7 pre-Christmas decluttering rules I set myself – to keep holiday hosting tidy

This December decluttering routine thoroughly prepares my home for an influx of gifts, guests, and goodies

Green living room, open fire, lilac sofa, glass topped coffee table, velvet armchairs, rug, Christmas tree, presents
(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

Christmas, as wonderful as it is, can also be one of the most overwhelming holidays when it comes to clutter. Or, at least I think so. 

That is why I complete a big pre-Christmas decluttering session at the beginning of December each year. 

A pre-Christmas clear-out harnesses many of the same decluttering techniques you might use throughout the year, only at this time of year to make space for new, festive treats. 

With Christmas just weeks away, these are my self-imposed rules to get my house ready for an influx of guests, gifts, and goodies.

7 pre-Christmas decluttering rules

My annual pre-Christmas schedule works to keep my house in shape over the holidays.

1. Clear out the pantry 

Blue kitchen pantry, wooden shelves

(Image credit: Roundhouse kitchen)

First weekend of December 'til Christmas grocery day

My favorite bit about Christmas is often the food I get to enjoy – especially the homemade stuff. Because I, like many people, usually go a little over the top when it comes to my Christmas grocery list, I always start my pre-Christmas declutter by clearing out my pantry and taking inventory of what I already have. 

I am pretty good at sticking with my pantry organization rules throughout the year. However, Christmas usually introduces foods and condiments that are a little different from my usual larder staples. I make sure to remove anything that has expired as well as anything I have bought or will not use (which I then donate) before taking stock of what I have left. 

That done, I am not just left with plenty of space to fit in all of my Christmas goodies but can see exactly what I need to put on my holiday grocery list.

2. Make space in the refrigerator and freezer

Close up of corner of kitchen with large double fridge in alcove, shelving and cabinetry surrounding, kitchen island with sink, brass tap

(Image credit: Humphrey Munson)

First weekend of December 'til Christmas grocery day

Just as with the pantry and kitchen cabinets, it's important the refrigerator and freezer are partly cleared out to make way for the pre-cooking I'm planning to do. I like to get gravy, sauces, stuffing and even roast potatoes part-prepared and frozen, and for that I'm going to need space. 

So, from early December, I make sure to cook up and serve what's in the freezer in particular, reorganize the freezer, and make a point of going through the refrigerator to get rid of anything that's past its best. I take the chance to clean the refrigerator, too.

3. Prep the guest spaces

Christmas bedroom decor ideas with red and green bedlinen

(Image credit: Future)

Early December

I have to admit to using our guest bedroom as an overflow for clothes and shoes, and for anything else I don't have a designated space for. So I usually spend the first weekend in December decluttering it, finding a rightful space for the pieces I've stashed there, and making room in drawers and closets for long-staying guests to put their clothes (I have built up some great closet decluttering tips over time). This, I think, helps them to feel more welcome, and nearer the time, I'll indulge the space in a few Christmas bedroom decor ideas to get them in the mood when they arrive, too. 

And, of course, since those overflow clothes and shoes are in the guest bedroom, it's very likely I've not worn them much in the past year, so I take it as a great opportunity to put them in the donate pile, too.

4. Cut back on Christmas decor as I decorate 

Christmas tree decorated in red, white and blue ornaments

(Image credit: Future)

Early to mid December

When I finally get to making Christmas tree ideas a reality, and decorating my home for the season, the decluttering starts afresh. 

While I am decorating my home, I consider each item, and ask myself if I still like it and if it adds anything to my overall theme. If the answer is no, then that decoration is added to the donate pile. Given that I add to my Christmas ornament collection every year without fail, this is a great way of making sure I keep a lid it. And it is easier to fit everything back in storage in January again. 

5. Declutter the entryway and closet 

Scandi style Christmas entryway with foliage garland with ochre and white paper decorations, wreath on door, bench with tray, candle, paper decoration and gifts on the floor

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

The week before Christmas 

With so many guests expected over the season, I usually take the time to organize my entryway, putting out of season shoes and coats away upstairs (the attic can take overflow), so that there's space in the closet for guests' coats and shoes. 

Having a clear, functional entryway also means moving clutter such as mail, car keys, and non-Christmas decor off of my entry sideboard to make space for festive decor, and also for anything guests bring in with them. 

I also make sure that my entryway bench seating is fully accessible – and I dedicate an empty ‘catch-all’ basket underneath for visiting family to stash their shoes in. 

6. Use the 20 minute declutter rule

closet space designed by Kitesgrove

(Image credit: Kitesgrove)

The week before Christmas

Pre-Christmas, I like to use the 20/20 rule for decluttering. This method involves getting rid of anything that I can replace for less than $20 or in under 20 minutes if I suddenly needed them again. This means I give each room 20 minutes over the course of a weekend to get rid of anything I've gathered during the year, and right up to Christmas, that I don't really need/want, and which could be better donated to charity.

Most of these things are usually replaced by much more meaningful or more useful gifts, but I know that if they are not (and I find myself missing them for whatever reason) they are not impossible to get back again. And in the meantime, they could become useful gifts for someone else.

7. Declutter the living spaces

plum Christmas living room with magenta velvet couches, grey button backed footstool/coffee table, festive garland, mirror, candles, tree, chandelier

(Image credit: Sofa.com)

Just before Christmas

With Christmas comes guests, and they will spend the majority of their time in the living room. Then there are all the gifts: at first neatly under the tree, then afterwards in piles around the room until we all get everything put away (which can, realistically, take a couple of days). 

So, I usually, the week before Christmas, declutter my living room of anything is competing for space already with decor. We're talking coffee table books that can make way for a tray of snacks or board games, pretty accessories that can make way for cocktail glasses or more decor. 

In other words, I try to set the space up as cozy, welcoming and pretty, but with room to breathe for all of us. 

What should I declutter before Christmas? 

Before Christmas, declutter any areas of your home that will be used for hosting or storing Christmas gifts. Decluttering your family room and storage closets is a great place to start. If you have children, for example, consider decluttering and donating their toys with them, closets, and under-bed storage to make way for new additions. Other spaces such as your pantry can be decluttered before you complete your Christmas grocery shop to make sure you do not double up on items and make space for new seasonal groceries you usually don't stock at home. 

How do I prepare my house for the holidays?

When preparing your home for the holidays, especially a gift-giving holiday, start by decluttering and cleaning your home to be ready for an influx of new items. Making sure you have space for new things will help to prevent clutter from building up. You may also want to consider stocking the pantry ready too to make sure you are ready for hosting friends and family over the coming months. 

Chiana Dickson
Junior Writer

Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.