Tell me if this sounds familiar, friends. Your family members make the lists of all the things they simply MUST have for Christmas. Each list alone might actually be pretty do-able, but as you shop for those must-have items you also pick up a few dozen “Oh, they’d like this” type of things.
Or, their list is all big-ticket items and they’ll only end up with one or two things under the tree. That doesn’t feel very Christmas-y, so you pick up a few more items – just some little things, really.
Or you get the under-the-tree stuff done and then are left with stockings to fill with…what? Hmm. Maybe I’ll just head to the dollar store and find a cute trinket or two or eight…
Any of that sound familiar?
I’ve had years when each of those have felt true. In my desire to make the holidays special I bought items for those I love to round out the Christmas gifts or to fill the stockings. Then, after Christmas I realized that what I had done was stuck a bow on clutter and brought it into my home. The aftermath of Christmas can be an avalanche of clutter on top of what you are already trying to purge. Enough of that nonsense. I’d like to avoid that this year. No clutter with bows, thank-you-very-much. Who’s with me?
Here’s my plan to prep my home for Christmas and to bring home less clutter, and more joy.
Mildred, a member of our Clutter Free Academy Facebook group, posted a picture of an empty laundry basket in front of a Christmas tree. Above it was their Elf on a Shelf and a sign that said, “You’ve got to Give to Get! Please fill up the basket with toys you no longer play with and I will take them to the North Pole for other kids.” What a brilliant idea!
There are so many things our children no longer love or play with. So many things our teens no longer use or wear. So many things that are taking up space in our closets and desks. What if we took an evening as a family to get the ball rolling to purge and donate before the gifts start flowing in? Let’s put our items in the laundry basket first and show the kids how it’s done!
Buy Stuff You’ll Use – Literally
When we polled the Clutter Free group for some clutter free gift ideas the number one answer to come in wasn’t the same thing, but the same kinds of things—consumables. These are things we can enjoy, while using up.
Bath fun: fizzies, crayons, bubbles, shower gel in favorite scents
Cologne or body spray (especially for those “fragrant” teens)
Make-up and nail polish
Favorite candy and treats that you don’t purchase often
Spice rubs and entertaining food sets
Special flavors of coffee, tea, or cocoa
What if we filled those stockings with things that wouldn’t be around in a month? Some of the sweetest gifts are those we use up and remember fondly rather than having to dust or trip over all the time. This mindset works well for those we are buying for outside our home as well. Give the blessing of clutter free gifts!
Let’s Do Something Fun
Experiences were the second most popular recommendation for clutter free gifts. When grandmas and grandpas ask for family gift ideas, we can share places we’d love to go and things we’d love to do instead of stuff we’d like to have. Here’s a few ideas:
Memberships for the zoo or a museum
Season passes to the amusement park, local pool, or state park
Trip to a local attraction, escape room, or some fun thing you’ve wanted to try
Gift card for dinner out together, coffee dates with mom or dad, or other special treats
Pampering gift cards for mani/pedis, massages
There are all kinds of things we could do together that would be more meaningful than another video game or a piece of clothing that will wear out. Asking for experiences can be a brilliant idea. One year a friend of mine asked her mom to give her family an evening at a local escape room from a Groupon deal. She got a money-saving deal and they had so much fun together. It was a clutter free win-win.
Think Outside Boxes
When it comes to Christmas giving, we love to give gifts that are meaningful. I think we need to reframe what a meaningful gift is – sometimes it doesn’t need to be something our loved one keeps forever. Simple and small can be special. Pampering is something we can enjoy to recharge and when the massage is over we aren’t burdened with clutter. Family experiences provide memories we can treasure in our hearts and require no dusting or storage.
This Christmas, just say no to more clutter and yes to gifts that we can consume to bring joy. Merry Christmas, indeed. (Kids, in case you are reading this – I will take a massage.)
Kathi Lipp is the author of 16 books including Overwhelmed, Clutter Free, The Get Yourself Organized Project, The Husband Project, and Happy Habits for Every Couple. She is the host of Clutter Free Academy the Podcast! with Kathi Lipp and speaks at conferences across the US. Kathi is also the creator of Communicator Academy and Leverage: The Speaker Conference, both designed to help writers and speakers become the communicator God has created them to be.
Picture this. You’ve just spent the last few hours tidying up the house while the kids are at school and you finally sit down to have a drink of water. You take a sip, let out a huge sigh of relief, and marvel at the wondrous sight of your squeaky-clean kitchen. “Nice work!” you say to yourself. Now, you just need to figure out a way to keep it like this even after your kids get home. Here are 5 tips to help you instill clutter free habits in your kids.
1. Bags up and lunchboxes open. I started this clutter free habit at the beginning of the school year and it’s been one of the easiest and best ways to save myself from tripping over my kids’ school stuff. I told my school-aged children that if they put their shoes away, hung their backpacks up, and opened their lunchboxes and placed them on the counter every day after school without me asking, they would each get fifty cents. It has worked like a charm. My kids had saved up enough money from doing this one thing every day that they were able to cash in their coins for dollar bills when we took a trip to the beach over spring break. Not only were they excited about being able to buy what they wanted but the daily “kerplunk” of the coins in their piggy banks was an auditory reminder of their hard work.
2. Placemats or bust. We do A LOT of crafts in my house. I’m not afraid of glitter and we use it often. We also have washable markers but get this, we have permanent Sharpie markers, too! I know. I’m a daring mom. But, I don’t worry about my counters anymore because my kids know – no placemat – no craft. I learned with my first child, mistakes happen and it’s a heck of a lot easier to clean off a placemat (or throw it away) than it is to cry over something that won’t come out of granite. My kids have made placemats somewhat of their calling card by picking out a new one each year that suits their individual personality.
3. Craft kit corner. My mom ordered the most adorable craft bags for my kids. They put all of the stuff they’re currently using in these bags and tote them around from place to place when they want to. It’s a cinch to clean up. When they’re done with whatever they’re using, they put everything back in their totes and hang them on their hooks. Each tote has their name on it so they know whose is who.
4. Operation pantry. Once upon a time, my pantry was unorganized; not with food but with my kids’ arts and crafts. I’d had enough one day and so I organized everything into bins with labels. My husband hung a couple of wire shelves and with a pep talk and a few incentives, I showed my kids exactly how I expected the pantry to look from that point on. It’s not perfect but it’s a lot better than how it used to be. My son has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) so we have a lot of rice bins, bean bins, and sensory-type toys. Things like this can easily spill or become cumbersome because of the touch-and-feel type items they are. I knew I wanted to keep these things because they were helpful to my son but having them strewn about and finding beans in nooks in crannies in our house was stressing me out. I now have a system. My son knows that when he gets his sand bin out, he has to do it at a specific table on top of a placemat. He also knows he has to get the broom out and sweep (as best he can) up anything that has fallen on the floor. I’m not looking for perfection out of the cleanup process but rather, responsibility from him on what it means to be able to play with those types of things.
5. Stairway catch-all. The stairwell seems to be the catch-all for anything and everything that has been worn, played with, used, or doesn’t have a home. My kids know, that if there is something left out (not on the stairs) it gets donated or thrown away. Their responsibility is to put everything they find of theirs in a basket that I have put on one of the steps for them. This basket is big and flexible and one they can easily carry up to their rooms to help them put their things away. This basket serves so many purposes; it collects everything and my kids don’t have to make multiple trips up and down the stairs because they’re able to carry it all in one basket. They know to return the basket to the steps once it’s been emptied.
Creating clutter-free habits in our kids doesn’t have to be scary. Think of the things that you’re already doing every day and find a way to make them work for you and your family. Sometimes it just takes a minute or two of thinking, “How can I make this easier while allowing them to take responsibility?” I bet you’ll find that your kids actually like the way they feel when they claim ownership over their belongings. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Parenting journalist and author, Meagan Ruffing, encourages and equips other moms who may be feeling overwhelmed and lonely in the midst of parenting in her debut book, “I See You: Helping Moms Go from Overwhelmed to In Control.” Meagan talks about the challenges of living with a child who has behavioral disorders and talks candidly about her struggles with mom guilt. To read more about Meagan’s story and real-life parenting tips, visit her at www.meaganruffing.com.
“Does all this stuff in my office match up with a small plate person?” I ask the Clutter Free Bible Study group members.
No way, they all agree.
All the binders and boxes and stacks match someone with a turkey platter.
A hard truth hits me, smack dab in the middle of Facebook LIVE:
Hanging onto so much stuff is a form of greed stemming from distrust.
Protecting my precious ideas is me saying, “God, I don’t trust you to remind me of what’s important.”
And ultimately, hoarding my ideas is my way of trying to stretch my plate.
I never wanted a small plate. I’ve always wanted a turkey platter. So I’ve surrounded myself with “evidence” that “proves” my preferred truth.
It’s my way of saying, “Look! I have all this! If I have so much, I must have a really big plate!”
Bottom line: I’m keeping an office full of stuff so that I can prove God wrong.
Learning to Trust God
After the Facebook LIVE I look around my office with new eyes.
I’ve worked so hard to protect all my precious ideas, but I have far too many to use.
I need to trust God to choose.
I need to believe that God will help me remember the ideas I need when the time comes. Or trust that He’ll give me something new.
Either way, it’s time to quit pretending I have a bigger plate than I do.
I need to accept the size of my plate and let most of this stuff go.
My stuff needs to match the truth about who God created me to be.
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes and speaks from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.”
Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life and the upcoming Overwhelmed.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (23), also opposite personalities.
Cheri blogs about perfectionism, people-pleasing, highly sensitive people, and hope at www.cherigregory.com.
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