By Nicole Anzia
Special To The Washington Post
Following the long, cold winter, the last thing any of us wants to do is spend time inside organizing our house. But now is a good time to do a few quick projects that will still leave plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors and give you the satisfaction of keeping things on track.
Clean out your car
Take advantage of the next few weeks to clean out your car. It's not freezing cold or sweltering hot, which makes it the perfect time to take a garbage bag out to your car and throw away trash. Clear out the trunk and glove compartment and don't forget to look under the seats. Bring anything inside that shouldn't be in the car, like toys, newspapers, extra phone cords, books and travel mugs. And if you don't have a first aid kit, jumper cables, and other safety products in your car, this is a good time to get them.
Take a home inventory
Smartphones make this task easier than ever, and it's something we all should do at least once a year. Walk around your house and take a photographic inventory of your belongings. Take pictures of furniture, art, rugs and light fixtures. This photo archive will be invaluable in the event your house is damaged or burglarized. After you've completed your photo tour, back up the photos to an external hard drive or the cloud. Your insurance agent might thank you later.
Clean your closet floor
This is a spot that rarely gets attention, but spring is a great time to take everything off the floor of your closet and clean it. As you're switching out seasonal clothing, storing the long boots you won't wear all summer and removing items you no longer want, do a thorough cleaning of the floor and baseboards. You'll notice the difference.
Clear the retail clutter
Do a little spring-cleaning in your e-mail inbox by unsubscribing from at least five retail e-mails that you receive regularly but never read. And to curb the constant in-flow of catalogues, unsubscribe to at least five, either by using www. catalogchoice.org, or by calling the retailer's customer-service number.
Tidy up the cabinet under your kitchen sink
This space gets a lot of use, which is why it's so important to do a thorough cleaning once in a while. Take everything out and recycle almost-empty and old cleaning products. Consolidate all of the plastic shopping bags and put them in your car so you can recycle them at the grocery store. Neatly combine reusable shopping bags and discard any that are past their prime. If you use plastic bags to clean up after your dog or for other purposes, you can pick up a container just for storing plastic shopping bags. Wipe out the bottom of the cabinet before putting everything away.
Update your electronic address book
Do you have people in your address book that you haven't spoken with in years? Or did your new smartphone import your existing contacts in triplicate? Take 20 minutes to review at least part of your contact list. Doing so will make it so much easier to find the correct information when you need it.
Organize your jewelry
Spend 20 minutes sorting and organizing jewelry. Untangle necklaces and find the matches for earrings. This will help you find what you need quickly and also serve as a reminder about those pieces you've forgotten. If your current jewelry storage isn't working for you, do a little research into options that will better meet your needs. There are lots of artistic solutions for storing jewelry so it doesn't get tangled and remains in good condition.
Complete one or two items on your to-do list
Write the thank-you notes you've been putting off writing, use a gift card you've had sitting around, or send the package you have been meaning to send. The time spent completing the task will be minimal compared with the time you've spent worrying about not having done it. I promise.
Clean out your pantry
Take 10 minutes to review the expiration dates on your pantry staples and consolidate any open bags of flour. If products have expired, throw them out. Then make a list to refresh your pantry so you're ready to entertain this summer. With the end of the school year approaching, this is a good time to assess your storage containers. Those that are damaged or no longer have lids should be discarded.
Frame your favorite photos from the past six months
You didn't take all those fabulous pictures to have them live on your phone forever. Pick a few of your favorites, print them and get them on display. If you don't have space for new frames or don't want to buy new frames, you can put the new pictures in front of the existing ones.
None of these projects is quite as fun as going on a bike ride or heading to the pool, but a few minutes spent de-clutter-ing and organizing now will make the summer months even more enjoyable and relaxing.
Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.