Christmas isn’t the time for a big purge and major organizing. You’re way too busy right now. But a minor session to organize and declutter for Christmas will get ready to face the holidays with a lot less stress.
What To Declutter Before the Holidays
I know in the back of your mind you’re hoping to do a big January declutter and organization session.
Aren’t we all?
But in the meantime, Christmas takes planning and organization right now to get through it with the least possible stress.
Even though most Christmas organization is about time management, it definitely helps to have a physical space that’s not awful.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest organizing a lot of spaces in your house right before Christmas. Organizing takes too much time and mental bandwidth, especially if your house is pretty cluttered.
Who has time for any real organizing right before the holidays?!
Instead, I’m suggesting which areas to declutter before the holidays and how to prep them for the holiday onslaught.
While neatening is probably a good idea, this is more about taking stock of what you have and what you need to do to get organized and declutter for Christmas.
Decluttering Kids’ Stuff Before Christmas
The most obvious pre-Christmas decluttering you’ll want to do is clean out your kids’ bedrooms and the playroom.
Yes, I realize I threw that out there casually when, in reality…ugh, right? Huge chore alert!
But I’m not asking you to do a big “clean sweep” type decluttering or even haul out the “trash,” “keep,” etc tubs usually involved in decluttering.
This is more about going through and taking out the conspicuously unwanted stuff.
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If you’d rather handle the decluttering with no munchkins around, ask the kids to tag their favorite things ahead of time with post-it notes.
That way you don’t accidentally trash their favorite toys while accomplishing your declutter mission without a tug-of-war over every single “treasure.”
The main things to get rid of before the holidays are:
- Toys that haven’t been opened since last Christmas.
- Broken stuff (if you’re sure your kids aren’t attached to it*)
- Dried-out or unusable markers, glue, and other craft supplies
- Plus anything they’ve obviously outgrown and say they don’t want anymore.
*My kids always seemed to have a special fascination for the 3-wheeled monster trucks and legless Bionicles
Get your kids onboard by reminding them they’re clearing out space for new stuff. And promise to send their neglected Hexbug collection off to a good home.
I know it may break your own heart to get rid of expensive toys that are still in great condition and possibly still in their packages.
But I also know it’s easier to declutter when you’re sure your still-perfectly-wonderful-but-unloved stuff will be appreciated elsewhere.
The plus side of like-new and still-wrapped toys is that you can drop them into a Toys For Tots collection bin for a no-brainer declutter and know for sure they’ll go to a good home.
Plus you don’t want any of those mint condition action figures to turn into Stinky Pete, do you?
Woody’s way nicer…
Also, if you do this early enough, there are shoebox projects that would love the tiny fruit-shaped erasers, fidget spinners, and McNovelties you’re throwing out.
While you’re in your kids’ rooms, check out their dress clothes and holiday clothes.
Make sure their church shoes still fit and they have something decent to wear to holiday parties and photos.
If their school does a Christmas spirit week, verify they own an unstained, still-fitting holiday T-shirt.
Check their Christmas PJs or whatever they’ll wear on Christmas morning to see if they need to be replaced. Assuming you care what your kids look like while tearing apart their new toys.
And, speaking of PJs and spirit week, check that the PJs are decent enough for school – my kids’ school almost always had a PJ day the week before school let out for Christmas break.
I have no idea why.
I can only assume it’s because regular ole’ holiday stress isn’t enough for the parents?
Preparing the Kitchen for Christmas
Next up for pre-Christmas decluttering and organizing – the kitchen.
The kitchen bears the brunt of Christmas over-stuffing during the main part of the holiday season.
Between food gifts you receive, cookies you baked and are storing to give away, and all the extra cooking and baking ingredients, your pantry, fridge, freezer, and counters may overflow.
Counters and Cabinets
To make room for Christmas in the kitchen, clear the counters ahead of time. Try to move elsewhere anything on the counters that you don’t use every day.
You’ll need lots of room for all those extra holiday calories to hang out until they get eaten.
Next take a look in all your cabinets. Even if you don’t want to declutter them, try to at least neaten it all up.
Neater cabinets make harried cooking and baking easier. Plus you know you’ll have guests looking in there when they help you tackle the post-holiday dish mountain.
You don’t want glass Corningware lids to fall out on them when they try to put away the cocoa mugs.
Also, sort through your Tupperware and toss anything that needs lids.
If you’re low on plastic containers that are actually functional, put them on your list for holiday leftovers.
Find all the tools and supplies you’ll need for baking and holiday recipes.
Check pots, pans, and appliances and dig out your crockpot, baking sheets, rolling pin, and cooling racks now if you store them outside of the kitchen.
I learned this lesson the hard way. We lost the breadmaker we use once a year to make Christmas morning cinnamon rolls.
Searching my entire house for a lost breadmaker wasn’t the most efficient way to spend valuable Christmas Eve time.
It turned up in the attic.
Of course it did.
Because who doesn’t store their breadmaker in the attic?
Then go through the pantry to inventory your baking supplies.
And while you’re in there, get rid of expired food.
And anything you don’t need that’s not expired can go in a bag for all the food drives coming up soon.
Check on your cupcake liners, colored sugars, marshmallows, extracts, chocolate chips, cloves, hot cocoa, etc – anything you normally need for the holidays.
And lastly in the kitchen, clean out your fridge and freezer to make room for perishable and frozen ingredients, plus leftovers.
decluttering Christmas Decorations
As soon as you drag out all your boxes and boxes of decorations, put the ones you don’t like aside right away.
This is the time to go through decorations and donate them while thrift shops still want them.
For some odd reason, they won’t be as eager to get your gingerbread snow globe collection the day after Christmas…
Then plug in every tangled up strand of lights.
Get rid of any that don’t work before Christmas.
I don’t care if you’ve saved every tiny lightbulb and fuse for every strand of lights you’ve ever drug home – you’re not going to fix them.
Let that dream go and get a new one.
Then put new lights, tinsel, buffalo snow, and any other consumable décor on the list to grab before it’s all gone.
Take Stock of Wrapping Supplies
As early in the season as possible, get your wrapping supplies out.
Go through them and check for:
- Scotch tape.
- Extra scissors
- Gift tags
- Gift bags
- Wrapping paper
- Bows and ribbon
- Cookie tins and baked good bags
Trash or donate anything that’s old, stained and wilted plus anything that you pass up every year because you really don’t like it.
Take note of everything you’ll need to buy early enough to get a good deal.
Dollar Tree is slim pickin’s after December 1.
Christmas Cards (To Send ~ Not Ones You’ve Received)
Go through all your bags and boxes of Christmas cards.
Throw out any that don’t have envelopes and any that are damaged. Plus get rid of any you’ll never send.
Make a note of how many you need and buy them while you can still find them cheaply.
Even if you don’t mail Christmas cards anymore, you’ll probably need some for school parties and work functions.
And if you do send cards in the mail, make sure you have your stamps and address labels now. Unless you’re willing to use plain old flag stamps you can buy from the grocery store.
Because you’re definitely not going to want to stand in line at the post office at Christmastime.
Don’t Forget Staples and Regular Supplies
For some reason, Christmas seems to be when I run out of regular supplies. Or maybe that’s just when I notice it the most.
If you run out of toilet paper in June, you put it on the list, scrounge for Kleenex, and live to tell about it.
If you run out on Christmas Eve with a house full of guests – not so much.
Check and make sure you have plenty of all your regular household and grocery supplies:
- Carpet spot cleaner
- Regular cleaning supplies
- Deep cleaning supplies
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels
- Saran wrap
- Hand soap
- Dish soap
- Dishwasher tablets
- Rinse aid
- Trash bags
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Bath soap
- Everyday spices – salt, pepper, cinnamon
- Ketchup, mustard, mayo, butter, milk, flour, sugar, Splenda, coffee, nonstick spray – anything you don’t consider “special” and might forget to add to your Christmas dinner shopping list
- Pet food, litter, bedding, flea meds – any other pet supplies
- Makeup – make sure your favorite eyeliner isn’t down to a nubbin and that you have enough of your favorite mascara plus extra concealer to get you through the season.
Also take a look at your non-consumables if you’re entertaining guests
- Hand towels
- A decent pillow or two
- At least one un-embarrassing dish towel and dish rag
If you don’t stream all your videos and music, find the physical copies of all your entertainment needs now.
If you still use DVDs, make sure you know where all your Christmas movies are.
If you listen to CDs, find all your Christmas ones and put them near the CD player ahead of time.
Make sure you know the passwords for any streaming services.
And, while you’re at it, write down your Wi-Fi password for guests so you’re not digging around in your desk during your Christmas party while 6 little cousins wait impatiently to play head-to-head on their various devices.
Back Up Photos
Before Christmas is also a great time to back up your phone photos.
Phone-destroying accidents are more likely to happen.
Plus you’re more likely to leave it somewhere because you’re hurried and stressed.
It’s also a good time to delete old photos to make room for holiday photos so you don’t run out of memory at a crucial moment.
If you use an actual camera, empty your camera card now, too, and charge the battery.
Clear the Coat Closet
Declutter the shoe mess by the front door before Christmas.
Make sure the coat closet is empty enough to fit guest coats and there’s nothing embarrassing in there.
Especially if you don’t want to use your master bedroom for guests coats because that’s where you stashed all the clutter from the rest of your house.
Also make sure the closet floor isn’t too awful. We’re not talking vacuuming or mopping – just shoveling out trash and piles.
Pull out coats, snow pants, boots, and gloves that don’t fit and take inventory of what you need to buy before the cold weather kicks in.
Donate the stuff that’s still good to coat drives – if you don’t know of one, contact your local Boy Scouts or elementary school. They can usually point you to one.
Clean and Decorate Your Front Entrance
Get the front of your house ready to decorate and receive guests.
Before it gets super cold, clean off your porch. Sweep and get rid of all the cobwebs, dead plants, and old summer decorations.
Scrub the siding around your front door (or wipe it with a magic eraser) and hose off the welcome mat.
Tell the spider who’s camped out there all fall that it’s time to go find a new home now.
Make sure the front light isn’t covered in gunk and the lightbulb isn’t burnt out.
Will You Need Your Guest Room?
If it’s possible you’ll have overnight guests, or if you need space for coats or gift-wrapping or for your niece to nurse her new baby, make sure the guest room is cleaned out.
If it also serves as your junk room or office, neaten up the piles and possibly cover them with a sheet.
Declutter Before the Holidays for One Less Stressor
Checking and decluttering your living areas before they’re buried in a layer of buffalo snow, glitter, and evergreen needles will take away one stress point from this very frantic season.
Stock up on supplies and get your physical space in good enough shape to get you through the holidays.
Concentrating on some minor decluttering and organizing in the following areas can be the difference between peace and chaos this Christmas season:
- Declutter unwanted toys and take stock of your kids’ holiday wardrobe
- Get the kitchen ready to hold extra supplies and neat enough to work in and entertain guests
- Declutter and restock Christmas decorations, wrapping, lights, and cards
- Don’t forget to take stock of all your regular household supplies and grocery staples
- Prep your electronics for entertaining your family and guests – find Christmas movies, write down the Wi-Fi password, and back up photos
- Get the guest areas of your house cleaned up: coat closet, front entrance, and guest room
Even the areas that don’t need decluttering can benefit from a quick glance so you can take stock of supplies.
It’s a lot easier to get what you need during October and early November downtime – before you’re trying to do everything else.
And for now, don’t worry about a big organizing and decluttering session before the holidays.
That’s your January goal, remember? And I’ll be right there with you…