The Big Holiday Shake Out, Pt. 1
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
I consider the pre-holiday shake out a gift to myself. After all is said and done, it is usually the mom who ends up cleaning up after the holidays. And then figuring out where all of the new holiday gifts reside. And figuring out what to do with the old things you no longer use. So you might as well get some of that taken care of beforehand.
Understand, this is not a major cleaning. This is just a bit of tidying up. As part of my holiday ritual, I feel like I can enjoy the holiday season even more because I know that some of the work that lays ahead in the new year, when I do a REAL clean-out, has been tackled. I'm cleaning up anyway, for holiday parties or guests, so I might as well dig in a bit deeper. These are quick tasks. Don't make this a massive endeavor that causes you more stress. 10 minutes here, 5 minutes there, squeezed in between your regular routine. No pressure to finish. But give yourself the benefit of at least getting started.
Here are the things around my house that get a good shake-out before Santa arrives:
1. Clothing. The laundry. All of it. Leave no man behind. That shirt that needs a button that has been sitting on the washing machine. That dress with the stain that needs spot-cleaning. That tablecloth that we used in October that needs to be ironed and put away. Seasonal clothes that need to be taken in to the dry cleaners. All of that I consider "laundry". Just buckle down and do it. As you are putting laundry away, deep into closets or drawers, grab those things that have been staring at you all year that don't fit, don't work, aren't needed, and get rid of those. Don't spend all day. Take 3 minutes and get to whatever you get. And if for any reason you can't run the errand or you need something to finish the task that is not at your fingertips, then set it aside, with a note, and give yourself a 1/15/19 deadline to complete it.
2. Food. Holiday meal preparation leaves my cabinets stuffed. And pantry items that I don't use that much are shoved into the back recesses of the shelves and forgotten, unless I do a quick shake out of the kitchen. Expired, so old you can't remember why you have it, bags with one sad tablespoon of product that can be consolidated, spices that you bought and hate, sticky honey bears past their prime - just let it go. Dig into that veggie bin in the fridge - yikes - and chop veggies for broth and fruit for smoothies. And don't forget about freezing those items that will spoil while you travel, and tossing out items in the freezer from last Christmas. I can give a cabinet a quick look through and be done with it by the time the pasta water is boiling. Seriously - so can you.
3. Paper. This one is trickier for some people than others. We do a lot online, so I do believe our paper trail is lighter. We are not huge consumers so it is rare for a catalog to arrive at our door. But we still have a whole lot of paper. I start by tossing magazines older than 6 months, and looking through and tearing out any articles that I really wanted to read but missed. I put those articles at my nightstand with the goal of reading them over the next week and promptly throwing them away. I usually don't have time to take action on every bit of paperwork, other than putting it into folders for filing later, or in my "to do" folder, placed on top and ready to work with as soon as the holidays are clear. Again, this is a quick sort. You have other things to do so don't get lost in the papers, but don't completely shove them aside until later because later it will only be worse. Funny thing about paper - it multiplies!!
4. Linens. All beds get changed thoroughly, down to the mattress covers and bed skirts. As I am remaking the beds and selecting fresh linens, I do a quick sort in the dreaded linen closet. Old sheets, sheets missing their buddies, frayed pillow cases, that old pillow stuffed up top - let it go. I then make minor overtures to bring sets back together - fitted, flat, pillow case all wrapped together in a bundle. Not my idea - Martha Stewart is such a smarty like that. Towels get evaluated, too. I jot down what needs replacing and put that note with my papers. I could spend all day folding my linen closet to make it look like a retail wall but now is not time. This is brief. Don't get buried here. And with this sort or any others, if you really can't decide, just keep it and move on. Tackle the low hanging fruit - the easy stuff that really requires no thought to let go of. Getting rid of things you care more about takes a more thoughtful approach. It's December - we don't have time for that!
5. Photos. I do believe this is the hardest task listed for the great shake out. Sorting photos takes a tremendous amount of time so I won't even pretend that this gets done here. But I do one thing, at a minimum, which is to offload photos from my devices so I don't lose them. I even go through my texts and copy pictures that I was sent that I want to keep. I create monthly folders for pictures on the computer and start dumping them in the right spots. I prefer to print out a few at the end of each year to give to family but if this doesn't happen until the new year, so be it. The digital volume here is really frustrating to corral and I absolutely don't allow it to eat through all of my holiday.
6. Kids toys and school debris. My kids can repeat the phrase "if everything is important, then nothing is important". They know that we simply don't have the capacity to acquire, keep, and enjoy everything all at once. Clearing space for new toys is a ritual they enjoy. Get a box, and take 10 minutes to sweep through the room, collecting books, past-loved board games, small plastic toys, pencils (my gracious do we have pencils!) and artwork. This is not a trash or donate box. I do nothing with this box initially but move it out of the room and out of sight. When it is time for the bigger clean up in the new year, I'll revisit the box to make sure no hasty decisions were made and more thoughtfully sort for donations or eBay sales. Last year, I forgot to revisit the box and it sat in the garage for 8 months. Oops. But it was pretty darn easy to donate that stuff - I hadn't thought about it all year. As for school debris, I keep a box for paperwork that comes home on a daily basis. By now, that box is overflowing. With 5 minutes and a recycling can, I will toss the ordinary stuff and keep the art and report cards. If I ask my kids to help, I actually find that they are even better about tossing stuff - it turns out I am way more attached to their spelling tests than they are!
The house is now not just clean but maybe a bit closer to being - dare I say - orderly. A little shake out before Santa brings more treats feels so nice. We'll need to do it again in January, but for now, take a breath. With minimal time and effort, you are a bit more ready for the holidays. Now stop tidying and go enjoy your eggnog!