSuccess.org – Helps disadvantaged women around the world who need professional clothing.

Every year when I dismantle the holiday decorations, I think about how this is a great time to clean and get organized.

In Japan, the New Year is a time to clear all obligations from last year, pay off all debts and clean the house. The Chinese believe cleaning the house clears out old energy and makes way for new energy. It seems like sage advice for ushering in a New Year.

Where to begin can be daunting, but if you have a family most of the kids should be around over winter break to lend a hand. So start delegating.

• First, turn on and up some great tunes that will ignite energy in everyone.

• Pick a room. Each child could be responsible for his or her space. Or if you don’t have time to clean the entire house, scour one room.

• Start from the top (ceiling fans, crown molding, door frames and lighting fixtures) and work your way down, finishing off with the floors.

• Or instead of focusing on one room, make a list of areas that rarely get a good cleansing and tackle those.

• Flip the mattresses in bedrooms and vacuum the box springs.

• Open the windows and clean out the window wells.

• Clean all the scuff marks on walls, door frames and floor boards.

• Sweep, mop or vacuum under big heavy furnishings. Maybe even take this opportunity to rearrange.

• Steam clean rugs and carpets.

• Launder drapes and dust blinds.

• Clean out the fireplace.

• Scour garbage pails.

• Tackle the refrigerator and freezer, tossing out ancient or mysterious foods.

• De-clutter the outside of the fridge, making way for new photos and artwork.

• Clean the stove.

• Or direct your attention on getting the office and computer in order.

• The mugs, little notes of paper with passwords for a slew of sites, receipts and books all of these should be cleared out and organized.

• Tackle your bookmarks; delete those that no longer are applicable.

• Take on all those old e-mail accounts, delete mail and maybe even cancel that address.

• Update your browser, or your favorite software.

• Clean your hardware and backup your hard drive.