Top tips from local professional organizers for a stressless holiday season

Photo courtesy Alissa Young

Purge kids’ toys.

Now is the perfect time to get rid of toys your kids have outgrown or no longer love. Engage them in the process by picking out 5 to 10 toys they would like to donate to a child in need. Definitely a way to get on Santa’s nice list! 

—Sara West, South Coast Organizers


Declutter the pantry, fridge and freezer.

All of the holiday meals require lots of ingredients that take up space that you wouldn’t normally need to have. Throwing out old and expired food will free up the space that you need. 

—Alissa Young, Pristine Living


Take a quick 30 minutes 

to simplify your home before putting out holiday decorations. Grab an old box or basket and go around the house pulling items that you no longer use or need. A tidy and uncluttered home makes for a much more enjoyable holiday season. 

—Abbey Ashmore Bryant, AB Organizing


Photo by Sarah Ward/Courtesy Simple Living

Get a jump on décor shopping.

Due to this year’s shortages, it’s best to purchase what you will need now; don’t wait until December.

—Bri Boudreaux, Simple Living Concierge Services


Give experiences and services over “stuff.” 

This means something they can do, enjoy or eat/drink. These types of gifts eliminate clutter while still allowing for a thoughtful gesture. Some examples are spa gift cards, maid or professional organizing services, cooking classes, streaming services—the list is endless! 

—Sara West, South Coast Organizers


Make a list and check it twice all year. 

In the notes area on my phone, I keep a list of all people I buy for throughout the year. I have checklist bullets under each name. Whenever I’m with that person and they say I need, want, love this or that, I put it in my notes under their name. For kids, I even start this on Christmas day. If Santa brings my daughter something and one of her cousins loves it, I put it in my gift list. That way, I’m prepared for birthdays, fun surprises and Christmas the next year. Seems like a lot but it’s the most simple, least time-consuming thing I do. 

—Jill Boullion, Streamline


Have “the talk.” 

“The talk” I’m referring to is one with your relatives who tend to overgive during the holidays. Sometimes family members get carried away with the holiday spirit and we end up with lots of items that turn into clutter. Try limiting the number of gifts or suggest gifts that give an experience instead of another toy. 

—Sara West, South Coast Organizers


Tracy Furniss, Intentional Order. Photo courtesy Tracy Furniss

Get sneaky. 

A large storage container labeled “Halloween” makes a great place to hide gifts from young children. Once it is full, have a wrapping session. I like to put on a Hallmark movie and get it knocked out on a Saturday afternoon. 

—Tracy Furniss, Intentional Order


Tend to the tree. 

Once the holidays are over and it is time to take down the tree, do it in an organized manner so that next year it is easier to decorate. You can do this by storing your ornaments in categories. I recommend separating them by color first and then by size, to prevent an overlapping of too many of the same color in one spot on the tree, and to allow you to start with the largest ornaments first and then to fill in the bare spots on the tree with smaller ornaments. 

—Alissa Young, Pristine Living


Take inventory of party supplies. 

Before hosting your next holiday party, take a look at the supplies you already have. Are there utensils hidden somewhere that you can use? Party plates and napkins you bought last year but didn’t use? Can you break out that gorgeous platter you got for your wedding but never used? Take inventory of supplies you already have so that you don’t overbuy. Haven’t used something in years? Donate it! 

—Sara West, South Coast Organizers


Keep a holiday journal 

with ideas of how you want to decorate and gifts given so you don’t duplicate in the future. Take photos of your decorations and make an album in your phone for easy future reference. 

—Tracy Furniss, Intentional Order


Photo by Sarah Ward/Courtesy Simple Living

Be prepared for post-holiday take down. 

No one likes to think about the holidays coming to an end, but prepping ahead of time will make life much easier. Buy storage bins and a label maker now so when you take down holiday décor, you can label the bins for easy locating next year.

—Bri Boudreaux, Simple Living Concierge Services


Prep guest rooms. 

Start from the ceiling and work your way down to the floor. Dust the fan/light fixture, headboard, furniture and any other flat surface. Wash all of the bedding. Vacuum and mop floors. Then make sure that the bathroom has the essentials such as toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, lotion, etc. Anything that you have ever forgotten when you have traveled is definitely an item that you should add to the guest bathroom!

—Alissa Young, Pristine Living 

(Visit here for more guest room tips.)


Plan smart for parties. 

If you are hosting a gathering or dinner, start early. Brainstorm any tasks that can be completed a month in advance, a week in advance, three days in advance, and two days in advance. This will make the final hours of prep the least stressful for you as possible. 

—Alyssa Trosclair, Emend


Use an extension cord reel or cord organizer 

to keep lights from being a tangled mess. Label the location of the lights so you know where they go next year. 

—Martha-Carol Stewart, Chaos Organizing


Shine on. 

When un-decorating, always clean off every item before you wrap it and store it away for the next year. You don’t want to take away from the fun of decorating for the holidays by having to scrub old dust and dirt off of your decorations!

—Alissa Young, Pristine Living


Photo courtesy Emend

Store your decorations in zones. 

Halloween together, Christmas together, Easter together, etc. Within each holiday zone, create even more zones based on how you use the items. For instance, store outside Christmas decorations together, tree trimming boxes together, gift wrapping together. Decorating your home can take more than one session. By storing the boxes together by use, you can easily assess the items you need to tackle one area at a time. 

—Alyssa Trosclair, Emend


Invest in the right containers. 

Wait until they go on sale, but snatch them fast. Get orange containers for Halloween/fall, red and green for Christmas, a pastel color for Easter. Critters love cardboard boxes and they are a horrible choice for storing anywhere, but especially the attic. 

—Jill Boullion, Streamline


Think clearly. 

When it’s time to pack up your decorations after the holiday season, make sure to use clear, matching plastic bins so that you can easily see the contents inside. Use a different container for each category and label each container with what’s inside. 

—Abbey Ashmore Bryant, AB Organizing


Martha-Carol Stewart’s wreath-organizating system. Photo courtesy Martha-Carol Stewart

Label wreaths and garland with the location 

of where the item is used. I use garland in three different spots, and each garland is a different length. Knowing where the garland belongs saves time and frustration.

—Martha-Carol Stewart, Chaos Organizing


Think beyond the season. 

Decorate with items you can use for more than Christmas. For example, the stick fillers for trees are fun to put in a vase for birthday parties, showers and other holidays throughout the year. Choose gold, silver or white so it works with everything. Put these in a separate container labeled “Party.” 

—Jill Boullion, Streamline