42 Ways to Reset Your Life This Fall—and Set Yourself Up for Success All Year Long
'Tis the season to reevaluate routines, adjust those habits and hit refresh. Here's how to maximize your fall reset.
Forget New Year’s resolutions and spring cleaning. We’re all about reevaluating our physical, mental and at-home routines during the fall. The summer is busy, but autumn offers an opportunity to press pause and start fresh as the weather cools and we retreat indoors. For us, it’s all about the fall reset.
Whether you want healthier habits, an updated wardrobe, orderly finances or professional-organizer-approved decluttering advice, we’ve got the fall-reset tips for you. At home, we’ll be chipping away at our fall home-maintenance checklist, prepping our pantries, meal planning, cooking from our fall food list and storing seasonal produce properly. We’ll be adjusting our routines, tuning up our mental and physical health and setting career goals—all changes that can lead to happier, healthier and more successful lives down the road.
And it all starts on Labor Day. Use the three-day weekend as an opportunity to take stock of where you are in the year—and where you hope to be. With these expert-approved reset ideas, your finances will be in shape, your skin will be glowing, your house will be winterized and your kids will never be late to school. What do you want to achieve this fall? Let’s get it done.
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Build new routines
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Set up a homework HQ for a year of academic success
Whether it’s adding a box of back-to-school supplies near the kitchen table or upcycling a piece of furniture into a desk for their bedroom, make sure your children have a quiet, well-stocked homework HQ. This not only serves as a visual reminder of the summer-to-school transition, but it also gives them the routine and structure they crave, says Fran Walfish, PsyD, a Beverly Hills family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent.
The key to a smooth back-to-school transition is to include your kids in the shopping and preparing, she says. Let them help gather supplies around the house, pick out new items at the store, set up the designated homework spot and stock it with everything they’ll need for their assignments. “Letting them be a part of the process will help them feel more calm and prepared,” says Walfish. And bonus: Until school starts, it’s the perfect space to read their favorite YA novels or children’s books.
Create a lunch station for on-the-go ease
Reduce morning chaos and get everyone out the door on time with a lunch-making station for grab-and-go healthy school lunches. Keep the lunchboxes in a visible spot. Have a shelf in your pantry dedicated to lunch staples, such as crackers, tuna fish, chips, nuts and applesauce cups. Then dedicate a drawer or shelf in your fridge to perishable staples—think peanut butter, jam, hard-boiled eggs, lunch meat, cheese sticks, fresh fruit and veggies and salads. Take time each Sunday night to restock the shelves and prep any food.
Make a family calendar to stay on schedule
A family schedule is the key to keeping your sanity this fall, says Walfish. It is a visual reminder and time-management tool that keeps everyone connected and on the same page—something that’s especially important if you have multiple children with different schedules and activities. Either go digital with synced phone calendars, old-school with paper calendars or use a large dry-erase board in a familiar spot. Spend 30 minutes each week reviewing the next week’s calendar together so there are no surprises, she says. If you have young children, allow them to help with stickers, colored markers or by drawing pictures. Even if they don’t totally understand, it’s important to let them be a part of the process—it makes them feel part of the group and teaches planning skills.
Enforce regular bedtimes for more restful sleep
Schedules are just as vital for adults as they are for kids, so use this time to get yours back on track. Implement a regular bedtime routine at least 10 days before school starts, says Walfish. “This will help your child’s body get into the groove of winding down and waking up earlier, so when school begins, their body, energy and focus will be prepared for school’s physical and mental expectations and demands,” she says. Tempted to sleep in on weekends? Think again. Having a regular bedtime will help you condition your body to sleep longer and deeper—because getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Organize carpools to save time, energy and stress
The first day of school is not the time to figure out which of your neighbors has kids in the same school or what you’ll do if the bus is canceled. Take some time now to coordinate with other families in your area for rides to and from school and other activities this fall. Not only does this save you time and gas money, but it’s also better for the environment and will help your family forge lasting friendships. Plus, it’s a great excuse to meet your neighbors!
Set up a no-phone zone for a better headspace
Chances are you’ve gotten pretty loose with your tech time over the summer, staying up late to watch movies or scrolling during casual dinners. But when vacation ends or school resumes, you’ll want more discipline and structure with your digital devices, says Nicole Dreiske, author and executive director of the International Children’s Media Center. This is the perfect time for a digital detox: Draw up a family tech agreement, spell out rules for social media, video games and Netflix binges, and set aside tech-free family time.
Prep your pantry
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Eat what’s in season for sustainable savings
Everyone loves a summer farmers market (hello, peach season!), but your local growers have plenty of great things to offer as the weather cools down too, says Kristamarie Collman, MD, a family medicine physician. “Take advantage of seasonal produce, such as butternut squash, pumpkin and other root vegetables,” she says. Not only are these foods nutritious, but eating local, in-season foods is also more affordable and better for the environment.
Preserve produce for delicious fruits and vegetables all winter
Summer is peak produce season, but all those ripe tomatoes, juicy pears and plump berries will soon die off. Eliminate food waste with these produce storage tips. And for longer-lasting options, take advantage of cheap produce prices and lock in the flavor and nutrients by freezing or canning your favorites, says Dr. Collman. If that sounds like too much work, know it can be as simple as dumping strawberries into a freezer bag and storing them. Feeling a little more advanced? Puree some fruit and make freezer jam or try canning peaches and beans.
Make your own pumpkin spice mix for fall vibes
It’s almost pumpkin spice season! Lattes, muffins, chocolates, doughnuts, coffee and other tasty foods will be spiked with the seasonal spice. Skip the pricey store-bought blends and make your own. It’s easy and cheap. Simply buy cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves in bulk and mix them together. Package the mix into little bags and tie with a ribbon to give out as a festive gift to friends.
Come up with a menu for quick at-home meals
Meal planning is one of the top tips Dr. Collman gives for frugal and nutritious meals. The main reason people avoid meal planning is because it feels overwhelming to figure out that many meals in advance. One simple way to start? Theme nights for dinner. For instance, meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, waffle Wednesday, sandwich Thursday and (air) fryer Friday. Another idea: Create a menu of 10 or so meals you’re confident making and keep most supplies on hand. For extra savings, Dr. Collman suggests looking at what’s on sale or on clearance at the store and then planning your meals around those foods.
Transition your home
Clear out summer clutter and create a calm space
When you think of clutter clearing, spring cleaning usually comes to mind. But it’s good to do this twice a year—and the changing of the seasons is the ideal time to get it done, says Rachel Rosenthal, a professional organizer. A post-summer purge is a great way to clean your closet, organize essentials and donate anything you won’t need the next year.
Overwhelmed? Use this trick: Look at each of your items and consider whether or not you’ve used it or worn it since the end of last summer. “If the answer is no, then it’s time to get rid of it,” says Rosenthal. This tough love will make way for closet organizing systems and more seasonal items that need space, such as winter coats, ski pants or a new holiday dress.
Pull out the warm bedding for cozier nights
Soon sweat-soaked summer nights will be replaced by chilly fall evenings—and that means flannel sheets, down comforters and snuggly throws. The end of summer is the perfect time to unpack your heavier linens and check for signs of moth holes, mold or mildew, says Rosenthal. Do a big load of laundry (properly) and get rid of any odors from their long season in storage by adding a cup of vinegar and baking soda. And while you’re in the laundry room, stock up on the best laundry detergents.
Transition your wardrobe from summer to fall
Plunging fall temps are probably not the time for plunging necklines. Get ready for the seasonal clothing rotation by boxing up your summer gear and diving into sweater season. Pulling out your cold-weather clothing early will help you identify what you have and pinpoint gaps in your wardrobe, allowing you time to buy what you need before you need it. Streamline your closet (have you considered a capsule wardrobe?) and preplan your outfits to save time and stress in the mornings. This way, you won’t be scrambling to find something that works for that first cold snap. And don’t forget to pull out the winter boots, hats, gloves and scarves and get those organized in an appropriate closet.
Prep summer gear for winter storage
There’s nothing worse than breaking out the grill on the first fine day of spring only to discover last year’s food residue still stuck to it, or opening that patio umbrella to discover it’s disintegrated with mold. So take the time this fall to properly clean your grill (that includes sealing the propane tank and using a vacuum to suck out all the ashes and grime), wipe down patio furniture covers, pack up outdoor summer decor and properly store garden tools.
Blow out your sprinklers to avoid burst pipes
For cold-weather folks, it only takes one burst pipe (and a giant plumbing bill) to understand how important it is to blow out your sprinklers before fall, says Trevor Chapman, a home expert and spokesperson for Farmer’s Insurance. It’s just one of those things homeowners need to do once a year. You can rent a machine from a local hardware store or hire someone to do it. Make sure you turn off your outdoor water supply and empty any hoses and spigots while you’re at it.
Organize your garage to prep for winter
Bicycles and pool toys to the back; sleds and snow blowers to the front! Most of us have limited garage space, so maximize the room with these garage storage tips. Get summer equipment up and out of the way while moving winter equipment to a more handy location. And because there are certain things that shouldn’t be stored in a garage during the winter, be sure to remove those.
Update your emergency plans to stay safe
September is National Preparedness Month, and while no one likes to think about the worst-case scenario, you only have to watch the news to know those can happen. Now is the time to create family emergency plans for events such as house fires, power outages or snowstorms. Pack all the essentials you’ll need in case of an emergency, says Julie Bowman, a certified emergency preparedness specialist and first responder. Not sure where to start? How about a fire extinguisher, a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, battery-powered flashlights and extra batteries. Learn how to use Alexa in emergencies, and check out these lists of emergency essentials for your home, car, work and school.
Ready your car for winter
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Make an emergency car kit for peace of mind
Car troubles? Getting stranded in the summer is annoying, but depending on where you live, getting stranded in the winter could be fatal, says Bowman. Create an emergency kit for your car that might include jumper cables, a blanket, a foldable shovel, an ice scraper, a bag of kitty litter or sand, a spare coat, flares and extra snacks. If you have little ones, keep extra diapers, wipes, formula and warm clothing for them as well.
Winterize your car to be ready on the road
In addition to carrying emergency gear, you’ll want to prepare your car for winter and make sure it can handle the added stress of winter driving conditions, says Bowman. Fall is the time to refill your windshield wiper fluid, get your radiator checked, test your battery, check your headlights and have any alignment issues fixed.
Make an appointment to get your tires changed
If you live in a place with ice, snow or heavy rain in the winter, getting snow or studded tires will make a big difference in how your car handles. (Just make sure you know the best time to buy new tires.) “You’ll feel safer and more secure with more traction on the road,” says Bowman. If you can’t afford to change out your tires seasonally (or if you rarely get snow), consider purchasing a bag of tire chains and keep them in your trunk.
Prioritize mental health and self-care
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Book vacation days now so you actually use your PTO
Americans have some of the unhealthiest work habits—and one of the top sins is not taking their vacation days. The end of summer may feel too early to be thinking about your holiday plans, but a little planning now will make sure you get the time off you want, when you want it, and give you something to look forward to, says clinical psychologist Nancy Irwin, PsyD. Talk to your manager about how they handle holiday time-off requests and if they have any rules. Then get your request in as soon as it’s allowed. This will save you a lot of grief and frustration later on.
Print family photos for a serotonin boost
Half the fun of the long summer break is getting to relive the sunny memories as the days get shorter. To keep it fresh in your mind and feel happier, create a visual reminder of your magical summer moments, says Irwin. Don’t just let those pictures languish on Instagram or Facebook. Make a wall of framed photos, a printed photo book, an electronic photo collage on your computer, a scrapbook or simply pin printed photos onto a cork board.
Make a fall bucket list to celebrate the season
Combat the dreaded end of summer by giving yourself something to look forward to. “Create a dream board filled with pictures of places you want to go, new skills to learn or things you want to do to celebrate fall,” says Janine Knighton, creative director at PuttingAPinInIt.com. Scenic drives to spot the best fall foliage in America, apple picking, visits to local bookstores, a sumptuous Thanksgiving family feast—create a bucket list with whatever says “fall” to you. Then hang it somewhere you can see daily.
Sign up for classes to invest in your learning
As the kids start school again, it’s possible to feel lonely. Connect with others and sign up for a class or two. You can further your formal education at the local community college or develop a hobby with painting, music or woodworking lessons. It’s important to find productive ways to stay busy, as feeling distant and alone can be a major trigger for alcohol or other addictions, Knighton says.
Launch a gratitude campaign to stay centered
The holiday season can trigger a tide of emotions. Whether this is your first holiday without your mother or your first Halloween since a divorce, fall and winter events have a way of bringing up big feelings. Instead of avoiding them (a long-term mistake), identify what you might deal with and make a plan for how to handle each situation. This can mitigate stress in a healthy way, says Irwin. Another pro tip? Practice gratitude. Studies show that people who practice gratitude (whether that’s in their morning routine or through gratitude journaling) actually live longer.
Schedule therapy sessions and stay ahead of stress
Fall resets are a great time to check in on your mental health and schedule some ways to take care of yourself, Irwin says. This can include getting a massage or a facial. It could be scheduling therapy sessions, finding a life coach or talking to your doctor about antidepressants. Finding more balance and happiness in your life is a non-negotiable for mental wellness.
Tune up your physical health
Schedule vaccine appointments before cold and flu season
“Without a doubt, the most important health tip to get ready for fall is to get your flu shot and other necessary vaccines or boosters,” says Pat Carroll, RN, author of What Nurses Know and Doctors Don’t Have Time to Tell You. Book your appointments now to beat the fall rush and give it plenty of time to strengthen your immune system. While doctors’ offices typically don’t have the shots available until October, you can head to walk-in centers and pharmacy mini-clinics as early as August. And no, you can’t get the flu from the flu shot or nasal mist.
Check your insurance plans and deductibles
Have you met your insurance deductible? Fall is the time to check (and make sure you’re taking advantage of these money-saving health insurance tricks). If you have, that can make your healthcare far more affordable. Schedule procedures, surgeries, checkups and tests now so you can fit them in before the end of the year when your deductible resets, says Carroll.
Fall is also when most companies will ask if you’d like to update your health insurance. And if your insurance is provided under the Affordable Care Act, you need to make any changes before December 15. Get prepared by analyzing how you spent your money on healthcare over the past year. Was it on prescriptions? Specialist visits? Lab tests or imaging? “Once you know your pattern of using services, you can pick the best plan option available to you,” Carroll says.
Schedule indoor workouts to stay fit
Biking, swimming, hiking—the options for summer workouts feel limitless. But don’t let your exercise routine slide just because cold temps are around the corner, says Irwin. Scout out indoor options, such as spin, rock climbing, yoga or weight-lifting classes. If you prefer to stay outdoors, now is the time to dig out your skis and snowshoes. The trick is to actually schedule that class or exercise plan on your calendar to make sure you go, regardless of the weather, she says.
Avoid the winter blues by addressing issues early
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects up to 20% of the population in the United States each year—and it starts showing symptoms in the fall, says Irwin. While it stinks that you get it, the upside is that because it is predictable, you can prepare for it. Put a plan in place by buying a light box, trying out supplements and talking to your doctor about medication. Make sure to note any early changes in mood and sleep patterns so these symptoms can be addressed quickly rather than letting them progress throughout the fall and winter months, she adds.
Exfoliate your skin to keep it clear
Cooler temps mean drier skin. Keep your skin smooth and healthy with a weekly scrub using an exfoliation brush, says celebrity aesthetician Joshua Ross. Exfoliation can be incredibly beneficial, but you’ll want to consider your skin type—for instance, it’s not recommended for those with rosacea. And don’t forget to spread some of the love to your (dry, itchy) scalp as well, using a scalp massage brush in the shower and anti-dandruff shampoo if you’re “snowing” flakes.
Stock up on cold-weather skin care to stay moisturized
You’ll not only want to make sure you’re applying your skin-care routine in the right order, you’ll also want to ensure you’re using the right products for the season. Summer is all about light, protective lotions, while winter requires creamier, more penetrating balms. So what to do about the in-between weather of fall? Your summer skincare may be too drying for what your skin needs now, says Jacqueline Schaffer, MD, author and founder of Schique Skincare. Look for slightly heavier face moisturizers that target dryness and lock in moisture. For cleansers, “a good rule of thumb is to use a non-drying sulfate-free cleanser in the morning and a lightweight lotion-based cleanser at night, depending on skin type,” she says.
Prepare for allergy season
You may feel like you’ve just escaped the pollen-induced snot-fest of spring, but ragweed allergy season is right around the corner, come fall, says Carolyn Dean, MD, author of The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health. Now is the time to talk to your doctor about your particular sensitivities and what you can do to treat them. Stock up on tissues and allergy medicine, much of which is over-the-counter these days. Or you can try a more natural route by drinking plenty of water and supplementing with magnesium citrate, she says.
Drink more water to stay hydrated
You’re constantly being reminded to stay hydrated in the summer, but fall and winter can be just as dry, if not worse, Dr. Schaffer says. That means drink up! Even if you’re not sweating in the sun, your body still needs plenty of fluids to be happy and healthy.
Get your finances in shape
Spend FSA money so you don’t lose cash
Carroll recommends taking a look at your health spending account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA)—or set one up if you aren’t already taking advantage of this tax break. Both an HSA and FSA allow you set aside pre-tax money in an account to pay for health expenses (including glasses or contacts!). But while the HSA rolls over to the next year, your FSA dollars must be used during the plan year. During fall, tally up how much money you’ve used in your account and plan how you’ll spend the rest before the new year, says Carroll. And don’t forget to submit any reimbursement receipts for costs you’ve covered.
Donate to charity before the end of the year
Helping others is one of the simplest ways to feel happier. And while the benefits of volunteering are endless, both personally and for those you’re helping, they also come with some real financial perks. So not only will donating to a charity improve your mood as we go into the “season of giving,” it may also be eligible for a tax write-off, says certified financial planner Tim Jensen.
Set a holiday budget to avoid hefty bills
The time to set a holiday budget is now, before the holiday shopping madness even begins, says Jensen. Figure out how much you can afford to spend on gifts, parties, holiday clothing or travel—and plan to stick to it. You can use budgeting apps to help! If you’re in a relationship, talk with your partner to make sure you’re on the same page, and keep a copy of your budget handy.
Audit bills to save money
Take this fall reset time to look into your spending. You may be paying hundreds of dollars more than you realize for services you rarely or never use. This is especially true if you use auto-pay services for bills or subscriptions (here’s which bills to never put on auto-pay). When you don’t even see the charge, it’s easy to forget it exists, says Jensen. Fall is the perfect time to comb through your bank account and household bills, then cancel subscriptions, unnecessary apps or memberships—especially any holdovers from the summer.
Reevaluate your career goals to stay on track
Have you had “The Talk” with yourself recently? Fall tends to be the home stretch for work-related goals and accomplishments before annual end-of-year performance reviews. Have you developed good habits working from home? Are you career cushioning? Take the time during your fall reset to review goals and accomplishments and make sure you’re still on track, says Nicole Coustier, business coach and CEO of Aurelian Coaching. This way, you’ll know what you need to prioritize in order to finish the year on a high note—and land that bonus, she says.
Refresh your LinkedIn profile to invite new opportunities
When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? If the answer is …. (silence) … then now is the time to get on that, says Coustier. Even if you’re not actively looking for new employment opportunities, it’s still a great way to make connections in your field and stay current on what’s happening.
Consider a second career for some extra cash
Retirement doesn’t always go according to plan (especially if you never made a retirement plan), and one way to offset some costs while staying productive is to consider a second career, says Jensen. Whether that’s working a few hours as a consultant in your field or branching out into something totally new, you can earn a little extra cash, stay mentally sharp, keep physically active and (hopefully) have some fun.
Go on a practice interview to prepare for the real deal
Whether you’re changing careers or just looking for a new position, interviewing can be really nerve-wracking, especially if you haven’t done it in a while. And when you’re anxious, it’s hard to present yourself in the best light, says Coustier. Read up on tips from a hiring manager and things a job interviewer notices about you. Then practice with a friend or loved one. Another option: Consider hiring a career counselor who can walk you through the interview process and give you tips.
About the experts
- Fran Walfish, PsyD, is a parenting expert and leading child, couple and family psychotherapist in private practice in Beverly Hills, California. She is the author of The Self-Aware Parent.
- Nicole Dreiske has 40 years of experience in developing advanced educational strategies. She is an acknowledged pioneer of screen-based educational programs and the founder and executive director of the International Children’s Media Center.
- Kristamarie Collman, MD, is a family medicine physician specializing in preventative health, nutrition and weight management. She is the author of Glow Up Your Life!
- Rachel Rosenthal is an organizing expert and founder of professional organizing firm Rachel and Company.
- Trevor Chapman is a home expert and spokesperson for Farmer’s Insurance.
- Julie Bowman is a certified emergency preparedness specialist and first responder.
- Nancy Irwin, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist. She is also a diplomat for the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress.
- Janine Knighton is the creative director at PuttingAPinInIt.com
- Pat Carroll, RN, is an award-winning writer and author of What Nurses Know and Doctors Don’t Have Time to Tell You. She has also maintained a part-time clinical practice as a trauma nurse, while teaching nurses, respiratory therapists, radiologic technology clinical educators and aspiring health profession teachers.
- Joshua Ross is a celebrity aesthetician and the founder of SkinLab in Los Angeles.
- Jacqueline Schaffer, MD, is a board-certified medical doctor, bestselling author of Irresistible You and founder of Schique Skincare.
- Carolyn Dean, MD, is an expert in nutritional therapy. She is the author of more than 50 books, including The Magnesium Miracle and The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health.
- Tim Jensen is a certified financial planner.
- Nicole Coustier is a business coach and CEO of Aurelian Coaching with more than 25 years of experience in government, tech, consulting and patient advocacy.