De-Christmasing can be a terribly stressful time as decorations are coming down, decluttering is taking place, children are home, and there’s nothing sadder than a darkened Christmas tree.
During this end-of-Christmas season, I had a double whammy: my special needs son had just moved back home from his group home where he had been for a year – along with all his stuff. We suddenly found ourselves thrust into deChristmasing and decluttering, switching bedrooms, and combining two young adult sons into one larger room and our six year old daughter into the smaller bedroom.
With all the stuff that entails.
It’s been a crazy, maddening, frustrating time with the house looking like a cyclone-shaped bomb had just been detonated in our living room. The two bedrooms had to be repainted, furniture moved, and the two rooms re-decorated to meet the exacting requirements of their new occupants.
What’s a blogger to do, but write about this? We can’t be in this boat alone, after all. Many people have moved before, during or after Christmas or find themselves taking advantage of the season to do some serious decluttering and cleaning. The following are some tactics I’ve discovered that have helped me deal with the stuff of our lives.
Label four medium-sized cardboard boxes Donate, Give, Hand-Me-Down, and Repair. The Donate box will contain things that will be donated to non-profit organizations that will take the items and sell them. The benefit to you is that you will dispose of stuff (make sure the things are not broken) and you can often obtain a tax deduction for the yard sale value of the items donated.
The Give box will contain things that can be given to other people whom you know. Perhaps your church, like mine, has a community care center where people in need can go for clothing, food, or baby items. The recycling center in my city has a “freebie shed” in which people can place items that are too good to trash but are not wanted.
The Hand-Me-Down box will hold things (mainly clothing) that can be repurposed to other children in the family. Admittedly, my boys wear out clothes now and the younger would not dream of wearing the older’s clothes, and then there’s the six-year-old little girl. Still, we have a niece and a few nephews who benefit from going through our kids’ clothing.
The Repair box is just that: a box for things that you want to keep but needs repair. However, don’t keep things that need repair if you don’t ultimately want them. When toys from fast food places break, they are trashed. Dolls who have been decapitated or have limbs missing are also trashed. Games with many parts that have gone AWOL find themselves in the garbage bag. Some things are not worth fixing.
It is best to declutter a young child’s room when said child is not in the house; however, depending on the child, it's good for them to take a willing part in doing something good for other people. Toys that are no longer played with but you want to keep can be made into toy rotations. Buy some good-quality tubbies with lids, separate toys into the tubbies, and label them either monthly or seasonally, depending on the number of toys available and how much storage space you have. When one box has outlasted its interest, box up the toys, bring out a new tubbie and store the old one.
The child will think they’ve hit the lottery with new toys!
With my sons, they enjoy video games, and have learned that when they beat games, or if a game no longer interests them, they can trade it into a video game stores for store credit toward new games. This also keeps the clutter at bay and interest high in their room.
Here’s a scandalous thought: there are some hand-made gifts my kids have made me throughout the years that, gasp!, I just don’t want on my tree. After a while, that salt-dough ornament from when my oldest was in third grade just has lost its charm. Likewise, that clothespin reindeer made in some child’s Sunday School class with the missing google eye…. You get the idea.
I have boxed all these kinds of ornaments up, labeled the small box “Christmas – Handmade/School” and store them away. If my daughter chooses to have her own little tree in her room, she can choose from these decorations if she wants, but it’s been my experience that my kids don’t even notice.
A word of warning about storing any Christmas decorations: mice eat things. Once, my mother had some pretty ghoulish-looking Mr. and Mrs Claus figurines that featured dried apples as their heads. Imagine her fright when we took them from their cardboard homes only to discover their wire-rim glasses weren’t sitting on anything. Their heads had been eaten away. All that was left of them were droppings in the box. It is best to use solid plastic tubbies that don’t have any air holes. Anything that a mice can fit its nose into, it can squeeze its body through – that includes air holes. If your tubbies have these holes, put a couple strips of heavy-duty, waterproof gaffer tape on either side of the holes and press firmly. Gaffer tape is much stronger than ordinary packaging tape.
Decluttering Household Things
Despite me having no more than one cup of coffee each day, and the occasional mug of hot chocolate or hot tea during winter evenings, I had no fewer than thirty mugs – not counting the Christmas mugs I brought out for one month out of the year.
I gathered up the mugs I either simply did not like, or were impractical, or that I did not use any more – and put in the Donate box. I decided to bless something else with them. Same thing with kitchen appliances that I did not use but still worked, and kitchen utensils. After all, I buy jarred organic minced garlic – there’s no need to keep a garlic mincer.
I’m a mom – not a chef.
In our little house with five people living here, there’s only so much room. I had to get aggressive in my quest to declutter, organize and make sense of all this. When I am focused on the messes or the clutter and stressed out by it, I am prone to being snappy to my husband and kids. I am also, admittedly, not focused on God the way I should be when my dining table is used as a clutter landing surface instead of a sanctuary for studying the Word, eating meals together, and folding laundry.
Speaking of Laundry…
Just a few days ago I told my boys, ages 19 and 22 (the 22 year old has autism) that each of them are very capable of doing his own laundry. I’m a mom – not a Laundromat – and I’m rearing men, not boys, who need to know how to take care of themselves.
But still, with my daughter – who sorts and helps fold, and switches loads between washer and dryer for me – my paraplegic husband and myself, we produce a great deal of laundry. My laundry area is a closet on one end of the galley kitchen, with the dining room on the other end. This area looks out over the living room. It’s an open floor plan. We have an island on wheels that my father-in-love made for my husband, so it’s accessible and built for a man in a wheelchair.
This island, though, is extremely useful for rolling up to the dryer, bringing over a dining chair, and folding laundry as it comes out of the dryer onto the table. I then can take piles of clothes directly to their intended home using a laundry basket that I can collapse when it’s not in use and stored in the laundry closet.
We have a couple of issues when it comes to smelly laundry. Teen boys, musty towels, and occasional accidents (even six year olds can’t make it sometimes) make for a chemistry-lab atmosphere in the laundry closet. I’ve tried everything: borax, baking soda, vinegar…these have helped some, but nothing cuts the odors of musty towels or urine or too much body spray than Tide Odor Rescue Pods. Full disclosure: the Tide pods name is an affiliate link but they have not paid me for this endorsement. It’s just from pure experimentation and downright frustration, and well worth the price tag. Nothing works better to remove smells from laundry than these pods you place in the tub of your washing machine.
I have a long way to go in my desire to declutter and organize, but it’s going to be worth it. I have to believe that! If anything, having a tidy and decluttered home, with the material things that mean something to me, like the Nativity set I bought at an African market in Zambia, or my grandmother’s 1917 Scofield Reference Bible, make me feel more at peace in my home instead of frazzled and frustrated.
In Him Who Gives Us Peace,
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© 2017 Terrie McKee