Don’t think of cleaning up Christmas clutter as some big, whole-house project.

Think of it as first-grade math. Like one plus one equals two. And two plus two equals four.

But if your house is full after you get to two, you have to stop adding.

You have to start subtracting.

“Your home is a container for your stuff, and storage is a finite thing. For every new thing you receive, try to let one go,” said Dawna Hall, a professional organizer based in Portland who runs a company called Organize ME! (

“Sometimes the solution is not more shelves, baskets or bins, but less stuff. Just like we can’t stand buying the next size up if we gain weight — we work hard to maintain, so we fit into what we have.”


As you sit today among the mountains of shredded wrapping paper, new presents and decorations that will need to be put away, it might be a good time to start thinking about the general idea outlined by Hall.

To help you start cleaning up after Christmas, it might help to take advice on various aspects of de-cluttering — from cleaning and organizing to dumping and recycling — from people like Hall who organize homes for a living. So we’ve asked a few for suggestions and strategies.

Emily Eschner of Portland, whose company is The Sage Organizer (, has some strategies you can use right now, on Christmas Day:

Start off with two bags — one for recycling and one for trash. Eschner says to sort gift wrap as you go. Most paper can be recycled — except for foil — and all cardboard boxes can be too.

If you take presents out of boxes — your kids will want you to anyway — you can recycle them right way.

Reusing is key. Boxes, bows, padded envelopes, bubble wrap, tissue paper and even wrapping paper can all be reused.


While opening presents, keep track of what you’re getting and what you have already. If you get a new sweater, try to find another one you don’t wear much anymore, and donate it to a good cause.

Hall’s advice for Christmas Day includes being honest with yourself. If you got a gift you know you’ll never use, don’t even bother storing it. It’s the thought that counts, so if someone else can get more use than you can out of it, pass it along.

She also recommends that if you get new electronic gadgets, think about getting rid of the gadgets the new ones may be replacing. Remember to always recycle “ewaste.”

Some examples of businesses that will take “ewaste” are Goodwill — computers, monitors, keyboards, mice, etc. — as well as Best Buy and Staples. Both Staples and Best Buy usually take cellphones, cameras and some computer items.

Christmas toys present a clutter dilemma. If left alone, children rarely want to give up old toys even when they get new ones.

Hall suggests keeping only the favorite toys out, and putting others in storage bins in the basement or a closet.


But rotate those bins out into circulation every month or so. That way, the kids won’t feel like the toys are gone forever, and when a toy comes out of the bin, it may be new and exciting all over again.

Solange Kellerman, who operates in Portland as the Clutter Doc, also thinks honesty is the best policy for Christmas clutter. She says that often when people unwrap presents, they look at the container — a box, a tin, whatever — and say, “Oh, this will be perfect for something. I’ll save it.”

But before you know it, you have a cellar full of “perfect” containers storing nothing but dust. Especially with boxes, it’s best to recycle right way.

Also, Kellerman says if you get new clothes for Christmas, go through your closet and cull old clothes. If you don’t like the way it looks, donate it. If you haven’t worn it in a year, say goodbye.

And here’s an organizing tip from Hall that will help you be a little less overwhelmed at the start of next Christmas season: Take photos of all the holiday decorations you have up now — wreaths, lights, etc.

When you store your decorations, label the containers. Then take out the pictures next year, and you’ll know exactly what goes where. And you’ll know which bin everything is in.


Now, start de-cluttering.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:


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