As we head into this holiday season, Nonnahs Driskill, founding organizer of Get Organized Already, has some wisdom to impart. “Remember how crazy the holidays were before the pandemic? Remember how we all said we’d try not to go back to feeling so stressed and hectic? This holiday season is your chance to change up the traditions at your house,” she says.
We spoke with Driskill and other experts about how to get organized before the busy holiday crush begins, how to use time management and organizational strategies to buy back time and what products can have a big impact when it comes to staying organized this holiday season.
Where to focus organizing efforts
Cleaning and organizing go hand in hand, and so it’s no surprise that the experts we spoke to agreed that the places to focus both cleaning and organizing efforts are the same: the entryway of your home, the kitchen, the bathrooms and the living room, dining room or any other space where you will do most of your holiday entertaining.
Tackling cleaning and organizing jobs can feel overwhelming, but rather than viewing them as separate tasks, try tying cleaning and organizing efforts into your plans to decorate.
“My No. 1 organized tip for holiday decorating is to remove as much of your everyday bric-a-brac as possible and store it in the holiday bins for the season,” Driskill says. “This way you aren’t adding more clutter.”
Consider how your home will be used this holiday season and plan organizing efforts around those needs:
- If you’ll be hosting your mother-in-law, getting the guest room ready and decluttering and stocking any bathrooms guests will use will be a priority.
- If you’re throwing a party, organize and declutter your mudroom, entryway and/or coat closet.
- If you’re having a large family meal, get rid of anything in the dining room and on the table that doesn’t belong or won’t be used as part of the meal service.
Driskill adds one important decluttering task that most of us wouldn’t have even considered prior to 2020. “If your WFH office is currently on the dining table,” she says, “find another stopgap place to work for the day of your event (maybe the day before and after as well).”
Organize the kitchen and dining room now so you won’t stress later
There are some specific organizing tasks that can save a lot of time and hassle when holiday festivities get underway. These holiday-focused organization projects will help to take some of the stress — not all, we’re not miracle workers over here! — out of the busy holiday season.
mDesign Plastic Organizing Bin With Handles ($14.99, originally $17.99; amazon.com)
Leanne Stapf, the chief operating officer of The Cleaning Authority, offers some tips for people who will be hosting a big holiday meal or who are rolling out their annual cookie baking operation. “As you grocery shop for the holidays, stock up on nonperishable goods,” she suggests, “and store them together in the cupboard, pantry or cabinet so you are not left searching for them mid-recipe the day of.” This clear, open-topped bin is perfect for grouping ingredients together, and is among our favorite items for kitchen and pantry organization.
GladWare Everyday Use Medium Rectangle Storage Containers ($6.99; amazon.com)
Driskill also recommends relieving some of the stress that last-minute cooking and grocery shopping can cause by planning ahead — and making use of your freezer. “If you make homemade baked goods, make some of those ahead of time and freeze them,” she says. We like these inexpensive disposable GladWare containers for use during the holidays because you can give them away without worrying about getting them back; check out our guide to the best food storage containers for more freezer-safe food storage container recommendations.
Scotch-Brite Dobie All-Purpose Pads, 6-Pack ($8.02; amazon.com)
Another way to save time and reduce stress when hosting a holiday party or meal, Stapf says, is to take out any large pots and pans, serving platters, plates, silverware and glasses that you
plan to use — especially if they’re in storage and/or haven’t been used in a while. “If you can’t remember the last time you used holiday serveware,” Stapf says, “give it a good rinse.” When it comes to washing delicate china and glassware, using a nonscratch Dobie Pad will help to safely scour off any sticky, gummy buildup that can happen on serving pieces while in long-term storage.
Felt Plate Dividers, 48-Pack ($10.99; containerstore.com)
After washing and drying, use plate dividers to stack china without worrying about it getting scratched or chipped.
Prepare for parties and presents
Parties and presents are among the best parts of the holiday season, but they can bring their own headaches. When it comes to gift giving, you already know the importance of making a list and checking it twice, but these tips will up your gift giving and wrapping game — all while taking a lot of the stress out of what should be a joyful task.
2-Layer Gift Packaging Organizer ($24.99; containerstore.com)
First and foremost, Driskill says, “Store your gifts in one place and wrap as you buy.” She also offers this genius tip to level up your gift giving: “When wrapping toys, remove the zip ties and extra plastic wrap, and include batteries where they are needed — make the toys easy to open and play with!” Parents everywhere will thank you for this extra effort.
Godiva Assorted Chocolate Gold Gift Box ($17.95; godiva.com)
As for those holiday parties, which can quickly start to feel overwhelming, Driskill offers this suggestion: “If you are invited to a lot of parties, make sure you have a couple of appropriate outfits and a few hostess gifts before party season begins.” Consider buying a case of your favorite wine, or small boxes of chocolates, which can pull double duty as hostess gifts and as treats to serve to guests you may be hosting in your home.
Noklead Digital Kitchen Timer ($14.59, originally $16.99; amazon.com)
If you feel anxious about having guests in your home over the course of many days or weeks, Marissa Hagmeyer, a co-founder of Neat Method, suggests designating time at the end of each day to put everything back in place. “This way, you’ll just spend a few minutes, rather than letting things get out of control and feeling like you have to spend hours cleaning,” she says. “Knowing your space is tidy will help you feel settled and relaxed before heading off to bed.” A classic time management technique is to set a kitchen timer for five or 10 minutes and take care of as many small cleaning and organizing tasks as possible during that time. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish, and those few minutes will save you hours of headache down the line.
The best holiday organizers
Small investments can pay off big time when it comes to getting — and staying! — organized during the holidays. We asked our experts to recommend some of their favorite organizing products, systems and tricks to help you stay sane during this busy, busy time.
Perforated Baskets ($30; neatmethod.com)
Hagmeyer says, “We love having a sectioned gift wrap basket in an easy-to-reach spot, so you can quickly wrap up a gift on the fly and have everything at your fingertips (i.e., gift bag, tissue, gift tags, tape, ribbon, etc).”
Clear Weathertight Totes (starting at $12.99; containerstore.com)
Hagmeyer suggests keeping holiday decor in large airtight containers that can withstand temperature changes, and adding labels so you know exactly what goes where. “Opt for multiple containers in the same size,” she says, “for easy stacking and storage.”
Phomemo Bluetooth Wireless Mini Label Maker ($29.99; amazon.com)
Stapf echoes the advice to learn to love labels: “Label everything!” Using labels to indicate which holiday or season the items in each bin are for will be a major saver when it’s time to decorate, she notes.
Homz Holiday Storage Set, 4-Pack ($98.99; wayfair.com)
Driskill suggests a turn on labeling that can help to keep your holiday items organized and easy to identify among other stored items: “I love color-coded plastic bins for holiday storage. They stand out in your sea of bins so you know you’ve gotten them all.” She suggests storing everything for the holiday in these bins — holiday linens, clothing, decorations, etc. “Don’t store your Hanukkah napkins with your other napkins,” she says. “Store them with your Hanukkah decorations.”
Rebrilliant Moisture-Resistant Tree Storage ($26.99; wayfair.com)
Investing in smart storage solutions can save more than time — they can also save your back. “Fake Christmas trees are as heavy as a human corpse! A heavy-duty storage bag may save your sanity,” Driskill says.
Homz Holiday String Light Storage Container ($36.99, originally $74.99; ashleyfurniture.com)
Driskill points out that holiday light storage can also take up a lot of space. “I like this box because it’s sturdy. But I admit, we usually don’t use the wraps. I use my elbow and my hand like a DIY boss, wrap the strands one at a time and lay them down in the box on top of each other.”
Room Essentials Latching Underbed Tote ($17; target.com)
Driskill also shares a genius tip for organizing and storing ornaments and decorations. “I’ve been in too many homes where people store Christmas tree ornaments in their original boxes, and then store those boxes in another box or bin,” she says. “This is a colossal waste of time and energy!” Instead, try storing individual ornaments in a long, shallow storage bin filled with…
Biodegradable Packing Peanuts ($20.11; supplyhut.com)
…packing peanuts! “It may sound crazy, but it’s so much faster, and in 20 years and two moves, none of our ornaments have broken!”