7 Pre-Holiday Decluttering Tips

From storing lots of decorations—garlands, stockings, ornaments!—to stashing a big pile of presents, the holiday season calls for a lot of storage space. If your home already feels filled to capacity (and you haven't even started your shopping list yet), now's the time to declutter and pare down before the holidays start. To find your home's hidden storage space, you can toss seven things right now--and never miss them. Start with the items that demand the most real estate, then dive into the smaller ones. By the time you've made it through the list, you'll have plenty of room for this year's tree and the ever-growing present stash.

1. Old Decorations You Haven't Used in Two Years

Woman Decorating for the Holidays
HERO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

The most logical place to start decluttering is with your holiday decorations. You might already follow the clothing decluttering rule (if you haven't worn it in 12 months, toss it). Holiday decor has its own guideline: If you haven't used it the past two Christmases or Hanukkahs, let it go.

Once you've tossed the artificial tree that's seen better days and the broken ornaments you've been hanging onto for sentimental reasons, you'll have more space for new decorations. And if you're planning to buy brand-new decorations this year, consider donating your current, clean and undamaged ones to the Salvation Army or another organization.

 

2. The Holiday Card Collection

If you get sentimental around the holidays, you may have saved every single holiday card for the past couple decades. To make room for this year's influx of well-wishes and holiday tidings, go through your stash. Toss out any cards that are simply signed, and hang on to those with heartfelt, personal messages, family updates, or special photos.

Imagine how you will feel when you find these cards next year. Will you be excited to read through them again? Then keep them. Will you be annoyed with yourself for having kept them? Go ahead and toss them out now.

3. Old Bikes and Outgrown Toys

If you have kids, there's a good chance you're storing toys they outgrew years ago. Bikes in good condition can be donated (check with your local Goodwill to see if they accept bikes). Then, ask for your children's help sorting through their toys to decide what to keep and what to give away.

If your little one is having trouble letting go of toys they no longer play with, consider adopting the popular "one in, one out" policy. In order to get a new toy, your child must give one away. (Careful: This policy applies to the belongings of the grownups in the household, too!)

 

4. Gifts You've Never Used

Sometimes a gift can end up being a burden. When it's something you'll never use or that you simply don't like, you may feel guilty about giving it away, but hanging onto it requires using valuable storage space in your home. Before the holidays, take inventory of the unwanted gifts you have collected over the years. Are there any you may be able to part with? Seriously, no one needs three waffle irons.

 

5. Old Linens and Bath Towels

Take a peek at your linen closet. If you find dingy towels or old bed sheets you wouldn't use yourself—let alone present to overnight guests—it's time to toss them. If the linens are too tattered to be reused, bring them to a fabric recycling center so they won't end up in the landfill.

6. Duplicate (and Triplicate) Kitchen Tools

During the holidays, our kitchens are one of the first places that become cluttered. To make space before you start collecting new cookie cutters and splurging on festive hand towels, take a look at what you already own. If you have multiple spatulas or an entire assortment of cheese graters, pick out your favorites and let go of the duplicates. When the drawers are organized and you can find the tool you're looking for more easily, you'll end up feeling like you own more rather than less.

7. Winter Clothing You Aren't Excited to Wear

Even if you don't have time for a complete closet decluttering, try this speed version. Take a look at your winter clothing, and separate out anything that makes you think, "Ugh, I don't want to wear that." (OK, unless it's the big parka you save for snow days.) If it doesn't make you feel good now, you're probably not going to want to wear it one month from now.