Pre-Holiday Season Cleaning

I always think that the juggling needed for the holidays is to make your home or office a cheerful, restorative place to be while staying calm and enjoying the season. It can be done; let’s talk about how.

Perhaps more than at other times of the year, during the holidays it is good to be really choosy about how you spend time. There are only so many hours and you need to be sure that how you are spending them will result in the best long-term and short-term payoff. Although it is possible to take shortcuts to tidying things up for the holidays, such as boxing things up to get them out of the way, you might want to consider whether this would provide a temporary fix at the cost of a bigger job later. In some areas of the home, such as the kitchen to get instant clear surfaces, this might make sense while in others not. Boxing things up to get them out of the way during the holidays can take as long as quickly sorting through them because you still have to move the boxes around and find places to put them, to say nothing of coming back to them later and sorting them. Doing ultra-quick sorting with the preponderance of decision-making on the get-rid-of-it side, can be the fastest way to clear surfaces.

As at any other time, no matter how much stuff you have, if you are mostly getting rid of things, the process goes fairly quickly. What takes more time is the effort to hang onto more things than you have room for, forcing you to spend time shuffling, re-organizing, finding new containers, and building more storage. The more you get rid of, the faster you will be done and able to live clutter-free. This is a good time to remember “80% of what we save we never use.” Getting your belongings down to what you actually use will give you more time for enjoying the pleasures of life.

But if you want to spend time celebrating the holidays, you will probably want to shift your focus from organizing to cleaning and beautifying. This may require some organizing or clearing, but that would not be the primary focus. I think making your home look good, smell good, and feel good is more important than organizing at this time of year. Putting a nice long table cloth over a table you have cleared and cleaned may allow you to store unsorted items underneath while looking better and getting things out of the way (please note: this is NOT an approach I would recommend at any other time of year and even during the holidays, I think it is less desirable than doing real clearing out, but is just more expedient).

Another benefit of cleaning is that most cleaning products smell good, particularly those made from non-toxic ingredients. You don’t have to invest in expensive air fresheners to get a home that smells nice. Cracking open the windows a tiny bit also helps improve air quality. If you want to go beyond the benefits of cleaning and fresh air, rubbing a little essential oil in your favorite scent on unlit lightbulbs or the underside of furniture will nicely scent a room. Another favorite trick is to put a pan of water on the stove, throw in an orange peel, some cloves and cinnamon, and bring it to a boil. If the air in your house is very dry, letting the water slooowly simmer away will improve the humidity while making the place smell wonderful. If you have high humidity in your home, you will want to turn off the stove as soon as it comes to a boil; some types of radiators and heating vents lend themselves to a slightly altered version of this method. Any form of aroma you like will lighten your mood and sense of well-being, though lavender and orange are particularly effective.

If you do have time to do real organizing over the holidays, a good place to focus is on doing the things that will set you up for the coming year: organize your financial documents (especially those pertaining to taxes), create your filing system if you haven’t already (more about this in a moment), go through your warranties and instructions file and toss anything for items you no longer have.

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