You might already have a plan for your holiday cookie baking or new garland doorway display. But some of the most satisfying preparations for the holidays involve more mundane pursuits: making order in a small corner of your home, stocking what you'll need for a seasonal chore or decluttering unneeded or worn-out items.
Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin are experts in this kind of orderly living. They run the Home Edit, a home organization company based in Nashville that takes a stylized approach to editing and arranging, and they're also home organizing consultants for Target. They know how to make ordinary stuff look good: They have clients throughout the country (including Gwyneth Paltrow and Rachel Zoe) and more than 330,000 followers on Instagram .
Says Shearer, "The holidays are supposed to be a joyous time. To make that happen, the most wonderful thing to do is to cleanse your house of things you don't like or don't need."
The fast-paced weeks ahead will be more pleasant if you strategize ways to accomplish your holiday to-do list in calm, not chaos.
"We all know what's coming is not like a random birthday party; it's like a lot of birthday parties all at once," Teplin says. "Set yourself up for success this year."
Purge as many items as you can. Now is the time to take toys your kids don't use to a donation center or donate your outgrown coats to a shelter. You'll be making way for new toys and new clothes. Get nonprofit groups that have donation trucks to pick up at your house and finally get rid of bulky unused items such as doll houses. For gently worn clothes and smaller items, they suggest packing them into shopping bags or boxes and immediately getting them out of your house by placing them in your car. You'll be sure to drop them off sooner rather than later, Teplin says.
Set up a gift-wrapping station. Even if it's a corner of a desk, the back of a closet or a mere plastic tub, designate a place for all things gift wrap. "It doesn't have to be a Beverly Hills mansion-style wrapping room," Shearer says. "Just keep all the stuff together and you can wrap on the floor or kitchen table." In addition to rolls of paper and gift bags and tags, make sure you have several pairs of scissors and at least two rolls of tape on hand. They suggest choosing a festive paper, maybe in gold or silver, that would be appropriate for either Christmas or Hanukkah, plus other occasions.
Revisit your coat closet. The front-hall closet is often the repository of sports equipment, boots and vacuums. With company on its way, you'll need that space for puffy coats and hooded parkas. Transition into the winter season by emptying it and putting away sunscreen and baseball hats. Put a bin or tray for boots in the bottom. Get extra hangers for visiting coats. "Buy heavy-weight hangers, not something flimsy," Shearer says. "For coats, you really need a wooden hanger."
Dedicate an area to holiday correspondence. If exchanging cards is one of your favorite parts of the holiday season, make the process easier. You can order your cards from an online stationer, adding in your own photos. (Shearer and Teplin use Minted.)
Technology has changed how many of us store and update addresses, from keeping contacts on a cellphone to maintaining an online database. If you're diligent, you update your addresses all year. But for those who can't keep up, Shearer suggests using a custom card service that will email every person in your database before sending out your cards to make sure their address is correct.
If you write your own cards, gather them and your stamps in one place. Create a basket to collect cards you receive. You can display cards on a mantel or bulletin board, or get creative: Hang a wire and pin cards on it with clothespins.
Edit holiday decorations and entertaining supplies as you put them out. The Home Edit team is convinced that you'll be more diligent about evaluating your holiday decorations when you are decking your halls. They suggest decorating your tree with a shopping bag nearby that you'll fill with the Santas that are looking a bit tired and the reindeer that have lost their sparkle.
"If you wait, in the rush to clean up the holiday at the end of the year, you'll probably just shove stuff in boxes and bags just to get it packed up for the season," Shearer says.
Teplin advises clients to "take out holiday serving pieces and tableware, wash them and have them ready to use." If you find a chipped dinner plate or two, she says, now's the time to order more.
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