Holiday Clean Up: Clutter Cutting Ideas for Year's End

Even in the midst of holiday cheer, it's time to look ahead to a clean and organized New Year--if you can see it, over the clutter of Christmas Past.

Ready to swing into the coming year from a clutter-free home?

Try these year-end tips to cut clutter and start the New Year on an organized note.

Santa's Rule: Get One, Toss Two

Try this simple idea to pack a powerful clutter-cutting punch as you put away new holiday gifts: for each gift received, toss two counterparts.

As you put away holiday gifts, take time to make extra room throughout the house. For example, for every new Christmas DVD you add to the shelves, remove two older titles.

Did Nana gift the children with new holiday pajamas? Find two outgrown sets to add to the donation bag. If craft supplies made it into your stocking, be sure to remove double their number from your stash before adding them to the craft closet.

Whether you recycle, donate or sell the tossers, each gift will reduce clutter in your organized home--and the excitement of new possessions helps cut the ties to old, outworn items.

Get One, Toss Two: short, sweet and painless way to declutter for the New Year.

Take The Holiday Mailing Box Challenge

Have mailing boxes piled up as holiday gifts arrived? Sure, you could recycle or reuse them, but for maximum end-of-year clutter-cutting, take the Holiday Mailing Box Challenge!

Your goal: to fill every seasonal mailing box with items suitable for donation to Goodwill or a similar recycler for used household items, and deliver them to charity before year's end.

Using stacked-up mailing boxes as a yardstick, the Holiday Mailing Box Challenge a good way to be sure that holiday gifts don't create more clutter in the home.

By filling all mailing boxes with donation candidates, you'll keep clutter down when adding holiday gifts.

Better, donating mailing boxes filled with no-longer-needed household linens, books, VHS tapes, crafts supplies or toys gets surplus items into the hands of those in need, and best of all? The built-in deadline for an end-of-year tax receipt provide extra decluttering motivation!

Observe Oosouji

In Japan, clearing dirt, clutter and the disorganization from the old year is an integral part of Japanese New Year tradition. Because each year is seen as separate and distinct, the final week of the old year is devoted to cleaning, decluttering and organizing.

To observe oosouji, Japanese homes receive a top-to-bottom cleaning. Business offices are sorted and organized and children clean out school desks. "Removing the dirt from the old year" creates a clean state of mind to welcome the New Year, and invite prosperity in the year to come.

Sort Before You Stow

Once the New Year arrives, most families take down holiday decorations and store them for the following year--but too often, there's a sense of "sling it in there and worry about it later" when it comes to putting away Christmas ornaments, holiday linens and outdoor lighting.

This year, pay it forward: sort and declutter holiday decorations, linens and specialty cooking items as you store them.

Cut the non-working, the tattered, and the tired from the herd as you put away holiday decorations. Has-been decor items can be recycled or donated; stained linens can be repurposed as cleaning cloths.

Streamline holiday decorating next year: sort before you stow!

Send White Elephants On Their Way

When it comes to holiday giving, it's the thought that counts. But when those thoughts leave you scratching your head? Come up with a plan to wrangle the year's white elephant gifts: those "really, you shouldn't have!" gift items that have entered your home during the season.

Before they can become clutter in your New Year's home, try these strategies to sort out white elephant gifts:

·         Consign "regifting" candidates to the gift closet. Did the big, bountiful gift basket include a lovely cheese board, spreaders and dipping bowl--identical to the other three sets now living in your cabinets? Nosh on the snacks, but set the unneeded items aside in the gift closet. Next year, they'll be the start of a lovely gift basket when packed together with some good cheese and a box of specialty crackers.

To prevent regifting faux pas, scribble a short note outlining who gave what for each new gift closet find. Hint: make a note on the original gift tag; it'll prevent you from regifting unneeded items in the wrong circle.

·         Hold an after-Christmas White Elephant exchange. Inviting friends for dinner on January 1st or hosting a Super Bowl party this year? Ask everyone to bring a wrapped white elephant for a post-Christmas gift exchange.

You'll clear clutter and breathe new life into white elephant gifts. Who knows? Your white elephant may be someone else's favorite gift! Just be sure to avoid circulating gifts that have been given by your guests!

·         Stuck with unneeded books? Consider an online swap! Web sites like Paperback Swap and Book Mooch make it easy to turn trite titles into a welcome read--and cut clutter on household bookshelves!

Set Up A Toy Library

Families with young children can find bedrooms and storage spaces overflowing after Santa's passed through. Solution: set up a toy library to remove excess toys to a "loaner" status.

A toy library is a set of playthings that, while old and familar, still retain play value. Pushed out of the limelight by new Christmas toys, toy library items will seem new and exciting if they're given a rest for a few months, then brought out to liven up a rainy Spring afternoon.

Look for good toy library candidates: construction sets, doll houses, blocks or playsets such as FisherPrice or Playskool brand products that have been pushed to the sidelines by the arrival of new Christmas toys.

Sort and organize smaller pieces, then store each toy library item in an attic or storage area.

Plastic garbage bags or lidded plastic storage containers make good homes for toy library items.

When checking out an item from the toy library, ask children to replace it with a different plaything. Rotating toys keeps clutter at bay, and enhances the value of children's playthings--proving that absence does make the heart grow fonder!

Take the challenge for a clean and organized new year!


Cynthia Ewer, Author of
Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Organized



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Mark Fagan

Mark Fagan

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