In an ideal world the build-up to the holidays would all be about creating (calming) festive cheer. Dinners with friends, hosting drinks for neighbors, and doing all the warm fuzzy stuff like light switch ons and carol concerts. Now, you can tick all those things off your Christmas wishlist, but there's still that underlying stress that while you are doing all this hosting and celebrating, your home should be looking at its best.
With Christmas and New Year always comes the need for our houses to be more organized and more clutter-free than ever. Of course, a lot of this has to do with the fact we want guests to think we live like this all year round, but also we want to hold onto that feeling we could Iive like this all year round. If you can fit in a quick declutter before New Year's, you are getting off on the right foot for 2024.
But it's overwhelming right? Fitting in a declutter amongst all the holiday activities. So we have asked the experts for their advice on what easy jobs you can do before the New Year in order to make your home feel more organized. Whether you have time before guests arrive for Christmas, or if you want to fill that odd time between Christmas and New Year with something productive, here are 11 simple ways to start decluttering and quickly make your home more organized.
1. Create a checklist
A decluttering checklist is a great start if you want to do any decluttering – but if you want to plan out as much as you can get done within a tight time limit, they are essential.
'In a cluttered room, our brain is overstimulated and tries to multi-task, and this makes it difficult to focus,' says Sharon McNulty, founder of Joyful Spaces. 'Therefore, we start tidying one area but get distracted and start to tidy another area mid-tidying (most of us will resonate with this to one degree or another). A decluttering checklist will take us through this, it provides structure, it gives us a plan and we get a great sense of achievement as we tick each item off our list.'
Keep the tasks small. Take it room by room and break down all the tiny tasks you want to get done in that space. And keep it realistic too – this time of year can be stressful enough without adding 'declutter the shed' to your list. Stick with the tasks that are going to make your life easier and your home look better right now.
2. Concentrate on the most lived in spaces
And following on from that, make your life easier by just decluttering parts of your home that need it right now. The rooms that are going to be used the most and seen the most. So think entryways, kitchens, and living rooms, unless you have the time, everything else can wait until the new year.
'I feel the kitchen is the hub of our home and if it doesn’t work for us, it can be so frustrating,' says Sharon. 'I would start gathering similar items together, keeping them in the one place and this will make your decluttering journey so much easier.'
'The holidays mean lots of hosting centered around the kitchen. If your kitchen is organized – preparing and cooking meals is easier,' says Lauren Allen, founder of Not a Boring Box. 'If you have the time I recommend, taking all your food stuffs out and grouping items into categories. Go through each pile, and ditch anything that is past the use-by date. If you have excess amounts of a certain item donate to a food bank. Organize the rest and keep those groups together.'
The lounge also sees a lot of action during the holidays, and it can become cluttered with gifts, books, electronics, etc. So take some time to organize the living room, go round and collect things that don't belong in there. Declutter any shelves or surfaces and tidy away anything that's not being used regularly.
And the hallway – the place that has to handle the most clutter and yet the place you want the least clutter to be visible. Just keep your approach to decluttering an entryway simple. Clear any surfaces, go through any stray mail, and have a quick organize of anything that's on show. If you have under-stairs storage, worry about that in the New Year (unless you have the time to tackle it) instead focus on decluttering any open storage that's visible, like shoe racks or coat hangers.
3. Put things back in their place
This is a really easy and quick job that can make a big difference to rooms that have too much stuff. Whizz around the house and anything that's in the wrong room or the wrong place, take it back to its home. That pile of things to go upstairs? Move it. The mugs in the living room? Take them back to the kitchen. If it makes it more manageable, every time you leave a room, just check around and see if there's anything you need to take out.
'Family life happens and things get messy (especially around Christmas) – being organized helps as if everything has a home it makes it super easy and quick to tidy up,' says Sue Spencer, founder of A Life More Organised.
'I always recommend the first step of removing anything from the space that doesn’t belong there – it will make an immediate impact on the space. If decluttering before relatives come focus on the categories within a space – in the hallway look at shoes, coats, bags and only keep the ones there that you love and use at the moment – out-of-season stuff can be moved.'
4. Clear out the fridge
'If you are cooking a lot over the holidays – give the fridge and freezer a good clear out, get rid of anything that is out of date and give it a good clean/wipe down. You will be storing lots of leftovers over the holidays so you will thank me later for a nice clean base.' recommends Lauren Allen, founder of Not a Boring Box.
'This is essential for me, I can’t stand the spills and mess in a fridge so I love a clean organized fridge. I categorize items (as always) and group them in clear storage bins. This keeps everything contained and tidy and is also really good to contain spills.
'The general rule for organizing a fridge, is the lowest to highest cooking temperature going from top to bottom shelves. So fruit at the top, then meat on the bottom shelf. The bottom is the coolest part so you want to keep your raw meat there. It will avoid cross-contamination if there is a leak and the meat drips down.'
5. Declutter anything that's broken or unusable
'Do a pre-Christmas declutter by removing anything broken, outgrown, or out of date in key categories that you know will be busy over the Christmas and New Year period,' suggests sue Spencer. 'For example toys and books that are no longer loved or the kitchen cupboards that will be packed full in the next couple of weeks – clear the space now by removing things that are no longer needed.'
'Starting small (you're) are still on holiday after all) will hopefully give you the inspiration for a deeper declutter in the New Year,' adds Marcella Caricasole, founder of Think Tidy. 'Start from the more obvious items like broken fairy lights, finished candles, little useless and environmentally unfriendly gadgets found in Christmas crackers (If you must have Christmas crackers!) to unwanted or not needed presents. Or simply anything old that has been replaced with new.'
6. Try the 12-12-12 challenge
The word 'challenge' makes decluttering sound slightly more... fun? This one is a good one though, and you can do it quickly. Plus don't think you have to stick to 12, adjust the number to suit your home – you could start with the 3-3-3 challenge. This is a great one for after Christmas when you have probably had a load of new stuff come into your home.
'I use the 12-12-12 challenge for a quick declutter,' says David Norman, Founder of Furl. 'Locate 12 items to throw away, 12 items to give to someone, and 12 items to try and sell. This way you’ll get rid of 36 items you don’t use.' Get the whole family involved.
7. Have a cull of toys
'A good category to declutter for the New Year is toys,' suggest Sue. 'Now Santa has arrived, there will be more toys to try and fit into your current storage. Start with the broken toys and those the children have outgrown. Then work your way through the rest.' If you dare, you could get the kids involved with this one and encourage them to understand why you are having a declutter – to make room for new toys and to find old toys that could go to a better home and be loved by other children.
And actually, if you don't have children so the never-ending stream of toys coming into the house isn't so much of an issue. Take a look at the new things that have come into your home over the holidays, and consider if you can get rid of anything that these have replaced. Candles are a good place to start.
8. Go through towels and bedding
'Maybe you will have guests to stay around this time so use the opportunity to declutter any unused, scratchy, stained, or ancient towels and bedding. It takes up lots of room to store and more importantly, lots of time is wasted when searching among it for the decent stuff.' says Kate Ibbotson, APDO member and Founder of A Tidy Mind. Anything that isn't donatable, take to a fabric recycling bank or use smaller pieces as cleaning rags.
9. Organize your holiday decorations
If you take your decorations down between Christmas and New Year, there's a very obvious decluttering task. Plus, if you know how to store and organize holiday decor you will thank yourself when you open that box again in 2023 and everything is looked after.
'I recommend taking down holiday decorations on New Year's day or shortly after,' says Diane Quintana, founder of Release Repurpose Reorganize. 'Evaluate the decorations as you take them down. Do you want to see them again next year? Is anything broken or too tired looking? As you answer these questions for yourself either toss or donate the things you no longer want to have. Put the remaining items away neatly and completely. Now, you're ready to start the year fresh. If you think you want to paint a room to freshen it up or do a little redecorating there are no holiday decorations standing in the way.'
Sharon agrees, 'It is so good to get started before the new year, and one easy category to tackle is the Christmas decorations. Look at those you didn’t put up this year, consider why, and then let them go if they no longer spark joy.
As soon as you take the decorations down, edit them as you go and let go of those you are not excited to put up next year.'
10. Have a quick winter wardrobe declutter
We aren't suggesting a full wardrobe overhaul, a proper clothes declutter can wait for the New Year. But take an hour or so to go through this season's clothes – your coats and partywear, and take check of what you have. It can help you shop your own wardrobe for the rest of the holiday season, but will also make it clear what items you haven't been wearing this year – ask yourself why?
'If it is either too big or too small, remove it from your closet,' says Diane Quintana, founder of Release Repurpose Reorganize. 'Chances are unless it is close to fitting it will never fit properly again. Let someone else benefit. If it needs repair and you have no plans to fix it or get it fixed, remove it. If it is stained and cannot be cleaned - toss it or turn it into a cleaning cloth.'
'You may want to store away Christmas-related items such as jumpers, socks and books to use next year. However, if you didn’t use them this year, donate them.' adds Kate Ibbotson.
It's tempting to wait and have a seasonal declutter as the weather starts to change, and while we would recommend doing that too, donating your cold weather items you don't want now, can be far more helpful to those who might need them.
11. Declutter your financial outgoings
This is such a good thing to do at this time of year, or if you don't have time before New Year, do it in early January. The holidays are expensive times and will be a stress on your finances. So spend some time going through your bank statements and look at the obvious places you could be pulling back.
'A look at your bank account and monthly statement is also a must. Christmas is a time of overspending so recouping some budget by decluttering your finances is always a good way of starting the new year,' explains Marcella. 'Starting by looking at unnecessary monthly outgoings like subscriptions, memberships never used, and hidden old direct debits. Then look at money spent eating out, on takeaways and online shopping, you’ll soon realize how easy it can be to reset your finances.'
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Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.
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