When the holidays are over, do you panic wondering what to do with all the gifts, new holiday decor and ornaments? Do you ask yourself, 'Will another tub fit on that groaning garage shelf without bringing it down?' Unless you have a solid plan to de-clutter your home, one day the answer sadly will be 'no.' Even a closet organization specialist recommends purging a few things before redesigning your storage solutions.
A whole year of projects for a tidier, more livable house
Maybe last New Year's Day you made a resolution to declutter, but, hey — there are only so many hours in a day, right? It's top of your list this year, along with exercise, eating healthy and getting your money on track. But by now you realize you need more than motivational wish lists. You need a strategy. Productivity experts recommend that to get things done, you should schedule tasks and set reminders.
Here’s a sample month-by-month plan to get you started. Customize your calendar plan to fit your typical seasonal agenda, for example, purge before events such as acquiring new travel accessories for vacations; shopping for back-to-school clothes and supplies; and replacing outgrown, busted or outdated sporting gear each season. Base it on calendar holiday themes or schedule individual rooms to tackle each month.
- January. It's the new year. De-clutter ghosts of Christmas past to make room for the new gifts. Things to toss, donate or sell include anything you don't ever use — or that you outright dislike. You may feel that you're somehow betraying the giver if you get rid of the gift, but the egg extruder must go!
- February. This is the perfect time to dump those stacks of old love letters, Valentine's Day cards (all old greeting cards, for that matter), photos (business cards, too) of people whose names and faces you can no longer recall, and sentimental knick-knacks you don't associate with anyone meaningful — as well as quite a few that you do.
- March. Soon it will be time for gardening. Go through the potting shed and throw out expired seeds and broken pots, torn gardening gloves and broken spray nozzles and bottles. Properly dispose of toxic herbicides and pesticides you no longer really want to use but think, maybe someday? You won't. If you've been planning a winter project with old scraps or unused items you've been saving and you haven't done it yet, get started now or donate the unused materials to a school or artist.
- April. Look for sporting equipment the kids have outgrown over the winter. It's the perfect time to donate or sell old bicycles. Go through your car's trunk and glove compartment. You may find things in there you forgot you had, which means they are ripe for purging. Shred and dispose of papers you no longer need for tax purposes.
- May. Before the weather gets too warm, move boxes and large or heavy items out of your storage unit, the garage, the basement or the attic. Go through those boxes you haven't opened in years and re-evaluate why you are still keeping the contents. Get rid of anything that's been broken or damaged while it's been stored. Make an inventory of what you keep, and label boxes with contents before putting them back.
- June. Evaluate the condition of your travel accessories and camping gear. Some of these items take up a lot of space, so if you are planning to replace them with something more up-to-date, donate the old. If your luggage is past it's travel-worthiness, re-purpose it for storage, a pet bed, or toss it.
- July. Survey your closets for spring and summer clothes, scarves, accessories and handbags you haven't worn or used since last year. Donate or sell them so someone else can still enjoy them this season. Inventory supplies for your home office, personal desk space, and kids' school and art supplies. Toss dried up pens. Melt stubby crayon bits in muffin tins to make big, multicolor crayons. If you take stock of what you have, you can avoid overbuying.
- August. Go through the kids' artwork and school papers that they (and you) have been saving. Keep only the best of the best examples of their work unless you need a large portfolio to accompany applications. Set up a shallow bin to save this year's exemplary papers and a frame to display new artwork that you rotate in and out all year.
- September. The kids are back in school and fall projects are waiting. Get your craft room, man cave or workshop back online by purging old supplies and taking stock of what you need for new projects. Once you have everything pared down, you can DIY a new organization system with modules from the big box stores, IKEA hacks or by re-purposing old cabinets. For a more upscale remodel, call in a custom closet organization specialist.
- October. The holidays are coming 'round again. Get your kitchen reorganized by starting with the pantry. Throw out expired foods, especially if you can't remember when you bought them. If the shelves are deep, line them with sturdy baskets to corral small stuff — no higher than eye level, however, or the contents may fall on your head when you pull the bins out. Go through cabinets and drawers. Purge chipped plates, one-task appliances and gadgets.
- November. As you buy new holiday decorations and home decor, weed through the old ones. If you don't want to run into the same storage problems you had last year, now is the time to release those you're not overly fond of to make room for some new ones. Donate them, not just for the tax write-off, but because you know someone on a tight budget is also hoping for some new-to-them decorations.
- December. Take the beginning of the month to de-clutter your closets of warm clothing you didn't wear last year and drop it off at your favorite charity. If you already know you're planning to buy newer versions of old electronics, donate them, too. If they no longer work, drop them off at an e-waste collection center.
If the thought of de-cluttering still immobilizes you, you can consult the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) website to find a home organization professional.