A Clutter-Free Christmas (Part 2)

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Merry Christmas! It’s Christmas Eve, and I hope that you have all of your gifts wrapped and are just about to “settle down for a long winter’s nap”. What a whirlwind this time of the year can be! Sometimes it seems like we anticipate this time of the year for so long, and then in the blink of an eye, it’s over. As you begin to put away your decorations and start to work on some New Year’s resolutions, let’s reflect just a bit on the Christmas gifts we receive.

In Part 1 of this post, I began by discussing our widespread problem with clutter. I think most of us would agree that the majority of Americans have way too much stuff. We are far better at accumulating items than we are at disposing of them. As a result, our houses are often filled to the brim with things, many of which we no longer need or want. At the end of the last post, I gave a few simple ideas for making sure that we don’t contribute to other people’s clutter when we choose Christmas gifts.

What about the recipients of gifts? When the holiday season approaches, we know that we are about to receive even more stuff. Rarely do we ever think ahead enough to clear out some space for these new items. If the gift we receive is something we really need or want, it’s usually fairly easy to figure out what to do with it. But what about when we receive something we don’t really need or want? How do we keep from adding to our piles of clutter? What should we do with it? Here are a few suggestions to help you out.

  1. Exchange it. If there are still tags on the item and you know where it was purchased, exchange it for something you do need or want. Most stores will take exchanges without a receipt. If you are lucky enough to have a receipt, you can use the money refunded to pick out something from anywhere you like. I really believe most gift givers would rather you have something you want than to hang on to something you don’t want purely out of guilt.
  2. Donate it. You’ve heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” It could be that the item you received but didn’t need would mean the world to someone else. For example, someone who already has a huge collection of craft supplies may not be overly excited about receiving yet another box of colored pencils, but the local elementary school students would love to have it.
  3. Keep it. If the item is truly one of a kind but you can’t imagine ever using it, you might want to save it for next year’s White Elephant gift exchange in which you are challenged to bring an unwanted item from home, the funnier the better. Or if you just aren’t sure whether you want it, you could try keeping it temporarily. Put a date on the box or on your calendar a few months ahead. If you haven’t figured out a use for it by then, get rid of it guilt-free by one of these other methods.
  4. Regift it. But be careful. If you are as forgetful as I am, you might want to attach a note to it with the date you received it, who it’s from, and in what setting it was given to you. You certainly don’t want to wrap it up for a work colleague who was at last year’s party, where this gift was given by the boss to every employee. Some may frown on the idea of regifting. My opinion is that if it’s done with the recipient’s taste and interests in mind, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Without a doubt, the only thing you should NOT do with an unwanted gift is to just add it to your accumulated clutter. This is the easiest thing to do and what most often happens. I truly believe in the mantra “Clutter is postponed decisions”. This phrase, trademarked over 30 years ago by legendary organizer Barbara Hemphill, has never rung more true to me since I began working as an organizer. Hundreds of postponed decisions over the years created our clutter problem. Don’t keep adding to it. In fact, why not make a decision to not only stop adding to the clutter, but also to take some time this winter to deal with the clutter? It can be a very eye-opening and rewarding experience.

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