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5 Questions to always ask yourself When Decluttering for the Holidays

The nights are getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and all of the Starbucks are starting to sell eggnog lattes: it’s beginning to feel a lot more like the Holidays. This is a time of family, friends, and the inevitable shame of having your house dressed down by your relatives when they come by to visit for one of the many winter holidays.

We’ve all been there – we work hard to clean it and get all the clutter moved out, and some Aunt or uncle finds a spec out of place and then rubs our nose in it for everyone to see. 

…Or maybe that’s just me?

Anyway, going through that winter decluttering can put a huge dampen on your holiday spirit, but here are a few ways to make it go a little smoother. 

Specifically, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to make things go a little smoother.

Do I need this thing / piece of furniture / knickknack?

The most important question should be asked first. 

As you’re going through your things, clearing off the tables and getting this ready for your family, friends, or even just your own two eyes, always keep this question in mind.

Sometimes we buy something that we don’t need. Sometimes we get into a hobby and we buy a lot of things for it only to put it down and never go back to it later. Sometimes we just see something at 2 AM and we have to buy it, only to never take it out of the packaging.

These things happen, and that’s okay. 

If you want to keep your home clutter-free, you need to get rid of the things you don’t use or need. If it has intense sentimental value, then you can put it in storage, but don’t fall into the trap where you need to hold on to every single old reminder of times past – if you don’t need it, find someone who can find a better use for it. 

Do these clothes fit me anymore?

This ties into question one a bit, but it’s still so, so important. 

Think about all the times you’ve had your clothes lying around, or when your closet starts to overflow and things begin to spill out into the bedroom, or further out into the living room. You buy new clothes for special occasions, or for other reasons – only to leave them in a drawer or a closet where they collect dust and leave not a lot of room for anything else.

Go through your clothes and figure out what fits or doesn’t fit you. Barring a few sentimental outfits – I still have one of my homecoming dresses, so I understand the feeling! – you should never keep clothes that don’t fit you for very long. Keeping your stack of clothes pared down to what you can actually wear not only prevents you from playing the “Does this outfit still fit me” game when you absolutely don’t want to, but it can also clear up some closet space for your other stuff.

Do I already own one of these?

I can’t even tell you how often this happens to me. I’ll have gone through my bookshelves just the day before, and organized everything the way I want, only to hop on my kindle and realize that I have electronic versions of several of the books on my shelves.

With electronic media, we don’t have the convenience of just staring at our entertainment centers and raking our eyeballs up and down the shelves to see if we have a certain thing. We usually have to go into a folder and scroll through long (usually text) lists full of titles and icons that are too small to see. Sometimes we end up getting physical versions of things we already own digitally, or vice versa. 

It can happen with books, too – we might have three different prints of the same book, because we just kept forgetting that we already had a copy. 

If you think you might own something already, check. And if you do, get rid of the extras to free up some space – both physical and digital!

Does this still work?

You would be surprised how often I need to ask myself this question. Sometimes we find devices or appliances that get lost in the shuffle. We buy them once and then we don’t see it for a long time, only for it to turn up later while we’re doing something completely unrelated. It’s unplugged, probably with a layer of dust over it, and it hasn’t seen use in a really long time. 

When you’re checking appliances and devices, don’t just assess if you can use it, or if it’s necessary. Check them to make sure they still work (and still have all of their components!) before keeping them around.

After checking to see if they work, go back to the previous questions and figure out if they’re worth hanging on to. 

Is this safe?

This can be interpreted in several ways: 

  • Is the item I’m looking at safe to have around the house?
  • Is this item stored in a way that is safe for others to grab it without hurting themselves?
  • Is this a fire hazard?

Getting rid of unsafe things might be a no-brainer, but a lot of the time, we can leave unsafe things lying around without thinking about it, or store things in a way that could potentially hurt us and other people.

Think about it: how many people do you know have appliances sitting near the sink? 

Probably at least some of you. 

The same can be said of people storing their dishes in a precarious way (if they’re scatter-brained or have trouble keeping things organized, this can be a problem. Keep appliances away from sinks or other water sources so that you reduce the risk of fire hazards, and if you have a food processor, store the blades separately in a safe place where they’re not likely to topple out of the cabinet upon opening it, or slice someone’s hand open when they try to grab it. 

Knowing where and how to store things can make things easier and safer in the long run, which will make all acts of cleaning maintenance much smoother.

In conclusion

Decluttering your house is probably one of the most time-consuming things you will ever do outside of manually doing your taxes. The upside is that if you approach it with these questions in mind and start asking them as you go through every room, and through every extra object, you’ll find that holding onto extra stuff will be a lot harder.

That, and sometimes people get overwhelmed with cleaning, and are unsure what to do. This structure can be helpful, as you go through one object at a time. 

One object becomes two, and two becomes three, and soon you’re going through things until your house is not only clean, but you can sit down and finally get some much-needed rest. Maybe you can go out for one of those eggnog lattes afterwards; I’d say you’ve earned it after all that. 

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