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Even though it’s a busy time of year, December is a perfect time to declutter. I’ll tell you why and what to get rid of NOW.
Listen to the audio version of this piece below or on The Optimized Mom Podcast.
Yep. I know you’re swamped. This week alone, you’ve got your kid’s winter concert, your neighbor’s cookie exchange, and that annual trip to see The Nutcracker. Decluttering is the last thing on your mind.
If you don’t want to be buried by clutter in January, though, you’ll take a few minutes to purge things this month. December is an excellent time to do some decluttering. Here’s why, and what you can get rid of.
Why to declutter now
You’ll likely be receiving gifts
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I am passionate about the “one in, one out” rule. And, let’s face it, for most of us, December is a time that a fair amount of new things will be coming in. Especially if you have children, you’ll want to make sure that there is adequate space to accommodate new toys, games, and clothing.
You (and others) are entertaining
December is a huge month for entertaining. If you’re having people over, you’ll want a clutter-free home with room for guests. You’ll want a clean fridge and pantry for holiday meals and baking–assuring that you don’t buy things that you don’t need or find you’re out of an essential ingredient at the last minute.
Even if you’re not planning to have anyone over, December is an excellent time to give away or get top dollar for items others will use when hosting their friends and family.
You have a few days left to get tax deductions for this year
If you itemize on your taxes, you must complete all of your charitable contributions for the year by December 31st. While items such as cars are obviously valuable, your bags of clothing and housewares are probably also worth more than you think.
You are redecorating your space
As we decorate for the holidays, we pull out rarely used items that we might not want anymore. Rather than simply leaving them in the garage or basement, we can pass them along. This is also a great time to turn a critical eye on those things we no longer really see anymore that are displayed during the rest of the year.
As you’re replacing that knick-knack that’s been on your mantlepiece forever with that decorative reindeer, ask yourself if you really want to put it back out when the new year comes. If the answer is ‘no’ consider taking it straight to the donation bin.
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What to declutter now
Kids’ Toys and Clothes
If you’re a parent, no matter how minimalist you are, it’s difficult to get through the holiday season without bringing more toys and children’s clothing into the house. Decluttering before the holidays ensures that you’ve got a place to put all this stuff when it arrives.
Any kids above age 3 or so can definitely be involved in this process. Worried they’ll have trouble letting go?
Decluttering is often easier for kids when you focus on the fact that they are making room for new things to come in very soon. You can also stress the fact that they are sharing toys they no longer use with other kids who will really enjoy them. Finally, if you have new or very lightly used toys you can help your children list them for sale and allow them to keep the money.
As you’re pulling out those holiday decorations, make note of any that you are choosing not to display. If they no longer fit your decor or your taste, do yourself a favor and pass them along. Early December is a wonderful time to do this as people are just starting their decorating, and they’d be delighted to pick up some cheap or free decorations.
This is also a super time to take a look at your everyday knick-knacks, throw pillows, etc. Is there anything you’re tired of looking at? A shelf that’s gotten overcrowded? A figurine you never liked that you’re displaying just in case your mother-in-law (who gave it to you 7 Christmases ago) comes over? Why not let these things go now and start the new year with a refreshed space?
Baking and other pantry supplies
Before you purchase sugar, flour, spices, and other baking supplies, take a look at what you already have on hand. Is there anything that is past its prime or which your family doesn’t like or use anymore? Let it go.
While you’re in the pantry, pull out any favorite holiday recipes, and make a quick store list for anything you’ll need. Your future self will thank you.
Your fridge and freezer
Especially if you plan to entertain, it’s a great idea to clean out your fridge early in the month. Purge any expired food and nearly empty bottles and jars. Give everything a nice wipe down with a damp cloth.
Pull everything out of your freezer. Do you still have remnants of last year’s Christmas ham in there? Plan some meals around what you find. This is a great way to save a little money during what tends to be an expensive month.
Items You (Or Others) Would Use for Entertaining/Hosting Guests
At this time of year, we’re often hosting parties and out-of-town guests. This typically means we need extra sheets, towels, linen napkins, etc. If you purchased replacements or upgrades to any of these items, make sure you get rid of the older versions. (Be honest about how many rags/backups you really need.)
If you pulled out that old Christmas tablecloth for your holiday brunch, but decided not to use it, don’t hide it back in your drawer. Share it with someone who will enjoy it right now.
Your local animal shelter would appreciate the old sheets and towels you’d be embarrassed to share with guests, and that contribution could be deducted on your taxes.
This is also a great time to sell or donate other in-demand entertaining items such as fondue pots, crock pots, inflatable beds, champagne glasses, etc.
Large items or collections for which you might want a tax deduction
If you itemize deductions on your taxes, you will definitely want to track the items that you donate to charity. (And make sure to hold onto that little receipt the folks at Goodwill give you.) Your old clothes and household items are worth a lot more than you think.
To make calculating the value simple, I love the app/website It’s Deductible, which is managed by the folks at TurboTax. I simply input the items I’m donating and their condition, and It’s Deductible estimates the value of my contribution.
Charitable contributions must be made by December 31st in order to be included on this year’s taxes.
Where to send the items you’ve decluttered
One of the biggest comments I typically hear when I suggest people let things go is, “but I don’t want to just throw it away!” The good news is that you don’t always have to. Here are some options for unloading your gently used items:
- Post for sale on Facebook Marketplace or Nextdoor
- Post for free on Nextdoor or in your local “Buy Nothing” Group
- Donate to a local charity
- Organize a swap with some friends (in my homeschool group, we do this via a text message chain—someone snaps a picture of the item she wants to share, someone claims it, and the item gets delivered at our next park play date.)
Take a cold, hard look at that item you’re looking to pass along, though. Does it truly still hold value or has it already served its purpose? If you wouldn’t proudly offer it to a friend, it might be better off in the trash.
Maintaining a clutter-free home is easiest when decluttering is a daily habit–even during the busiest time of the year. I hope I’ve given you some ideas for easy things to get rid of this month. Now go get started!
Do it now
You probably immediately thought of an item or area of your home that could be decluttered as you were reading this post.
Set a timer for 10 minutes, and go get a tiny start on it right now.
- Repurpose that Amazon box that just arrived into a donation bin to store in your closet, and add one item to the box before you stash it.
- Clean off one shelf in your fridge.
- Snap a photo of that box of ornaments you decided not to put on the tree, and list it on your local Nextdoor “for sale and free” page.
We often avoid starting stuff like this, especially during a busy season, because we think it will take too long. I urge you to take 10 minutes, right now, to start building momentum. That’s how big projects like these get done. You got this.