10 tricks to curb clutter for the holidays
1. Take small bites of the turkey.
Just as no one eats an entire 20-pound bird at one sitting, you don't need to overhaul the whole house at once. Start by carving out a room, a closet, a cabinet or even just a shelf. When you get one small space tidy and organized, the sense of accomplishment can be invigorating. It's virtually guaranteed to get you out of a fowl mood -- and ready to tackle a mid-sized nook or cranny.
2. The urge to purge.
Make a big dent in clutter by creating a new holiday ritual this year. Hand out large garbage bags to the members of your household and challenge them to fill 'er up with clothes, shoes, belts, ties and any other accessories they don't need or wear any more. Be ruthless: Go through your closets and dresser drawers, and make liberal deposits. Then, in the spirit of the holiday, donate the items to a charity and give others a reason to be thankful.
3. Touch it once.
Household chores are onerous enough, so why rinse and repeat? Take this pledge as you embark on a pre-holiday crusade against clutter: "Any time I touch an item, I will deal with it once and for all." In other words, don't just shuttle stuff from one room to another with deferred good intentions. Find a permanent place for it, whether that's a drawer, a file cabinet, a trash can or a box marked "yard sale."
4. 'Twas the night before escrow.
"Deadline" doesn't exactly rhyme with Joy to the World, but it can be the world's best kick in the pants if you only believe. Close your eyes for a minute and pretend you have to move in two weeks. And, if you don't toss those old tennis racquets that needed new strings back in 2008, you'll have to pack them -- and unpack them. (Review tip No. 3.)
5. Gut the gift-wrap.
Trust us. Your reputation for frugality is intact. By now, everyone on your gift list knows to expect the same jolly reindeer-in-the-woods wrapping paper that he or she sent you two or three years ago. You've been faithfully muttering the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" mantra for decades. This year, apply the mumble to the jumble by choosing door number three for the whole collection.
6. Do you see what I see?
Ornaments. Lights. Candles. Wreaths. Oh, let us count the ways we love to say happy holidays. Going all out with home décor elicits such rewarding oohs and ahs. But it can also add to your sense of clutter (not to mention your need for more post-holiday storage tubs). Tough as it may be to resist those killer décor deals on Black Friday, you'll likely feel less cheer than you bargained for if you deck the halls with all the flourish of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Besides, the only true requirement for merriment is mistletoe.
7. The ghosts of Kwansolhaneidmas past.
Every year about this time, most of us start amassing a pile of cards that celebrate our chosen winter holidays. And while it's tempting to hang onto all those cards and display them -- like, forever -- try limiting yourself to keeping just the photo cards of the kids, the grandkids and the other people you love. That ought to help hack the stack you've been hoarding since the Eisenhower administration.
8. Give (and get) a litter less.
The holiday season is a time for giving, but how many of us really need another dust magnet or one-off kitchen gadget taking up space? Consider making pacts this year to exchange gift cards instead of presents. If you're halfway good at dropping and taking hints, gift cards can be über-cool as well as ultra-practical, and they'll translate to less mess.
9. Toss your cookies.
With apologies to the Pillsbury Doughboy, nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from your oven. Lemon bars, chocolate-espresso biscotti, pumpkin-nut bread: It's all good, but the ingredients for a massive holiday bakefest can clutter up your kitchen counters, pantry and refrigerator until long past next Halloween. Pare the recipes down to one or two, and you'll keep disorder on the back burner.
10. Ditch the dupes.
Scrutinize your surroundings for any items that are non-essential twos. Whether we're talking dictionaries or martini shakers, hair dryers or hacksaws, if you don't need a pair, decide which one's in better shape and jettison the also-ran. Repeat after me: I am not in the business of reuniting twins separated at birth. And if you find yourself in need of a spare in the future, well... believe in Santa, baby.
Thea Rhiannon is a SF Bay area freelance writer and a recovering pack rat.