What to Declutter before the New Year (For a Happier Holiday Season!)


Subscriptions

This time of year, I find myself instinctively flinching when I open my inbox or social media, because it’s already beginning: the deluge of pre-holidays sales and manufactured urgency.

It starts out as something I think I want: Half off! Free shipping! Buy now! But before I know it, I’m down a rabbit hole of buying things only because they’re on sale. Or worse, because companies have convinced me that I’m not good enough (or my holidays won’t be good enough) without them.

Save yourself the stress (and inbox clutter) by unsubscribing from any unwanted marketing emails or by unfollowing anyone on social media who makes you feel bad.

Donations

It’s no secret that there are a lot of people in need right now. And maybe you already have a holiday donation plan, which is great! Whether it’s donating to a food bank or giving your gently used things to Goodwill, do yourself (and others!) a favor by doing it early. The end of the year is a super-busy time for many non-profits, and one of the biggest challenges is getting in-kind donations (that is, material goods) turned around so they can make it to the people who need them most.

I like to get all my donating done early, giving folks the opportunity to sort it and get it to those in need in time. Whether it’s coats or canned goods—or even things you no longer use that could make someone else’s holiday that much more special—get those things out now, rather than waiting until after the new year or even spring cleaning.

Old Resolutions

Take this moment to reflect: Were there resolutions you made at the beginning of this year that never quite took hold? Did you start neglecting some of those almost immediately? (Don’t let this be a source of regret or guilt or shame. This is not a judgment, because we’ve all been there!)

Take some time to think about the new years resolutions, goals, or intentions that just didn’t pan out for you. And first, offer yourself some grace and forgiveness for not making them happen. Then spend some time thinking about why those particular resolutions didn’t work out. Were they too big? Too small? Or were they things that you thought you “should” want for yourself, but in reality weren’t actually important to you?

Then set some parameters for how you’ll make your resolutions moving forward. I like to pick an overarching theme for my year, and then to pick a few medium-sized, tangible goals that support experiencing more of that theme in my life.

Expectations

The holidays can bring with them a whole host of assumptions and expectations. When you combine tradition, family, money, and advertising, things can get very complicated, very quickly. And the media can make it feel like if we’re not going completely over-the-top at every holiday, that we’re letting our family down. Somehow it means something (not good) about us if we aren’t creating Pinterest-perfect and unforgettable holiday moments every single day.

As a chronic holiday underachiever, I am here to tell you that this is simply not true. And whether the pressure that this holiday can create is external (from family, advertising, society, etc.) or internal (just from you), you get to set your own expectations, traditions, and even boundaries around this time of year.

It might feel strange to let go of the baking marathon or the gift-giving extravaganza in favor of something simpler, but notice what traditions you really love and where you’re just going through the motions.

“Just in Case” Items

By far, the things we hold onto most are the things that may still have some life in them that, while we aren’t using right now, we keep. Just in case.

The harsh truth is that if you didn’t use it this year, it’s unlikely you will. (This doesn’t count for things like emergency items, which you hope you won’t have to use!) Take some time to comb through your pantry, your bookcase, your closet and consider whether this is something you want to bring with you into 2022.

Again, no judgment on you—and no judgment on your stuff!—but note that if “someday” or that “just in case” time wasn’t this year? It might be okay to let it go.


Christy Tending is an activist, educator, and writer. She teaches online courses about sustainable self-care to students all over the world, and hosts the podcast Tending Your Life. She lives on occupied Ohlone territory (Oakland, CA) with her family. You can learn more about her work at www.christytending.com.

Image courtesy of Karolina Grabowska.

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