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This is not Clark W. Griswold’s Pre-Holiday Declutter Guide

The Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holiday Declutter Guide

This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f*****g Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of a**holes this side of the nuthouse.”

Clark W. Griswold

Clark W. Griswold is an intense kind of guy. He’s pretty much all-in, all the time. And if you’re looking for an all-in, intense guide to pre-holiday decluttering, this is not it.

This is, however, a guide to getting your home prepared for the influx of the Holiday G’s. That is, Gifts and Guests.

One is infinitely more important than the other, but both are a reality at this time of year.

This Pre-Holiday Declutter Guide is designed to help you prepare for the arrival of both G’s, meaning:

  • you will be free to enjoy the festive season
  • there will be less stress and last-minute scrambling to prepare for guests
  • you avoid the sinking realisation on January 1 that you’re now wading through not only last year’s clutter, but the newly acquired stuff too
  • you know what, if anything, you or your family needs – so when shopping or when asked, you can suggest suitable and useful gifts
  • you can declutter all the old/no longer used toys, books and games, making space for new ones or simply making space
  • you can decorate your home for the holidays in a much simpler, more mindful way
  • you can begin next year feeling in control of your home and use it as motivation to continue to create a simpler, slower life.

All it takes is a little time, some energy and a moderate amount Clark W. Griswold-style enthusiasm (minus Cousin Eddie).

How the Guide Works

I’ve split the home into areas, and given you a handful of different decluttering projects for each part of the home. Which of these areas you focus on depends on your holiday plans, whether you’re hosting guests, what part of the world you live in and what you want your home to feel like this season. Some of the tasks will only take you 5-10 minutes while others are more involved.

Rather than try to do all of them before the holiday season descends – which would leave you a quivering mess – pick 5-10 individual tasks to focus on, and work through them one at a time. Spend 10-15 minutes on these every day between now and mid-December, or dedicate a few hours this weekend to getting them done.

Also note that this guide isn’t about doing a deep declutter. It’s more a surface declutter that will help eliminate the most obvious stuff. If you have the time and energy to do so, feel free to tackle each of the areas in-depth and start the festive season off with a smile, but otherwise stick to the relatively easy stuff and know that you will have time to dig in after the holidays.

Target Area #1: Kids Spaces

Much of the gift-giving at this time of year revolves around children. Which I think is wonderful – to a point.

Kids receive so much – be it toys, games, gadgets or clothes – that the pleasure of receiving and then using their gifts is sometimes lost amidst the chaos of wrapping paper and mountains of parcels.

Even if you are pleading for restraint from family and friends, chances are your kids will receive more than they need. It’s best to clear out the clutter, the unused or old toys and the clothes that don’t fit anymore before you are inundated with even more.

Task: Declutter the Toys

(Approximate Time: 1-2 hours)

If you have kids or grandkids, you will likely have amassed a good number of toys over the past year. Gifts, party favours, and hand-me-downs are the likeliest clutter culprits. Of these toys, some will be keepers, others will be junk and more still will be toys your little ones have outgrown.

Before the inundation of toys that comes every Christmas, you should sort and purge what you already own.

This post on tackling the toyboxes tells you everything you need to know, and provides a step-by-step guide on decluttering your kids’ toys.

Unfortunately, following these suggestions won’t stop the toys from being spread across all rooms of the home. The only way to ensure that is to get rid of all the toys. Or all the kids.

Task: Declutter Kids’ Wardrobes

(Approximate time: 15-30min per wardrobe)

If your family is listening to your pleas of “No more toys, please,” chances are your kids will receive clothes. Quite possibly a lot of them.

Now is the perfect time to clear their wardrobes of anything they have outgrown, anything soiled or stretched or beyond repair and anything they simply don’t wear. And this post on how to wrangle control of your kids’ wardrobes has tips on getting through the clutter quickly and keeping it (relatively) organised.

Target Area #2: Adult Spaces

It’s a hectic time of year, undoubtedly. So many of us approach the holidays feeling tired and strung out already, only to be hit full-force with a busy calendar, a long to-do list and a heap of shopping that needs to be done.

That’s why it’s really important to gain control of your spaces at home – the adult spaces – and create as much peace and tranquility as possible.

Task: Declutter and Simplify Your Bedroom

(Approximate time: 1-2 hours)

You really do need a space to escape, particularly this time of year. This post provides you with five ways to create a simple, slow bedroom. You’ll thank me later!

Task: Declutter and Simplify Guest Bedrooms

(Approximate time: 30 minutes)

Even if you don’t technically have a guest bedroom, you still need to make some plans for accommodating house guests over the holiday season.

  • Where will they sleep?
  • What will they sleep on?
  • How many nights are you having guests?

If you do have a specific guest bedroom, now is the time to give it a light declutter. Clear out any storage boxes or clutter that has found its way there over the year. Take a minute to clean out underneath the bed and make sure there is space for luggage.

You may want to look at this post on creating a slow bedroom, to make your guests’ stay a good one. (Or, depending on the guests, maybe you don’t!) This way the space will be ready for your guests, and all you will need to do is make up the bed when they arrive.

Target Area #3: Kitchen

The kitchen is the beating heart of the home, and the festive season will see you spend a good chunk of time in there – particularly if you’re entertaining. Spending some time to declutter it now will mean it’s easier to keep tidy and you are far more likely to enjoy preparing food for your friends and family. With the added bonus of a calm, clear space in the heart of your home.

Task: Declutter Kitchenware

(Approximate time: 30 minutes)

For adults, it seems kitchenware is the go-to gift option when you have no other ideas. While technically a “useful” gift – everyone needs to eat off something, serve food off something, drink from something – often these items sit at the back of the kitchen cupboards, rarely used.

To declutter your kitchenware you have to understand your needs. These are different for everyone, dependent on who lives in your house, how often you entertain, if you have kids, the ages of the kids and your storage space.

Some guidelines to keep in mind as you declutter your kitchenware:

  • You don’t need an everyday crockery set as well as good china. Opt to keep the most practical/beautiful/useful and donate the remainder.
  • You need one style of cutlery, not two or three different sets.
  • A few salad bowls, serving platters and dishes is enough – if you are entertaining a large crowd, borrow serving platters from friends or family.
  • Wine glasses and champagne flutes are lovely to have and necessary if you entertain – but ensure you keep enough, not too many. 6-8 of each should be ample for most homes. Again, you can borrow additional glasses if needed.
  • Shot glasses? If you’re an adult, get rid of ‘em. Really.
  • Keeping a neutral palette for all the major kitchenware (crockery, serving platters, etc) means you will never have the worry of items that don’t match. White is best… If you care about such things.

Task: Declutter Kitchen Drawers

(Approximate time: 10 minutes)

There are few places in the home that attract random clutter like the kitchen drawers. If you have a young family this is partly unavoidable, given toddlers penchant for playing with kitchen utensils and tupperware. But decluttering the drawers will certainly help make it easier to find what you need and much more pleasant to look at.

This post takes you through a 10-minute kitchen declutter and should help get you sorted.

Plus, you won’t cringe with shame any time a guest opens a drawer in the kitchen, only to be greeted with a jumbled mess of utensils and a fine layer of sugar, rice and flour. (How does it get in there anyway?)

Task: Clear the Kitchen Benchtops

(Approximate time: 10 minutes)

Isn’t it lovely to walk into a clutter-free kitchen? A kitchen where everything has a place, it feels orderly and open, and it’s easy to find what you need?

In the lead-up to the silly season, keep your kitchen as open and clutter-free as possible by clearing the benchtops of clutter and any unnecessary appliances.

Find a place in your cupboards for the kettle, toaster, blender and any other appliances that currently reside on the benchtop. It takes approximately 6 seconds to put these back after use and your kitchen will be so much easier on the eye and far less likely to become cluttered.

Target Area #4: Living Spaces

What we really want to do in the holidays is relax. To spend time with our loved ones, to recuperate after a busy year, to focus on all the good things in our lives. While other parts of the home are important for this, none more so than the living spaces.

If you can do no more than one or two of the tasks in this guide before the holiday season, I recommend you do the following. They will only take an hour or two and you will be so glad you did once the silly season arrives.

Task: Create a Clutter-Free Dining Room

(Approximate time: 15-30 minutes)

When guests arrive at your place you want to be able to sit down, grab a drink, maybe some nibblies, and just enjoy their company, right? You probably don’t want to be shuffling stacks of paperwork, craft supplies and toys around, simply to make room at the dining table.

This post on creating a clutter-free dining room will help, and this post shares a heap of visual inspiration for those of you wondering how best to decorate your newly decluttered dining table.

Task: Rearrange Your Living Room

(Approximate time: 1 hour)

I’m not entirely sure when “living room” came to mean “room where we watch television”, but that now seems to be the sole purpose of most living rooms in most homes.

But really, you want the living room to function in a number of ways, not only as a space to watch television.

In fact, you really should take the emphasis of the room away from television viewing and instead encourage lingering conversations, nights spent reading books and listening to music.

How to reclaim your living room for living:

  • Look at the furniture you own and decide if it all needs to stay. Are you able to wall mount your TV? Get rid of the entertainment unit?
  • Try moving the television to a side wall, rather than the main, focal wall.
  • Arrange your lounges or armchairs to face each other, rather than the television. This helps to encourage conversation.
  • Bring a selection of your book and music collections out to encourage you to read or listen rather than automatically reaching for the remote at the end of the day.

Task: Declutter Bookshelves

(Approximate time: 15-45 minutes)

The benefits of decluttering your bookshelves now are two-fold. Firstly there’s the benefit of a clutter-free space in your living room, which is a beautiful thing. Secondly, given how popular books are as Christmas gifts, you can make room for any that make their way into your home come December.

To do a quick declutter of your bookshelves:

1. Grab 2 boxes – one for books to donate/sell and one for books to recycle (please keep this to a minimum).

2. Clear a workspace near your shelves and, working from the top shelf down, pick up each book and decide what will be done with it, based on these questions:

  • Have I ever read this?
  • Is it a favourite?
  • Will I really read it again?
  • Is it a literary classic?
  • Am I still passionate about the subject?
  • Will anyone else in the home want to read it?

3. Place the books you are keeping in a pile and sort the others into groups that will be sold, donated and recycled.

4. Once each shelf is completely cleared, wipe it down.

5. When you’ve cleared the entire bookcase, put back the books you are keeping. Organise them by colour, size, topic, adult/children’s – whatever it is that works in your home and is going to remain (relatively) organised.

6. As you put each book back on the shelf, double-check your decision to keep it. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to keep it?”

7. Pack the books you are donating/selling into a box and put them in the car. Recycle the (hopefully) small amount that you need to.

8. Make yourself a cup of tea, or pour a glass of wine. Grab a book off that gorgeous bookcase and just lose yourself. Even for five minutes.

 

The beauty of taking the time to do these tasks now, is that once the craziness of mid-December arrives – in all her busy, wonderful glory – you will be organised and prepared. You will enjoy the holidays and your family and friends get to enjoy you. Not to mention their subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club.

No novelty gifts this year. Please?

Just say no to novelty gifts this year.

It’s official and inarguable. The holidays are coming.  And with the holidays come gifts.

Gifts are a wonderful way of showing love and appreciation and generosity. Done right, gifts enrich the lives of the giver, the receiver and the producer. There is nothing better than giving a gift that is not only gratefully received, but used and loved and used and loved and used and loved some more.

Those gifts are, unfortunately, few and far between. Gift-giving magic is more likely to happen when gifts are given between good friends, mothers and daughters, boyfriend and girlfriend, father and son – people who know and understand each other.

But what about the gift exchanges that are forced on us? At work holiday parties? At extended family gatherings? At large acquaintance-filled events? What about those (ugh) Secret Santa/Kris Kringle draws? What about all the times we need to give a gift to (or receive one from) someone who doesn’t know us very well? Or someone that doesn’t care very much?

In those cases people often resort to buying novelty gifts.

Talking fish. Boob aprons. Prank mugs. Tommy the Dancing and Talking Toilet Turd (it’s a real thing). Bacon flavoured toothpicks. Stylish pin moustaches for girls (7 styles!) Silly books no-one will read. T-shirts too embarrassing to wear in public.

Each of us has likely given and received one such gift. At least.

And I get it. There is pressure to fit in at work or with the in-laws. No-one wants to be the stick in the mud muttering about the environment and waste while everyone else is chuckling heartily at their new Farting Alarm Clock.

But everyone will have those same misgivings when January comes and they pack up their boob aprons and farting alarm clocks and take them to the charity shop or throw them in the bin.

I don’t know about you, but when I give a gift to someone I want it to be good. I want it to be useful. I want it to be appreciated. But these novelty gifts, while occasionally and momentarily entertaining, are giving the receiver three things they almost certainly do not want.

1. Clutter – They need to find somewhere to keep Tommy the Toilet Turd. Preferably somewhere guests can’t see him. They need to find storage space for that funny T-shirt, or room in the kitchen for that novelty mug. I don’t want to give people clutter, and no matter how well intentioned, I don’t want to receive it either.

2. Waste – Typically only 1% of consumer goods are still in use 6 months after purchase, and I would assume that percentage would be even less when looking at novelty gifts. Buying them, while perhaps funny, is undoubtedly wasteful and putting needless additional strain on our already over-stretched resources. Not to mention the money that goes straight in to landfill come January.

3. Stress – When given a gift, no matter how lightly, it comes with a weight. We understand that someone has taken a little time and a little money to purchase it, and that makes it more difficult to declutter. We worry that they will discover our dislike of the gift, or realise that we have thrown it out. So sometimes we keep it despite not wanting to, and sometimes we let it go.

So it turns out that funny little gift you thought would get a laugh at the office party is delivering a whole lot more than you expected.

Honestly, I think it’s time we simply stop with the novelty gifts all together. Give some movie tickets or a bottle of wine instead. Try a gourmet cheese or a massage voucher. Check out the Ultimate Clutter-Free Gift Guide for ideas.

And whatever you do, do not buy anyone Tommy the Talking Toilet Turd. Ever.

 

(This post first appeared on my friend Lauren’s blog – Homeology.co. If you’re looking for organising tips and hacks, particularly as we head into the holiday season, look no further.)

Also, I just want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends who are celebrating this week. May your travels be safe, your smiles be wide and your Black Fridays be spent away from the shopping mall.

 

(Image via JD Hancock on Flickr)

The Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holiday Declutter Guide: 2.0

The Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holidays Declutter Guide

“And we’ll have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas this side of the nuthouse.”

Clark W. Griswold

We’re less than a month out from Christmas and now – before the fun/insanity of the silly season really hits – is the perfect time to do your Annual Pre-Holiday Declutter.

Never done a Pre-Holiday Declutter before?

I did my first last year, and it worked so well that I thought we should re-visit.

The idea is to do a light declutter of some key areas of your home now, in preparation for the influx of the Holiday G’s. That is, Gifts and Guests. (One being more important than the other.)

When you’ve finished your Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holiday Declutter:

  • you will be free to enjoy the festive season
  • there will be less stress and scrambling to prepare for guests
  • you avoid the sinking realisation on January 1 that you’re now wading through not only last year’s clutter, but the newly acquired stuff too
  • you know what, if anything, you or your family needs – so when shopping or when asked, you can suggest suitable and useful gifts
  • you can declutter all the old/no longer used toys, ripped books and games and puzzles that are missing pieces, making space for new ones or simply making space
  • you can decorate your home for the holidays in a much simpler, more mindful way
  • you can begin next year feeling in control of your home and use it as motivation to make 2014 the year of creating a simpler life

All it takes is a little time, some energy and some Clark W. Griswold-style enthusiasm.

Ready? Let’s get to it.

How the Guide Works

I’ve split the home into areas, and given you a handful of different decluttering projects for each part of the home. Which of these areas you focus on depends on your Christmas plans, whether you’re hosting guests, what part of the world you live in and what you want your home to feel like this holiday season. Some of the tasks will only take you 5-10 minutes while others are a little more involved.

Rather than try to do all of them before the holiday season descends – which would leave you a quivering mess – pick 5 projects to focus on, and work through one a day between now and the beginning of December. Or, if you’re able, spend a few hours over the weekend getting them all done.

(I realise this is Thanksgiving week for my US-based friends, which is probably not the best time to begin a decluttering project. But if you have time over the long weekend, perhaps you could get one or two of these done and work through the rest next week).

 

Target Area #1: Kids Spaces

Much of the gift-giving at this time of year revolves around children. Which I think is wonderful – to a point.

Kids receive so much – be it toys, games, gadgets or clothes – that the pleasure of receiving and then using their gifts is sometimes lost amidst the chaos of wrapping paper and mountains of parcels.

Even if you are pleading for restraint from family and friends, chances are your kids will receive more than they need.

It’s best to clear out the clutter, the unused or old toys and the clothes that don’t fit anymore before you are inundated with even more.

Task: Declutter the Toys

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

If you have kids or grandkids, you will likely have amassed a good number of toys over the past year. Gifts, party favours, and hand-me-downs are the likeliest clutter culprits. Of these toys, some will be keepers, others will be junk and more still will be toys your little ones have outgrown.

Before the inundation of toys that comes every Christmas, you should sort and purge what you already own.

This post on tackling the toyboxes tells you everything you need to know, and provides a step-by-step guide on decluttering your kids’ toys.

Unfortunately, following these suggestions won’t stop the toys from being spread across all rooms of the home. The only way to ensure that is to get rid of all the toys. Or all the kids.

Task: Declutter the Kids’ Wardrobes

Approximate time: 15-30min per wardrobe

If your family is listening to your pleas of “No more toys, please,” chances are your kids will receive clothes. Quite possibly a lot of them.

Now is the perfect time to clear their wardrobes of anything they have outgrown, anything soiled or stretched or beyond repair and anything they simply don’t wear. And this post on how to wrangle control of your kids’ wardrobes has tips on getting through the clutter quickly and keeping it (relatively) organised.

Target Area #2: Adult Spaces

It’s a hectic time of year, undoubtedly. So many of us approach the holidays feeling tired and strung out already, only to be hit full-force with a busy calendar, a long to-do list and a list of shopping.

That’s why it’s really important to gain control of your spaces at home – the adult spaces – and create as much peace and tranquility as possible.

Task: Declutter and Simplify Your Bedroom

Approximate time: 1-2 hours

You really do need a space to escape, particularly this time of year. This post provides you with five ways to create a simple, slow bedroom. You’ll thank me later!

Task: Declutter and Simplify Guest Bedrooms

Approximate time: 30 minutes

Even if you don’t technically have a guest bedroom, you still need to make some plans for the house guests over the holiday season.

  • Where will they sleep?
  • What will they sleep on?
  • How many nights are you having guests?

If you do have a specific guest bedroom, now is the time to give it a light declutter. Clear out any storage boxes or clutter that has found its way there over the year. Take a minute to clean out underneath the bed and make sure there is space for luggage.

You may want to look at this post on creating a slow bedroom, to make your guests’ stay a good one. (Or, depending on the guests, maybe you don’t!) This way the space will be ready for your guests, and all you will need to do is make up the bed when they arrive.

Target Area #3: Kitchen

The kitchen is the beating heart of the home, and the festive season will see you spend a good chunk of time in there – particularly if you’re entertaining. Spending some time to declutter it now will mean it’s easier to keep tidy and you are far more likely to enjoy preparing food for your friends and family. With the added bonus of a calm, clear space in the heart of your home.

Task: Declutter Kitchenware

Approximate time: 30 minutes

For adults, it seems kitchenware is the go-to gift option when you have no other ideas. While technically a “useful” gift – everyone needs to eat off something, serve food off something, drink from something – often these items sit at the back of the kitchen cupboards, rarely used.

To declutter your kitchenware you have to understand your needs. These are different for everyone, dependent on who lives in your house, how often you entertain, if you have kids, the ages of the kids and your storage space.

Some guidelines to keep in mind as you declutter your kitchenware:

  • You don’t need an everyday crockery set as well as good china. Opt to keep the most practical/beautiful/useful and donate the remainder.
  • You need one style of cutlery, not two or three different sets.
  • A few salad bowls, serving platters and dishes is enough – if you are entertaining a large crowd, borrow serving platters from friends or family.
  • Wine glasses and champagne flutes are lovely to have and necessary if you entertain – but ensure you keep enough, not too many. 6-8 of each should be ample for most homes. Again, you can borrow additional glasses if needed.
  • Shot glasses? If you’re an adult, get rid of ’em. Really.
  • Keeping a neutral palette for all the major kitchenware (crockery, serving platters, etc) means you will never have the worry of items that don’t match. White is best… If you care about such things.

Task: Declutter Kitchen Drawers

Approximate time: 10 minutes

There are few places in the home that attract random clutter like the kitchen drawers. If you have a young family, this is partly unavoidable, given toddlers penchant for playing with kitchen utensils and tupperware. But decluttering the drawers will certainly help make it easier to find what you need and much easier to look at.

This post takes you through a 10-minute kitchen declutter and should definitely help get you sorted.

Plus, you won’t cringe with shame any time a guest opens a drawer in the kitchen, only to be greeted with a jumbled mess of utensils and a fine layer of sugar, rice and flour. (How does it get in there anyway?)

Task: Clear the Kitchen Benchtop

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Isn’t it lovely to walk into a clutter-free kitchen? Where everything has a place, it feels orderly and open, and it’s easy to find what you need.

In the lead-up to the silly season, keep your kitchen as open and clutter-free as possible by clearing the benchtops of any unnecessary appliances.

Find a place in your cupboards for the kettle, toaster, blender and any other appliances that currently reside on the benchtop. It takes approximately 6 seconds to put these back after use and your kitchen will be so much easier on the eye and far less likely to become cluttered.

Target Area #4: Living Spaces

What we really want to do in the holidays is relax. To spend time with our loved ones, to recuperate after a busy year, to focus on all the good things in our lives. While other parts of the home are important for this, none more so than the living spaces. On account of all the… you know, living.

If you can do no more than one or two of the Amazing Awesome tasks before the holiday season, I recommend you do the following. They will only take an hour or two and you will be so glad you did once December arrives.

Task: Create a Clutter-Free Dining Room

Approximate time: 15-30 minutes

When guests arrive at your place you want to be able to sit down, grab a drink, maybe some nibblies, and just enjoy their company, right? You probably don’t want to be shuffling stacks of paperwork, craft supplies and toys around, simply to make room at the dining table.

This post on creating a clutter-free dining room will help, and this post shares a heap of visual inspiration for those of you wondering how best to decorate your newly decluttered dining table.

Task: Rearrange Your Living Room

Approximate time: 1 hour

I’m not entirely sure when “living room” came to mean “room where we watch television”, but that seems to be the sole purpose of most living rooms.

But really, you want the living room to function in a number of ways, not only as a space to watch television.

In fact, you really should take the emphasis of the room away from mindless television viewing and instead encourage lingering conversations, nights spent reading books and listening to music.

How to Reclaim Your Living Room for Living:

  1. Look at the furniture you own and decide if it all needs to stay. Are you able to wall mount your TV? Get rid of the entertainment unit?
  2. Try moving the television to a side wall, rather than the main, focal wall.
  3. Arrange your lounges or armchairs to face each other, rather than the television. This helps to encourage conversation.
  4. Bring a selection of your book and music collections out to encourage you to read or listen rather than automatically reaching for the remote at the end of the day.

Task: Declutter Bookshelves

Approximate time: 15-45 minutes

The benefits of decluttering your bookshelves now are two-fold. Firstly there’s the benefit of a clutter-free space in your living room, which is a beautiful things. Secondly, given how popular books are as Christmas gifts, you can make room for any that make their way into your home come December.

Get to it:

1. Grab 2 boxes – one for books to donate/sell and one for books to recycle (please keep this to a minimum)

2. Clear a workspace near your shelves and, working from the top shelf down, pick up each book and decide what will be done with it, based on these questions:

  • Have I ever read this?
  • Is it a favourite?
  • Will I really read it again?
  • Is it a literary classic?
  • Am I still passionate about the subject?
  • Will anyone else in the home want to read it?

3. Place the books you are keeping in a pile and sort the others into groups that will be sold, donated and recycled.

4. Once each shelf is completely cleared, wipe it down.

5. When you’ve cleared the entire bookcase, it’s time to put back those books you are keeping. Organise them by colour, size, topic, adult/children’s – whatever it is that works in your home and is going to remain (relatively) organised.

6. As you put each book back on the shelf, double-check your decision to keep it. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to keep it?”

7. Pack the books you are donating/selling into a box and put them in the car. Recycle the (hopefully) small amount that you need to.

8. Make yourself a cup of tea, or pour a glass of wine. Grab a book off that gorgeous bookcase and just lose yourself. Even for five minutes.

The Beauty of this Amazingly Awesome Guide?

The beauty of taking the time to do these tasks now, is that once December arrives – in all her busy, wonderful glory – you will be organised and prepared. You will enjoy the holidays and your family will enjoy you.
So take a moment to read through the list above again and put together your action plan for the rest of November. You’ll be glad you did!
Which of the tasks above are on your to-do list before the holidays descend? For me, it’s most definitely the kitchen. Always the kitchen…

 

 

The Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holidays Declutter Guide

The Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holidays Declutter Guide

We’re less than 5 weeks out from Christmas and now – before the fun/insanity of the silly season hits – is the perfect time to do your Annual Pre-Holiday Declutter.

Never done a Pre-Holiday Declutter before?

Great – me either!

The idea is to do a light declutter of some key areas of your home now, in preparation for the influx of the Holiday G’s. That is, Gifts and Guests. (One being more important than the other.)

When you’ve finished your Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holiday Declutter:

  • you will be free to enjoy the festive season
  • there will be less stress and scrambling to prepare for guests
  • you avoid the sinking realisation on January 1 that you’re now wading through not only last year’s clutter, but the newly acquired stuff too
  • you know what, if anything, you or your family needs – so when shopping or when asked, you can suggest suitable and useful gifts
  • you can declutter all the crappy/old/no longer used toys, ripped books and games/puzzles that are missing pieces, making space for new ones or simply making space
  • you can decorate your home for the holidays in a much simpler, more mindful way*
  • you can begin next year feeling in control of your home and use it as motivation to make 2013 the year of creating your simpler life

All it takes is a little time, some energy and some Clark W. Griswold-style enthusiasm.

(*Unless you have young kids – then you can kiss your simplified good taste goodbye. At least until they’re teenagers. Tinsel and glitter may abound – learn to be OK with that.)

Ready? Let’s get to it.

How the Guide Works

I’ve split the home into areas, and given you a handful of different decluttering projects for each part of the home. Which of these areas you focus on depends on your Christmas plans, whether you’re hosting guests, what part of the world you live in and what you want your home to feel like this holiday season. Some of the tasks will only take you 5-10 minutes while others are a little more involved.

Rather than try to do all of them before the holiday season descends – which would leave you a quivering mess – you should pick 5-7 projects to focus on, and work through one a day between now and the beginning of December. Or, if you’re able, spend a few hours over the weekend getting them all done.

(I realise today is Thanksgiving for my US-based friends, which is probably not the best day to begin a decluttering project. But if you have time over the long weekend, perhaps you could get one or two of these done and work through the rest next week).

 

Target Area #1: Kids Spaces

Much of the gift-giving at this time of year revolves around children. Which I think is wonderful – to a point.

Kids receive so much – be it toys, games, gadgets or clothes – that the pleasure of receiving and then using their gifts is sometimes lost amidst the chaos of wrapping paper and mountains of parcels.

Even if you are pleading for restraint from family and friends, chances are your kids will receive more than they need.

It’s best to clear out the clutter, the unused or old toys and the clothes that don’t fit anymore before you are inundated with even more.

Task: Declutter the Toys

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

If you have kids or grandkids, you will likely have amassed a good number of toys over the past year. Gifts, party favours, and hand-me-downs are the likeliest clutter culprits. Of these toys, some will be keepers, others will be junk and more still will be toys your little ones have outgrown.

Before the inundation of toys that comes every Christmas, you should sort and purge what you already own.

This post on tackling the toyboxes tells you everything you need to know, and provides a step-by-step guide on decluttering your kids’ toys.

Unfortunately, following these suggestions won’t stop the toys from being spread across all rooms of the home. The only way to ensure that is to get rid of all the toys. Or all the kids.

Task: Declutter the Kids’ Wardrobes

Approximate time: 15-30min per wardrobe

If your family is listening to your pleas of “No more toys, please,” chances are your kids will receive clothes. Quite possibly a lot of them.

Now is the perfect time to clear their wardrobes of anything they have outgrown, anything soiled or stretched or beyond repair and anything they simply don’t wear. And this post on how to wrangle control of your kids’ wardrobes has tips on getting through the clutter quickly and keeping it (relatively) organised.

 

Target Area #2: Adult Spaces

It’s a hectic time of year, undoubtedly. So many of us approach the holidays feeling tired and strung out already, only to be hit full-force with a busy calendar, a long to-do list and a LOT of shopping to do.

That’s why it’s really important to gain control of your spaces at home – the adult spaces – and create as much peace and tranquility as possible.

Task: Declutter and Simplify Your Bedroom

Approximate time: 1-2 hours

You really do need a space to escape, particularly this time of year. This post provides you with five ways to create a simple, slow bedroom. You’ll thank me later!

Task: Declutter and Simplify Guest Bedrooms

Approximate time: 30 minutes

Even if you don’t technically have a guest bedroom, you still need to make some plans for the house guests over the holiday season.

  • Where will they sleep?
  • What will they sleep on?
  • How many nights are you having guests?

If you do have a specific guest bedroom, now is the time to give it a light declutter. Clear out any storage boxes or clutter that has found its way there over the year. Take a minute to clean out underneath the bed and make sure there is space for luggage.

You may want to look at this post on creating a slow bedroom, to make your guests’ stay a good one. (Or, depending on the guests, maybe you don’t!) This way the space will be ready for your guests, and all you will need to do is make up the bed when they arrive.

 

Target Area #3: Kitchen

The kitchen is the beating heart of the home, and the festive season will see you spend a good chunk of time in there – particularly if you’re entertaining guests. Spending some time to declutter it now will mean it’s easier to keep tidy and you are far more likely to enjoy preparing food for your friends and family. With the added bonus of a calm, clear space in the heart of your home.

Task: Declutter Kitchenware

Approximate time: 30 minutes

For adults, it seems kitchenware is the go-to gift option when you have no other ideas. While technically a “useful” gift – everyone needs to eat off something, serve food off something, drink from something – often these items sit at the back of the kitchen cupboards, rarely used.

To declutter your kitchenware you have to understand your needs. These are different for everyone, dependent on who lives in your house, how often you entertain, if you have kids, the ages of the kids and your storage space.

Some guidelines to keep in mind as you declutter your kitchenware:

  • You don’t need an everyday crockery set as well as good china. Opt to keep the most practical/beautiful/useful and donate the remainder.
  • You need one style of cutlery, not two or three different sets.
  • A few salad bowls, serving platters and dishes is enough – if you are entertaining a large crowd, borrow serving platters from friends or family.
  • Wine glasses and champagne flutes are lovely to have and necessary if you entertain – but ensure you keep enough, not too many. 6-8 of each should be ample for most homes. Again, you can borrow additional glasses if needed.
  • Shot glasses? If you’re an adult, get rid of ’em. Really.
  • Keeping a neutral palette for all the major kitchenware (crockery, serving platters, etc) means you will never have the worry of items that don’t match. White is best… If you care about such things.

Task: Declutter Kitchen Drawers

Approximate time: 10 minutes

There are few places in the home that attract random clutter like the kitchen drawers. If you have a young family, this is partly unavoidable, given toddlers penchant for playing with kitchen utensils and tupperware. But decluttering the drawers will certainly help make it easier to find what you need and much easier to look at.

This post takes you through a 10-minute kitchen declutter and should definitely help get you sorted.

Plus, you won’t cringe with shame any time a guest opens a drawer in the kitchen, only to be greeted with a jumbled mess of utensils and a fine layer of sugar, rice and flour. (How does it get in there anyway?)

Task: Clear the Kitchen Benchtop

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Isn’t it lovely to walk into a clutter-free kitchen? Where everything has a place, it feels orderly and open, and it’s easy to find what you need.

In the lead-up to the silly season, keep your kitchen as open and clutter-free as possible by clearing the benchtops of any unnecessary appliances.

Find a place in your cupboards for the kettle, toaster, blender and any other appliances that currently reside on the benchtop. It takes approximately 6 seconds to put these back after use and your kitchen will be so much easier on the eye and far less likely to become cluttered.

Target Area #4: Living Spaces

What we really want to do in the holidays is relax. To spend time with our loved ones, to recuperate after a busy year, to focus on all the good things in our lives. While other parts of the home are important for this, none more so than the living spaces. On account of all the… you know, living.

If you can do no more than one or two of the Amazing Awesome tasks before the holiday season, I recommend you do the following. They will only take an hour or two and you will be so glad you did once December arrives.

Task: Create a Clutter-Free Dining Room

Approximate time: 15-30 minutes

When guests arrive at your place you want to be able to sit down, grab a drink, maybe some nibblies, and just enjoy their company, right? You probably don’t want to be shuffling stacks of paperwork, craft supplies and toys around, simply to make room at the dining table.

This post on creating a clutter-free dining room will help, and this post shares a heap of visual inspiration for those of you wondering how best to decorate your newly decluttered dining table.

 

Task: Rearrange Your Living Room

Approximate time: 1 hour

I’m not entirely sure when “living room” came to mean “room where we watch television”, but that seems to be the sole purpose of most living rooms.

But really, you want the living room to function in a number of ways, not only as a space to watch television.

In fact, you really should take the emphasis of the room away from mindless television viewing and instead encourage lingering conversations, nights spent reading books and listening to music.

How to Reclaim Your Living Room for Living:

  1. Look at the furniture you own and decide if it all needs to stay. Are you able to wall mount your TV? Get rid of the entertainment unit?
  2. Try moving the television to a side wall, rather than the main, focal wall.
  3. Arrange your lounges or armchairs to face each other, rather than the television. This helps to encourage conversation.
  4. Bring a selection of your book and music collections out to encourage you to read or listen rather than automatically reaching for the remote at the end of the day.

Task: Declutter Bookshelves

Approximate time: 15-45 minutes

The benefits of decluttering your bookshelves now are two-fold. Firstly there’s the benefit of a clutter-free space in your living room, which is a beautiful things. Secondly, given how popular books are as Christmas gifts, you can make room for any that make their way into your home come December.

Get to it:

1. Grab 2 boxes – one for books to donate/sell and one for books to recycle (please keep this to a minimum)

2. Clear a workspace near your shelves and, working from the top shelf down, pick up each book and decide what will be done with it, based on these questions:

  • Have I ever read this?
  • Is it a favourite?
  • Will I really read it again?
  • Is it a literary classic?
  • Am I still passionate about the subject?
  • Will anyone else in the home want to read it?

3. Place the books you are keeping in a pile and sort the others into groups that will be sold, donated and recycled.

4. Once each shelf is completely cleared, wipe it down.

5. When you’ve cleared the entire bookcase, it’s time to put back those books you are keeping. Organise them by colour, size, topic, adult/children’s – whatever it is that works in your home and is going to remain (relatively) organised.

6. As you put each book back on the shelf, double-check your decision to keep it. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to keep it?”

7. Pack the books you are donating/selling into a box and put them in the car. Recycle the (hopefully) small amount that you need to.

8. Make yourself a cup of tea, or pour a glass of wine. Grab a book off that gorgeous bookcase and just lose yourself. Even for five minutes.

The Beauty of this Amazingly Awesome Guide?

The beauty of taking the time to do these tasks now, is that once December arrives – in all her busy, wonderful glory – you will be organised and prepared. You will enjoy the holidays and your family will enjoy you.
So take a moment to read through the list above again and put together your action plan for the rest of November. You’ll be glad you did!
Which of the tasks above are on your to-do list before the holiday season? For me, it’s most definitely the kitchen. Always the kitchen…

 

 

The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Beautiful, Clutter-Free Home

clean white minimalist kitchen
{via BonyTT.no}

Google the phrase “minimalist house” and the vast majority of results will show you utterly modern, shiny, white box-like homes.

And that’s lovely.

But it’s such a misunderstanding of the idea of simple, minimalist homes to think that white, shiny boxes are what it’s all about.

Minimalism is not about the absence of personality. Or History. Or uniqueness.

And it doesn’t have to be about the absence of colour. Or mementos. Or quirkiness.

It’s not about stripping out everything that is unnecessary. (Because, strictly speaking, much of what we own is unnecessary. Taking all of that away would leave our homes very empty indeed.)

Now, if shiny, white boxes float your boat, then that’s fabulous. But me? I love a home that has warmth, personality and history. I simply don’t like clutter.

Today you’ll see that creating a beautiful, simple, clutter-free home does not mean creating a boring, sterile, style-less home.

Firstly, some inspiration to get your imagination firing:

Minimalist but Still Warm

So how do you create a personality-filled home without the clutter?

1. Start with White Space

If you don’t already, you need to learn to love white space.

And just so we’re on the same page – white space doesn’t actually have to be white. It needs to be clear, empty, blank, bare. Devoid of stuff. The colour doesn’t matter so much. In fact, as you can see above, colour is one of the most beautiful, simple ways to decorate.

The best way to find white space in the first place is to declutter. When you rid your home of things you don’t love, things you don’t need, things you don’t use – you will find your white space.

This super comprehensive post will help you find (and love) white space in your home.

 

2. Use What You Already Own.

Chances are you already own things that are beautiful and meaningful. So use them! Do them justice!

Look at things you own that have special memories or meaning attached:

  • a handmade quilt from your grandmother
  • a piece of art gifted to you on your 30th birthday
  • a beautiful piece of furniture that has been handed down to you – a cabinet, hallstand, lounge or table
  • a framed photo from your favourite holiday, your wedding day, your baby’s first birthday
  • a dining table made from recycled timber
  • a lamp you bought from an op-shop one beautiful weekend
  • newspaper clippings from your past
  • artwork from your kids, nieces or nephews

3. Set the Foundation and Highlight the Special

Now that you’ve found your white space and decided what beautiful things you’re going to highlight in your home, you need to strip the room back to its basics (in terms of furniture and decor) to create the foundation.

The foundation is everything that the room needs to function well. For example:

A lounge room requires a lounge, TV, entertainment unit, perhaps an armchair and bookshelves.

A bedroom requires a bed, storage for your clothes, somewhere to sit and perhaps a bedside table.

Once the foundation is in place, you can carefully choose what personal mementos, photos, belongings or keepsakes you want to highlight.

It’s really important to choose wisely. Your aim is that everything remaining is beautiful or useful.

If you follow these guidelines, you’re going to create a home packed with personality, but not packed with clutter. And that’s what we’re after.

 

10 Tips to Create a Stunning, Personality-Filled Minimalist Home

Using the images above (from top left) as inspiration, start to think about the various ways you can create a stunning, liveable, personality-filled home – without the clutter:

  1. Vibrant, handmade touches. By removing clutter and unnecessary decoration, a gorgeous, personality-filled quilt like this brings the bedroom alive while still allowing it to be the haven you need.
  2. Find beauty in utilitarian items. Just because an item is “useful” rather than “beautiful” does not mean it should be hidden out of sight. By surrounding the bench and hat/coat stand with plenty of white space, suddenly these items become beautiful in their own right.
  3. Make a colourful artwork the centrepiece of your room. You can consider making one yourself, or as a family project. Then it becomes not only simple and beautiful, but also meaningful and something to be proud of. If you’re fortunate enough to own a beautiful piece of artwork already, don’t be afraid to let it stand in its own beauty on an otherwise empty wall.
  4. Use light to decorate. A dramatic colour on the walls and a simple, yet beautiful wall-hung light fitting is all this room needs to pop with personality. And no clutter in sight. You can also use this idea with daylight as decoration. Consider removing your window coverings and let the outside world be your artwork.
  5. Don’t be afraid to use dark colours. When surrounded by plenty of white space, a dark piece of furniture, art or bedding looks refreshing rather than overwhelming. It gives the eye something interesting to rest on in an otherwise neutral room.
  6. Use colour on the walls as decor. Don’t be afraid to do something a little different with the colour on your walls. Adding a simple two-tone colour job plus neutral, utilitarian furniture is enough to make a room warm and inviting. And again, you don’t need to clutter the room with piles of sentimental items to communicate your style.
  7. Use furniture with a built-in past. Second-hand furniture brings warmth and history to a room, even if it’s not necessarily your history. But if you really balk at the idea of buying furniture second-hand, then consider purchasing a piece made from recycled timber. Not only is it a sustainable choice, it brings so much character to the space that additional decor is unnecessary.
  8. Decorate with texture. A simple lace curtain or a neutral coloured, textured blanket is often all you need to break up the sameness of a simply decorated room.
  9. Choose your favourite colour. Or the colour you find most calming, or meditative, or exciting. In a pale/neutral room, use this colour to provide the pop of personality you want. Think a gorgeous blanket in grassy green, or a chair spray-painted yellow. Surround it with white space and be reminded every time you enter the room that you chose that piece and that it is beautiful to you.
  10. Let the room speak for itself. If it is a dining room, then let it be a dining room. Don’t feel the need to fill every empty nook and cranny with stuff, just so the room looks lived-in or utilised. Keep the furniture to the minimum that is required, and simply enjoy using the space for what it’s designed for.

 

What are your favourite tips for creating a home with personality? Do you have any examples? Photos? Websites? Let us know in the comments.