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The Clutter-free Holiday Guide

You often see holiday gift guides and the like, but not often enough do we see guides on dealing with clutter during this most cluttered of seasons.

From gifts to wrapping to decorations to cardboard boxes from Amazon and more, the holidays can see more accumulation of clutter than any other time of the year.

How do we deal with it? It takes a multi-pronged approach.

Let’s dive in.

Clearing Existing Clutter

If your house isn’t free of clutter at this point, you can start to make a dent, even with a busier holiday schedule.

Some ideas:

  1. Spend just 2-5 minutes at a time. Get a cardboard box for donations. When you’re in your bedroom, spend 2-5 minutes picking off a few things you definitely don’t need, and put them in the box. Later, when you’re in the kitchen, spend 2-5 minutes doing the same on your countertop. And on your dining table, on shelves when you walk past them, on your closet floor, all at various times as you’re walking through an area. Not all in one day, but in bits each day.
  2. Carve out 30 minutes a few times a week. Put it on your calendar. Spend that time clearing out a closet — just take out as many things that you don’t need as you can in 30 minutes. Put them in the donate box or the trash.

You probably won’t have time to declutter your entire house during the holidays, but that’s OK. Just get the ball rolling, and tackle the rest in January.

Gift Expectations

Probably the biggest clutter problem during the holidays, for many people, is getting gifts you don’t need that will just clutter up your house.

The key here is to manage expectations:

  1. Talk to your friends and family, or send out an email or Facebook post. Tell them you’d prefer not to get any gifts because you’re trying to reduce clutter.
  2. Consider asking them to join the Buy Nothing Until 2013 Challenge. Then you can not buy stuff for each other together! It can be a fun new family tradition.
  3. Ask people who really still want to do gifts, to consider baking cookies or other consumables, give gift certificates for services (babysitting, yardwork, washing a car) or experiences (wine tasting, hotel stay, rock climbing gym, etc.).
  4. Ask people to consider donating to charity instead of giving things.
  5. Warn them that you will probably donate other kinds of gifts that you receive (other than the non-clutter kinds) to charity.

Dealing with Gifts You Get

Some people will get you gifts no matter what you ask. Don’t be mad or petty about it — be grateful for the thought.

But you’ve warned them, so don’t feel bad about passing the gift on to someone who might need it. Ask your other friends if they need a new toaster (or whatever you got), or give it away on Yerdle or Craigslist or other similar listing online.

If you really want to keep a gift, that’s OK — just get rid of two similar-sized items you already own for every one you keep.

Wrapping

If you give gifts, consider wrapping in newspapers or magazines that you already have around the house, so you don’t waste more paper. Or wrap things in cloth, using cloth items that you are getting rid of.

Be sure to recycle wrapping paper from gifts that others give you.

Decorations

Filter out the holiday decorations you have that you never use, and donate or trash them. Consider using festive plants like red and yellow leaves, evergreen branches, pine cones, colorful gourds and pumpkins, instead of store-bought decorations. These can be composted after the holidays are over, instead of stored or trashed.

Boxes

People who buy gifts often order them online, which means lots of boxes. Even buying things in a store usually means boxes and shopping bags.

Consider not buying gifts, and not ordering them online, to reduce this waste. Again, giving consumables, gift certificates for services or experiences, or charity donations are great ways to reduce packaging waste.

Consider also making your own gifts. A memory jar with lots of people’s favorite memories of a person, printed on card stock and put into a mason jar, is a great gift. So is a cookie recipe with the dry ingredients layered in a mason jar, or home-made hot chocolate mix with a personalize mug. Make your own board games, puzzle books, Kindle and laptop covers, memory albums, family cookbooks, and more.

If you do end up with some cardboard boxes, fill them with things from your house that you’re going to donate to charity or give to other people you know. Then the boxes go towards decluttering your house, instead of contributing clutter.

Clutterfree on Kindle

To further help you become clutterfree, Courtney Carver of Be More With Less and I have published Clutterfree, and we’re proud to say that it’s available on the Kindle today. (Note: If you’re in the Buy Nothing Until 2013 Challenge, you can wait until January to buy it.)

This book is a great weapon for your fight against clutter because it doesn’t just teach you how to get rid of it, but also why you have it in the first place and how to maintain a happy clutter-free life.

Three sections and 23 chapters guide you through the most important parts of being clutter free:

  1. Emotion. Understand why you have clutter.
  2. Action. Learn how to get rid of clutter.
  3. Maintain. Enjoy your clutter-free life.

Clutterfree is available for $2.99. Courtney and I hope you enjoy the book and your clutter-free life.

Quick note: You don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books. They can be read using the Free Kindle Reader App for your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, or Android.

Zen Habits

Leo Babuata
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How Taking Care of My Finances Changed My Life
Tips for Traveling with Kids
My Grand Travel Experiment
The Parent I Aspire to Be
The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning
The Miracle of Suspending Mis-Belief
7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People
Finding Motivation on Important But Non-Urgent Tasks
Learning Tips for the Top 8 Learning Challenges
The 30-Day Learning Challenge
The Place Where You Are
Feeling Determined to Change
Practicing Non-Judgment
Hold Your Own Feet to the Fire
Don’t Waste Your Opportunity
How to Beat Procrastination with Daily Training
The Time When We’ll Be Present & Content
A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method
When Others Frustrate You
Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality
The Case for Replacing Exercise with Play
Leave Yourself Wanting More
Fail Faster at Habits
The Anti-Bucket List
Getting Started with the Discipline Habit
The Case for Caring About Your Work
Questions of Priority
The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More
Pare Down with the Declutter Habit
You’re Not Doing Life Wrong
Getting Lost in Just Doing
An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit
The Source of Contentment
Savor Discipline: Merge the Interests of Your Future & Present Selves
What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It”
The Things That Get in the Way of Doing
The Girl Who Saw Through the Illusions
A Gradual Approach to Healthy Eating
Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself
My Typical Day: How I Get People to Think I’m Productive
The Contentment Habit
The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books
In Praise of Limits
The Art of Being My Dad
5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015
Essential Zen Habits of 2014
Karate Chop
Practicing Slowness & Being Present
Overwhelmed by All the Changes You Want to Make
My 2014 Successes and Failures
Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life
When You’re Lonely
The Brain’s Fast Mode
5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays
The Zen Habits Holiday Gift Guide
The Four Hidden Habit Skills
The Power of Delay
Overwhelmed & Rushed? Do a Stress Assess
Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book
Please Support the Zen Habits Book
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When Resistance Smacks You in the Face
When Your Plate is Too Full
The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit
The Zen Habits Book is Almost Done
A Quick Guide to Gaining Confidence When You Socialize
The Empty Container
The Realization
A Guide to Changing Self-Destructive Behaviors
Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation
It’s Not Too Late to Change Bad Habits
The Smart Way to Stick to Habits
My Most Effective Learning Tools
What I Do When I Fail
How to Put Your Writing in Public
The Productive Sprint
The Biggest Reasons You Haven’t Changed Your Habits
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The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Brief Guide to Overcoming Instant Gratification
How to Get Motivated After a Vacation
7 Strategies for Facing Your Internet/TV Addiction
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7 Discipline-Mastering Practices
7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple
An Education in the Majestic Sierra Nevada
The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes
How to Believe in Yourself
Don’t Waste a Moment
How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach
How to Be Great
Making Yourself Work
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How to Master the Art of Living
The Delusional Fantasies We Live With Each Day
Living the Simple Life
How to Be Prepared for Anything
Turn Toward the Problem
The End of the Day Philosophy
The Painful Beauty of Impermanence
How to Change Other People
Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You
The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home
Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent
Looking for Love
How to Stop Your Habit Changes From Getting Derailed
Why We Have Regret
The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons
A Call for Revolt: Advertising is the Anti-Minimalism
The Frustratingly Slow Pace of Making Changes
My Struggles with Eating Boring Food
The No Procrastination Challenge
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A Father’s Manifesto: Raising Young Men Who Respect Women
Turn Inspiration Into Action
Coming Back From a Setback
The Gift
A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life
No Excuses: Minimalism with Kids
How to Make a Marriage Work
Love Notes
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The Letting Go Ebook, Free
The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit
How I Tackle a Big Writing Project
The Habit Action List
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The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most
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A Call for Compassion for the Defenseless
The Cure for Your Distraction Syndrome
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What if You Didn’t Have to Worry About Yourself?
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Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant
How I Cleaned House & Simplified My Work Life
The Busy Person’s Guide to Reducing Stress
My Month Without a Smartphone
What I’ve Learned as a Writer
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The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully
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The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers
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