Post-Christmas rule: One-in, one-out policy

After you’ve cleared the flurry of wrapping paper, Christmas is over and all the new toys and stuff need a place to be.

Usually at our house, this meant that the new things either stayed in their former home under the Christmas tree until we put it away, or they found a spot in the corner as a small pyramid caught in a sort of present purgatory — they were in the house, but they had nowhere to be yet.

If you have a small home or one that was built before 1990, chances are you have tiny closets that aren’t too accommodating for more stuff. This has led me to institute a post-Christmas rule I try to follow every year. It’s a one-in, one-out policy. So if I received a new sweater, an old one has to go. If I got a new coffee pot, the old one went to the thrift store. Usually there was something ratty or rarely used that I could trade out for the new presents.

What could you discard and not miss? Here’s a hint, if you’re surprised to find something in a closet that you haven’t seen for years, and you didn’t look for it once during that time, it might be something you could get rid of. Do you really need that? Is it useful?

What’s not useful? This can be a hard question to answer sometimes. Maybe it’s a shirt that doesn’t fit anymore, but you wish it did. Maybe it’s a gift you unwrapped this week and you thought, “What the heck am I going to do with that?”

This is where the emotional part of “stuff” can get messy. Try not to get emotionally wrapped up in the “maybe this will fit me again someday,” or “I must keep this because she gave it to me, and what if she finds out I got rid of it?”

I’m not saying you should get rid of sentimental things such as photo albums or heirlooms, but if it’s something that isn’t useful, you should think about whether to keep it. There are only so many things you can store for next year’s white elephant gift exchange.

Where do you get rid of all this stuff? Well, the way I see it, you have these options, depending on the state of the object.

Brand new: Return, re-gift, sell or donate.

Yep, I re-gift. No, I don’t think it’s tacky. Just as long as it’s something I truly think the receiver will enjoy or use. And I make sure I don’t re-gift it to the person who gave it to me (put a sticky note on it!). As far as selling goes, you could go several routes, depending on the item. If it’s a small, household item or electronic, and you have time to sell it yourself, you could list it on Craigslist or ebay, or even in local Facebook groups. If it’s a large item or something worth more, classified ads in the newspaper are the way to go.

Slightly used: Donate to a thrift store or barter/give away. You never know what someone might be looking for. Make sure your electronics work if you’re donating. If you donate broken stuff, it’s just a burden to the store and it costs them to dispose of it.

If you decide to give away the item, check out local Facebook groups such as the Grand Junction Bartering Club or the Grand Junction Free For All. You could trade for something else (more stuff!) or just give it away.

Total junk: Recycle or trash. Remember, anything with a cord can be recycled for free by E-Waste Recyclers of Colorado in Grand Junction. Check out their info at

If this removal of stuff you don’t really need from your home is difficult for you, I suggest you try a visualization exercise. Pretend you’re moving. Is this stuff worth moving to another house? If not, it needs to go.

Good luck clearing out a space for your new stuff and happy New Year’s!

Erin McIntyre is a writer, master gardener and owner of the gourmet pickle company, Yum Pickles. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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