Use this change in the seasons to revisit plans, upscale, declutter, and revamp your life.

Flicking through newspapers or magazines this month, you are likely to see an article telling you that increasingly, autumn is seen as ‘the new January’. Maybe because it’s ‘back to school’ time, or perhaps it’s down to the fact that traditionally, autumn was one of the busiest times of the year, with the bustle of harvesting, food preserving and wood piling in preparation for the winter ahead.

It’s also the close of the summer season, and with the solstice, a time for change. With that in mind, here are ten ways to refresh your life this autumn.

1. Declutter that space 

Whether it’s a messy bedroom, that cluttered corner in the sitting room, or the whole house that is getting you down, research shows you’re likely to feel calmer with a more orderly homeQueen of the clutter-busters is Marie Kondo, whose international bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying  advises us to keep only items that ‘spark joy’ and to clear clutter by category, not by room 

 Home interiors guru Jen Stanbrook, whose website and blog Love Chic Living offers advice and inspiration for creating a beautiful home, encourages a 30 day declutter challenge. You can even download a handy free sheet with tasks for each day from her website. Or you could commit to a different type of 30-day declutter challenge, where you remove or recycle one item on the first day of the month, two on the second day and so on. If you do this, by the 30th you’ll have got rid of 465 items! 

2. Sign up for a free course 

As the nights get longermake the most of at-home time by up-skilling or studying a new subject. The Open University’s OpenLearn website has a wide range of free learning options available, ranging from education and development, to history, the arts, health, sportspsychology, languages, money and business.  

 From forensic psychology to beginner’s Spanish, there’s bound to be something for youIf you’d like to know more about retirement planning, why not investigate our own course which is new on OpenLearn this autumn?

3. Get fit, or get fitter 

 Autumn is also a great time to enjoy the cheapest exercise of all – a good walk. Download a free step-counter for your smartphone and start tracking your habits.  

 The Couch to 5K podcast will help you get off the sofa and be running 5km by Christmas. Alternatively, you could browse YouTube for some of the hundreds of free online fitness classes you can do at home.  

 If you don’t have a smartphone, there’s no need to worry – you can always buy a cheap step counter from your local sports shop. Don’t forget to check with your doctor before embarking on any new exercise regime. Which brings us to the next point… 

 4. Post summer health check 

For most of us the holidays are over. And between lockdown and summer there’s a good chance some of us are finding we’ve expanded a little, and perhaps let personal fitness and health slide? 

WW International reports that autumn is one of the busiest times of the year for enrolments – and although live groups may or may not currently be running, both WW and Slimming World offer online memberships to support weight loss and healthy eating.  

Before the winter sets in, it’s also a good time for a health check with your GP. Practise self-care and monitor your own health and wellbeing, and make sure you’re prepared for the colder months. Also book a flu jab – it’s available free on the NHS to many peopleFind out if you are eligible here.

5. Don’t forget your social life 

With the pandemic meaning restrictions on groups and gatherings, it’s important to factor social interaction into your winter plans. Top of the NHS’s list steps to mental wellbeing is ‘Connect with other people.’ 

When group sizes are limited, and friends or family – or even you – might be shielding, it can be harder than usual to find ways to socialise. But keep thinking creatively about how you can keep this contact up, to avoid feeling blue in the colder months.  

Can you organise walks with friends – with or without your furry friends? A weekly catch-up phone or video call with family members? Make contact with neighbours to help each other out, or even volunteer to support local charities and initiatives. The benefits of interacting with other people are enormous 

 

6. Get to grips with your finances 

Financially, many of us have been badly impacted by the issues arising from the lockdown and its restrictions. It’s never been so important to have a close eye on your finances.  

The obvious quick wins here are to perform a personal audit. Check if you really need all those standing orders, or defunct memberships and so on. If you’re in your 50s or 60s and thinking  ahead  to your post-work yearswe’ve produced a free course on retirement planning with The Open University which could help you get to grips with your future finances.  

7. Sort out that digital hoard 

Your home may be nice and tidybut what about your digital life? How many pictures of your beloved cat or dog do you really need? If you are already paying for cloud storagethe answer is probably ‘fewer 

Like the clutter clearing above, commit to deleting ten unwanted emails or documents each day and hitting unsubscribe on unwanted emails. If emails and images aren’t your problem, what about clearing out all those old CDs, DVDs, or even video tapes you don’t watch anymore? 

8. Snuggle down with a story  

In the name of seasonal relaxation, why not pick up a book, or even download a podcast or audiobook? Research shows that reading for as little as six minutes a day can reduce your stress levels by 60% 

You can, of course, borrow books for free from your local library, and many allow you to borrow films, audiobooks, and read some magazines online for free, too. As the evenings draw in, now is the time to escape to other worlds! 

9. ‘Winterise’ your home and garden 

(Or at least give a bit of them a makeover). Add cosy rugs and throws, making sure draughts are kept to a minimum, and investigate installing some decent draught-proofingIf you have a chimney and a real fire, now’s the time to get it swept.  

If you can’t remember the last time your boiler was serviced, book a service now. Or, if you’re feeling more ambitious, what about a bit of decoratingSocial media is festooned with groups where people post before and after shots of projects, and they give friendly information, too. 

Outside, it’s time to prepare the garden for the colder months. Have a good clear out, de-head and collect seeds ready for next year, plant spring bulbs, do some final weeding. And how does the lawn look? Could it do with some patching  and a final weed? 

Look also at your ‘inside outside’. Tidy up sheds and conservatories, clean and store the garden furniture, and clear out the barbecue and put it away. And while you’re there, check the gutters and drains throughout this season. There are likely to be leaves, which will be much harder to deal with later in the winter. 

10. Prepare for hibernation 

Sadly, it’s time to put away those summer clothes. Keep decluttering in mind at the same time – did you honestly wear all of those things this year? Why not take this opportunity to save those things you really need for next year and lose the ones you didn’t wear? And as you unpack the warmer garments, do the same in reverse. Will you honestly wear it, or does it go in and out of the store each year unwornPerhaps someone else can enjoy your preloved outfits? Time to donate. 

Into the kitchen and it’s time to ‘gather your nuts’ – which in this case means prepare your stores. Check through your food cupboards and ditch things that are out of date. Defrost the freezer and tidy up all the old jars in the fridge. And restock with easy meals to defrost, home-made soups, and plenty of ingredients to make warming meals later on in the year.  

Make the most of welcoming autumn, and the new starts it can bring. Follow these steps to feel refreshed, motivated and renewed, and ready to face the festive season!