Sunday, December 14, 2008

Seasonal Decluttering

Weeks and weeks ago, PenguinLady left a comment asking if I had suggestions for how to do seasonal decluttering. Her comment specifically had to do with Halloween stuff, but these tips will work for any holiday or season.

I think the most important thing to do concerning seasonal clutter is to store it in a dedicated spot, categorized by holiday. I keep my seasonal decorations in my basement. I have several Christmas decoration bins and then I have one bin for the other holidays. It would probably be even better to have a separate container for each season or holiday.

I really only decorate for Halloween and Christmas, so it's not such a big deal to me, but if you're like my friend L, who has window garlands and wall decorations that she changes according to the season, as well as different front door wreaths/decorations for every season/holiday, it probably makes more of a difference how you organize it.

Next, I would argue for making your seasonal decluttering a year-long job instead of tackling it all at once. For instance, on Halloween, purge and organize your Halloween items. Then near Thanksgiving, work on your Thanksgiving items.

This not only breaks the task down into more manageable increments, it gets you in the habit of looking at your decor critically every time you use it.

Obviously if all of your seasonal items are thrown together in a mish-mosh, it might make sense to sort them into piles or drawers or shelves or whatever system you are using all at one time before you begin.

The actual decluttering process can take place once you're ready to pull things out to decorate. Pull out your bin with your items and decorate as you normally do. Then look at what is left unused. What's in there?


Items you use every few years: If you have so much decor that you like that you have to rotate through it so each piece gets used every other year, fine. Just make sure that the items you keep are ones that you genuinely like and use.

If you have so much decor that you like that you have to rotate through it so each piece gets used every fifth year, you might want to do some purging. Get rid of the things you use the least. If it makes you feel better, donate them for the good karma, or sell them for the money.

Items you never use: The first time you go through any season's decor, you will undoubtedly find things that you never use anymore. (If you don't, you certainly don't need me to tell you what to do. And I'd like you to guest post.) If you find something that you never ever use, get rid of it. Unless these things are...

Items you only keep for sentimental reasons: We all have these. You don't like (or are afraid it will get broken if you use it) the tree topper that's been passed down in your family for generations, but you can't get rid of it. I suggest that you re-purpose such items.

Maybe create a shadow box with a group of such things that can stand on a table or be hung on a wall. Maybe create a dedicated "keep these items safe" box or bin that is not part of your holiday decorations. After all, why drag it down from the attic every year if you're not going to use it? Or maybe you can pass it on to another family member who will use it.

Homemade items made by your kids, or grandkids, or you: First of all, if you don't remember who made it or when, it's lost its sentimental value. Toss it.

Second, if you're like me, you probably have stacks of paper bag turkeys in every form, made by every child. Do you pull them out and display them every Thanksgiving? Great! Keep them.

Do you flip through the stack every Thanksgiving and reminisce about the person who created the art? Great! Keep them. Maybe organize them into a scrapbook or folder.

Do you pick up the stack, move it aside and then put it back in the bin after you get the items that are underneath them? It might be time to let go. You could choose a few of the most important art pieces and keep them, or you can send them to the people who created them (if not you). This is also known as passing the buck, and is a fantastic decluttering technique. Another option is to take photographs of each piece of art and put those photographs in a "holiday art" album and then get rid of the originals.

I consider this category to be the hardest to deal with, but my rule of thumb when I'm deciding what art to keep and what to get rid of is to only keep things that show your child's personality and are indicative of a certain stage in their development. For example, a Christmas tree with squares of wrapping paper glued onto it may not matter so much to you in the long run as a Christmas tree on which your child drew pictures of ornaments, including the candy canes he loved when he was four.

Damaged items: If the item isn't sentimental and it's damaged, get rid of it. Even if it was expensive. If you don't use it, it's just as much of a waste to keep it as to throw it away.

If you tell yourself every year that you're going to fix it next year, make this the year. Fix it. Or acknowledge that you never will.

Damaged sentimental items are hard, because items don't lose their sentimental value just because they're damaged. See above for dealing with sentimental objects. If you still want to keep it, consider how you can preserve it. Can you laminate the art or put it in a frame? Can you use pieces of it to create something else just as meaningful?


When you put the decor away, revisit what you have. Is there a decoration that annoyed you or that you fell out of love with after having it on your mantle for two weeks? Can you not remember who made the glue-string snowflake ornament? Is anything falling apart after being used? Those are things you can get rid of.

Plus, if there was an item you were undecided on when you first pulled out your seasonal bin, now is the time to revisit it. Sometimes it takes two or three tries for me to get rid of something, so re-evaluate each piece every time you look through the bin.

Those are my tips for seasonal decluttering. What are yours?


*m* said...

Great tips. And great photo over in Stimeyland. Ho ho ho!

Anonymous said...

Excellent! Thank you. :)

I find, especially with Christmas, there's a lot of both "saving it if I need it" with wrapping paper and boxes, and "keeping up with trends" by buying new ornaments, thus making my holiday stuff a crazy mess! Plus, I feel very guilty giving away things that people give to me, especially if it's a "nice thing". Will I really use that Mikasa candy dish?

Thanks again. :)

Sue @ My Party of 6 said...

You forgot the very important category of things my MIL gave me that I only pull out when she is here! I have A LOT in that category. (Although you have inspired me to edit it!)

Anonymous said...

So, L is not as crazy as she sounds. I have seasonal--non-tacky door wreaths and minimal decorations for many seasons. I have three christmas bins that need cleaning out, one multi-holiday bin that is bursting and other bits and bobs stashed in my basement in danger of being damaged.

Margaret said...

Now that my parents moved in with us, seasonal decluttering is much harder. Mom gets all pouty and offended if I intimate that maybe I could live without something she gave me once, even if it was 15 years ago. Any I found my parents taking stuff out of my "donations" box, and using them in their rooms!

Thrift Store Mama said...

I limit myself to the bins I already have for Christmas. So if I get something new, then something old has to go so it will all fit. Also, my mom has a LOT of door wreaths, and she stores them hanging in hard to reach spaces inside closets, laundry rooms, etc.