In the privacy of your own heart, do you sometimes dread the holiday chaos? The holidays are often a stressful hectic time. This time of year can be physically cluttered and emotionally stressful. Usually, this time of the year, I write about how to simplify your holiday traditions. This year, I am going to focus primarily on clutter-clearing strategies to try to make your home a tranquil haven this time of the year.

First, get into the habit of a ten-minute tidy before bed—spend ten minutes folding blankets, gathering remotes, taking out the recycling and trash, and clearing off the kitchen counters. Start the dishwasher and maybe a load of laundry before bed. Pick up and put coats and shoes away as you straighten the entry/exit point of your home. All this doesn’t really take long and it will make your home a more pleasant place to wake up!

Next, if you have determined to push yourself a little harder to have an organized home for the holidays, I would suggest staying up 20 minutes later or getting up 20 minutes earlier to tackle a specific area that needs weeding out or organizing. I am guilty of hitting the snooze bar and wasting this time, but I have better luck when I keep a short list with very specific descriptions of the de-cluttering tasks I want to tackle in these sessions. That is the trick to making this work—have a specific plan that your brain can latch onto even if it isn’t quite awake.

Simplify decorating which will simplify cleaning during this season. Bring out a few of the most important pieces and the larger pieces. Consider avoiding the dust-collecting smaller knick-knacky décor. If you decide you have too many holiday decorations, joyfully give them to younger family members who are just starting to celebrate the holidays in their homes. Less visual clutter will draw attention to items you want to feature. Fewer little items will mean less to dust, to dust around, and to perpetually rearrange.

Next, drop the perfectionism—“good enough” truly is sufficient. Don’t be afraid of dust bunnies—many of us no longer see well enough to see them! Don’t be afraid to close doors, especially those leading to teenage bedrooms or little-used rooms or bathrooms. I am fortunate to have upstairs bedrooms. I have hosted many gatherings without feeling the need to tidy, dust, or clean the upstairs. If guests aren’t likely to wander there, don’t worry about it!

Simplify food and entertaining by keeping menus simple and encouraging people to each bring an item, or consider bringing in restaurant or store-bought main course, side dishes, or dessert. Plan a game or activity like stringing popcorn or watching a holiday movie together, and consider de-emphasizing the food portion of the program. With food, consider going for quality and eye appeal rather than sheer quantity. Many of us are trying to watch our waistlines!

Reduce gifts and simplify gift-wrapping—I love gift bags and tissue paper, seriously! In truth, the best gift we can give our loved ones is the gift of time. The get-together is more important than the exchange of stuff. I think we know this in our hearts. We really do. If you do need to buy for several people, try to use one idea over and over if possible. That could mean everyone gets phone chargers or ear muffs…you get the idea. Try to focus on people and time together as the priority.

Think ahead about what you would like next year to look like. While everyone is gathered together, open the discussion about what could collectively be done to simplify for next year. Pot luck? Skip gifts? Set a maximum gift spending limit or quantity limit? Push the get-together back to New Year’s? Even if everyone isn’t on board (yet), you will be planting some seeds for people to think about that might germinate in subsequent years.

After the holidays, take some notes about worked and didn’t work for you this year and start a holiday folder. This will help you get closer to your holiday wishes for next year. It is just fine to try reducing over-booking, over-decorating, and over-spending bit by bit year by year. Reading the prior year’s notes will help renew your resolve each year and help you plan better for yourself.

Finally, plan some pampering for you during this stressful time of the year. Schedule coffee dates, or restaurant, or movie plans with friends. Plan to get a manicure, pedicure, or a massage. Take a nap. Set aside time to chill and read a book. Watch your favorite holiday movie. If you are nurturing yourself and giving yourself some TLC, then you will be a less-stressed more pleasant holiday coordinator and host!

Last but not least, hold in your mind and heart the reason for the season. If you can keep that at the center of your focus, the rest will fall into place. I truly wish you peaceful and joyous holidays and a wonderful New Year!


Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life, a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips readers may pick and choose from to fit their personal style. She is also a breast cancer and melanoma survivor who wrote Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We’ll get you through this. Free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at http://www.clutterclearingchoices.com.