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By Leslie Maher - Austin American-StatesmanNovember 23rd 2013
That 10-foot inflatable Santa Claus ho-ho-ho-ing in the grocery store a week before Halloween can tip off the holiday stress long before the real frenzy begins. Though retailers seem to push the start of the holiday season earlier every year, starting sooner rather than later on your own to-do list may keep you from feeling like Ebenezer Scrooge.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start now. Start right now by getting your house de-cluttered,” said Barry Izsak, a professional organizer who founded his local professional organzing company Arranging it All, 17 years ago. “Start doing the stuff you should have been doing all year long. Go through the piles, downsize your stuff, tidy up and get things ready. Now, before Thanksgiving, is the best time.”
Izsak and his team of organizing experts suggest making a timeline as soon as possible to stay on track and focused on getting a house ready for parties and out-of-town guests.
“Make a timeline of all the activities that will be happening over the holidays, all the way up to Christmas Day,” he said. “If you’re having guests, work backward from the date they’ll arrive. When will you send invitations? When will you buy the food? Do you need a new tablecloth? Probably not.”
To make room for this year’s new decorations and gifts, Izsak suggests culling old holiday decorations now, before the holidays really hit. “Look for the charity of your choice. As you pull out your decorations, get rid of the ones you don’t want or haven’t used in the last two holidays,” this Austin professional organizer said. “Get them donated because right now is when people are looking for them.”
Besides donating items to Goodwill and The Salvation Army, Izsak suggests taking things to Top Drawer, a resale store operated by Project Transitions, a local organization that provides hospice, housing and support for people with HIV and AIDS. His clients also donate items to The Settlement Home for Children, which provides housing and services for abused and neglected children.
“Some people have a problem donating things when they feel like they don’t really know where stuff is going,” he said. “It’s easier for some to identify a friend or neighbor in need to give things to. They can let things go when they know where it’s going. And, you can feel happier giving things to someone you know who may be in need.”
When deciding whether to keep or get rid of decorations or other items cluttering your home,
Izsak says, ask yourself these questions:
“If it’s not safe or in good condition, get rid of it,” Izsak said. “If it doesn’t bring you joy, find a new home for it or save it for next year’s gift exchange. Maybe it’s just time for a change.”
While the house is decorated for the holidays, Izsak suggests using the empty decoration containers to store everyday household items you won’t be needing. “This is a great use of space,” he said. “Use the containers to store the stuff that’s out in your house all year long. Removing the everyday décor keeps things from looking like a cluttered mess.”
Making and sticking to a holiday budget is another piece of advice Izsak gives his clients.
“Cut back on the number and cost of gifts. This really helps make the holidays less stressful,” he said. “Give the gift of experiences so it doesn’t add to other people’s clutter, such as a gift card to a spa or restaurant. People remember you when they’re using them.” Consumables such as fancy olive oils, sea salts or flavored vinegars also make great gifts that don’t stick around forever, he said.
To re-gift or not? Izsak says go for it because undesirable gifts just add to the clutter.
“Get rid of gifts you don’t want. My big thing is re-gift,” he said. “Just because someone gave you a gift, doesn’t mean it has to be kept forever. But put a yellow sticky note on it with the name of the person who gave it to you so you don’t accidentally give it back to that person.”
When the parties are over and it’s time to get back to reality, Izsak said find the best ways to store everything for next year. “Remember, like goes with like. Keep tree ornaments together, keep lights together,” he said. “If you have a nativity scene, box it up all together.”
When deciding where to store things, Izsak said it’s important to remember that some decorations and ornaments will deteriorate in Texas heat. Attics can reach temperatures of 130 degrees – a very unkind climate for delicate things. “Some houses have good space for storage under the stairs. It’s a little hard to get to things in there, but it’s a great place for Christmas ornaments and luggage, and things you don’t use very often,” he said.
Ideas from Arranging it All for easily storing holiday decorations and de-cluttering:
• Store the least used items the furthest away, such as in the attic or back of a closet.
• Wrap holiday lights and extension cords around wrapping paper and paper towels tubes.
• Get clear storage containers, or red and green for holiday, blue for Easter, brown for Thanksgiving, etc.
• Organize Christmas tree decorations in layers in boxes in the order you put them on the tree (top to bottom, or bottom to top), making next year’s decorating easier.
• Store small, fragile ornaments in empty egg cartons or Styrofoam take-out food containers.
• Store bows, ribbons and wrapping paper in a drawer, bin or decorative box.
• Rolls of wrapping paper can be stored upright in a clean trash can.
• Under-the-bed boxes can hold everything you need for gift wrapping in one centralized location.
• A decorated Christmas tree (with the most fragile ornaments removed) can be stored in an attic, covered with a large garbage bag.
• Choose one area that really bothers you and start organizing it first.
• Select a home for every item you want to store. If you can’t find a home for it, then consider letting go of it.
• Store the things you use the most often in the most easily accessible places.
• Put things back where they belong right away. Don’t just “put it here for now.”
• If you haven’t used something in years, you probably won’t, so get rid of it!
Find more information and tips online from Arranging it All at www.arrangingitall.com.
For information on donation locations, hours of operation, items in need:
The Settlement Home for Children, www.settlementhome.org
Project Transitions, www.projecttransitions.org
Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, www.goodwill.org
The Salvation Army of Austin, www.salvationarmytexas.org/austin
The Arranging it AllSM team is mentored and trained by a Certified Professional Organizer.
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