by Susan Caplan McCarthy
The holidays may mean hosting a family gathering, inviting guests to formal or informal parties, or accommodating friends or family in your guest room. This can result in looking at your home from the perspective of your guests. That clutter you see every day (which means you probably don’t even notice it most of the time), is now blazingly obvious.
And even if the holidays don’t involve a rotating cast of guests, you may find yourself hitting the end of the year and wondering what happened to your good intentions to declutter your home.
But this is a busy time of year, so you have limited time to declutter. You want to get the most from your efforts, so don’t waste time doing things that won’t affect your or your guests’ experience at your home. So, unless you’re decluttering party clothes, skip sorting through your closet, straightening your desk, or tackling the garage (unless you need that space for entertaining).
As you bring out the holiday décor, check that you still love everything you own.
Before heading to the store for more wrapping paper and ribbons, check through what you have and consider using up your stash of wrapping paper. I’m not suggesting you wrap your gifts in baby shower paper, but you may have enough supplies to save yourself from bringing more stuff into the house.
If you have kids or grandkids, consider sorting through the toys to weed out things the kids no longer play with, are broken or missing pieces, or are no longer age appropriate. Work with your kids on this task and set the toys in a box that you move to the garage for a while to make certain your kids won’t go looking for something. Remember, new stuff will be filling their shelves soon, so it’s probably safe to eliminate more than you think you should.
Empty the fridge (and freezer, if you’re feeling ambitious), wipe down the shelves, toss the dubious leftovers, and expired condiments. If guests go in your fridge to keep the dessert they brought chilled, you’ll be glad that the space is neat and clean.
You know your guests will make use of this room, so clean it and make certain that there’s plenty of toilet paper in an obvious location, hand towels, and a full soap dispenser.
Hosting is a great incentive for clearing off the dining table. Leave it empty so it’s ready for dinner, craft making, writing holiday cards, wrapping gifts, spreading out a buffet, and so on. Clean up any piles that have formed in the corner of the dining room.
Avoid the temptation of shoving things into closets. Sort through the items – tossing or donating what you can or putting items in a more appropriate home.
This is the first impression your home will make, so tidy up the space. Make this an opportunity to evaluate what stuff clutters the area and why. Do you need hooks? Baskets? A bench with cubby space underneath for shoes?
Clear away old magazines and anything that has accumulated on flat surfaces. Consider packing away some of the regular knickknacks so to make space for holiday-themed decorations and give them center-stage.
At the least, declutter countertops so unnecessary appliances are either set in a donation box or put away. Guests gather in the kitchen, so you need space for food prep while others have a place to set down drinks, plates, or potluck dishes they’ve just carried into your house.
If you are having guests stay at your home, you’ll need sheets, blankets, and towels. You can use your time in the linen closet to check that items are in good condition and that you aren’t overrun with items that could get donated to an animal shelter or someone in need.
When you dread an upcoming event, don’t tell yourself that you have to attend. That “have” suggests you have no choice. And, even if you feel like you don’t have a choice, change your mindset by telling yourself that you choose to attend your in-laws overblown party because you love your spouse and the mini pigs-in-blankets that your father-in-law makes.
Instead of resentfully attending the mandatory holiday work party, think of using the time to catch up with the people you like.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect
You want to enjoy the holidays as much as your guests, so take a deep breath and step back from the idea that everything must be perfect. Clean and declutter just enough so you feel comfortable. After you do what you can, relax and take pleasure in the holidays and your chance to connect with family and friends.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm a professional organizer-coach with 26 years' experience as a teacher. I believe that an organized home isn't your destination but a step on the path toward the life you want to create. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; and speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.