As the flurry of holiday activity winds down, there is always that alarming moment when you look around the house and think, “What on earth happened here?” Between the shipping boxes and crumpled gift wrap, ornaments, decorations and shiny new toys, it can feel like a major accomplishment just to clear enough stuff to see the living room floor. At times like this it is helpful to remember the bit of advice emblazoned on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Don’t panic. Take a moment to savor one more mug of hot cocoa and gaze at the tree … and when you are ready, we can tackle the mess together with the tips below, one step at a time.
1. Keep only the decorations you use and love. Empty your storage bins completely before packing up decorations after Christmas. Was there anything left in there that was not used this year? Ask yourself why you didn’t want to put it up — there is a very good chance you don’t need it at all.
2. Choose a toy to give away for each new item received. Children’s rooms can feel overstuffed after a holiday-present-acquiring spree. If your child is young, cull toys you know are no longer favorites on your own. With older children, it’s best to involve them in the process. Make it meaningful by choosing a children’s charity together that they would like to give some of their toys to.
3. Neaten your gift wrapping zone. A good deal of clutter comes from not knowing what we have and buying another (tape, ribbon) rather than finding the one we do have and using it. Take the time now to straighten out your gift packaging area, and not only will you be well prepared for the next gift you need to wrap, but sorting things out will save room to boot. Keep like with like, sorting small items like tape rolls and embellishments in a shoebox, and standing rolls of wrap upright in a bin.
4. Choose versatile gift wrapping supplies. Occasion-specific gift wrap and tags create clutter. Instead of having to scramble to find a spot for the holiday paper after Christmas (and then probably forgetting it’s there next year and buying more), combine simple solid-color wrapping paper and pretty ribbons any number of ways to package presents throughout the year. Stock up during post-Christmas sales to save a few bucks, but beware the allure of the bargain bin. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean you need it.
5. Gift extra-large boxes to a local preschool. Instead of shoving all of those giant cardboard packaging boxes into the garage or recycling bin, why not bring some to a local teacher instead? Preschools are usually happy to accept big cardboard boxes along with other recycled packaging materials to reuse in creative classroom projects.
6. Use smaller cardboard boxes to offload clutter. Toys aren’t the only things that pile up after the holidays. Take a look at your own gift haul and select a similar item to get rid of for each new thing you received. For instance, in with a new sweater, out with an old hoodie. Use the boxes your gifts came in to hold the items you are taking to charity, and you will be rid of boxes and clutter in one fell swoop.
7. Clean up Santa’s workshop. If you dragged out the toolbox to assemble any large and complex Christmas gifts, now would be a good time to assess and reorganize the tools you have. If you are lucky enough to have a full-size tool shed (and it’s kept up), bravo. For the rest of us, cramming random tools, loose nails and boxes of light bulbs into a hall closet together may signal that it’s time for an upgrade.
8. Find a smart tool solution. If you found while working on recent projects that you were lacking any basic tools, make a list of what you need. For what you do have, try organizing things on a magnetic wall rack: It’s neat and functional, and it fits in anywhere.
9. Ask for clutter-free gifts. It feels great to have an uncluttered home. So the next time family and friends ask what you would like, tell them an experience or consumable gift would be much appreciated. Edible treats, concert tickets, memberships to local museums, gift certificates to new restaurants and weekend getaways all make wonderful, memorable gifts — and they won’t take up a bit of space in your home.
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