Organizers say these are the 5 things you need to get rid of before the holidays – here’s why

Clearing out these five things before the holidays ensures smooth running and stress-free hosting

An entryway with an open front door, oiles of wrapped gift boxes surrounding it
(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

Whether you are hosting or heading out to spend time as a guest, decluttering your home before the holidays is a smart way to ensure that the festive period stays stress-free, organizers claim.

However, given that this time of the year is already hectic, it can be hard to find the time for decluttering. The solution? Focusing on five things to get rid of before the holidays to get a head start.

These are the five key things to clear out before the festive season, and why they can have such an impact.

Things you need to get rid of before the holidays

Although hectic holiday periods might not seem like the best time to flex your decluttering muscles, Amelia Pleasant Kennedy, organizing expert and life coach, finder of A Pleasant Solution, suggests that is the perfect time to donate:

‘The holiday season is a great time to practice decluttering as there may be donation drives in your community. Take a moment to appreciate your abundance. Identify items that are taking up space, that you may have duplicates of, or items that are rarely used. 

'Toiletries, cold weather gear, sports equipment, décor, and toys are all high-demand items during the holiday season, and you can boost your feelings of gratitude by knowing that you’re bringing joy to others.’

With that in mind, this is what you should aim to clear out. 

1. Old decorations

entryway with christmas garlands on bannister, presents and baubles

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

Many of us leave organizing our decor as a post-Christmas decluttering task, but Lina DaSilva, cleaning expert and founder of Toronto Shine Cleaning, suggests it is better done before you finish setting your home up for the season:

‘Before bringing in new holiday decorations, it’s crucial to sort through old ones. Discard or donate any that are broken, outdated, or no longer bring joy. This not only frees up space but also allows for a fresh and updated holiday aesthetic while making taking down Christmas decor easier in January when you may be tired out.’

2. Everyday entryway clutter like shoes and packages

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)

There are several entryway decluttering rules pro organizers always follow – including always having a good clear out before a major event such as a holiday, says Brenda Scott, professional home organizer and founder of Tidy My Space. Sorting this space before the holidays is perfect both if you are hosting, to give space to welcome guests in comfortably, and if you are heading out for the holiday, to establish a soothing space to return home and drop off gifts and luggage, she explains:

‘Start with the area that either bothers you the most or maybe the first thing you see upon entering the home. This is usually the entryway which becomes a pile of shoes, bags, and packages. 

Creating a "drop zone" where everything has a place or "home" eliminates the mess because you now know exactly where stuff goes properly and quickly. Make it work for you and the others in your home. Make it achievable for little ones too. Putting lower hooks or bins with their names on can give them a sense of accomplishment and relieve you of having to "do everything".’ 

Under-bed Shoe Storage Bag | View at Amazon

Under-bed Shoe Storage Bag | View at Amazon}
This under-bed shoe storage bag is perfect for tucking out-of-season shoes out of sight making space for guests' shoes and dropping bags in the holidays, or even year-round.

brenda scott home organizing
Brenda Scott

Brenda Scott is passionate about home organizing, decluttering, and creating a safe home. At Tidy My Space, she helps people to keep their homes tidy when life gets busy. Brenda shares useful tips and gives practical help with sorting and editing her clients' spaces, leading them to feel less stressed and bringing the luxury of time to be spent with family, friends, or on themselves.

3. Storage items blocking guest rooms

Cozy guest room in cabin

(Image credit: Kesington Leverne)

If you are hosting in the holidays, then tackling your pre-guest cleaning checklist should be at the top of your to-do list, reminds Michelle Parravani, professional home organizer and founder of Designing with Less.

Whether you are preparing a guest room for Thanksgiving, or preparing a guest room for Christmas, decluttering and organizing guest rooms to remove anything you might have stored in there throughout the year and freeing up some storage space in dressers, nightstands or closets for guests can help to create a warm and welcoming environment for them to feel at home, she says.

Once you have finished with the guest bedrooms, you can cover any bathrooms and common spaces your guests will interact with, such as the living room and kitchen, Michelle adds.

Michelle Parravani
Michelle Parravani

Designing with Less is a service that aims to create stylish and effortless spaces by helping people donate their unneeded belongings and build organization systems that last..

4. Old food from pantries and fridges

Christmas pantry

(Image credit: Armac Martin)

The holidays put a lot of strain on our food storage no matter if we are hosting or bringing back leftovers. As a result, the pre-holiday period is the perfect time to declutter a pantry and organize a fridge, suggests Lina DaSilva, cleaning expert.

‘This not only creates space but also helps in planning meals more efficiently,’ she says. Aim to remove anything that has expired, anything close to expiry that you know you will not use up, and anything you do not like to make room for ingredients and leftover storage boxes, Lina suggests. In the weeks running up to your big holiday grocery shop, try to plan meals that will use up anything in the fridge to make space without waste, and consider what could be moved to or cooked to be stored in your freezer to make extra room, too.

5. Target categories you’ll get as gifts

Gifts in brown paper with foliage and handmade tags

(Image credit: Future)

If you have made a holiday wishlist, or have a good idea of what you might be expecting as gifts over the holiday season, then you should also get a start on these categories to make room for an influx of new items – a good approach for working out the best places to declutter for Christmas. This might mean decluttering a closet, for instance, if you think some new clothes might be on the horizon. 

‘When you open a cupboard or closet and feel overwhelmed by the amount of belongings in front of you, it’s time for a good edit, especially if new things are incoming,’ begins Ashley Murphy, co-founder and CEO of NEAT Method. ‘Even an organized space can look visually cluttered if you have more belongings than fit comfortably in the space. Remove and donate those items that haven’t been used in the last year for seasonal items or the last six months for everything else.’

When decluttering these categories, it might be a good idea to put anything you are clearing out in a box or bag to one side in storage, just in case you don’t get the replacements you were looking for. Leave the donating until after the holidays. 

Large Plastic Storage Bin | View at Walmart

Large Plastic Storage Bin | View at Walmart
These organizing containers from Walmart are stackable and transparent. They have a durable lid and secure latching buckles. Handy for winter clothes storage or for seasonal decor.

Neat Method team headshot
Ashley Murphy & Marissa Hagmeyer

Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer are the organization-obsessed co-founders behind NEAT Method. Started in 2010, NEAT Method is the result of the duo's inspiration to bring a fresh perspective to the industry. Originally servicing the Bay area of San Francisco, NEAT Method began to build a small, passionate group of organizers. Murphy, the CEO, led the team from localized markets to expanding across the US and Canada, while Hagmeyer, COO, advises on designs, builds spreadsheets, and implements efficiencies.


Should you declutter before or after the holidays?

It can be a good idea to declutter your home both before and after the holidays, focusing on different categories or goals each time for a perfectly organized home that doesn't become overwhelming. Before the holidays, it is a good idea to declutter to make space around your home ready for an influx of new items or guests' belongings. After the holidays, it is about damage control, clearing up decor and messes left over from hosting, and restoring order.

How do I prepare my home for the holidays?

When preparing a home for holiday hosting, it helps to start with decluttering and cleaning to create a blank slate ready for decorating and welcoming guests. Once your home is clean, you can hang up your decor and meal plan, using what you have in your fridge before writing out a grocery list so you don't end up buying duplicates having forgotten you had something hidden at the back of your pantry shelf.

When getting rid of things before the holidays, it is a good idea to work through a comprehensive holiday decluttering checklist to ensure you don’t miss anything. Using a list and customizing it to your home will make it easier to break tasks up into chunks or designate them to other family members to help with decluttering without getting overwhelmed – perfect for a stress-free celebratory season.  

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.