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…



33 Responses to The Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holiday Declutter Guide: 2.0

  1. This is a great guide and a smart idea! My only quibble is that the timeframes for some of the tasks seem unrealistic. Especially 15-45 minutes for assessing one’s book collection. Donating clothes and kitchen gadgets is a pretty easy tasks, but getting rid of books can be one of the most emotionally fraught downsizing activities.

    • Thanks, Rose. I agree that the timeframes are way too tight for a deep declutter. That would take (in many cases) much longer than the times I’ve allowed. But the idea for this Pre-Holiday Declutter Guide is simply doing a light declutter of the spaces listed. Rather than pulling everything off the shelves, for example, just sweep through the space and grab anything that’s obviously out of place, never used or in a state of disrepair. Even just dealing with this easy-to-identify clutter will make a big difference.

      But you’re right, to do a deep declutter would likely take much more time. That’s what January can be for! :)

  2. That was a fantastic guide and helpful as I make lists (and lists) of what I need/want to get down in the next week or so. I know we have some decluttering to do especially in my girls’ room and the points on the children’s stuff was especially helpful. I think I needed permission to get rid of torn/partially destroyed books. Thanks!

    • Such a pleasure, Breanne. I know what you mean about the books too. For the longest time I held on to books as something special and sacred (which they are in a way I guess). But that doesn’t mean we need to keep them when they’re in a state of disrepair.

      I hope the December declutter has proven helpful for you! :)

    • I don’t have one at this stage, Sharon, but thanks so much for the suggestion! I will try to pull one together over the next day or two. Anything to help people get sorted for the coming weeks. :)

  3. Brooke, thank-you sooooo much, I’m a bit behind on my blog reader at the moment and have just come across this post today, it is EXACTLY what I need!!! Fortunately I only have one guest coming and not too many gifts to worry about, but man, do I need to do some purging!! Thank-you for the guide and the encouragement :-)

  4. “A few salad bowls, serving platters,and dishes IS enough”

    You may need to “declutter” some of your writing before anything else.

    Worse than a messy kitchen cupboard or my “lived in comfortable home”‘ is the fingernails on the blackboard squeak of writing /speaking that is grammatically incorrect.

    The review button on your word processing program tool bar usually points out these errors for you easily.

    I look forward to reading your (grammar free ) column next time.

  5. Thanks for the suggestions. Looking forward to diving into a deep clean/purge come January. The books are always what trip me up. I really like your list of questions to consider for which ones are the keepers. I’ll be setting aside a full week for that task. ;)

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