Green and Tidy

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Five ways to have a clutter-free Christmas

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I know it’s still three months away. The shops are full of Christmas stuff already though and the pressure to buy, buy, buy is already starting. So here are five ways to reduce clutter this Christmas.

1. Cut down on presents

Image: Scented_mirror

Does this make me a Scrooge? The thing is that, while the idea of presents seems lovely (images from American movies of families arriving at the front door in the snow, laden with beautifully wrapped and beribboned gifts to be placed under the humungous tree in the entrance lobby), the reality is usually receiving loads of stuff you don’t actually want, let alone need, and possibly feeling obliged to keep it for fear of offending the giver.

My three brothers and I agreed years ago to stop giving each other Christmas presents. Though we love each other dearly, we’re not in frequent enough communication to be well placed to choose gifts for each other. You need to know someone’s life well to know what would make the perfect gift.

What a relief! Less for me to do in the run-up to Christmas, less money to spend, less consumption (lower environmental impact) and less clutter at the end of it all.

I’m not recommending you make such an agreement with your six-year-old. I bet most of the adults in your life would jump at the chance though.

2. Give experiences

If you are giving presents, consider giving (and requesting) ones that don’t involve physical objects: pre-packaged experience days for example, or experiences you create yourself. Do you know of an exhibition, a show or even a beautiful view that the person would love? Could you take them there as a gift? Or arrange for them to go with their partner or a friend? I’ve given my parents this kind of gift before. It’s a great way to find something for my hard-to-buy-for Dad.

3. Give consumables

Give and request food, drink, cosmetics, toiletries…things that get used up and don’t have to be kept.

4. Give memberships

Do you, or does someone to whom you want to give a gift, have an interest that is served by a membership organisation? RSPB members get into RSPB reserves for free, National Trust members get free entry and parking at more than 300 historic houses and gardens plus free car parking at other (National Trust) car parks, members of The Ramblers can go on member-led walks, members of art galleries such as the Royal Academy or Tate get free entry to exhibitions and access to members’ lounges… Maybe there is a local organisation that would fit the bill. In the past, I’ve given membership of Brighton’s Duke of York’s arthouse cinema as a gift, and made people Friends of Brighton Festival.

5. Declutter now!

The run-up to Christmas is a great time to declutter. The knowledge that you’ll soon be acquiring even more stuff, combined with the likelihood that you’ll have guests over the festive season is an excellent motivator to sort through your cupboards and drawers, get rid of what you don’t want or need, make space for what might come in, and set up your house so you’re proud to entertain in it.

If you’re not yet part of the Green and Tidy community, sign up here (and get a free decluttering masterclass as a bonus).

How do you plan to reduce clutter this Christmas? Comment below to share your ideas.

  • Jacqui

    Great ideas. Making edible gifts is a lovely (and cheap) way to cut down on clutter (making lemon curd is my favourite) and helps to involve the children (making personalized labels etc). Charity giving is also a clutter free gift – I always give my Mum a Good Giving voucher that reunites parents with their children. Makes us both realise how lucky we are to have each other, which is part of what Christmas should be about. Keep up the good work Rachel.

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  • Great post. I’m not keen on clutter so I’ve asked for web-based gifts in the past – ebooks, webhosting, that sort of thing and I like that those kind of gifts can sometimes be quite environmentally friendly. My children have been given some charity gifts in the past too and they have loved those.

  • Thanks Ella. I like your web-based gift ideas. Here’s to a Green and Tidy Christmas.