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How to Declutter After the Holidays

By January 7, 2024May 24th, 202412 Comments
decluttering after the holidays

I love everything about holidays starting with Thanksgiving. They bring me so much joy. It seems to me as though there’s a constant flurry of activity for about 6 weeks and then it stops. There’s the cooking and baking of holiday treats and yummy meals. Putting up decorations, inside and out. Shopping for gifts to give and receiving some, too. Visiting with friends and family. Now the holidays are over and it’s time to get back to business. First, though, it’s important to undo all the holiday decorating, put things away, and declutter after the holidays.

Before you start to declutter after the holidays, take a moment to review your reasons for undertaking this task. It’s always easier to stick with a project when you know why you’re doing it.

Next get out all your holiday decoration storage boxes and bring them to a staging spot, probably somewhere in the living room or family room.

Where to start decluttering after the holidays?

Outside lights and other decorations

Removing the outside lights and other decorations is easier to do with help. If you have a spouse, partner, or children ask them to get involved with this process. If you don’t have something to wrap the lights around, consider using a stiff wire hanger. This will also make it easier to install the lights when the holidays roll around next winter. Store the lights in a labeled container.

If you also decorate the outside with blow up figures, deflate them, carefully fold them, and store them in a clear plastic tub with a lid. Be sure to label the tub with a description of the figure.

Wreaths

Take down indoor holiday themed wreaths. Put them in clear garbage bags and store them in your garage, attic, or basement. It’s also time to remove any wreaths you have outside. If they are not artificial they can probably be recycled along with your real tree. Just remove any ribbon or fake berries.

Cards

I noticed this year that more and more people are sending out email greeting cards. Holiday cards, particularly the ones with photos, are sometimes difficult to part with. I used to put the pictures people sent me in a photo album when the cards had a photograph you could easily remove from the card. Now that the photo is part of the card, I don’t keep them anymore. My recommendation is to recycle the cards after you have enjoyed looking at them.

Mantle and Tabletop Decorations

Remove the holiday decorations.

Dust the table (take a minute to do this since there’s nothing on the surface).

Then find the decorations that belong on the mantle and the tabletops that you stored when you decorated for the holidays. Carefully store the holiday decorations from the mantle and the tabletops in the decoration storage box.

Christmas Ornaments

Take the ornaments off the tree and store them in the ornament’s storage box or boxes. I use 2 different kinds of storage boxes for my ornaments. One has three-layers of storage with each storage layer having about 18 square sections meant specifically to hold ornaments. This is perfect for most ornaments, particularly round ones.

The other storage box I use is simply a large, clear, plastic container. I put over-sized ornaments in this box between layers of tissue paper.

I always try to get every ornament off the tree before I take the tree down but inevitably, I miss one or two ornaments. This year I missed two.

 Tree

I use an artificial tree which gets put away in a box and then stored in my garage. My tree came with lights on it. If you have an artificial tree that you put lights on or a real tree, take the lights off first. Follow the same procedure as with taking down the outside lights. Label them so you know these are for the indoor tree. Then take the tree down. Some areas pick up the trees and then chip them. Other areas recycle them. Still other areas have a central collection place for real Christmas trees.

Clean the floor where you had placed your tree before putting any furniture back.

Gifts

Sometimes gifts and/or games are part of the decluttering after the holidays. Look around and notice if there are any gifts left to put away or find homes for.

Maybe there is no natural home for the gift that is left out.

Do you need to declutter a drawer, closet, or cupboard to make room for the gift you received?

Do you need to write thank you notes or emails to the people who sent you gifts?

Decluttering after the holidays is a project

This is not a project to conquer in a day. Schedule time to tackle one or two of these areas a day and you’ll be done before you know it without getting overwhelmed. Remember to clearly label storage containers so you know what’s in them when it comes time to decorate for the holidays again. Reach out to me if you’d like help tackling this or any other project in your home.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.

12 Comments

  • Yes decluttering after the holidays is a project.
    It’s such a fast time from when you start preparing for the holidays and then nothing until next year.
    I love all your tips and your line “It’s always easier to stick with a project when you know why you’re doing it” so true.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    Maybe because I don’t celebrate Christmas, I don’t find the taking down of the decorations so wistful; I feel like it’s an easy decluttering project because it’s so simple to tell what is “holiday” from “not holiday” and then cull, categorize, and store. I will add one note to your excellent advice regarding those inflatables. Between deflating them and putting them away, check in interior for any creepy-crawlies. I’ve had a few clients have some not-so-nice surprises when the next season comes around.

    I also suggest that people make an event of decluttering and put together a playlist of non-Christmas songs to make the process fun. I’ve had clients use TV theme songs, comedy songs, 80’s one-hit-wonder songs. it makes the whole thing a little silly and more delightful, so it’s a little easier to get over the hump of accepting that the holidays are over.

    There are so many nuggets of wisdom in your post to make the process run more smoothly!

  • So many great tips!
    I always have a real tree and real garlands and door decorations. I find that it is better to trash the garlands and door decorations than try to recycle them because there is so much wire mixed into them.

  • Great tips! I downsized and recycled many things in January of 2023, and boy, did I enjoy decorating my home this year. Last weekend, we decluttered and added the items to the labeled appropriate bin, and it only took a few hours. Not bad at all. Thanks for sharing your process and tips.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      I’m so happy you loved decorating your home this holiday season. I agree it’s so much easier when you’re decorating with things you love!

  • Jana Arevalo says:

    I just finished putting away our holiday stuff yesterday! And, yes, while it feels a little bare and not as cozy, I’m happy to have everything back in its place after hosting family this year. These are all amazing tips! One thing I do with the Christmas cards is keep them in the bin for next year. Opening the bin after a year and seeing our friends and families’ smiling faces is so much fun. It also helps with the bad feeling of just tossing them! I get to enjoy them one more time. 😊

    Thank you so much for all of your helpful tips!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Jana, I love your idea of keeping the cards from year to year in a specific bin. I agree, my home feels a little less cozy without all the warm holiday decorations about but I’m happy to have the space and the streamlined feeling as I start the New Year.

  • This is an excellent, detailed plan to declutter the holiday decor and gifts. The matter-of-fact way you described each step, mixed with your personal experiences, made it seem easy and doable.

    I always wondered how people store those large inflatable figures. Now I know. Some houses have a lot of outdoor decorations, and I’m guessing it takes quite a bit of time and storage space to put everything away. But approaching one type of task at a time makes so much sense.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Linda. I find the process of decluttering all the decorations overwhelming and a bit sad unless I approach it the way I described. I figured others may feel that way, too.

  • Seana+Turner says:

    There is so much that we tend to do it in phases. We’ve made good progress so far. We rushed to get the outdoor stuff in yesterday before the snow, but still have the candles in the windows. I need to process the Christmas cards as well, but I usually wait until the middle of January because I often get a few “new year” cards.

    It’s sad to see it all come down, but there is a feeling of refreshed and orderly when we are all finished!

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