Whenever I go to a holiday party, while other people are belting out The Twelve Days of Christmas–fiiiiiive goooooold riiiiiiiiings–all I’m thinking is, “Where in the heck is she gonna put all this stuff?!” This is what it’s like to be a professional declutterer at the holidays.
Now, maybe no one is going to give you a tree or a bird or your own kick line, but stuff is a comin’. In fact, I think of the weeks between November 1 and New Year’s as America’s Annual Stuff Rodeo. We get out, dust off, put up, buy, wrap, mail, receive, organize, and put away so many objects in these weeks most of my clients just want to stare at a blank wall come January 1. But it doesn’t need to be so stressful. If you can squeeze my 12 Day Holiday Decluttering Challenge into your schedule you won’t end up feeling like someone just dropped some drumming drummers on your doorstep.
1. Pull out all your holiday wrapping paper and ribbons. Do you LOVE it all and can’t wait to wrap this year’s present in it? If there are rolls you haven’t used in a couple years, and aren’t going to use this year … recycle the paper or donate to a preschool nearby that might want it for projects.
2. Often table linens only see the light of day at holiday time. Before the party time crunch, take out all the linens and do a thoughtful purge. Napkins with stains can be become rags. Tablecloths that don’t fit the table you own can be donated. If they’re in bad shape donate them to an animal shelter for dog beds.
3. No one ever thinks about decluttering their home bar, but pre-holidays is a great time to purge old booze. Contrary to popular wisdom, alcohol does not last forever. Once a bottle has been opened, it starts to loose its potency and flavor so that ten-year-old barely-used bottle of Sour Apple Pucker Schnapps has got to go down the drain.
4. Take stock of entertaining supplies … paper cocktail napkins, table runners and table top decor. If you don’t love it and use it … lose it.
5. Take a look at your wine glasses. Are they chipped and/or mismatched? Consider a new matching set. And be honest about how many you need. How often do you entertain 24 people? Maybe a set of 8 or 12 is perfect.
6. Do a pass of the clothes that you’ve been saving for “holiday parties.” If you didn’t wear the outfit to any holiday parties last year, or the year before or the year before that … are you going to wear it this holiday season? Doubtful. Go ahead and donate to someone who will.
7. Use this as a time to evaluate your winter clothes. If there are items that you didn’t wear last winter, trust me, you aren’t going to wear them this winter. Donate!
8. Other people’s holiday cards! Unless they are close family or dear dear friends, I say recycle all of them. You are not your old neighbor’s family historian. And if you’re going to keep ALL those cards from your dentist, you’d better have a place to store them.
9. Take a good hard look at your kids’ toys. What haven’t they played with since last year? What have they outgrown? Anything in good shape can be donated to a local daycare or preschool. If it’s still in the package, donate it to a local toy drive!
10. Pull out ALL the half burned holiday candles that are stashed around the house. Are you going to burn them again this year or start fresh? If you’re not going to burn again, let them go. This includes Chanukah candles!
11. Take stock of the gifts you received last year that you didn’t like and planned on regifting this year. If you didn’t like them, then why are you regifting? Unless you know that a friend or relative will absolutely love that poinsettia-patterned wool scarf, don’t pass it off as a “gift.” Donate!
12. One of the top clutter offenders is gifts we have been given that we don’t want, but feel guilty letting go of. How about this holiday season, have a conversation with friends and family about limiting the number of gifts. Or giving experiences instead of stuff. Or skipping gifts all together and make a large family donation?
If you do just one of these a day you will feel so much better when it comes time to open your new gifts. You’ll know right away if you should keep them, or be grateful, and then move them along. And whatever you do keep you’ll have a ready-made space for.
And my true love? He gives me spa gift cards.