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North Hills Monthly

Decluttering for the Holidays

Oct 31, 2018 07:21AM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

Before and after, photo courtesy of Method to the Madness

You cannot hide from the holidays or from your holiday guests. If you’re dreading the idea of hosting a big gathering because your house has that “lived in” look (or worse, that “died in” look), now is the ideal time to stop messing around and come clean.

Dorothy Clear, a certified professional organizer and owner of Clear Organization, said that it is important to start planning now before the holidays are in full gear.

“You should make a master ‘to do’ list and break it down into weekly things along the way—that will help reduce stress. A whole house is too overwhelming to tackle in one day; it actually zaps our motivation,” she said.

Certified Professional Organizer Jodi Eisner, owner of Method to the Madness, agrees with the idea of making a master to-do list. “I also like the idea of scheduling time; if you don’t schedule it, it doesn’t happen,” she said. “Make an appointment, a two- or three-hour window, to focus on a space.”

Clear suggested that you should also build in a reward for yourself as well. For example, if you get your weekly to-do list done, do something for yourself that you normally wouldn’t. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; just enough to keep you motivated. Cleaned out your linen closet, did you? You deserve a cappuccino!

But first you may be asking yourself: where to begin?

“What bugs you the most; what is a daily frustration? That should be your priority,” said Clear. 

The kitchen could be a great place to start, as most people congregate in that area during holiday gatherings. “You want your kitchen to be hospitable, and you want the furniture to be arranged in the living room so that everyone can have conversations,” said Clear.

Eisner said that one of the most difficult things for people is to know where to put the clutter once they decide to declutter, which she calls “shifting.” 

“People will literally pick something up and put it somewhere else. I always encourage people to make a decision to keep or get rid of something,” said Eisner. She tells her clients to create rules for themselves and ask themselves a series of questions about an item, such as ‘When was the last time I used this?’ ‘Why am I keeping this?’ and ‘Does it have meaning in my life?’  

“The goal is to shift your thinking on how you view your stuff, so you are more likely to let go of items that you don’t really use,” she explained. “This in turn will leave you with more space for the things that are important and meaningful.”

As the holidays approach, one space that might be lacking in your home is a place to store all of those holiday gifts. “I’d designate one place that you can stage all of your gifts and have a gift wrapping station; you should also separate all Christmas gift wrap from other holiday wrapping,” said Clear, adding that all of these little things that are done ahead of time make it easier when you go to buy, wrap and store presents.

Clear also recommends keeping your decorating paraphernalia in plastic bins versus cardboard boxes, as they hold up better and are stackable.

As for all of those holiday decorations, “Pull out everything you have for the holiday and really take a look at it,” said Eisner. “Think about the last time you used it—how old is it? Is it broken?

“Instead of just packing it back up and putting it away, get rid of it,” she continued. “This way, you’re actually organizing and creating a system for that time of year.”

Ok, so you’ve successfully cleaned up your act, and have de-junkified your junk drawers, demystified the contents of your linen closet and decided that your teenagers can probably do without their toddler toys. Now where do they go?

Smaller bags of items that are still in good condition can certainly be donated to places like Goodwill or other charities; for larger items, often people call places like Jurassic Junk.

Greg Baden, director of operations, said that his company hauls away pretty much everything. “You name it, we take it,” he said, adding that they try to donate as much as they can. “We also try to recycle as much as possible, including paper, plastic, cardboard and metal; even furniture that can’t be donated elsewhere, we try to find a second home for it.”

Once you declutter, you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel. “I know people talk about decluttering as a physical process, but people need to start talking about it as a mental process,” said Eisner. “Imagine how it feels to live a simpler, easier lifestyle.”