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Out with the old and in with the new: Cleaning up your life in 2014

01/05/2014 12:00 AM

01/08/2014 2:57 PM

Monday, Jan. 6, marks the 12th day of Christmas and the last official day of the holiday festivities. For those who have yet to do so, it also means it’s time to take down Yuletide decor and pack everything away until next December. If you’re already fatigued from the hustle and bustle of the holidays, however, the prospect of dismantling the tree and boxing up all those ornaments and decorations can seem overwhelming. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be. By implementing a few tricks from local organizing mavens, you can take the process from bothersome to blissful and keep your home spic-and-span throughout the rest of the year.

Farewell to the holidays

Remember how time-consuming it was decorating your home for the holidays? Did you find it stressful? Melinda Massie of Organizing with a Side of Fabulous says this is a common malady that compels most people to throw their Christmas decorations in a box (or two) in January and consider the task complete.

It might feel like a shortcut, but it’s not that smooth a move, she says.

“It doesn’t take a lot of time to put things away properly, though it feels like it,” Massie says, adding that the first step to a successful Christmas clean-up is to try and make the experience enjoyable. For instance, playing music and having a glass of your favorite wine or beverage on hand is an easy way to create a relaxing atmosphere that helps ease the chore.

Also, it can be a good idea to create a game plan, prioritizing what you plan to take down and pack up first. Even if you jump in head first, she recommends a section-by-section approach.

“Instead of tackling the whole thing, break it down into bite-size pieces,” Massie says. “It becomes significantly more manageable.”

Some people start off with the tree, but Massie reiterates the idea of taking baby steps.

“If you do other small areas first, then you feel like you’ve accomplished something,” she says.

Because of this, she highly recommends taking down outdoor Christmas lights and the Christmas tree last.

Massie suggests organizing ornaments by size and shape for storage. Place egg carton or sock dividers inside plastic bins for a storage option that won’t break the bank or require you to purchase anything new, she says. If you’d rather spring for something more elaborate, Ashley Easley of MasterPeace Solutions is a fan of the telescopic rolling ornament storage bag from Christmas Lights Etc.

“Rolling ornament storage bags such as these are a clever and safe way to store your tree’s decor,” she says. Easley also suggests taking special precautions with more delicate or valuable decor items.

“Be sure to take special care for homemade ornaments by wrapping [them] in tissue, putting [them] in a zip-lock bag and labeling,” she says.

Massie suggests wrapping Christmas lights in small sections so that the end result is a string of lights split into two even bundles. When stored like this, the lights are easier to check for burned out bulbs, she says. And while we’re on the topic of making Christmas decorating easy for next year, Easley offers another suggestion to help minimize future holiday grief.

“When putting away your Christmas decorations for the year, take inventory of what you did and did not use this year,” she says. “This will make next year’s decorating much easier.”

It’s important to also point out that unloading unwanted holiday gear is an important part of a successful Christmas clean-up.

“If there is anything you didn’t like, then get rid of it immediately,” Massie says.

And to reduce the possibility of buyer’s remorse or unnecessary hoarding, Easley offers a word of advice to anyone who frequents post-holiday sales:

“Don’t fall into the trap of buying everything you can find at 50 percent off,” she says. “If you are in need of something in particular, that’s OK — otherwise, it’s hoarding. Let the store be your storage unit. Nothing is ever really on sale anyway — it’s just clever marketing to get you to buy things you don’t need.”

Cheers to a clean and shiny new year

When you’ve finally put away the last box of ornaments and your home’s order has been restored, it’s time to sit back and enjoy a job well done.

But don’t get too comfortable yet. With the right mind-set and initiative, your home’s post-Christmas cleanliness can become a year-round thing.

“Being organized is not an endgame. It’s a daily habit that has to be cultivated,” Massie explains.

Her formula for success? Setting aside a small amount of time each day to “reset” your home by putting everything back in its place. Making cleaning a daily ritual prevents clutter from snowballing and, eventually, becoming an overwhelming problem, she says.

To make the most of the time you devote to the process, Massie also recommends purchasing a timer and setting it for an alotted period each day. Not only is the timer great for increasing motivation to get the task at hand done, it can help get the whole family involved, she says. For kids, in particular, it’s a terrific tool for turning the concept of cleaning into a game, she says.

Easley says the start of the new year is also a good opportunity to review and schedule those “one of these days” household projects that you would like to accomplish in the next 12 months. She suggests creating a list of everything that you want to do.

“Write down the steps and the cost, then prioritize accordingly,” she says. “Put dates on your planner that you will be working on these projects.”

At the end of the day, Massie says, it’s realistic to acknowledge that most homes will never be perfectly clean, organized or project-free. But if you set attainable goals for your home, then maintaining a high level of year-round organization and tidiness is not as far-fetched as most people would think.

“It’s just like exercising,” Massie says. “It’s a daily choice you have to make.”

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