I love the holidays! It’s a fun, festive, family-and friend-filled time.
It’s also a messy, overwhelming, clutter-creating time.
Over the years, I’ve developed some strategies to help deal with post-holiday clutter, and this year I added a few new ones.
1. Each Christmas, my family spends a week in Kansas City with my parents. If possible, I try to do a round of clutter-clearing with each family member before we go. That way, we make room for any new gifts we acquire.
2. Also before we leave town, I try to get the apartment as tidy as possible, because I know it will be a relief to return to a clutter-free home.
3. I aim to put the holiday decorations away as soon as possible. Usually I aim for New Year’s Day. This year, we didn’t manage to get them down until January 5—still, it could’ve been worse. I love seeing holiday decorations go up; I also love seeing them cleared away.
4. This year, as we were putting up and taking down holiday decorations, I made a big effort to weed out the items we don’t love. We have a lot of decorations—it’s a big tradition in my family—but there are some things that just never get used. I told myself, “Rather than leave this quirky elf in the box year after year, let me give it away, so someone who loves quirky elves can enjoy it.” I tried to be as ruthless as possible before Christmas, so that these decorations would be out in the world seeking new owners before the holidays. But I did give away more things on the other side, too. As I noted in Outer Order, Inner Calm, it often takes a few passes through our possessions to loosen our grip.
5. This year, I made a big effort to put away gift items as soon as possible. At least with my family, people tend to leave things out, and not put them away in their new places. For instance, my daughters each received a very attractive travel jewelry box. Now, where exactly does such an item belong? Rather than figure the answer to that question and put away the boxes, they each left the box on their bureau. I try to speed up this process by looking for unhoused items and helping us all figure out where things should go. I strongly believe that everything should have a proper place—not just be shoved in a closet somewhere—but it often takes some thought to decide, “Where does this item belong?” What’s the proper place for a travel jewelry box? A meat thermometer? A retro pocket games device? It’s not always obvious.
6. I push myself to be honest about what gifts we will actually use—and if we won’t use them, figure out to whom to re-gift them, or where to give something away. My family relies heavily on wish-lists, and one of the nice things about that is that we usually don’t have many unwanted gifts.
7. Put gifts to use as soon as possible. One of my Twelve Personal Commandments is “Spend out,” and this continues to be a struggle for me. I put that fancy soap in the soap dish right away, and I wear that new sweater as soon as possible. Otherwise, I will “save” them. For instance, I love a pair of rainbow-striped pajamas I received (color!) and a great stylish gray sweatshirt, but I can feel myself wanting to keep them pristine and tidy. No, put them on, wear them! Why is this so hard for me? A mystery.
What strategies do you use to conquer post-holiday clutter?
Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Dan Gold.