Day 5: Declutter
Today's tip for a calmer, more mindful Christmas is a little bit similar to the "tidy up" tip on Day 2. I deliberately spaced these two apart because I didn't want these emails to feel too heavy-handed on the cleaning up side (it's not very festive, I know!), but I do believe (and the science backs me up - take a look through the links in Day 2 if you haven't had a chance yet) that clutter contributes significantly to feelings of stress, low level generalised anxiety, and just a sense of being out of control. Also, the constant accumulation and then sharing your living space with things is just not good for the people around us, or for the environment for that matter.
The key difference between decluttering and tidying up is that while tidying means cleaning and neatly organising/putting away the things in your home, decluttering means actually removing things from your home.
So before you bring even more things into your home in the form of Christmas presents (and possibly other bits and bobs we all deem "necessary" during the January sales - I'm just as guilty of this as anyone else), it might help you clear your head-space by also clearing your living space first.
The beauty of decluttering before Christmas is not only that it makes more space for all those decorations and presents, and helps you keep things clean and tidy during this messy time... your unwanted things might also make a beautiful gift for someone else, if you choose to give them away or donate them to charity.
My five-year-old daughter decided to give away her Sylvanian Families house and all the toys that went with it, in our declutter this week. I was so proud of her because that's a precious (and expensive) toy, but she recognised that she just didn't really play with it. I know that if we give it to charity, it will make a wonderful gift for another child in a family that might not be able to spend the kind of money one normally needs to spend on Sylvanian Families toys.
Six reasons why decluttering before Christmas is a good idea:
- Create more space in your home (and head)
- Enjoy your favourite things more. This definitely happens: I feel that way about my books after a recent declutter, and I know my kids feel the same way about their toys
- Find things you can sell (Christmas is an expensive time of year: you might discover you can sell some of your unwanted things on websites like Ebay and Gumtree, and make some pocket money)
- Make it easier on the people who love you (once, when my Nanna went into hospital, my mother went over to clean up her house to prepare it for her return. Nanna had actually kept hundreds of empty Cornflakes boxes, stacked from floor to ceiling next to her kitchen. Why???? Don't do that to your relatives!)
- Make a difference. If you have good-quality things - in good condition - that you can give away, try to do it before Christmas. Charities can either give these directly to families, or sell them at significantly reduced prices, making it possible for families who are doing it tough to afford to buy lovely presents
- Spend less time cleaning and tidying up. The less clutter you have in your home, the easier and quicker it is to clean, every time
Could you try a mini declutter today? I'm not suggesting you Marie Kondo your entire home before Christmas. Here are some suggestions to get you into the groove of what I'm talking about. Could you do even one of these?
We started one of these yesterday, and will continue today. About twice a year, I encourage the children to sort through all their toys and only keep the ones they love to play with.
We pull everything out of the toy-box and put it on the floor (ok confession: about 50 percent of it was already on the floor) and then start sorting. Toys that they genuinely love go back into the toy box. Toys they no longer play with go into a box to give them away.
We also have a 'not sure' box'. That's a box for toys they might not play with, but struggle to let go. I take the 'not sure box' and store it somewhere for six months. If at any time they miss one of the toys in that box, it comes back. But if they haven't asked for any in six months, the box goes to charity. (They never ask for the toys back).
The children don't like the process but they always love the freedom that a decluttered toy box brings - and the fact that every toy in their playroom is now something that they genuinely enjoy!
I did this a month ago, and it was hard. I love hard-copy books. I love their smell, their feel, and I love to dive back inside well-loved stories over and again. For this reason, I'm not one for library books or e-books, because I like to have particular books on-hand for particular reading moods that strike me.
And I have a lot of books. We have an entire, long wall in our home dedicated to floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and it was still bursting at the seams, overflowing with books stacked on top of books, piled sideways to fit more in and sometimes with second rows of books hidden behind the first.
Quite by accident, while I was dusting one Friday in November, I started pulling out the books I knew I wasn't going to read again. Books I'd outgrown, books I enjoyed but didn't need to revisit, books I hadn't particularly enjoyed in the first place. Once I started, I really got into the groove. The pile of "give away" books ultimately filled our entire car-boot (we have a hatchback so that is quite a big car boot) with books, all the way up to the ceiling, which I gave away to charity.
I realised that part of why I had held onto all those books was a perverse sense of ego. "People will think I'm smart and literary because I have lots of books." Really, Naomi? Not for the first time, I'm less mature than my four-year-old. I really love how clean and ordered the bookshelves look now - and all of the books on there now actually are old friends that I want to revisit.
Clothes (and shoes) I can give away or repurpose, when I'm decluttering my closet, include:
- Items I only wear on laundry day because if I have any other option, I won't choose them
- Items that don't fit any more but I've kept them because "I'll lose weight next week"
- Items with stains or tears in them that I've never been able to fix but I keep imagining I will
- Items that I like in their own right but I rarely wear them because they don't go with the other things in my closet
- Items that are perfectly good but buying them was a mistake because they just don't make me feel good - or feel like me - when I wear them
More mini declutters
Here are some other mini declutters you could think about today:
- Declutter the cup cupboard: give away all the mugs and teacups you never use
- Declutter your tech: give away or recycle any old phones, computers, printers, GPS devices, hand-held devices and all the other redundant tech in your house
- Declutter the linen closet: are there old towels, sheets, pillowcases in there that just never get used? Even if they are aged, torn or stained, you can donate them to charities like the RSPCA (animal rescue) to be used as animal bedding
- Declutter all the ornaments and knick-knacks scattered about your home: revisit them all, one by one, and ask yourself, "Do I really want to look at this every day?" (If you're me, ask yourself, "Is this worth the effort of dusting?")
- Declutter that drawer. You know the drawer, we all have one. In it you will find: assorted pens, some working, some not, parking permits, unpaid bills, letters, receipts, paper clips, half a stick of blu-tack, a grubby roll of sticky-tape, a child's toy, a half-opened packet of adhesive wall-hooks, notes you have written to yourself, business cards, phone numbers scribbled onto scrap paper, old SIM cards, a biscuit that has grown fur... If you do nothing else this Christmas, declutter that drawer!
I really hope you found today's tip useful, and I'll be back tomorrow with another idea for enjoying a calm Christmas.
In the meantime, let me know how you are getting along. I love hearing from you! Write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you tomorrow!