Christmas. You guys, it’s not even Thanksgiving and I’m already stressed out about Christmas. Over the weekend we booked our flights back east to spend Christmas with Mr. BFT’s family, worked on our wishlists (per the request of family members), and ordered our holiday cards. Soon I’ll need to start shopping, and the house will be filled with packages and toys and food and STUFF. SO MUCH STUFF. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the traditional exchanging of gifts. I love presents. But after Christmas I always end up with so much STUFF and I feel overwhelmed at the thought of trying to fit everything into my already cramped closets and shelves.
Now, the following paragraph is related so stick with me. In my yoga class last week, our instructor focused on making space. Making space with our breathing, and pushing into every pose to create extra space within ourselves. During the opening mediation he told a story about how he was forced to do a massive sorting of his belongings when his apartment unit needed to be deep cleaned. He lived in the apartment for three years and, as a minimalist, was shocked when he realized how much clutter he had amassed during that time. He talked about sorting through everything and finding things that had sentimental value when received, but that he hadn’t thought about in years. He used birthday cards as an example. He held on to birthday cards because he couldn’t stand the thought of throwing them away. Someone had put thought and money into sending that card to him and each one was special. But … three years worth of cards later … do you really need to keep them? Can you imagine if you kept every birthday card you ever received over your lifetime? What would you really do with them? AND, would the sender really want you to hold onto that card forever, verses living a decluttered, happier life? Ultimately he looked at each card again and recycled them. He decided he didn’t need the physical reminder of those relationships, when he also has memories.
Listening to all of this really hit home for me. I am a total packrat and I hold on to EVERYTHING. I am surrounded by clutter. It’s not HOARDERS level of clutter, but it’s still excessive. And embarrassing. And I genuinely hate it. But I’m the same way … I hate to throw anything away, especially if a friend put time and thought into a letter, card, or gift. Because of that, every time a new item comes into my home, I panic a little. That seems like a horrible way to live life, doesn’t it?
I decided to try my best to do some decluttering BEFORE the holidays even get here. That way I’ll feel less stressed about bringing new gifts into the home. I’m long overdue for a deep deep DEEP sorting, tossing, and cleaning. I’ve already started a little, but I’m thinking I’ll take some time off around Thanksgiving to really focus on getting it done. If you want to join me, I have some decluttering tips I’ve learned over 35 years of being a stuff magnet. I hope you find these tips for cutting the clutter before the holidays helpful!
1. Block off a whole day for decluttering. Don’t kid yourself – you’re not going to go through ALL the stuff hiding under your bed in 20 minutes. And if you find yourself rushed for time, you’ll make poor decisions. (“I’ll just put everything back for now and deal with it later!” – Not that I’ve EVER said anything like that, ever.)
2. Make a list of all the areas you want to declutter. Breaking the job down into smaller tasks will make everything feel more manageable. When you finish up one area, cross it off on your list and then give yourself a small reward. Chocolate generally works for me.
3. Make four piles: Keep, Donate, Recycle, Trash. A massive “pro” to decluttering before Christmas is finding treasures you can donate to thrift shops or even a program like “Toys for Tots” that will help families in need have a merrier Christmas. I have a million and one Hello Kitty and Disney trinkets that are brand new, that I really don’t need. I plan to max out that “donate” pile this year. FYI – If you’re doing it right, all piles should be pretty much equal (with the exception of Recycle – hopefully you don’t have THAT much old paper lying around).
4. If you haven’t touched it or thought about it in one year, it goes. My trick, and I believe I’ve mentioned it on my blog before, is to put things you THINK are important to you into a bag and put it in the back of the closet or under the bed. If you think of any of those items, you can pull it back out. But in six months, if you haven’t a clue what is in the bag, you probably don’t need it. Just take the whole bag to Goodwill without even looking inside. (Obviously this doesn’t apply to deeply sentimental items like your baby blankie or grandpa’s army uniform.)
5. When deciding to keep something, ask yourself, “Is keeping this item more important than having a calming space?” This one is especially important if you find yourself constantly overwhelmed by how much stuff you have (like *ahem* me). I know it’s just “one more item” but all those items add up. Magazines older than three months? Toss them. Receipts a year old? Unless you need them for tax purposes, shred them. A book you read once and know you’ll never read again? Donate.
6. Don’t forget to declutter your computer, too. Especially the desktop or whatever your “catch-all” space is named. Set aside a couple hours to sort through your computer files. What files and folders can be deleted? What can be moved to an external hard drive? What files should be renamed so you can find them easier? Even though your files are not taking up PHYSICAL space, having a cluttered computer can be just as stressful as having a cluttered office or desk.
7. Focus. Turn the TV off. Put the phone on silent or in another room. Put on some background music and focus on the unpleasant task at hand. Also, if you live with others, let them in on what you’re doing and respectfully ask for them not to interrupt you, or let them know if there’s anything they can do to help. I personally find that I do best cleaning and sorting by myself, but when I’m on a decluttering rampage, I will ask my husband if he wouldn’t mind going to the store or preparing dinner without me so I can keep working. He hates my clutter so he is generally happy to do whatever I ask of him!
8. Visualize how you want your space to look. If you’re envious of the types of rooms you see in home magazines and on some blogs, use that as your motivation. You may not get there 100% but visualizing your dream space will help encourage you to get going on your decluttering and cleaning.
I recently found this quote and thought it would be the perfect way to end this post:
Image Source: Sindesign on Flickr used and modified under CC 2.0