Decluttering Before the Holidays

The holidays are right around the corner again. And now that things are getting back to almost normal, you may be expecting an influx of guests, whether they be family members or friends. Normally they’d stay in your extra bedroom or in the basement. But you already have guests living there—in the form of your extra stuff. While it may be tempting to tell your guests that the nearest Hampton Inn is a few blocks down the street, the other option is to clean these rooms up to make space for them. 



Be Honest with Yourself 

The first step in decluttering house is to have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. Get brutally honest about whether you really need this stuff. 

Marcia Sloman, professional organizer and owner of Under Control Organizing in Westchester County, New York says, “The answer is complicated because there are so many different kinds of stuff and there are so many different kinds of people. No two individuals are alike.” 

She goes on to suggest that some of the reasons are a lack of permission, lack of instructions, a thought that maybe they’ll need it someday, sentimentality reasons, or just a feeling of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. 

Some people harbor deeper psychological issues that just don’t allow them to do anything with these items. But if you’re like most of us, you’ve just been collecting things that needed to go somewhere and have ended up in rooms that could accommodate them. 


Organize the Clutter 

The next step in the process should be to sort out the excess. Organize the items you have into groups so that you can focus on each separately. Categories can include clothing, books, furniture, exercise equipment and gadgets. The rest can go into a pile of miscellaneous items. If this ends up being too big, you may need to create another category. 


Sort it Out 

Next, sort it again into items you want to keep and items you want to get rid of. Here’s where the honesty comes into play. The old adage of getting rid of stuff that you have used or worn in a year is a good one. It forces you to face facts, because like or not our objects have emotions tied to them. You bought that ballgown because it reminded you of the dress your mother wore in that old photo. But when is the next black-tie formal you’ll be attending? If the answer is the 12th of never, dump it. Also, identify duplicates or near-duplicates of items. For instance, how many vases do you need?  


Donate, Sell or Dump 

Now that you’ve determined what stays and what goes, it’s time to decide where these items end up. A lot of people think that their belongings are worth money and want to sell them on eBayFacebook, or Craigslist. While this may be true, you have to factor in the time it will take you to list it, communicate with the customer, package it, take it to the post office or meet with the prospective buyer. For most things, the time spent doing this far outweighs the amount of money you’ll get from the sale. The better advice is to donate most things of value to GoodwillThe Salvation Army, or The ARC. If you have things that are broken, put them in the trash. You’ll never get around to fixing them anyway. If you have children, ask them if they want any of the things you are planning on giving away. Just like you, they have emotional attachments to things and may very well want that vase that you’ve been hanging on to. If you have things that you don’t want to part with but just don’t have room for, you can also rent a small storage unit to store these items. These might include larger items such as furniture, paintings, or memorabilia. 



The Hard Part 

You’re probably asking, what’s harder than this? The hardest part of maintaining a clutter-free room or house is keeping it that way. This means setting down rules for yourself and your family. One good rule is the One In, One Out Rule. If you bring something new into the house, you have to get rid of something else of equal size. This way you maintain a balance of things. The storage yin and yang as it were.  

Next, set an annual date on the calendar as the Purge Day. No, this isn’t the day to get away with murder. This is the one day per year where you purge the extra items that you haven’t used, or that are broken or duplicative.

With the average household having 300,000 individual items, stuff seems to accumulate by itself. But using these techniques can keep your home relatively clutter-free and keep your guests coming back to stay with you for every holiday, whether you want them to or not. 

About the Author: Derek Hines

About the Author: Derek Hines

Digital Marketing Specialist

Derek is originally from the great state of Wisconsin (go Badgers), but is slowly becoming a Pacific Northwesterner. As part of the Digital Marketing team, he writes extensively on storage, moving and life for West Coast Self-Storage, based in Everett, Washington.