Reflections Of A Professional Organizer
Enjoying Hassle Free Holidays part 2
“Letting go of the eight-foot inflatable Grinch no longer appreciated by grown kids opened up four square feet of storage space.”
Sue Marie Bowling
A few years ago I noticed there were “crumbs” of ornaments and other holiday items sitting in the bottom of my Christmas bins and decorations in my holiday storage space that I no longer found beautiful or even memorable. I realized my taste and decorating style had changed over the years and I had added things to my holiday collection but had not gotten rid of those things that no longer appealed to me. As I packed away my holiday decorations that year I resisted keeping many things I had not taken out and used.
The following year not only did I find decorating more pleasurable I did not dread or procrastinate packing things away after the season. I was also amazed at how much storage space I created by liberating myself of the things I had just been keeping out of habit. Letting go of the six-foot blow up Grinch no longer appreciated by grown kids or grandkids opened up four square feet of storage space!
Do you enjoy holiday decorating or do you groan at the thought of weeding through bins and boxes of ornaments, decorations and all manner of accumulated detritus? Does it take you until the second week of January to deal with the dreaded task of un-decorating and packing everything away?
I’ve identified numerous opportunities to clear holiday clutter. Each suggestion may not sound like much individually but cumulatively they add up and take storage space as well as require decision-making energy each year.
- Tree ornaments that line the bottom of the bin that have lost their appeal over the years need to move on. Even “memory” ornaments can become unappreciated over time. When downsizing my home I chose a small box and stored my favorite memory and hand made ornaments. The ones that had disintegrated glue, missing macaroni or were so tattered they would not stay on the tree were, somewhat regretfully, trashed. This only made the ornaments I kept more precious to me.
- Holiday decorations that never seem to make it out of storage probably do not have much sentimental value or esthetic appeal or they would be being used. Time to donate.
- Keep only strings of lights you know are good. Take the time to check them. If they are so tangled you will cuss getting them straightened out consider trashing them and purchasing new ones at after Christmas sales.
- Donate or discard holiday decorations that have aged, faded or are annoying or complicated to put up. Has the outdoor garland become weather worn? Is the centerpiece so dusty it looks depressing?
- Get rid of wrapping paper that you do not love or does not look fresh. I had rolls of paper that I had loved for several years but had grown tired of. I was ready for something new so I donated my lovely, but now unexciting to me, paper to a friend who thought it was wonderful. Parents, if you have special “Santa” paper consider trading left overs with another mom and dad.
- Beautiful Christmas wrap and bags are so appealing and are irresistibly priced at after Christmas sales. Resist unless you really need new paper. There will be more after Christmas sales next year.
- Pitch those smashed bows and the ribbon that you always intend to use but never do. Ask yourself if you would really be proud to give or pleased to receive a gift with this wrap or bow?
- Let go of the dozens of greeting cards that you don’t care for but were free from benevolence organizations you contributed to.
- CD’s and DVD’s that have no appeal to you but have been in the Christmas box forever? Let them go.
- Consider letting go of the huge turkey roaster pan that takes up a lot of storage space, is only used once a year and is a pain to clean. I purchase two (for extra strength) dollar store foil pans that can be tossed after use.
- Once you have sent your packages it is time to toss all the boxes you were sure you would need for gifts. There is just something about a good box that always seems to have potential, but there will be more boxes where these came from.
- How many Christmas cookie tins do we really need to save? I recently worked with a woman who had more than 20 tins taking a great deal of space in her pantry, cabinets and basement. She had just purchased five more fresh new tins for less than eight dollars. She decided to let go of most of her old tins and was able to store all of the remaining in one third of the previous space.
- Clean out the refrigerator and pantry to make space for all the extra holiday groceries.
- Expecting company for the holidays? Guest rooms often become large dark holes of indecision, the place we store everything we don’t know what to do with. Perhaps anticipating company could be a great jump start on de-accumulating your home, guest room first, for the new year.
What I do not have, I do not have to clean, sort, store, untangle, maintain or deal with at some point in the future. Make this holiday season and the ones to come simpler and more enjoyable by de-accumulating as you prepare and as you pack away this year.
Wishing you a hassle free holiday filled with peace, joy and wonder.
Thanks Sue. I am going to pass this on to my daughter. She puts up 8 trees. This will maybe help her weed through some of it this year.
As I grow older (I’m now 64), and have moved to a much smaller home, my holiday traditions have changed. I now have one shallow plastic tote (maybe 8″ deep at most) to hold my Christmas decorations. I will not add more storage space, so if something won’t fit in this tote, either it goes or something else does.
Having less storage space forces me to prioritize what I truly want to keep. Three Christmas decorations are “must-haves”- a bisque Nativity given as a wedding gift by my grandmother and dear aunt; an Advent “wreath” (simply four candles); and a lantern I set on my porch railing each year, surrounded by live greenery. I have four place settings of Lenox Holiday china in my dining chest year-round. I’ve added two stockings made from antique quilts and some holiday CD’s, some small red and gold ornaments to add accents in the dining chest and corner cupboard. But this is it. I decorate with live greenery and fruit (like Williamsburg) so there’s no need to store anything else. It is so liberating to have only one storage container for Christmas items!
This year, I felt the need for a “tree”. I noticed that one of my antique thread spools from an old textile mill had holes drilled in its length. Hadn’t seen that before. So, I cut sprigs of a short-needled pine and inserted them in those holes, creating a tabletop tree. The needles even fall on the carpet! Love it! I added some small pinecones, sprigs of holly from a neighbor’s tree, and dehydrated orange slices. Next, I spotted an antique gray graniteware colander, lined it with evergreen sprigs, then placed a reproduction punched-tin lantern in the center with battery-operated tea lights. Oh, I like this, too! The best thing about decorations like these is I don’t have to store them – the greenery gets composted and the items are used in everyday decorating.
This year, I sent each of my three children a letter in which I wrote about the Christmas memories I had as little girl. I wrote about the Christmases with them, too – the cookies we’d baked together, how we would sometimes (when we had the money) visit a Christmas tree farm and cut our own tree. As I wrote each letter, it was so enjoyable sharing those memories with them. I’m so grateful for each of my children and the memories we made together! But I don’t look upon those years with longing; sometimes they were very hard. Decorating a tree and filling stockings, bringing up gifts from “Santa” is not exactly fun when you’re a single mom. But the traditions we shared as a family, the friends we invited into our home are all worth remembering.
Most of my Lenox Holiday china is now in the home of a daughter, as are the ornaments we used to decorate our little 5′ tall tree. I love to think of the memories she’ll be making over the years.
My son has our “Family Memories Christmas Book” so he can continue writing in it each year. It has all of our favorite holiday recipes, treats he enjoys baking.
Having to drastically downsized three times has taught me that it really is not the stuff that I own that makes my house a home. It’s the friends and guests who visit, the food we share, the memories we create together that make this home. I know that if Seneca Creek rises some day and carries this tiny house away, I can still create (an orderly) home wherever God sees fit to plant me next.
Makes me think of all the “stuff” we have, and how great it would be to purge some of that, instead of making mental notes about who will want my grandmother’s antique furniture, my mother’s glass ornaments (the ones that haven’t broken yet!), the oodles of crystal that seemed so important to have when I registered for them, but now sit in cupboards gathering dust. Maybe when my kids (just a few years out of college) settle down and have their own homes…