Refresh eight key areas of your life this spring

Shake up eight important areas of your life this spring with these tips from local experts. @ pics721

After a long winter that didn’t know when to quit, spring is here and Ottawa residents are eager to ditch their snow gear, and their hibernation tendencies, to usher in the warmer weather.

To inspire you during this time of renewal, Parenting Times spoke to eight experts about how to refresh areas of your life, including your living space and possessions, kitchen repertoire, fitness routine, wardrobe, career, and your relationship with your partner.

Your living space

Courtesy of Kathy McEwan

Expert: Kathy McEwan, owner of Second Set of Hands

According to Kathy McEwan, a cluttered home leads to a cluttered mind, which can lead to depression and/or anxiety. “I always say that being organized is like a breath of fresh air. You feel uplifted, excited and less overwhelmed and less stressed,” she says.

Spring is a perfect time to go through your things and declutter for a few reasons, says McEwan. “We collect a lot of stuff over the winter, especially over the holidays, but we don’t necessarily get rid of any. Most people prefer to declutter and spring clean in the spring so that they can enjoy the summer.”

  • McEwan suggests starting on the area of your home you would really like to see organized first. “Whichever room you choose, tackle one small area first, and don’t move on to other rooms until that one area is done,” she says.
  • Only want to spend a weekend? “I would focus on decluttering and cleaning the areas that you see everyday — your kitchen and bathroom countertops, dining table, the floor or your staircase.”
  • Children as young as four can help with the tidying process, says McEwan. “If you explain to your children that they are no longer using the toys or clothes and another little boy or girl that doesn’t have a lot of toys or clothes would really like them, they are more likely to let them go.”

Your kitchen repertoire

Courtesy Shari Scheske

Expert: Shari Scheske, freelance food and travel writer

As parents, the challenge is always getting healthy meals on the table that everyone will like, without blowing the budget or spending all afternoon in the kitchen.

  • “Homemade macaroni and cheese along with spaghetti are the two most popular dishes,” says Shari Scheske. “I can get these dishes on the table in under 30 minutes.”
  • To save time, Scheske keeps all the basic pantry items on hand. It’s only when she wants to make something fancier that she picks up only what’s needed for that meal from the grocery store, minimizing food waste. “We routinely have ‘buffet leftover meals’ where we clean out the fridge,” Scheske says. “It’s not a favourite meal for the kids, but they understand the need to be responsible about food waste.”
  • Want to try something new in the kitchen this spring? “I get inspired looking at recipes on Pinterest, from the New York Times Cooking newsletter, in magazines, and still refer to the 100+ cookbooks on my shelves,” Scheske says.

Your fitness routine

Courtesy Phil Marsh

Expert: Phil Marsh, Running Coach and Regional Manager, Running Room

Want to greet the new season with a new fitness regime? If you’re looking to get fit again after taking a few years off, take baby steps, says Phil Marsh.

  • The key is to find something you enjoy, says Marsh. “Even if it’s just putting an active game on the Wii. Your heart doesn’t know what you’re doing, it just knows you’re being active. Adults don’t play enough.”
  • Marsh also suggests finding a training partner “because it’s easier to have a buddy,” and to be realistic in your goals. “Plan to get out two days a week. Two days gets you moving and gives you a foundation. At this point, you want to get your flexibility, body awareness and balance back, and to develop a good routine. Don’t overdo it.”
  • Rest and proper nutrition are also important, says Marsh. “If you don’t look after those things, you’re not going to progress not matter what you do.”

Your wardrobe

Photo: Mauricio Calero

Expert: Erica Wark, Stylist and On-Air Fashion Expert

If you’re looking to refresh your wardrobe for the spring, think staples, says Ottawa native Erica Wark.  

  • For women, Wark recommends a classic trench, a great pair of denim and a striped blouse or sweater. “Stripes are big this season but are also a classic print you won’t grow tired of,” she says. “You want to look for quality fabrics, ensure they’re well-tailored, and are in a classic silhouette so they’ll withstand the test of time.”
  • For men, Wark recommends a great bomber jacket, a pair of slim khakis or chinos in a neutral colour, and a button-up denim or chambray shirt.
  • Although Wark always tells her clients to invest in those staples as they can wear them season to season until they need replacing, she says sales are fun because they give you the opportunity to buy some pieces that you love, but wouldn’t necessarily splurge on. “Anything trendy for the season is great to pick up on sale,” she says. “I personally love to buy shoes on sale.”
  • Wark’s list of wardrobe staples include: a great pair of jeans, tailored trousers, blouses, blazers, sweaters, basic T-shirts, a neutral pump, basic ankle boot in black or brown, a leather or vegan leather jacket, and a printed scarf.
  • When Wark works on a client’s closet, she takes everything out of the closet and goes through the pieces one by one. “It’s the best way to purge and organize,” she says. She organizes by category and colour and groups footwear together by type. “You’ll also save time getting ready in the morning as you’ll know where everything is,” she says.

Your possessions

Courtesy Rachel Segal

Expert: Rachel Segal, Administrator, Ottawa Local Meetup Group

As a minimalist, everything in Rachel Segal’s home has a place. “This keeps life simple,” she says. “I don’t have to waste time looking for things. Keeping a clear, clean space is really important to me. It contributes to good energy and clear thinking.”

  • When deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, Segal considers how the item makes her feel, how many similar items she has, and whether she uses it. “I also only keep things that I really appreciate and mean something to me in my home, that contribute to my everyday life.  I re-evaluate the things that I own often, to keep my space fresh and current and reflective of who I am today.”
  • Broken items and unfinished projects are clutter; get rid of them or fix them right away, Segal says. “This type of clutter is a really energy sucker.”
  • Don’t let items linger. When you’re done tidying, put the garbage and recycling out, “and most importantly the stuff to go put it in the car and go drop it off,” says Segal. “This will be when you really feel the space for more breath, more life and more living.”

Your career                                             

Courtesy Dr. Helen Ofosu

Expert: Dr. Helen Ofosu, Career Coach and HR Consultant

Looking to make the move into a new career? It’s extremely important to choose a course or training program carefully to increase the odds that your investment of time, effort, and money will pay off, says Dr. Helen Ofosu.

  • “One of the first things to consider is how many years can you see yourself in the new role, and what’s the gap between where you are and where you want to end up,” says Ofosu. “Ideally, you’ll have enough time to work in that new role and the gap isn’t very big. If retirement is looming and the gap is large, you should reconsider.”
  • Try to get a realistic preview of what that a new career path will be like before investing too heavily. “For instance, test the waters by taking on projects at work that allow you to dabble in that area or consider volunteering in a capacity that allows you to see some relevant aspects of the new role,” she says.

Your relationship

Courtesy Katherine Arnup

Courtesy Cheryl Harasymchuk

Experts: Dr. Katherine Arnup, Life Coach and Dr. Cheryl Harasymchuk, Associate Professor, Carleton University

  • Engaging in new shared activities increases relational satisfaction, more than spending familiar and comfortable time with a partner. It can help inject some spark in a long-term relationship, says Dr. Cheryl Harasymchuk.

Need some time away with your spouse – without the kids? “Trading children with friends so that you take theirs for a day or evening so they can go out to supper or a movie or have quiet day time — and then they can take yours – can really help,” said Dr. Katherine Arnup. “If you have grandparents in your life, don’t be afraid to involve them. Many grandparents don’t necessarily want to be regular babysitters in the evening, but might be happy going to a movie, taking a child to an activity, or going out for supper.”