The White Glove Newsletter

Conquer Post-Holiday Clutter
By Aby Garvey

I have to admit something. Christmas day at around 11:30 AM I start to feel like the scroogiest of scrooges alive. I look around my house in dismay—clutter, clutter everywhere! Each year it’s the same, I get a sinking feeling inside as I realize that I am the one who gets to figure out where all this new stuff will go. 

So, as you look around at your post holiday chaos, realize you’re in good company. (I’m right there with you looking at my own post holiday mess.) Then, take a deep breath and follow the simple steps below, to free your home from post-holiday clutter. 

1. Start with your own stuff. Have you ever noticed that everyone else’s clutter is way more annoying than your own? I’ve noticed that, too. ;) Despite this reality, it’s far more effective when getting organized to start with your own stuff. Here’s why. First, you have 100% control over your own things. There’s no negotiating with anyone about what to keep, where to put it or how to store it. This makes organizing your own stuff a notch easier. But even more important, by getting your own stuff tucked away and neat, you’ll create a little haven of calm among all the rest of the post holiday clutter. And that will serve you well in the days ahead as you get everyone else’s stuff put away.

2. Do a reality check. The temptation to keep gifts is strong. It’s a gift after all. So even if you know in your heart of hearts you’ll never wear the holiday Teddy Bear sweater from Aunt Ruth, you feel a sense of obligation to hold onto the sweater. “It’s from Aunt Ruth,” you lament, “I love Aunt Ruth.” 

Remember this: you can be grateful for a gift (and love the person who gave it to you) without keeping the gift forever. Really. I know it feels awkward and icky, but holding onto an item you really don’t love, well, it just keeps the awkwardness and icky-ness going on for months or years to come. Write Aunt Ruth a thank you note to tell her how much you appreciate her thinking of you. Then, put those gift receipts to good use. Return things that just don’t work for you and exchange them for something you love and will put to good use. Or, if there isn’t a gift receipt, donate your items to charity or friend in need. This way, you pass along your gifts to someone who will appreciate them and use them. 

Remember this: unloved and unused gifts equal clutter – both physically and in your mind. Free yourself from this burden right away. 

3. Do some easy math. OK, ready for the next reality check? Here it comes. When you started the holiday season, did you have any empty drawers, shelves or closets just sitting there waiting for new things to arrive? If your answer is no, it’s time for some easy math. For each new item you added this holiday season, subtract an old item of the same kind. For example, for each new pair of socks, get rid of an old pair. For each shirt added, subtract out an old one from your shirt drawer. And so on. Collect all your “subtractions” into a box and make a trip to your local charity drop-off location. This “easy math” strategy works for toys, games, clothes, outerwear, and any other item that you received which replaces something you already own. 

4. Finding space for the big stuff! The big stuff is the hard stuff. To make space for big stuff you need to get rid of, move or store something else equally big, or get rid of, move or store a whole bunch of little stuff to create space for the big item. Take, for example, the five foot tall giraffe my daughter received last year for her birthday (which, not so conveniently from a “stuff” perspective, falls just two weeks before Christmas.) To make room for our new giraffe friend required moving lots and lots of little things out of her room and into the play area in our basement: the baby-doll swing, crib, and highchair to be specific. Making room in the play area for the baby-doll swing, crib and highchair involved getting rid of some toys she no longer played with. 

Now is a great time to go through toys and games and do a reality check: with all the new stuff that Santa brought in his bag, what can we pass along to brighten someone else’s day? 

5. Slowly but surely. The temptation (or burning desire in my case) to get everything tucked away and in its home right away can be great. Just remember this. It took a lot of time to purchase all of the new items that were under the tree. It will take time to get everything put away. Give yourself permission to take it slow. Keep breathing, and slowly but surely you’ll have that calm and organized haven you had back in November. 

Good luck! And Happy New Year to you. 

Storage tip for Holiday lights.

Storage tip for Holiday Lights. A simple and inexpensive way to store holiday lights is to use a piece of cardboard or a flattened shirt box. Simply wrap the string of lights around the box and secure by connecting the electrical outlets into each other. Place the lights inside of a plastic storage tub or inside the box with the rest of your holiday lights. Come next holiday season, you’ll have tangle free lights, with easy access to check for bad bulbs!

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BACK 2 SCHOOL by Aby Garvey

I know, I know, it’s only July. It’s far too early to begin thinking about back to school. Right? Well, not exactly. Around here school starts in just four short weeks! Even if the school year starts later where you live, now is a great time to lay the foundation for an organized school year (or fall for those of you without school-aged kids.) Here are five ideas to whet your organizing appetite!

Back to School Tips from

1. Clean out the mudroom or coat closet.

Declutter shoes, coats and outerwear that are worn out or no longer fit. While you’re at it, say goodbye to gloves and mittens without mates. Make a quick list of items you need for the upcoming year ahead so you can take advantage of pre-season sales. (Aren’t you smart for organizing in July!)

organizing your kids rooms

2. Declutter and organize the kids’ rooms.

If you have kids home for the summer, now is a great time to declutter and organize together. Go through clothing, books, toys, stuffed animals and let go of anything your child no longer needs. As before, make a list of needed items for back-to-school shopping.

3. Set up a paper incubator.

When my kids were younger, one of the things I most dreaded about the school year was the onslaught of paper! The trickiest items to deal with were completed art projects and schoolwork. It didn’t feel right to say “nice job” and then swiftly toss the item into the recycle bin. My solution was to give each child a bin that served as their paper incubator. We collected papers throughout the school year, and then, made choices about which items to keep permanently. (These choices are much easier to make after time passes.)

4. Set up a school paper / artwork archive.

My permanent storage system for school papers and artwork is a 3-ring binder. (Here’s how to create an artwork binder.) You could use a file folder, pizza box or plastic storage bin instead of a binder, if you prefer. The important thing is to set up a spot for these long term “keepers” now. It will save you time and avoid paper clutter when the school year begins.

5. Set up a homework area.

Homework…it’s on the horizon! Decide now where your child will do homework this school year. For elementary aged kids, the kitchen table may be the ideal spot. You’ll be close at hand to answer questions and help your child create good homework habits. Older children may be ready to set up a homework area in their bedroom or another quiet spot in the home, with a little less action. Have a quick chat with your child about what he or she feels will work best, then use this checklist to equip the homework zone with all the essentials. (Check out this blog post for more info about how to set up a homework station.)

Home Organizing Idea: Set up a craft and homework supply cabinet

All of these projects can be done a little bit at a time, with the help of your kids and they’ll help get the school year off to an organized start!

What projects do you have on your to-do list before school begins? Thanks for sharing your back-to-school tips and ideas in the comments! 

Happy organizing!