Too much stuff (and what to do about it)

Dealing with the aftermath of Christmas
Am I the only one who feels like their house is full of stuff after the holidays are over?
Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy getting gifts, and I love giving them. But there’s a bad side effect of the holiday season, and it’s called clutter. In other words, too much stuff. On the day after Christmas, my house, which is normally pretty well kept, usually looks like it was hit by a tornado of toys and cookies and wrapping paper and gift tags and Crate and Barrel boxes and miscellaneous holiday cards from clients and friends alike and bwaaaaah. Help me!
What to do? Well, this year, I planned ahead (sort of) for this. When the local Epilepsy Foundation called and said they’d be in my area to pick up donations on December 26, I said come on over. And on Christmas night, after the families headed home and we got the kids to bed, my husband and I gathered up a few dusty toys from the toy boxes and items we just got a “brand new one” of (i.e. goodbye, tattered robe….my awesome mother-in-law just hooked me up with this awesome one from Pottery Barn) and loaded up the front porch. It took us about 15 minutes, because we already had a bunch of things in the garage ready for the giving. It felt good to know these things were going to people who need them, but it also helped us with an annual problem: the after-Christmas hurricane that is my living room (and dining room, and usually kitchen) until about New Year’s Eve-ish.
I also find myself around this time of year re-committing to my organized ways. My mantra this year:
  1. Only keep things if you have a place for them. Don’t create a place for things you know will just end up annoying you (i.e. those plastic little toys you get as party favors at kids’ bday parties…plastic silverware from fast food places…I could go on and on). Avoid accumulating things you just have to throw away or find a home for in the first place, but when that’s unavoidable, give those things away or recycle them.
  2. Make your organization system logical and easy to keep up. I’ve been famous for “organizing” junk drawers and closets so they look good for about a day—until you actually need something from that place. If your front hall closet is so packed with games (and other stuff) that actually retrieving one requires Jenga-like skills and a 6-foot ladder, rethink your strategy. And your junk drawer…do you really need everything in there? Really? Organizing it all won’t help unless these are things you actually use.
  3. If you haven’t used it in two years, you can give it away. This is my assurance to myself. It’s OK to give away those jeans you haven’t worn since the Clinton administration. And your kids are five and four now—you’re probably OK to donate the baby clothes, too.
  4. Don’t buy containers for organization. Start with the organization part first. I’ve done this a lot, too—I go buy a million big and little containers from Target or the Container Store because they look so useful and inspiring. I do this with good intentions, then get home and realize they don’t actually meet my needs. Purge, then organize. It’s better. Trust me.
Happy New Year and happy organizing.
Posted in Baby