Blissful or stressful? Americans are definitely divided over whether the holiday season is the former or the latter.
In a survey last year for Rasmussen Reports, 46 percent of American adults described the holiday season as joyous. Meanwhile, 42 percent found the holiday season nerve-wracking.
Practically speaking, the holiday season stretches from Halloween to New Year’s Day. If you count holiday shopping, the season lasts even longer. Depending on your point of view, that’s a whole lot of bliss or stress.
One of the keys to making the holiday season more blissful or less stressful is to get your house in order—literally. Here, professional organizers supply 13 tips on how to prepare your home and yourself for the holidays.
1. Create a Holiday To-Do List.
Hoarding specialist Leslie Josel, founder of organizing and relocation consulting firm Order Out of Chaos LLC in Larchmont, NY, said you should jot down all of your holiday tasks in a notebook, in a smartphone app, on a bulletin board or whatever place works best for you.
“Doing a ‘brain dump’ will take the remembering out of remembering,” Josel said, “and have you feeling in control in an instant.”
2. Set Deadlines.
Divide your to-do list into small tasks and assign deadlines to each one, Josel said. So, for example, if you want to send holiday cards, your list may look something like this: Schedule date to take family photo; create card on publishing site; update mailing list; stuff, stamp, address and mail envelopes.
3. Consider Putting Off Big Projects.
Professional organizer Denise Lee, owner of Clear Spaces LLC in Brentwood, MO, recommends being realistic about which home projects you should start around the holidays.
“It is pretty common for big projects to take two to three times longer than anticipated,” Lee said. “Rather than renovating the kitchen now, think about doing it after the new year. You’ll be less stressed, and it might just be cheaper to have it done during a slow time.”
4. Take Stock of What You’ve Got.
Before you buy anything new for your home, like a life-size Santa figure, figure out what you already own.
“You’d be surprised how many times people buy something that they already have. There is nothing worse than spending good money on something, only to get home and realize that you have almost the same item already,” said professional organizer Laurie Palau, founder of simply B organized in New Hope, PA.
5. Keep Tabs on Your Gifts.
“If you’ve been buying gifts all year because you can’t resist a sale or you see the perfect gift for someone months in advance, look at what you’ve been storing,” said professional organizer Barbara Reich, founder of Resourceful Consultants LLC in Manhattan, NY. “What’s the point of buying gifts if you forget to give them?”
6. Sort Through the Toys.
Get rid of toys and games that your kids have outgrown or never play with, said professional organizer Amber Kostelny, owner of Amber’s Organizing LLC in Chicago. That way, you can make room for the new toys and games that’ll be under the tree.
7. Do Some General De-Cluttering.
Before the holidays creep up on you, go through all of your belongings and pick some items to donate or sell. “Clearing space before the holidays makes organizing afterward easier because there will be some space to put new things,” said professional organizer Seana Turner of Darien, CT, creator of The Seana Method.
8. Leave Time for Everyday Activities.
It’s easy to get swept up by shopping and socializing and decorating and baking during the holidays. But routine activities like making dinner and doing laundry still must get done. Lee said you can simplify those activities by, for example, cooking easy-to-fix dinners or hiring a concierge service.
9. Hire a Housekeeper.
Don’t have time to vacuum and dust? Hire someone to do it. “You are going to be shopping, planning and cooking up a storm,” said professional organizer Bonnie Joy Dewkett, founder of The Joyful Organizer LLC in Danbury, CT. “Treat yourself and have someone clean the house for you.”
10. Ask for Assistance.
If your sister-in-law wants to bring a salad for Thanksgiving dinner, accept the offer, Josel said. If you need a hand in the kitchen while preparing Thanksgiving dinner, recruit guests for help with peeling potatoes or setting the table.
11. Sift Through Your Decorations.
As you unpack your decorations and realize you haven’t seen that Garfield ornament in three years, get rid of it. “Toss it, donate it or give it to someone who will appreciate it,” said professional organizer Hazel Thornton, chief executive organizer at Organized For Life in Albuquerque, NM.
12. Take Photos of Your Decoration Setups.
Where did you display the Nativity scene last year? Remove the guesswork by taking photographs of your decorations once they’re in place, then storing those pictures with the decorations when you pack them up, said professional organizer Betsy Miller, founder of 2B Organized in Springfield, MO.
13. Throw an “Un-Decorating Party.”
Invite friends and relatives to your house to help take down holiday decorations, said professional organizer Eileen Koff, founder of To The Next Level in Stony Brook, NY. “After everything is stored away and cleaned up, enjoy food, music and conversation with everyone who helped,” Koff said.