Decluttering My Way Through The Stressors of December

by Katy on December 17, 2014 · 22 comments

Cluttery papers

December is a difficult month. We all feel that we’re supposed to be joyfully baking Christmas theme cookies, decorating our houses, (inside and out!) drinking with buddies in front of a roaring fire and happily picking out gifts for our families, friends and every neighbor within a four block radius.

Madison Avenue and popular culture set us up for disappointment and frustration. Because seriously, who lives like this without losing their mind?!

The entire month of December seems to exacerbate our feelings of loneliness, poverty and feelings of being out of control.

So what I do is take control. I decide how I’m addressing holiday gift giving, and I choose how I spend my time. I plan out some activities that we can look forward to, and I make sure that I’m not spending an entire month stressing over the single day of December 25th. And mostly importantly, I make sure I’m doing the things that give me pleasure and help me avoid the feeling that my life is spiraling out of control.

Like decluttering.

December 31st is a great deadline for decluttering, because all charitable donations need to be registered by then in order to be included in the current year’s taxes. Plus, the anticipation of gift receiving is always a good opportunity to create some empty space.

So today I will go though a file of papers that I know is filled with pointless documents and I’ll drop a couple of grocery bags at Goodwill. And maybe, just maybe I’ll bake up a batch of Christmas cookies.

One single day is not worth an entire month of stress.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

NMPatricia December 17, 2014 at 1:49 pm

You are absolutely right. And I appreciate the post to help me remember. And you know, I don’t have to de-clutter the entire house before December 31 either. Someone posted on the FB group about doing one room a month and getting it right – both NCA and declutter. Sounds good to me.


debra December 17, 2014 at 2:18 pm

A good reminder of how the holidays have been highjacked by commercialism. I know i always feel bad because i feel i don’t do enough. I give myself permission to only do a few things.


Vickie December 17, 2014 at 2:29 pm

I totally agree!!!!
We are going to my daughter’s house for Christmas this year. We have 3 grandchildren and she wants the luxury of not having to travel, pack and unpack the car by coming to our house.
I haven’t even wanted to decorate for Christmas this year. She’s our only child, we live on a large acreage out in the country and rarely have company. I see no reason to decorate, since we will be having Christmas elsewhere.
I also realized I hadn’t planned anything for our Team at work and completely forgot to put up the foot tall Christmas tree I have for our office.
Then I thought “why bother?” – our Campus is closed from December 24th through January 4th for Winter break. I took an extra two days of vacation next week, so this Friday is my last day at work, along with most of my Team members. Since no one has mentioned it, I am certainly not going to bring it up!!
I don’t feel like spending any more time and money on food and I certainly don’t feel like decorating and partying. I’m done with my Christmas gift list for our daughter and grandkids. Our Department Holiday party was last week, so, I’m going to call it good and have fun not thinking about work and have a great 2 week Winter Break!!


Lesley December 17, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Thank you, Katy. Thank you thank you thank you. And AMEN!


Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom December 17, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I’ve been decluttering too. It’s a good time when winter stuff compes out, summer stuff should be long gone, and Christmas decorations you don’t like could be enjoyed by someone else right away. Gave away a couple bags yesterday to another mom from Facebook, I was so glad to see how happy she was to get them!


Katie Wood December 17, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Two of my kids are down with the flu. This sucks (especially because one is only 15 months), but the upside is that I have had to cancel all sorts of engagements this week and just hang out at home with the ones who matter. It’s been oddly wonderful, just cuddling and staying in bed. I wish it didn’t take such illness to make me take a week off.


Lesley December 17, 2014 at 7:48 pm

That’s another great reminder. It was just yesterday that my 17 and 18-year-olds were babies and toddlers. I’ve become that woman who says that … but I swear, the time just disappears. You’re doing the right thing!


Kelly in MA December 18, 2014 at 8:12 am


A couple of weeks ago I took a half day from work and spent the day with my daughter. Took her to see Santa, out for lunch and we did most of her Christmas “shopping.” Santa only fills the stockings of kids so she like to play Santa for the adults and put a couple of things into our stockings.

It was a fantastic day! The next day one of my co-workers asked why I wasted some of my vacation time. My response was civil and polite but it put no doubt in their mind that this is exactly the kind of thing I think vacation days are for. Some of us don’t take big vacations, instead I find more value in stolen afternoons and long weekends. Sure, sometimes I take time off for illness (mine or my daughters) but I cherish the times I can surprise her with a lunch date (she is still in daycare, not quite in Kindergarten yet) or we can take a long weekend and go do something fun.


Kathleen December 18, 2014 at 3:33 am

This is why church is especially important to me during Advent (the four Sundays before Christmas). I find meaning in putting up a tree and lights and buying Christmas presents for loved ones, and church helps me to not feel pressured to go beyond what I do find meaningful and enjoyable.


marieann December 18, 2014 at 4:25 am

I have found the biggest help to not get caught up in the madness that is now December is to stop watching television. My husband records the few shows I do watch so I can view them without commercials.I also don’t read magazines anymore.
I still put up the lights and decorations but I do themes for most of the holidays anyway….all with handmade items, since I love to sew,knit etc. I have to have some reason to keep at it 🙂


K D December 18, 2014 at 4:38 am

I too march to the beat of a different drummer. I refuse to get stressed or run around like a chicken with my head cut off just because the rest of the country does. If cards are sent out late (or not at all) the world will go on. If I don’t bake any cookies the world will go on. In a couple of weeks the heavy traffic will die down.

Now that our December child is old enough to not want a birthday party, this month is easier than it use to be (as she almost always wanted a home party).


Kelly in MA December 19, 2014 at 7:29 am

I don’t do Christmas cards anymore either, not enough hours in my day. After the holiday I take time to write a nice letter, Bring my DD to get her Birthday picture done and send family and friends a New Years card. Much less stress and I also feel that they stand out a bit more. Most people I know get a ton of Christmas cards, they stop ‘seeing’ them after a bit. This way I feel like they get more attention and are better worth my time and money to get them out.


Diane December 18, 2014 at 5:42 am

Thank you! I found myself feeling really sad last night with memories of years gone by. Our weather is frightful, the landscape outside my door is bleak and stark and I am not a good indoors person. All of it contributes to The Blues.

I look forward to January and the start of a new year.


Cristie Glasheen December 18, 2014 at 7:37 am

I really struggle with the social obligations that seem to start the week before Thanksgivings and don’t let up until after New Years. I turned down 3 Thanksgiving invitations, and attended two Thanksgiving events and a Birthday dinner in the end of Nov. I’ve already attended one Christmas party and hosted our annual Holiday party (46 people! I host each year for the group because no one else can handle that size crowd) and have 2 more birthdays and another Festivus party to go to. All before the 25th.

People look at me and tell me, with no little sarcasm, that it’s a terrible problem to have but they don’t get that I’m an introvert and it exhausts me. I’d love to say no to more events, but I haven’t figured out how to do it without disappointing people.


Cristie Glasheen December 18, 2014 at 7:39 am

Oh and did I mention I work full time and am building a part time Life Coaching Business!


cathy December 18, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Not to be rude, but if no one else is willing to host the huge event, then maybe it’s not as important to them as you think (or have been led to believe). Perhaps next year you can give yourself the present of not hosting. If it were me, I’d have a hard time not being angry that others were more concerned about the party going on than of taking the reins and doing it themselves–especially if I were introverted and hosting a party that was so exhausting. You should be able to enjoy your holiday season!


Cristie Glasheen December 19, 2014 at 8:30 am

It’s not that they aren’t willing, they literally don’t have the space (apartments and small townhouses). Several people always stay to help clean up and at this point I’ve pretty much gotten it down to a science for set up. It’s all the other parties that tend to get me. For example, a good friend sent out an invitation saying that she was doing just a small dinner for her birthday this year and wanted to invite the people that mean the most to her (today is her birthday). I was on the list (and quite flattered), but now I feel obligated to go because I know it’s important to her.


JennC December 18, 2014 at 8:09 am

So true! We work to keep focused on what matters most to us and not worry about what everyone else thinks. I have found that our general lifestyle the rest of the year makes it easy to wow the kids during the holidays. If you hardly ever get candy or hot cocoa or new stuff, then even a couple of skittles every night of Advent is something to look forward to.

A few years back we started celebrating the 12 days of Christmas – as in, at our house Christmas starts on December 25 and ends January 5. This is surprisingly less stressful to me because I have extra days to finish up gifts for kids (we do a gifts or something special every day) and to work in whatever celebratory stuff we want. It also helps me feel like all the decorating and everything is more “worth it” since we aren’t just packing it all back up again right away.


Betsey December 18, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Excellent essay and posts. Merry Less-Stress Christmas.


JD December 18, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Yes, yes, and yes. I’ve eliminated the frantic round of baking and candy making to making one signature Christmas cake, scaled back on the holiday dinner (although I still use my china and silver — love that pretty stuff!), and have cut my gift list — at one time I had almost 40 “obligatory” gifts besides my own kids and spouse. I love to decorate, but I’m learning to keep it simple and use stuff from the yard or old standbys that I will use every year, such as the 35 year old little crèche I bought at Sears as a broke newlywed. A few years ago I took everything I had NOT used in recent years to decorate the tree and the house, and offered all of it to my grown kids, then donated what they didn’t want. I’m just as pleased to see them in use at my kids’ homes as if I still owned them. I cut my decoration boxes from five to three, and this year, I think I’ll cut it one more. Parties aren’t an issue. My work place doesn’t do them and we aren’t in a social group that does them. Our families don’t do them, either. Our events are Lessons and Carols at church and then, our favorite, the late Christmas Eve service at church. I’m finding the simpler we make the holiday, the more we enjoy it. Thanks for a great reminder, Katy.


Megg December 18, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Maybe I’m unusual here, but I just don’t let the stressors of December get to me. I know it’s stressful for some people, but I don’t approach the month thinking about all the things I have to do, I approach it with the excitement and joy that December brings! I try to remember the reason for the advent season, or at least why we celebrate it. There’s so much fun stuff to do this month! Looking at lights, and going to parties, I love it all.
I do my shopping and crafting throughout the year so I don’t feel stressed and pushed to spend a ton of money I don’t have during the month of December. I do get a little sad when we don’t see family, but I try to look on the bright side. This year we are going to enjoy our Christmas time off as just the two of us, and I like it that way.
Now January…that’s a depressing month…


Barbara H. December 21, 2014 at 4:58 am

We moved a year ago, and left behind most of our old social and church obligations. It has been so refreshing to not have to attend all the events that had become almost rote and habit (“we have to support the organizers of the event…they’ll be disappointed if we don’t come…”). I gave all my old memory Christmas ornaments to my adult children and put up a tiny tree with my favorites. I also did new things for decorating that were creative and fun. We now draw names in the family, and the move eliminated all the neighbor gifts.

In the decluttering area, I went into my stash of “to be sold on Ebay” items, and actually LISTED THEM on Ebay. To my delight, almost all have sold. I am trying to reorganize storage space to make room for some inherited stuff from my mother’s home that will be coming soon. I want to know exactly where everything is going when it arrives.

Best holiday preparation season ever!


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