The Great Holiday Audit, Pt. 2
Updated: Jan 22
I can’t imagine anyone who gets through the holidays without some measure of mess. We weren’t even in our house and we returned to a mess. It literally followed us home. A new year warrants a thoughtful clean up that you can feel good about as the holidays fade into the sunset. A good holiday audit allows us to feel good about what comes next and more than ready for the holidays when they roll around once again. And, yes - we have to do it all over again. What a life!
1. Make the hard decisions about your holiday decor and seasonal items. Christmas decorations and ornaments are far too easy to overload on, especially when there is a cute little Christmas shop in every little town that you have visited over the past 20 years. If you decorate your tree and there are ornaments that sit in the storage box, then maybe it is time to purge some of those superfluous ornaments. Or purge all of those extra wreaths that you never feel like hanging up. You might even consider restricting yourself to whatever storage containers you have at your disposal, committing yourself to never allow your collection to extend beyond the agreed upon storage space. Be sure to wrap things up well to protect against damage and breakage off season rather than just chucking them into the attic (who would do that? Ok, fine. Guilty as charged.)
2. Take a thorough inventory of what you have and what you are going to need next season - wrapping paper, tape, a replacement string of lights, etc. Keep that list handy as those very same holiday items are likely about to be deeply discounted over the next few weeks. Nothing feels better than snagging a deal on something you actually need! Once you acquire those things, put them away with the rest of your holiday stash and do not allow them to take any detours in the hallway or to be dumped in the back of your closet because it is too much work to put them away with the holiday things. If you can already predict yourself doing just that, don’t buy the items off season. Saving the extra money might not be worth it in the long run if it indefinitely clutters your living space for the other 11 months of the year when not in use.
3. Put the donation pick up on the calendar and get to work. In each room, there is surely one or more items that just need to go. Now is the time to identify them and get them out of your way. Likely suspects in my house are books that have been read that won’t be read again, extra water bottles that collect from conferences of the past, mismatched socks, old dish towels. Do not fall for the self-talk that tells you “I can save this for later” or “I could find another good use for this”. Most of the time, that never pans out and that thing - whatever it may be - just clutters your space. This doesn’t have to be a huge endeavor. Just open a few drawers, check out a few closets. I guarantee you that at least a box full of items is asking for a new home.
4. Along with number 3 and collecting donations, the kids’ rooms are full of donation opportunities. Broken toys, toys they no longer use, books and outgrown clothing. I bring a box and spend 10 minutes with them, picking off the low hanging fruit of items they are happy to let go of. Be sure you aren’t keeping things because YOU want them. Their room, their toys, their space - let it be their decision. Especially with new gifts waiting for a good home, my kids are usually so happy to make room for what is coming next.
5. Life is messy. Clean it up. Behind the dresser. Under the sofa. In the sofa cushions. On the windowsills. I don’t regularly do a thorough house cleaning but now is a great time to conduct such a cleaning. Spring cleaning early is totally allowed. If I devote a few hours each day to just one room, the entire house looks, smells and feels amazing in just over a week. I combine this activity with my donation collecting and find such relief to be in a space that is not only clean but just a little bit lighter, relieved of burdensome unused, unloved, unneeded items. Honestly, this is my favorite part about starting the new year. It gets me motivated and ready to tackle so much more.
6. Get that often overlooked general maintenance around the house done. Everything from flipping the mattresses to cleaning the air filter, changing the batteries in the smoke detectors, and refilling the ink in the printers. There are many, many more. The more stuff we have, the more we must commit ourselves to maintaining it. Instead of waiting until it so desperately needs to be done, it can be proactively addressed without the drama. And this tip I read in a magazine years ago is so clever and “on it” - consider writing down on a household calendar when you last did these tasks so you know when they are set to be completed again. Write down when items first come in your home so you are clear on when the filter will need a refresh. Start the year taking care of the things in your charge and the things that you ask so much of throughout the year.
7. Oh the papers. Don’t let your year get any further without addressing this growing monster. January is mid-school year for those of us with kids. Their papers need attention and the choice is easy - keep or toss. If you keep, put it in a folder. January is a great stopping point for magazines and newsletters. Depending on your storage capacity, I recommend ditching anything older than a year. Stop trying to justify that you’ll read it one day, after it has been sitting around for more than a year. Just let it go. I will go through and pull out the article that I want to read, but I don’t keep the whole magazine any longer if I haven’t found the energy to look through it all year. I might even cancel the subscription because if I was THAT excited about reading it, it wouldn’t sit around, would it? Papers will spontaneously reproduce. Get rid of them before they have the chance.
8. You have cared for the house, the items in your house, the holidays, and more. How about a little self-care to round out this holiday audit? With the holidays over, there are no excuses for what happens to your time. (There never have been but I’ll allow it since the holidays can be such a time suck.) You have all the time you need to fit in a little self-care each day. A stretch, a walk, a workout, a podcast listen, a great crossword - it doesn’t matter. But it needs to be part of your daily routine to take care of yourself, like you did everything in your house post holidays.
This is my version of the holiday audit for 2021. For tips that I have previously outlined that are still applicable, check out the great holiday audit series of posts from last year!