A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Recovering from Post-Holiday Clutter

Post-holiday clutter can overwhelm and frustrate even the best of our minimalist efforts. We had a great time with family and friends over the Christmas holiday. It was a nice break in routine with lots of baking, visiting, and relaxing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before the mess starts to overwhelm the house and the desire to get life back to normal takes over.

Despite my best intentions of having our first minimalist Christmas, the haul of gifts from family and friends was overwhelming. I do feel like we had our best year yet in giving meaningful and intentional gifts to people. I already have a game plan for how to do better next year.

Unfortunately, there’s just not a lot you can do about the gifts you receive from others. As you can imagine, living in a household of 10 makes for some even larger holiday gatherings. I am considering sending the following letter in an effort to help with future gift exchanges.

Dear Santa, other Toy Manufacturers, Family & Friends:

As a mom who is left with the holiday toy explosion around the house every year, I thought I would pass on my thoughts on behalf of parents everywhere. I hope you find them helpful.

My children do not need any more toys that run on batteries. A talking toy that sounds cute at the store, just isn’t quite as cute when all the children are playing in the same room at the same time. As a side note, giving a gift that needs batteries but didn’t actually come with batteries is really frustrating for everyone.

No baby doll should come with the ability to scream, dance, wet a diaper, or grow hair. It’s just creepy and unnecessary.

Gigantic guns that shoot foam darts still hurt when your brother shoots you in the eye. The puppy does enjoy chewing the millions of darts all over the house though, so he’s seems happy with their endless supply.

Please consider if you would enjoy having the proposed gift in your own home before you give it to someone else. Thanks!

How to Recover from Post-Holiday Clutter

There are steps you can take to get life back to normal and get back in the minimalist saddle again.

  1. Put the holiday decorations away. If you haven’t done this already, it’s time to put them away. You’ll be amazed how much larger your living space feels with the decorations gone.
  2. Remove all clutter from the main living areas. Everything you keep eventually needs to find a permanent home. For now, just start with taking it to the room it needs to go to.
  3. Be objective about all new gifts. Don’t feel obligated to keep something just because it’s new or that someone gave it to you. Only keep things that you’re really going to use or that hold true meaning to you.
  4. Evaluate your current possessions. Now is a good time to see if there’s anything you currently have that is no longer a priority. A great general rule for deciding what to keep is 1-in-1-out. It’s definitely time to go back through the toys around here.
  5. Don’t stop until everything has a permanent home. Piles and baskets shoved in a corner of the room are too easy to forget. Set some time aside and make the tough choices and then put things away for good.
  6. Do some early spring cleaning. Jurino mentioned that spring cleaning in the Caribbean happens in January. I think that’s perfect timing for dealing with post-holiday cleanup efforts.

For additional motivation to declutter, download my free ebook The Minimalist Within. It will get you asking the questions about why you want to simplify your life in the first place and get you going in the right direction.

Is post-holiday clutter getting you down? Talk to me in the comments.


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photo by african_fi

Article originally published on 01/05/2011

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  1. I am siting on my laptop looking at my boxes of Christmas decor in the living room. I did a good job of reducing stuff down to one box and one garbage bag (for the wreath) but I have to have my 20 year old son put it in the attic. He has promised me he will do it today! That will make me happy!
    We had also pulled out 3 boxes of photos to look at on Christmas and they are still sitting out. I feel as if I should go through and weed out those that are no good, but there are so many other areas of clutter I want to deal with first. I think I am just going to put them back where they were and go on to the next area I want to attack, my laundry/pantry/utility room!
    8 week Journey to Balance

  2. If you ever really send that letter, let me know how it ended! I think all of us would LOVE to send it out, but we’re really afraid how people would react. I know I am!

    As for the cleaning in the caribbean.. it’s really at the end of December; on January the 1st everything needs to be spic and span (by any means neccesary – and that leads to some crazy behaviour and ehmm…. consumer debts)

    Greetings from the netherlands!

    • Faith Janes says

      Maybe some loving family and friends will just happen to read my post here. 🙂 I’ll let ya know how it pans out.

      Everything spic and span by any means necessary? Wow! Is there a reason for the sense of urgency for January 1?

      • new year, good looking house?
        As in.. a fresh start or a clean-desk-policy for your home.

        Everyone does it, it’s absolutely mandatory, and some people go so far as to paint the whole exterior of the home and uhmm.. get completely new furniture every couple of years. (Hence the consumer debt I mentioned earlier)

        It’s a bunch of crazyness, but the main idea is kind of nice I guess. 🙂
        Greetings from the Netherlands!

  3. I love the letter. I would add that the gift giver should consider the recipient’s age and that of any sibling when giving gifts. A toy intended for a ten year old is rarely suitable for a five year old.

    • Faith Janes says

      Oh, good point on the age of siblings. My daughter (almost 3) just loves getting into the toys her older brothers get, but OH what a mess!

  4. We’ve been up to our ears. Ugh.

    Just today, daughter and I finished finding homes for her new stuff, and pitched the things she doesn’t love anymore. She struggles with parting with anything. I maintained a calm exposure and stifled the urge to just start chucking stuff.

    Right now, I’m sitting in the living room, there isn’t a toy in sight, and daughter says, “Wow, it’s kinda relaxing in here.”

    Wonder how long it will last…..

  5. This Christmas we gave our nieces and nephews money towards their college funds. and a couple of dollars for some candy. The kids have so much toys and the last thing I want to do as an aunt is to add to that clutter.

  6. Your letter is very funny! I may need to ‘borrow’ it next year.
    My kids are from blended families and with so many parents and grandparents the gift giving has been huge in the past.
    I have the gifts stayed packed up until the kids clear their rooms out and made space. Often I would do this before Christmas which lead to a bunch of re-gifting. They only play with what they see so there was no need to keep toys packed or stored away.

  7. I gave a minimalist book to everyone this year. It was actually well received.

    I also always threaten I will buy drum sets for all the nephews if battery toys are given to my kid. 🙂

  8. First off- LOVE the new site. 🙂

    Now- I read this and just shudder. I’ve just started on my minimalist journey. The idea of simple, clean, and… minimal stuff is just so appealing. And I have so far to go! Then comes Christmas and I have 2 under 2 who are the only grandchildren on one side of the family. Talk about Toy Overload. I want to ask for clutter-free items for their birthdays (3 months before and 3 months after christmas, respectively), but am afraid of the fallout. And I have about 6 boxes of Christmas decorations (was so overwhelmed that only one made it out this year: the tree). Anyway- you are an encouragement and inspiration to me!

  9. My house is still in holiday disarray, and I’m hoping to finish restoring order this weekend. We’ve taken out lots of bags of trash, and will have more trash to take out — and more bags headed to Salvation Army. In the process of getting rid of some things to make room for our new gifts!

  10. Great recovery tips. That’s pretty much the same exact steps we took to clean up our post holiday explosion. We felt so much better after we had all the trash taken out, the toys put away, and the decorations taken down.

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