How to Declutter After the Holidays

We asked organization expert Peter Walsh, host of 'Extreme Clutter' on OWN, for help with the post-holiday purge

Before you take down the tree, store the menorah and put away the holiday gifts, follow these low-stress tips from organization expert Peter Walsh to help streamline your holiday goodies.

iVillage: As the New Year approaches, what’s your advice for purging before you pack up the holiday decorations?

Peter Walsh: Don't start with the holiday decorations - start instead with the amount of space that you're prepared to allocate to those items. Once you've decided that you have room for two bins, or three drawers, or one closet (your call) then first go through the items you haven't used this year. The truth is, if you haven't used decorations this year you're probably not that in love with them. Put aside any decorations that you don't particularly like, that are damaged or that you know you won't use. Then, arrange like decorations together - lights, garlands, tree decorations and so on. Now comes the tough part. You have to limit the decorations that you're keeping to the space you've decided to allocate to them. You have to edit what you're keeping so that they fit into that space. My advice is to use plastic bins that can be easily labeled, neatly stacked and make maximum use of space in a closet or garage. Stick to that limit and you and your holiday decorations can live happily ever after together! Anything you're not keeping you should take to the nearest Goodwill store.

iVillage: Where should you begin with the post-holiday purge of old toys, clothes and household items now that you have new stuff?

PW: If you haven't used or worn an item in the last year (or six months!) then you should seriously consider letting it go. With the New Year, it's a great time to get everyone in the family involved in a total house clean out. Talk to your kids about giving to those less fortunate - allocate a Saturday when as a family you'll go through the house room by room finding things that you no longer need, use or want. Challenge each other when you're not sure or find yourself holding onto silly things - then load everything up and head off to Goodwill. Passing on your unused items to those less fortunate than yourself is a great way to start the New Year!

iVillage: What should you do with all those cute kid holiday cards? It seems wrong to throw away such sweet photos.

PW: Buy a frame and frame your favorite kid's holiday card - hang it on a wall in your home and start a great tradition of displaying the best card each year. For the rest, take photos of the cards and incorporate them into a photo book that you can upload to a site like Snapfish and have printed as a permanent memento of your holiday celebrations. Keep the book (even make copies for other family members) and discard the cards.

iVillage: What about gifts that you don’t want or need? What if you feel bad about regifting?

PW: This may sound a little harsh but the truth is: Just because someone gives you a gift doesn't mean you have to keep it. I think that regifting is possible most of the time - be discreet about it and don't make the mistake of unintentionally giving the gift back to the person who gave it to you! If you'd prefer not to regift, consider donating the gift to a worthy cause. If any of these options is going to wrack you with guilt, put the gift in the back of a closet somewhere. I promise that 18 months from now when you suddenly come across the long forgotten gift, you'll be able to let it go!

iVillage: What’s your best piece of advice for someone who has made a New Year’s resolution to declutter their home? If you’re so overwhelmed, what’s a manageable and logical place to start?

PW: The problem with most New Year's resolutions is that they're too ambitious and too general. Keep it manageable and specific. When it comes to clutter I'd suggest you start the New Year committing to the 'Trash Bag Tango'. Commit to just 10 minutes a day. Set the kitchen timer and grab two trash bags. Wander around your home filling one trash bag with any trash or recyclables you can find - old magazines and newspapers, take out containers, broken toys, damaged and items that can't be repaired. Fill the other trash bags with items that you no longer need, use or want - items that can go to a yard sale or (better still) to Goodwill. Do this for just 10 minutes a day - that's all. If you do, at the end of the first week you'll have 14 bags of clutter removed from your home. At the end of January, 60 bags will have gone! Manageable and specific - that's the resolution for 2012!

iVillage: Speaking of New Year’s resolutions, what’s the one habit you’d advise us to kick and which would you suggest we start to stop clutter from overtaking our homes?

PW: The best way to stop clutter in its tracks is to always 'finish the cycle'. By this I mean always complete any task - no matter how small - that you start. If you open something, close it. If you get something out, put it away. If you dirty a dish, wash it. If you start to read the mail, put items you need to keep away and discard junk mail. If you take a piece of clothing off, put it away or throw it in the hamper. If you take clothes out of the dryer, fold them and put them away. Clutter is 'decisions delayed'. By always finishing the cycle, you never have to come back to finish a task and clutter has no opportunity to gather anywhere in your home.

Best-selling author Walsh is the host of Extreme Clutter on OWN: Opray Winfrey Network, which premieres Jan. 1 (11 p.m. ET) and Jan. 2 (10 p.m. ET)

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