Before & After ~ Michelle’s Christmas Declutter

Last year one of your fellow 365ers, Michelle, was on a mission to reduce her Christmas supplies. Some bins she spent time on in consideration while others bins she just did a quick rush through. The following photos show the pile of stuff she had (on the left) and the end result of her decluttering effort on the right.

365 Projects 2012-132

The third photo below is the stack of what she decluttered.  There was  more on the floor that isn’t in the picture. She told me that she could have spent more time and consideration in getting rid of more but this was at least a first step. Quite a massive effort for a first step don’t you think? 


Here is a recent comment that Michelle left at the blog regarding how she has simplified another big holiday season task ~ “…I used to spend so much time wrapping everything just perfectly, color-coordinating with bows or ornaments or whathaveyou.  It got tiring and now I have a traditional color scheme and no longer spend time thinking/worrying about how it all looks.”

So yes it is possible to simplify Christmas while still enjoying all the usual fun and trimmings of the event.

Thank you for the photos Michelle and please comment here and let us know if you have reduced more now that the silly season is on us again.

Today’s Mini Mission

Make finding your good underwear or socks easy by throwing away the ratty old ones that you avoid using.

Eco Tip of the Day

Today’s eco tip is brought to you by one of our readers Sher.

I thought of an eco tip yesterday…I do it without thinking but maybe others haven’t thought of it. When at the bank machine chose to NOT get a paper receipt…when at the gas station…chose NOT to get a receipt. Just those little pieces of paper are going to be tossed in the trash anyways or just end up cluttering your car. Or if you want to take the receipt…use the back of it to write your grocery list on or something to re-use it before tossing it 🙂

Thanks Sher. I am not sure why I hadn’t thought to write this one before because I do this all the time.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

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  • My ten tips for simplifying Christmas Below are ten guidelines I follow to simplify my Christmas. They don't guarantee a stress free Christmas but they sure do help. Neither do they eliminate outside pressures to conform to […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing my story, Colleen. This past long weekend we were so busy that all I managed to do for Christmas decorating is get the tree up, undecorated. LOL So I have not yet done another look-see at the decorations, but will do so this coming weekend. I would love to get another bin out of the collection.

    Thanks again. I always appreciate the encouraging kindness that you share with all of us. 🙂

    • The pleasure was all mine Michelle. Thank you for sharing your photos and story with us. Visual proof of how wonderful decluttering can be is always an inspiration for others wishing to do the same.

      I can relate to you being slow with decorating this year. I am not even going to bother because of us moving house within a week of Christmas day. I may fill a large gold fish bowl with decorations and display it on the corner of the kitchen bench but that is all I am aspiring to this year. We are having Christmas day a my daughters this year so there is no need for me to bother. I did finally get around to making the Christmas pudding (old English tradition) yesterday. Also my Secret Santa gift is bought and the cards are mailed, so I really don’t have much else to do. Yay, simple Christmas ~ I love it!

      • I am so excited for you to get into your new home. How fun! And more fun with less doo-dads to haul in and place “just so”. 😉 I’m going for a simple Christmas as well with the idea of a less-stress Christmas.

        • The removal company delivered the cardboard PortaRobes today so it must be happening. At the moment I am working on everything being absolutely spick and span and in the appropriate area to suit the new location. That way on set down day every thing can be slotted in place easily. I hope to have the place looking neat and tidy by the end of the day. Especially since friends are coming to dinner the next night. Perhaps we will order in pizza though.

          • WooHoo! I can’t wait for you to be moved. I know you are excited about it too. When it’s all done you will be able to take a deep breath and relax.

    • Michelle, all I can say is, “You go girl”! I am sure that you appreciated or will appreciate your efforts when decorating commences this year. I hope you are proud of your accomplishment 🙂

  2. Way to go Michelle. Isn’t it great to have less? We have really reduced our Christmas decorations. We now have the small tree with lights and decorations on it that we don’t take off from year to year. Other than that we have 6 snap together containers, a boxed church, and a basket of poinsettias. I’m working on decluttering more if I can get my mom to agree.

  3. Congratulations Michelle on such a wonderful declutter!!! I went from 8 huge Christmas bins to just 4 – and one of those is only half full. Now that I’ve done the initial declutter now I can take my time and really contemplate decluttering more of the Christmas stuff. I’ve gotten to the point where my holiday decorations are very minimal and I love it. And my husband is loving that it doesn’t’ look like Christmas threw up in the house.

    • Raesha! That is hilarious! Love your husband’s comment. 🙂 And yes, that is my plan too, is to be more thorough when we get our decorations out this coming weekend.

      • Gosh – this post came at the perfect time! I was just downstairs, looking over our Christmas stuff. And your husband’s reaction was equal to my husband’s. I saw umpteen “Christmas silk flower/poinsettia” arrangements that can all go to the Salvation Army or Goodwill or wherever. What was I thinking?
        That’s the first thing I saw. I need to go back downstairs and see what else there is to get rid of.

    • Raesha – that is so funny! Christmas threw up!

    • That is hysterical. Must be a man thing. My sister’s ex-husband once described a garage sale they were having as, “it looks like salvation army threw up in our garage”.

  4. Wow, those are impressive results! Great work!

    I also have something to add to the eco tip for the day; many receipts usually have BPA (chemical used in plastics), so it’s also better for your health to avoid getting them. A lot of stores will now email receipts which is great, I just have a folder for receipts in case of returns. If they add me to the mailing list when I get my receipt, I just unsubscribe right away to avoid getting excessive emails.

    • Hi Alicia, Like you I keep the receipts for things that may need returning. I am a stickler for returning items that are faulty or don’t perform as advertised. Companies and retailers who make and supply these kinds of products need to be the ones paying the penalty for their shoddiness, not the consumer.

      • Receipts – yes, they are horrible health hazards. When you check out, be sure to warn the clerks too. They handle hundreds of receipts each day. Maybe you can convince the store to provide gloves for their employees who must handle these papers

      • It’s also good to read product reviews from other customers. There are a lot of outside reviews that aren’t affiliated with the company websites. I buy online and receipts are usually sent on plain paper in the mail. Where I live we can recycle all packing materials, and the in-mall shopping is not my thing. It’s wonderful to be able to research a product before I buy.

      • I also used to keep my receipts for all my products inside a folder but a couple of months ago I’ve tried to figure out a way to get rid of all papers that come with major appliances and recently started using Unioncy. It creates a digital catalog from the information in the receipts and also backs up a copy of the original receipt. It’s really helpful to get organized and to easily find a receipt in case a product needs returning. I hope you find it useful too!

  5. I went through and purged some of my stuff last year and it felt great. And I totally can relate when it comes to not making such a big deal about how well the wrapping paper goes with the bows…. Gotta keep the big picture in mind! Love this post! Thanks!

  6. Woa. That looks like easily 35% or even 40% decrease of mass there. Faulous job, Michelle!

    Alicia- I avoid the receipts if I know I am keeping the purchase. The paper discolors my fingers, the texture and smell bother me. I always told myself how silly that was, but now I know why. I think our bodies can feel revulsion that we don’t even recognize on a conscious level sometimes, with certain linens and synthetic fabrics especially. And to clutter, of course.

  7. Whoa! That’s awesome. Way to go Michelle! I too went through and greatly reduced my Christmas stuff last year, but this year I know I could get rid of a few more things too. I’m not even sure where most of it came from. Some of it came from my mom. She’s obsessed with anything with a snowman on it and so she has sent me a LOT of snowman items that got decluttered last year. Not to be mean, I just don’t share the same appreciation for the white snow beasties. lol.

  8. This is the 2nd Christmas in this house. Last year I was able to pare down quite a bit of Seasonal decorations that don’t suit this place. This year I think I can go even farther. I will just “forget” to put some out, and see if anyone notices…. that way I won’t break anybody’s hearts (Christmas is an emotional time isn’t it)
    My standing rule is that if it doesn’t fit in my Grandpa’s steamer trunk, then I can’t have it (space limits work well for me). That way I can resist the incredible “deals” after the season!

  9. Hi Michelle! What a great accomplishment! You must be feeling great. I don’t have all that much in Christmas decoration, but your results inspired me to get rid of whatever is not being used. I did buy, a few years back some gift wrapping paper. I bought a large quantity, but as it was folded it was easily stored. It is now ending. I will be looking for some alternatives for wrapping my gifts. Anyway, congratulations on the great purge!

  10. We have experimented with various wrapping options. I now use brown paper and red ribbon. I can recycle the ribbon, the paper goes on the fire. Not entirely eco friendly but a step in the right direction I hope.

    • Gillie, I like your idea a lot!

      • Hi there,

        First time commenter, longtime reader! I delurked to say that for wrapping paper, I now use old calendars. I usually have calendars with dogs, wolves, or other animals and love wrapping gifts in the nice, thick paper. If the gift is large, I usually tape a few pages together. It always turns out so nice! In a few weeks, I’ll have new wrapping paper (3 calendars) for use over the next year.

        • Hi Judy, thank you for stepping out of the shadows to leave a comment. What a great way to use up old calendars. Old mats are great for this too and the cartoon section of the newspaper. Actually this would make a great Eco tip. Thank you for the idea.
          Cheers Colleen

    • Gillie, I use brown paper and just change the grosgrain ribbon colors depending on the celebration or time of year.You can purchase large rolls of brown paper at a paint store or in the paint department very inexpensively. I am still using a roll I purchased three years ago. I read once that a famous designer (can’t recall who) wraps all of his gifts in brown paper and black ribbon for every gift occasion.

      • Kimberly, I had not thought of the brown paper in paint stores. What a terrific idea! And I love grosgrain ribbon but have never bought any. Do you get that at a craft store or a fabric store?

        • I buy it at either the fabric store or craft store. What I love about grosgrain ribbon is that it comes in various widths, in every color under the sun and is durable. The best part is that it is eco friendly. A touch up with the iron, and it can be re-used over and over again. Colleen will love that aspect of it 🙂 Since I live in Hawaii, I always tie on a seashell, starfish or stalk of bamboo.

  11. That’s great Michelle! I have two big plastic containers – 1 for decorations/lights and the other for Christmas books, plus the Christmas tree. A couple of years ago I got rid of all the cheap, plastic (usually Target-bought) Christmas decorations and only have handmade (mainly by the children) and beautiful glass ones. Each year the kids and I choose 1 or 2 new decorations from local markets. I’m on the lookout for a gorgeous angel or star for the top of the tree, as we have had a tacky plastic one for years. Oh well, no one ever died from crappy decorations 🙂

  12. Ooooh-I took a 30″ artificial tree and a large pillow to Goodwill at the beginning of my Christmas decorating. Then found 8 unused Christmas decor items to donate to a group that will use them as door prizes. Just using my fav items–feels great!

  13. Regarding wrapping paper – I have found it much cheaper to go to Lowes or Home Depot and buy a roll of pretty wallpaper, and use that for wrapping paper. One year, I bought a roll of plain white wallpaper – but it had TEXTURE – it was designed to be used on walls, then swipe with some inky paint, and it looks aged. But I used it plain – brilliant white and gorgeous paper. I used Christmas plaid ribbon or fabric for bows. The wallpaper covered all our packages much cheaper than regular wrapping paper. I also have about half a package left.
    This year, I’ve been saving the Sunday comics and will use that paper as wrapping paper. We have 2 grandchildren to provide for. And they certainly could not care less what kind of paper is used. They just tear it off to get to the gift. So I don’t put a lot of time or effort in shopping for wrapping paper -preferring to use the comics (although my husband is opposed because of the ink left on the little ones’ hands. ). I just know that there are many alternatives to wrapping paper.

  14. Hello Colleen – my husband had never read your blog, but of course I had to show him your post about my experience and the subsequent comments from the community. He was really impressed. I explained that the purpose of your blog is for us all to feel better about our lives and our homes, to decrease consumerism as well as stress. I think a lot of people don’t link their home stress to all the stuff they have, the storing of the stuff, the cleaning of the stuff, the moving around of the stuff. Yikes! It is so refreshing to look at a clean, well organized space that holds only items you treasure. 🙂

  15. There are some good ideas here for wrapping paper. We have also used white, glossy shelf paper for wrapping. To be more eco friendly you can make paper bows with crepe paper so it all can be recycled or used in the fire.

  16. I got rid of many of my decorations last year. This year, I was able to get rid of an extra tree I had, along with lights and decorations for it. There is more that I want to get rid of, but it will have to wait until next week, when I finally have a chance to put up my tree and then I will declutter some more of those decorations.

  17. Michelle, I think it’s great how you reduced your decorations!

    I found that I am not really that fond of dragging out the same decorations every year, except some very few sentimental pieces. On the other hand I don’t like the idea of buying new each year from an ecological point of view. Therefore I got rid of almost everything (as far as my boyfriend was ok with it) and am decorating with mainly natural things (real twigs and greenery, a couple of real candles, but not more than I will actually burn down before next year’s christmas, fruit, nuts and gingerbread etc.), combined with those few pieces.

    • Cool idea Sanna. I might consider that ideas myself next year. As I will be living near the beach I might go with a driftwood and shell theme. I decluttered a few decorations this year. Not intensionally. My son called this week asking if I had some Seattle themed decorations he could have. I let him choose two as I don’t have much left myself.

  18. Last year, overwhelmed with the prospect of holiday decorating– choosing a tree, bringing up all the decorations, decorating the tree and putting out the knickknacks, and worse to me, the undecorating AFTER Christmas, I decided to start with the tree. While searching for alternative Christmas tree ideas, I saw a ladder all decked out with lights, and that was it. The simplicity of not having to deal with a tree inspired me to declutter the rest of the decorations, and I made some good progress.

    This is our second year with a Christmas ladder instead of a tree for Christmas, and I’m loving it. This year I am going to continue to minimize our holiday decorations, keeping only the items which are truly meaningful to us. It’s so nice to see others focusing on a “less is more” holiday season.

    Love your blog!