Dear Jo the Clutterbuster:
The holidays are on the horizon.
Please share any Holiday Hints that will keep me from imploding.
There is a trend in the retail industry to decorate for holidays earlier and earlier. They now hang skeletons and pumpkins on the branches of Christmas trees. Magazine covers tell us we can create designer decorations. Television specials make us long for a Norman Rockwell scene. However, it is not the store owners, the magazine editors or the television producers who make us feel inadequate. The real culprit is our Quest for Perfection.
During the holidays, we are haunted by our imperfections. Finding the “perfect gift” may redeem us for the times we forgot a birthday. Sending holiday greetings make up for years of unsent cards. Innovative decorating can eradicate years of living in clutter.
Guilt is Perfection’s companion. When you begin to de-clutter your office, your closets, your basement, you may find un-sent holiday cards, un-answered holiday letters, un-opened gifts, un-used gift cards, and un-returned presents. This guilt may prevent you from enjoying the holidays.
Before the Holiday Hoopla
To de-clutter your psyche of the Quest for Perfection and the Burden of Guilt, you will need to start before the holiday season arrives.
If it is better to give than to receive, encourage everyone to consider “A Giving Week.” Arrange for a week in which everyone in the family (near and far) sorts through clothing, toys, tools and other possessions. Set aside those items they no longer love, need, play with, use, etc. Choose one category a day to reduce the chaos.
Check that everything is in good working order, clean and useful. Locate a shelter, an organization or non-profit that may need the items. You can also hold a yard sale and donate the earnings to a non-profit or cause or start a scholarship in your family’s name. Encourage children to purchase one new item for Toys for Tots.
Perfection is the downfall of those who struggle with clutter. Creating “the perfect day” in which the house is organized, the meal is scrumptious and everyone is happy is a validation or our worth - of being accepted - despite our disorganization. Like the ghosts of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, we are haunted by the “Goblins of Perfection:”
- Perfect Gifts
- Perfect Home
- Perfect Day
If you did not have the “No gifts” discussion with your family and friends during the summer, you still have an opportunity to provide them with some options to singing fish and argyle socks. If you are really nervous about raising the topic, send an email and refer them to this blog for backup support.
When families are introduced to the concept of “no gifts,” they need some suggestions for alternative giving. Be prepared to offer ideas for gifts that are useful and meaningful, but won’t need batteries or create more clutter. Ask everyone - friends, family, anyone who is a part of your life - for their ideas and add them to this list:
- Provide gift certificates to the movies, favorite restaurants, spas, theatres, concerts
- Consolidate trip miles for vacations
- Donate to charities in the name of someone you love
- Adopt a family and provide gifts they request
- Spend “Time” – together, apart
- Commit to time as a volunteer
- Provide childcare
- Send Telephone cards to soldiers overseas
- Learn a new skill – skating, singing, painting
- Organize photo albums/disks with family pix
- Make a book of family stories
- Make decorations together
- Letters to Veteran’s Hospital patients
- Pay the registration fees for a class, workshop
- Award Chores chits
- Plan a “good deed” vacation – National Parks, Trail clean ups
- Teach someone to cook a favorite meal, recipe
- Create a family cookbook
- Make Cookies
If you must provide a gift, wrap it in useable wrappings: bandanas, fabric, handmade paper, newsprint, used boxes and bows. Cut up old holiday cards to use as gift cards.
It is NOT the object that contains your feelings, memories or caring for the recipient, it is your heart.