I hope you all had wonderful holidays! It feels like we've been celebrating since December 2nd, the first night of Hanukkah! Even though we don't celebrate Christmas, many of our friends and neighbors do, and I can't help but join in the festivities and get caught up in the spirit of gift giving!
Speaking of gifts... If you celebrate the holidays, odds are you are reading this surrounded by a few new things. If you have kids, the odds are far greater that you're surrounded by a bunch new things. I know it's only a few hours after Christmas ended, and I don't want to harsh your holiday mellow, but I have a question for you.
Do you have a home for all your new stuff?
As sure as the swallows always return to Capistrano, each January I get an uptick of phone calls from desperate parents upset about the state of their homes. It makes sense. The holiday dust has settled. The kids are back in school. Toys, old and new, have taken over the living room, the dining room, the kid's room, and worst of all, the master bedroom. If clutter had a noise, you'd be covering your ears by now!
I'm reaching out to you today, December 26th, with the hope that I can motivate you before 2019 with a few easy-to-follow steps to help you reclaim your space. And for many of you, your sanity. I'm not talking about taking down your holiday decorations. That's for another day. I just want to walk you through the steps of tidying up, making space for your new gifts, and making yourself happy in the process!
Are you with me? Let's go!
Start With Clearing One Common Area
* In our house that would be the living room. In an open space house that might be the kitchen/family room. Or a stand alone family room. If you celebrate Christmas, it would be whatever room the tree is in.
Remove The Recycling And Trash
* Begin by throwing away trash and gathering up recycling. Magazines, old newspapers, junk mail, envelopes, cardboard boxes, gift boxes, gift wrap, ribbons, plastic film. Basically, if you're not keeping or donating it, and you can see it - either throw it away or recycle it! And by the way, hold onto your coffee cup! I'm also referring to (gasp) your stack of Christmas cards. I'm going to tell it to you straight. I do not believe in saving Christmas cards unless they are suuuuuuuuuuuuper special! And even then I say take a photo and toss the card.
Side note: If you're dealing with what I call "kid soup," that maddening mix of broken crayons, incomplete puzzle pieces, lego pieces, paper scraps, dry felt pens, leftover party favors, random plastic stuff, etc, you can either pick through it and recycle what you can, or give yourself grace and toss it all in the trash. No judgment from me.
* Immediately take the trash and recycling outside drop them in their bins. Walking back in to the room will allow you to take a fresh look at your space. Things are probably looking a million times better, and your brain is probably feeling a million times clearer! Funny how that works...
Decide What To Keep Or Donate
* You got some new gifts, right? Before you do anything else ask yourself this question. Do you want to keep all your gifts? You don't have to keep everything, you know. If there's anything in your new gift pile that doesn't suit you, your family, your kids, quietly move it into the donation bag. I know you already know which gifts I'm talking about. Is something you're secretly feeling "meh" about worth taking up valuable space in your house simply because it was a gift? If you are feeling lukewarm, or more commonly, guilty because you secretly know in your heart of hearts that you will never use that gift, let it go. I won't tell. I've given millions of gifts and have no idea if any of them were kept or donated. Nor do I care! My intention was a loving gesture that had no strings attached.
* Once you've established the keepers, move them to their appropriate rooms. They don't have to be put away, but they do need to live in that room for the time being. Then go back to the adult common area and gather up what you'd like to donate. I use plastic garbage bags for clothing and paper grocery bags for decorative objects. While you're at it, take a look at your knickknacks and holiday decorations and see if there's any else you'd like to toss in. Just like assessing gifts, life's too short to keep decor that you don't love!
Adopt The One Thing In, Three Things Out Rule
* And now the magic begins! My best tip is called the One New Thing In, Three Old Things Out rule. The 1 in, 3 out ratio ensures that you have space for your new things. Take your donation bag into each room that has new things and find three old things to donate for each new item. Ideally you're choosing from the same category, but I'm not going to be a stickler. Once that's accomplished, put the new gifts away.
* Parents, If you're making space for new kid's toys and books, have the kids choose what they'd like to donate. Please avoid micromanaging their decisions! I have yet to see kids have a hard time with this step. The parents on the other hand... Resist the urge to shout out "Oh no! Not that one!" This is the kid's call. The point is to teach your kids how to make space for their new toys and let kids who have less enjoy their old toys! Go room by room until you've made space for the new things by donating old things. This is so much easier than you think and such a great divestment practice for the whole family!
* When you're done, walk your bags of donations out to your car. Schedule a time when you can drop the bags off at the donation center. Even better, resolve to take the kids with you to the donation center and have them help you drop everything off! All the charity shops are open today, including the El Cerrito Recycling Center!
You're In The Home Stretch!
Look around the room and see if there are things that don't belong in the room. It's natural that things have migrated into other rooms, particularly over the holidays. Take a second to walk them back to where they belong. Spend a minute straightening up. Fluff the pillows, wipe down smudges, straighten the artwork. Vacuum or sweep up any stray needles near the tree. Snip some greenery from the garden and throw it in a vase. Water the plants and pull off the dead leaves. Whatever it takes to make the room look more polished. Make a tiny effort, but don't break a sweat.
And Now You're Done!
Feels good - right? I'm wondering how long it took? I bet less time than you expected. Now resolve to work on another common area over the next few days. It will go even faster the second time around!