Let’s start by committing to the idea that This Year we are going to Both Decorate and Purge as we go. If there is something that you don’t use this year (decorations, wrapping paper, lights, linens, candles, special socks, holiday sweatshirts/ugly sweaters, baking supplies) then plan to remove it from your home. Holiday items are very much needed and appreciated at Children’s Home, Senior Centers, Women’s Shelters even Animal Shelters can use some of the items! As I like to say when working with clients to clean out the excess in their homes, “keep the best and clean the rest”.
Holiday Dishes: (Decorate) Remove items from the storage area (box, or top/back of the cabinet) and inspect for any chips or cracks. If it is just a small chip and you are not going to serve any liquid items, I wouldn’t worry too much about it (you can always wipe it down with a little isopropyl rubbing alcohol to be extra safe). If it is a larger chip or a crack and you are planning to serve beverages or even moist items (casserole, gravy, salads) you should be more concerned about bacteria and perhaps need to (Purge) toss it out or use it as a flower vase or candle holder (just don’t eat off of it!).
Wash all dishes or run through a quick rinse in your dishwasher to remove dust before setting on a table or displaying.
Pay attention to how often you use these special dishes. If you have cute Christmas mugs like me and enjoy drinking your morning coffee from them the entire season, then keep them and enjoy them. But ask yourself, how many do I really need? I have a cabinet full in both our Texas home and our Florida townhouse –(Purge) the rest I gave away. What if we break one? The truth is I will be sad, but the truth is also there are always cute Christmas mugs for sale.
When you are ready to pack these up be sure to store them in quilted fabric cubes or carefully wrap before putting in a storage box. Label the box so you know exactly what is in it (list every item: Lennox Christmas pattern: 8 dinner plates, 8 salad plates, 1 oval serving platter, etc.)
Any items that were not used PURGE. Typical items include plastic cookie tray from Walmart or Big Lots; metal canisters or baskets that you got as a gift a few years back; ceramic tray that is cute but doesn’t match any of your other holiday decorations; family items that you don’t use like candy dishes, salt & pepper shakers, small knifes for cheese balls; glassware that doesn’t match or you just don’t need. All these items can be donated and will be appreciated.
Candles: (Decorate) I love special holiday scents! But most I can only take for a short time before they give me a headache, so I have some that are several years old. I am careful to not place them in the attic or the garage where it just gets too hot and then all I would have is a blob of melted wax. I store them in a clear plastic tub in the laundry room. Wipe the outside of the candles and inspect the wicks to see if they need trimming. If the wick is too long a BIG FLAME could easily cause a fire hazard. You may also need to wipe the black residue off the inside of the glass jar (Windex on a paper towel usually works).
If you have some candles that you have never lit and are still in really good shape, I would suggest “re-gifting” these. You may have some unexpected new additions to your list (son’s new girlfriend, new friendly neighbors, work associate that surprises you with a gift) and these candles would work perfectly to (Purge) remove extras from your home and make a nice addition to theirs.
Holiday Linens: Tablecloths, placemats, and napkins: (Decorate) If you are like me and have more space to fold and store your linens then we are going to need to iron the tablecloths and napkins before putting out. If you have room to store on a roll you may want to check out this video from Martha Stewart. The tissue paper she is using is Acid-Free/Non-Yellowing. This is not the same tissue paper you buy at the dollar store to stuff in gift bags! This paper costs about $1 per sheet. I am considering using this for my napkins since I can roll them and store them in long shallow bins. Also, you don’t want to store in dry cleaning bags due to the fumes from the chemicals that can cause the fibers to breakdown.
(Purge) any linens that you no longer need. Perhaps you don’t have the same dining set or your entire color scheme is different than when the kids were little, this is the time to decide how many tablecloths do you need (even when the whole family comes over) and remove the rest. I admit I have several that will be donated this year! The family ones that came to me but are too short for my table will be donated with the hope another family can use them. Unfortunately, there are some with stains that I can’t get out and will have to be tossed.
Living Room/Family Room:
Mantels: (Decorate) Once you have placed your decorations and stockings on the mantel, and you are happy with the way it looks, take a picture! This way you can re-create it each year or if you have a medical situation as I did in 2015, you can sit on the couch and someone else can create it for you using your picture.
Collectables–Nutcrackers, Lighted Villages, Lego Christmas Set: (Decorate) Remove from their storage containers and inspect. Does anything need repair (little super glue)? If lighted, are all the bulbs working? If everything is in good working condition, placed these where you like, and take a picture. It is always best to store any extension cords or multi plugs with the lighted villages to avoid the hassle of looking for one while you are decorating.
(Purge) any extras—the stocking from the pet that passed away years ago; the old set of stocking hangers, even candlesticks or extra greenery that you decided not to use. If you don’t like it this year, the chances of you liking it next year are slim!
Garland for Mantel or Staircase: (Decorate) Many magazines have BEAUTIFUL garland and as much as I have tried, I just cannot make mine look like the pictures. I have tried attaching lights (the battery packs were too heavy), I’ve used different flowers and ribbons, and even bought the garland ties that look like mini pinecones! And I always wait until the end to work on the garland, so this year I am just going to (Purge) and I will have one large empty container!
Christmas Tree/Ornaments/Tree Skirt: (Decorate) I admit I love ornaments! But not homemade ones—I like very traditional red, green, white and gold ornaments and the more the better! At one time I had over 1000 ornaments on our 12-foot tree. It was beautiful but it was a project to decorate it each year. We moved and so now we have a small 6.5 ft tree and I have pared down to under 200 ornaments (I’m not sure exactly but I will count this year so that I know!). The ornaments that I kept are the more decorative ones. Other than just a few solid ones, they all have extra glitter or details on them. I also kept a few non-breakable ones to use outside. I have both a white and a gold set of bead garland and some years I use just one and some years I have used both.
Any ornaments that we have purchased or have been given that I don’t put on the tree go in a metal sleigh that sits near the fireplace. Ornaments are very sentimental for most of us! They remind us of places we have been or special interests or hobbies we enjoy. (Purge)Be sure that you do not keep any ornaments made with food or candies—they are bug magnets! And teachers, please stop having the kids make these for gifts.
When it comes time to take the tree down at the end of the season, be sure to check out this list from Hayneedle. Newer Pre-Lit trees are easier to set up and have some extra features to their lights as well as coming in all different shapes and sizes. If you haven’t had to replace your artificial tree in the last couple of years, I suggest checking out what is available now so when your tree goes out (they all do!) then you know what to expect as far as cost and what options are now available.
Wreaths: (Decorate)Just like with trees, newer wreaths have extra features. Many now are LED lights with battery packs that can be hung just about anywhere (no more extension cords hanging down). The key to keeping your wreath looking good is proper storage. When you bring it in, but sure to shake it out good to remove any dirt or leaves that may have blown into it. Double-check that the decorative items are still securely fastened and then don’t crush it when you store it. You can hang it on a wire hanger (the only use for these as far as I am concerned) and place a dry-cleaning bag over them to keep dust-free. (Purge) I have some older plain ones that I will be donating this year along with the garland!
Lights: (Decorate) Be sure that you label light strands so that you can easily place them where they go and create your winter wonderland quickly. If you find bulbs that are broken, unplug before attempting to remove the bulb to avoid getting shocked. If your strand is too long you can either cut it and then cap it with electrical tape or just wrap the extra and place in a ziplock bag, taping the cord and bag closed. This will prevent any rain or snow (depending on where you live) from getting in the unused sockets and causing a short or blowing your plug. (Purge) Any strands that are not working, of course, need to be thrown away, remove any bulbs if possible (C7, C9) to use as replacements or to fill in the strand you will go buy to replace the broken one.
Gifts and Wrapping Supplies:
Wrapping Supplies: Since holiday paper, bags, and tags are only used once a year, you may want to not keep them with your regular supplies. Take an inventory and see how much paper, tape, ribbons, tags, tissue paper, and bags you have on hand. What can you use up this year? If it looks like you have plenty, plan to use it and replace it after the season to get it on sale. If you must purchase this year, go with solid colors that will coordinate with what you already have.
Plan to wrap gifts all at once to avoid having to get the supplies out multiple times. Be sure to set up a table or put gifts on the counter to avoid sitting on the floor and causing back issues. If you have just a few gifts to wrap it might not seem like a big deal but you may feel it more than you think if you stay down too long.
Make a list of everyone you will be buying gifts for family, friends, work associates, neighbors, and plan for a couple of unexpected like the new boyfriend or girlfriend your college-age child brings home or the book club white elephant party (remember these are ones that re-gifting candles or Bath and Body Works items you don’t use is always a good option).
Consider giving and asking for consumables as gifts this year. Consumable doesn’t mean food, although it may mean a gift card to a favorite but more expensive restaurant or it could be a special bottle of wine or a special whiskey and it could mean tickets to show or concert. Think of consumables as items that can be enjoyed at a specific place and time.
Another regift idea is to look at your bar glassware. One year my sister in law said they wanted wine glasses because they had broken all of theirs. I knew I had extra all-purpose wine glasses that had been in storage for several years. I washed those and bought a quilted case and gave them to her. She loved them since she fully expects they too will get broken and she doesn’t have to feel too bad when it happens.
I am not encouraging that you give worn out things, nobody wants your junk, but think carefully about extras that you already have around your house, and gather them together and make an “emergency gift stash” that you can pull from when an unexpected invitation arrives or a work associate surprises you with a gift. Working as an organizer, I have seen sets of Bath and Body Works stored under bathroom cabinets or in the cabinets over the washing machine and I know the family is never going to use all that soap and lotion. This is a perfect example of using items you purchased for yourself as a gift for someone else!
Purging as we go will make putting the holidays away so much easier after Christmas! You may even have some extra storage bins! (We will find a use for them in the garage later in the spring). And the items we donate may be just what that family that was displaced by a fire needed or a Christmas coffee mug might be just what a great-grandchild can take to the senior’s home to spread some cheer.