Every year the chaos of Christmas can leave us feeling a little deflated. Traditionally we will rush to and fro, visiting family, producing gifts and eating way too much. With all the build-up leading to the festive period and the preparations that go with it, there is small wonder that it can result in quite a big clean up.
Whether you are at home for the festive session or traveling to family, the efforts of swapping gifts, packing clothes or prepping food consume a lot of our downtime from our working lives. So here are some of my tips on how to deal with the aftermath as painlessly as possible, so that you can be on the fast track back to normality.
Every year I go through all of the gift bags I receive for Christmas. I remove the labels and any access tap, making sure they are in good order. I then put them away to be re-used next year in my own gift giving. This is great as it cuts down on wrapping costs for the next year but it also stops a lot of waste. I hate seeing perfectly good gift bags go into the recycling bin. It really is a pet peeve. However, if they are torn or the handles pulled through the seem then, by all means, recycle them but otherwise, it is just waste.
Not all of us have the luxury of space to store such items. So if you are low on space why not put all of your gift bags into a plastic bag, seal it and stash it away with the rest of the Christmas decorations when you put those away. That way they won’t be taking up your day to day space and you’ll have them back at the right time next year.
I am very lucky as I have my own home office, in which I have a built-in wardrobe and a coat rail. I store all of my access gift bags on shower rail hooks on the coat rail. It doesn’t take up much space and is fantastic when you need to find a bag as you can flip through them easily without needing to pull them out of the back of drawers, where they can get damaged.
Storing Wrapping Paper
I have had far too many past Christmas’s of finding out that I have not bought enough wrapping paper to make me exceptionally paranoid about purchasing too much nowadays. Literally, I did not even need to buy any more this year as I had enough stored up in my cupboard.
Anyway, if like me you have a bunch of wrapping paper left over, don’t bin it. Find an unused corner of your home, something like the back of a wardrobe or under the stairs, that you can store your wrapping paper in. Either store it in a basket or put some string up under a shelf and voila, instant storage solution.
A place for everything
One of the nice things about Christmas is all of the lovely new things you get given. It could finally be the coffee maker you really wanted or the book you have been dying to read. You may have been lavished with smellies and wonderfully scented candles, but the truth of the matter is they won’t do you any good lying around in their box without a home of their own.
Everything needs its place, whether it’s clearing off the kitchen counter for the coffee machine or re-organizing the books to fit just one more onto the shelf. You will need to find homes for everything and start to think about getting some of your other items to vacate the premises. Keep an eye out for my future de-cluttering series for tips on how to do this.
The bucket method
This one may be a little late for Christmas day itself but it is relevant all year round. The washing up after a family gathering can be immense. With all the wine glasses and gravy boats that haven’t seen the light of day since last Christmas, the sheer volume of the washing up can seem like the task from Tartarus.
In order to make the whole process slightly less painful why not grab a few of those large gardening buckets with the handles on the side, fill them with warm water and allow those items that need to, to soak whilst the remainder of the washing up is being done.
This way the chore gets done in one go and no one has to get up again after polishing off the after eight mints, to go and finish the washing up.
Whilst you’re at it, get everyone involved too. If everyone ate, then everyone can help with the washing up. There is usually more than one washing up bowl of clean water to get through so family members can take it in turns. Just be sure to let the Chef be the only exception to the rule, they have worked hard enough for one day!
Sort the Christmas Decorations
I know lots of people don’t mind leaving the decorations up well into January but I prefer to have mine down by New Year’s Eve so that I can ensure they are back up in the loft prior to returning to work.
As we only use our Christmas decorations for a limited time during the year, now is the perfect time to purge and protect.
When taking down the decoration make sure none of them have been tarnished or damaged in any way. If they have either fix them or throw them away. Make sure each item that gets repacked into storage for next year is well wrapped, protected and not likely to get wet or overly dusty where ever it is you store your Christmas decorations.
Before you even start to put these away, however, go through the items that did not go up this year. There must be a reason this was vetoed from the decoration list of 2017, so why was that? If they are outdated or not loved anymore consider giving them away or donating them. If they are broken why are you holding on to them? Throw them away. If your home is too small and you are not moving in the immediate future, get rid of them. Chances are if you are not using them now then you never will.
Wear new clothes straight away
The main reason behind this is to make sure everything fits, in case you need to ask your gift-giver to return it or for the receipt so you can change sizes. It also means that you can make a conscious choice about whether or not you like your new clothes. This may seem ungrateful, however, if someone has gotten you a poly-fire ant blend of some man-made awful fabric that you hate then chances are that well-meant new items are going to sit in your wardrobe until enough time has passed that you can donate it without feeling guilty. Instead, skip the drama, and be honest. If it is just not you then let your well wisher know as soon as possible so that the item can still be returned or swapped. I know from personal experience that there is nothing more heartbreaking then finding out that a gift you have given is not loved, and personally I would rather find out a day or two after Christmas then when I ask if it is ever worn six months down the line. Don’t let friends and families money go to waste. Wear it now and make sure you love it.
Also, it means that you can de-tag all of your new items at the same time. It cuts down on clutter later on when you grab something new from the wardrobe and need to hunt down the scissors. It also stops the inevitable tag on the chest of drawers that is bound to happen it items are no de-tagged prior to being put away.
An added bonus, wearing your new clothes will allow you to catch up on any washing after visiting relatives.
This may seem like an everyday thing but vacuuming after the Christmas frivolities is important. Not only does it deal with the usual pick up but it helps to refresh your rooms after the hordes of dearly loved once who have paraded in and out of your home with dirty shoes and smelly socks. A mass of bodies in a room raises the temperature and even if it’s freezing outside, the chances are everyone inside in perspiring, so freshen that rug with a quick go over with the vacuum.
An added bonus is the vacuum with pick up all of the rouge sparkles that has fallen from the Christmas decorations and wrapping paper after Christmas day.
Purge the fridge and ration the sweet stuff
It is a known fact that every year we all buy far too much food for what in essence is a long weekend without the supermarkets. Whilst gorging ourselves on a delicious turkey dinner on Christmas day, seldom do we give any thought to the cheese and pickles in the fridge that we traditionally put out on boxing day. Nor the sheer amount of fresh produce that we need to consume in our many tours of relatives homes that we need to somehow cram into our already expanding waistlines.
Worst still is the number of sweet treats brought in bulk and given as gifts that sit, tempting us from beneath the Christmas tree, that lures us away from doing the practical things, and eating the contents of the fridge that is about to expire.
This week, I will not even visit the supermarket, save for one of two things, bread, and milk. (I have bread mix in the cupboard but I cannot live without a cup of tea).
We as a country waste so much this time of year that it really is shameful. We all get waylayed by the want of that something sweet to polish off the ideal of dinner and dessert. More often then not, as a result, a lot of fresh products go to waste.
So instead of falling into temptation, sort through the fridge, bringing all of the products that will expire first to the front and eating those before opening the shortbread that expires two years from now. Savour the treats and enjoy having a full fridge, for some of us this only happens once a year!
Re-check envelopes before your recycle
This is one my Dad taught me. Always look through your envelopes before you recycle them. It may seem greedy but trust me when I say you would feel worse if you found out you had accidentally chucked out a twenty-pound note. Always check the envelope. Not everyone puts money inside of the card.
Check boxes too
This is another tip I learned from my father. When he was a young man his Dad gave him what appeared to be a box of aftershave. My Dad has a full-on Hagrid beard and I have never in my entire life seen him without his whiskers. So first impressions told my father that this was a wasted gift and a bit of parental nagging to boot.
So he put it under his bed and there it stayed for quite a while.
Until the day he had a clear out and was about to donate the box.
Thankfully his Mother stopped him, knowing what was inside and told him he should not be so quick to scoff at his gift. So he opened the box, fully prepared to find a razor and shaving cream that he would never in a million years use.
Instead, he found a gorgeous bowie knife that took his breath away. It was his perfect gift and he had almost thrown it away.
The lesson learned. Don’t take things at face value. We have all had presents that we have maybe had the “Why?” moment about but something’s aren’t always as they appear.
Do thank you cards now
Whilst you may not be a child anymore, thank you cards are still an important practice to maintain. For one thing, if you receive something from someone you do not see regularly, as thank you card can show them how much their gift meant to you. It also allows you to cut costs on postage if you can hand deliver your cards whilst your relatives are still in town.
Another good reason to do your thank you cards straight away is that you remember what everyone got you, and don’t end up writing generic statements that sound stale and impersonal. Instead, list what this person did for you and prove that their gift was important by spending some quality time handwriting a thank you. Yes, it may end up in the recycle bin in a weeks time but at least you have shown that you cared.
Purge the cup cupboard
I don’t know about you but there has never been a Christmas where someone in my household has not received a cup, mug or glass of some description. Last year my partner and I received no fewer than 10!
Whilst a lovely and thoughtful gift, mugs and cups can soon start to take up space. Whilst my partner and I do drink a lot of tea, even we have to draw the line somewhere. And the same goes for our cupboard. We have a tiny kitchen, so much so that we can only just afford to have a shelf designated to our mugs.
So every year when the new mugs come in, I go through the old ones and donate the ones we no longer need/love/or have room for. Whilst we would all love to have the storage space for everything we are ever given, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and say, whilst a nice thought, it has got to go.
Stomp the Rubbish
The Christmas period is a wonderful time of celebration, feasting, presents and a ton of rubbish. With all the wrapping and packaging form, food on mass and gift giving it is no wonder the wheelie bins get pretty full. Add to this the lack of collections due to bank holidays and Christmas time is a bit of a nightmare.
The fun part, however, comes when the lid will no longer go down on the bin and you are forced to don the Wellington’s and jump up and down on the rubbish bags to create some room. So why not burn some of those Christmas calories and stomp on the rubbish. (Be careful if there is glass!)
Open the window
Tinsel and fairy-lights whilst beautiful are mega dust traps. The atmosphere in your home after Christmas will be full of cooking smells and glitter, and whilst fun for a few days, you will soon want those odors gone. The easiest way of doing this is to open the window.
Now whilst you may be concerned for your heating bill, and the cold air rushing into your home, opening the window a smidgen will just allow enough fresh air into to revalidate your space without making you run for the hot water bottle. And you don’t have to have all of the windows in the house open at once. Do one room at a time and you will soon notice the difference. Get all of the internal doors open too, this will allow the fresh air to circulate throughout and banish the burnt dust smell from your heaters.
Recharge From Family Jet Lag
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. A time to spend with family and friends, eating, drinking and full of merriment.
It is also a time of stress for many of us. Between work ending, all the shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking and socializing, it can be hard to find five minutes to yourself before work startups again.
But it is important to be a little selfish here. After all, it is a holiday. A time to sit back and relax.
No matter how hectic your holiday social calendar may be, do your best to find an afternoon or some such where you can put your feet up and just be yourself. Don’t worry about being unsociable or a bit of a loner. We all need our own space and quiet time. Watch some of the infamous trashy Christmas TV or read a book. Enjoy some alone time and get away from the stress and family.
Whilst Christmas is the time for being together and reuniting with long lost relatives, this in itself can cause anxiety. What with the entertaining and making small talk with people you may not see very regularly, you deserve some quiet time to just be yourself.
So there you have it, a few of my tips to help clean up after Christmas. Let me know in the comments below if any of these tips helped you or if there is anything you do in order to return to normality after the festive season.