I love celebrating Christmas. We listen to the whole “Messiah” – from “Comfort Ye My People” to “Worthy Is The Lamb” – as we decorate our tree, hang the stockings, the garland, the figurines; the house is filled with representations of Jesus’ birth, greenery and sparkle.

And as much as I love Christmas, I love the new year. A few days after Christmas, it all comes down. There is no trace of baby Jesus to be seen. The greenery is gone, every pine needle and glitter square is vacuumed away and what is left seems sparse compared to what it previously was. It is so … refreshing! Of course, that’s only the beginning. Once the decorations are removed, I can see that there are other things that can be removed to make the space cleaner and more streamlined. The decluttering begins again.

Decluttering. It’s a word that can ignite fear in many, causing them to place another task, any other task in front of what is the real issue, which is all the extra. The extra we accumulate prevents us from enjoying what we love. Imagine wanting to show your children how to make bread. You start getting out the items – ingredients, mixing bowls, measuring cups – and find that it doesn’t fit on the counter because your child’s homework from this past semester is blocking the way as well as the items you try to keep the dog from chewing. So before you can really start baking, you must clear the counters so there is room to work. But by the time the counters are cleared, you look at your watch and it’s time to start dinner! There’s no time to make bread. The activity you wanted to share with your family couldn’t happen because extra got in the way – in addition to some poor time management.

The thing is, decluttering has more to do with what we believe than removing unnecessary items from a cluttered area. We hang on to things because we believe they tie us to a memory or a meaningful person. We tell ourselves we’re being practical by saving an item we haven’t touched in years because we may use it in the future. Then we end up holding onto items out of fear – fear of loss, fear we won’t have enough, fear that God can’t possibly deliver on His promise to care for us. We cannot fathom the mental energy it requires to keep those items in the house or the relief we will feel when they are removed. Convincing people of this can be difficult. In fact it often is a slow process, but in the end it makes people feel more capable of caring for others when their own areas are well ordered.

But how does one start this daunting process of decluttering? One easy way is to call an organizing company. These companies can meet with you to hear what you need and then their team will come in and organize your space. We can also invite people we know into our messy lives. Ask a friend if they would be willing to trade cleaning with you. Every week you clean together, but you switch houses so that each of you gets an area completed twice a month. This friend will be able to see things in your house with fresh eyes and catch things that you always pass over, and you will be able to do the same at your friend’s house. I know it can be intimidating to invite people to see where you hide your dirty laundry – it involves taking down some barriers of perfection, pride and an image of having it all together – but I can tell you from experience that the acceptance one receives from being vulnerable and still loved is an amazing gift. It’s the gift of true friendship.

So on to the actual decluttering. It’s a good idea to start with non-emotional items. Don’t start with letters, pictures or memorabilia. You can start small with a pantry, a guest bath or even one drawer. Ask yourself some questions to clarify the importance of the items:

How many of these items do I have? Is that necessary? Can I give some of these away?

Does this item make me happy when I look at it?

How often do I use this item? If it’s only a few times a year, it may be something you can do without.

If you have trouble parting with something you know needs to go, take a picture of the item before offering it to a family member or donating it. You may never look at that photo again, but you will know that you have it and that will calm the anxiety.

Schedule time on your calendar to accomplish the areas in which you need to work as you would a lunch date. When it is time for your appointment, do what you planned – declutter that drawer, organize that cabinet. Start by making a list of areas in your public spaces, private spaces and children’s spaces. Declutter the areas in that order. Work with your children to guide them to organization by asking questions. Do you like to play with this anymore? Who do you think we can give this to so they can enjoy it? Donate items in good condition with all pieces. Throw away the others. As you clear out what you don’t need and create an area that has order and beauty, you will feel the accomplishment that comes with anything done well.

Jessika Schroeder with The Organized Nest

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