Cleaning Up After the Holidays

Cleaning Up After the Holidays

It’s the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one.  It’s also time to start cleaning up after the Christmas madness.  Cleaning up after the holidays can be such a chore, so here are a few tips to get you organized, consider the environment and stay sane all at the same time.  It’s time to de-clutter, keep the things that make you smile, and do it all quickly.

Hopefully you have already read my post, Top 10 Tips to Prepare for Christmas by going through the kids rooms, your closets and you’ve gotten rid of things that don’t get used any more.  You know what things I’m talking about…those pants that never  fit well, the dish that has a chip in it, the shoes that hurt your feet and toys the kids never played with.  When you do this regularly, you open up space in your home to bring in things you [hopefully] love.

Before the end of the year is also the time to go through the kitchen and clean out the fridge and food cupboards.  I know you have food that you continue to push aside each time you prepare dinners and lunches.  As long as they haven’t expired, bag them up and give them to your local food bank.  We also make sure all trash cans outside and the recycle containers are empty before parties or Christmas.   This is all done in preparation for the new year!  So let’s get started.

Gather all your supplies

  • Okay, the first step is to gather the supplies you need.  You’ll want a few large paper grocery bags, a kitchen-size trash can and a reusable grocery bag…all for separating wrapping paper, tissue and bows.
  • You’ll also need some cleaning cloths, water atomizer, broom, dust pan (it the “party” was conducted on a hard floor surface) and/or a vacuum for the end.  If you have some large study and deep boxes, set those aside to use.
  • If you bought a live tree, get an old sheet and a few clothes pins so there’s less mess when taking the tree out through the door.

Let’s begin cleaning up!

  • Go through all the paper and separate as you pull out tags, receipts, ribbon, bows, etc.  You never what might get thrown away!!
  • Make sure all paper wrapping and tissue doesn’t have any foil on it that can’t be recycled.  Wad all papers up tight and toss into the paper bags to recycle.  I bring out paper bags and set them in the middle before opening gifts so it keeps the mess contained.
  • Fold and put together any boxes (tops and bottoms that match) you want to use in the future.  I keep a large box that contains collapsible and small boxes for gift-giving.  I labeled it “Boxes.”

    Grab a reusable grocery bag and hang it out of the way.

  • Grab your reusable grocery bag and toss only the pretty, reusable bows and nice ribbon in it for use later.  Toss all squished bows and curly ribbon.  The bag can be hung in a closet underneath those dreaded wire shelves with an “S” hook or on the back of a door.  I’ve been using reusable fabric ribbon for a number of years, which keeps that plastic type out of the land fill.
  • Check plastic bags for the recycle symbol and stuff them together to recycle.
  • Cellophane, styrofoam, twist ties and mixed materials…all goes into the trash can.  These can’t be recycled.
  • If you haven’t put your wrapping supplies away yet, now is the time to put some rubber bands around the rolls and store them in a dry place with other Christmas decorations.

Organizing your new treasures

  • Determine where you’ll be storing your decorations and the space you’ll have.
  • Grab those sturdy boxes and separate your new treasures by rooms.
  • Gather together any items needing to be returned and collect all receipts that accompany them.  Check all receipts for return limitations so you can make your returns before store deadlines.
  • If you learned to write thank you letters like I did, then you’ll want to keep the gift tags with gifts.  Get into the habit sending out your thank you cards before the end of the year.
  • Gather up the cards you’ve received and make sure you have saved addresses and any enclosed gift cash/cards.  It’s now time to toss the cards…sorry.  Now that more people are sending out photo cards, you may want to start a scrapbook for them or at least create a photo card box to store them in.  If this is the case, you may want to date the cards.
  • Find homes for all of your new treasures and enjoy using them!  Don’t dump them off somewhere to put away later.  You want to break this habit and remember to only touch things once when getting organized.

Taking down the tree

  • Instead of buying plastic organizing boxes with dividers for ornaments, I reuse shoe boxes and tissue paper to store ornaments.  The boxes are put inside clear large plastic tote boxes.  I look for them on sale and buy all the same size.
  • Because I store my Christmas items in a corner of the basement, I only bring up certain boxes at a time when decorating and when I clean up.  This prevents a mess and getting overwhelmed in small spaces.
  • I’ve labeled my Christmas supply boxes (totes) as follows:
    • Tree decorations
    • LR Accessories
    • Misc Accessories
    • Candles/Centerpieces
    • Greenery/Florals
    • Lights
    • Cards/Tags (with roll of tape and scissors)
    • Boxes (with gift bags, tissue paper)
  • Remove all fragile ornaments from the tree first and date any special ornaments you received.  I do this so my kids can remember special moments from certain years.  Label the totes.  I used to make an ornament for my children each year (and still do when possible).  Each child now has their own bag of dated ornaments from childhood.  When they moved out of the house, they were given their bag.  I love seeing them use them year after year.
  • Use a piece of cardboard and wrap lights around them, then write where the lights were used (tree, front door, LR windows).  Place them into the “Lights” box.
  • If you purchased a live tree, get an old sheet (I still use old white sheets to represent snow beneath my tree.) and wrap it around the tree.  Use the clothes pens and clip them to a few branches.  You can then easily take the tree out of the water by grabbing the sheet and a few branches, lift it out and immediately walk it outside. This helps keep needles from scattering all over the place.  Wallah!  Put the sheet(s) in the washer.
    Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to pack up and organize everything at the same time.  One or two boxes is enough.

Everything in its place

The last thing I really want you to take away from this is to put everything away in its place NOW!  Don’t pile things up for later.  Turn on some fast-paced music and create a specific place for your Christmas things.  If you find your space is not large enough, then it’s time to either get rid of stuff or if you have extra space, stretch it out.   Make sure everything has a home.

  • Get rid of things you don’t really love.
  • Toss out old, tattered, broken, cracked, dull, bent, torn, no-longer-working things.  They don’t serve you any longer!
  • Purchase shelving and like-sized cardboard or plastic boxes to store things in.  Paper ream boxes work great for storing on shelves.  Forget the lids.  Use the boxes as drawers on the shelves so you can see what you have more easily.  Adjust shelving to just the height of the boxes you will use.  Extra head space is lost space.
  • Keep all like things together and organize them by room.
  • Large boxes/totes can be easily stacked one upon the other.  This is a great space saver!
  • Label all of your boxes so you can see at a glance what you want to quickly grab.
  • Create a specific place for your holiday decorations.
  • When you run out of shelf space, make more room by getting rid of things, not by creating more space.
    Strive to use same size boxes and label them for ease.

Finish cleaning up

Now it’s time to get to the real cleaning.  Wipe things down, dust things off, vac and even get the mop out if it warrants it.  It’s also a good time to change your home air filters, wash some windows and cleaning ceiling fan blades.  You can go through decorations you didn’t use and determine if you want to keep, hand down, donate or toss them.  If you have older kids, take some photos of things you want to hand down and ask each child if they want it.  No takers?  Donate.

Once you have a pile of donation items, take them to your charity of choice in that same week.  Bring the box back home and place it near a door you exit through daily.  Whenever you come across something you don’t want anymore, just put it in the box.  When it’s full, donate the contents as quickly as possible.  Repeat this process weekly or monthly and you’ll be amazed at how much you can get rid of!

Solving problems before they begin!

And there you have it!  Pretty simple, eh?  Cleaning becomes a major chore when you allow things to get out of hand and when you procrastinate.  The problem most people run into is that they create a “dropping off spot” between where they pick something up and where they put it back in its place.  It’s easy to drop things off at the top of the stairs or just inside a door, but why do it?  So it’s time to stop doing things half way.  When you have an item in your hand, try hard to only touch it once.  The more steps you add in, the longer you drag out the task and the faster piles begin to build.  Don’t forget to check out my 10 best steps to help you prepare for the holidays.

Please comment below and share your favorite tips for cleaning up after the holidays.  We’d love to hear how you get organized and clean manage all the extra work around the holidays.

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Cathy lives in Roanoke, Virginia and specializes in supporting families who desire to change their relationship with health–the way they eat, feel and live.  She is a certified Health Coach & Educator with a strong passion for supporting each client in their journey to feel stronger, healthier, and more energetic.  Cathy presents workshops online and locally and regularly talks about real food, fitness, natural living, and all things ADHD.  

Cathy is the creator of the Holistic Wellness Academy, an online training platform that will soon provide other wellness advocates a place to share their expertise with their clients so they too can learn how to eat smart, move more, feel better and live longer.

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