The holidays are widely known as a time when people acquire more stuff for their already well-appointed homes. But in fact, it's also a great time to purge—in part by necessity (removing the old makes room for the new), but mainly because the holidays require you to dig through your attic, cupboards, and linen closet to deck the halls, throw together huge feasts, and basically make use of all your worldly possessions down to your rattiest bed linens and last scrap of tinsel.
In short: If you aren't using something over the holidays, then odds are you'll never use it at all. Here are some prime things to toss.
1. Kitchen gadgets you never use
"There is a good chance you are using the maximum potential of your kitchen tools and cutlery during the holidays," says Lily Cameron, a cleaning expert at Fantastic Services. Between big family meals, holiday party hosting, and the special baking projects you do once a year, you'll probably be pulling out all of the kitchen gear that's normally crammed in the back of cabinets or sitting in boxes in the basement.
And guess what? That makes this the perfect time to do a clear-eyed assessment of what you really need and what you're never going to actually use. If that ebelskiver pan doesn't make it into the rotation when your home is filled with highly caloric cheer, perhaps it's time to admit to yourself that Danish pancake puffs are never going to be part of your life.
As you go through each box, drawer, and cabinet looking for your special party tray or table settings for 20, take the time to sort through everything else and create a give-away pile. By the time you're making your New Year's Day black-eyed peas, you'll be amazed by how much kitchen crap you've Marie Kondo'd out of your life (yes, the decluttering guru is a verb now).
2. Expired spices
Cookware isn't the only thing you can declutter. "The holidays are also the perfect time to organize your baking supplies and spices," says Cameron. "Check the expiration dates, and throw away everything old and/or unused."
3. Holiday decorations you don't put up
This may seem obvious, but once your house is decorated with lights, ornaments, and other such sundry decor, whatever holiday items you own that didn't make the cut—and are still lying sadly in the bottoms of your boxes—should be cut from your life completely.
Broken light strand? Toss it. Ornaments that you keep meaning to repair but know deep down you never will? Get rid of them now! Giant blow-up snowman your spouse bought at a deep postholiday discount that you despise? Donate that thing. Or have a ceremonial burning. After the decorations come down, make sure to sort them neatly into labeled boxes and bins to prevent clutter from collecting again.
4. Linens and towels you don't even give your guests
If you're hosting guests, chances are you'll be using your extra sheets, towels, blankets, and washcloths. Anything you don't need when your house is at maximum hosting capacity is probably not necessary to keep. So get rid of stained or torn bedsheets and towels, ratty blankets, pillows that are past their prime, and any other linen closet clutter you've been ignoring. Old pillows are usually full of gross mites and should go in the trash, but most animal shelters can use donations of old towels and bedsheets, even ones that aren't in great condition.
5. Toys your kids ignore
If your family celebrates the holidays by showering the children with gifts, you're probably looking at a strong upsurge in the number of toys in your home this month. Why not take advantage of the impending bounty to get the kids to sort through their stuff and donate anything they don't play with any more? If they balk, try the rule that for every new toy they receive, they must let go of one to make room.
Toys in good condition can be handed down to siblings, cousins, and friends, or donated to Goodwill. You could even host a holiday toy swap. Want to boost the little tykes' excitement levels? Cameron suggests letting them use their creativity to make decorative labels or packaging for the giveaway boxes, so they look more like gifts.
6. Clothes you haven't worn in a year
Odds are you've recently changed over your closet from warm-weather clothes to items to ward off the cold. Now's the perfect opportunity to do the time-honored closet cull: Get rid of anything from summer you didn't wear in the past year. And really, let's be honest, there's probably some winter stuff you know you can get rid of, too.
"It is pointless to get clogged with old clothes you never wear or don’t fit you anymore," says Cameron. It's time to let go of those way-too-small jeans you're sure you'll fit into again someday. Say goodbye to the sweaters with tears at the elbows that you will repair just as soon as you learn to darn. This time of year there are always coat drives and other places you can donate clothes in good condition that will help people who need help, and most cities have textile recycling for the really beat-up stuff. You'll be giving yourself the gift of starting the new year with an uncluttered closet filled with clothes that you actually like and can wear. Now that's one less thing to stress about in 2018!