“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.