Thanksgiving marks the big official start of the holiday shopping season. As a professional organizer, that always makes me worry a little, because clients have often hired me in the aftermath of the holiday season to help clear out what accumulated. I want people to be intentional and deliberate about what they are buying and giving, making sure they are not filling their own homes and the homes of their loved ones with clutter.
Before the Black Friday frenzy starts, here are some strategies to save you time and money and prevent future clutter:
Grow your “gift antenna.” My family has always joked about that skill of listening carefully for gift ideas for others around you, calling it your “gift antenna.” Throughout the year, track gift ideas for others (and yourself!) by keeping notes. I like to use Evernote software (free), which is synchronized on my smartphone and my computer. You can also write ideas into a notebook or keep a folder where you clip out things from catalogs as you see them. If you’re a visual person, try Pinterest’s secret boards and create a board only you can see where you pin gift ideas for the people in your life. When it’s time to buy gifts, you’ll have a huge head start with very relevant and practical ideas.
Always shop with a list. If you go shopping without a plan, you’ll likely fall prey to the clever buy-one-get-one sales and other ways that often cause you to buy more than you need. Your list will keep you on track, let you know what successful shopping looks like at the end, and help you save money.
Check the newspaper before shopping. Save some miles and dollars by going through the Black Friday sales circulars before heading out. You may find out that camera you wanted is half-price at a different store you weren’t planning to visit, and you can think through the route you’re going to navigate that day.
Did you already give Aunt Thelma a scarf? Track your gift giving from year to year by keeping a simple gift journal in a notebook or spreadsheet list. Nothing fancy, but it’s really nice to remember from year to year what you gave to the mail carrier, the teachers and your relatives, so you don’t accidentally duplicate some of your favorite gifts (causing clutter and awkwardness for them). If you like, you can also track how much you spent, since that can be helpful in your planning.
One In, One Out. Practice the rule that for every new item that comes in, one old item (or two!) goes out. This rule is especially helpful to teach children that storage is not unlimited and their unwanted toys and clothing need to be let go and given to others.
Make some room. Take some time to demonstrate gratitude for your abundance at Thanksgiving by taking some of your excess stuff to donate to your local Goodwill®. (Find your nearest donation center here) You’ll be making room for the new gifts you’ll be receiving, and you may get a tax deduction too!
And finally, don’t forget Goodwill for your holiday shopping! Decorations, clothing and accessories are great finds, and your purchases support your community by helping people find work. Happy Holidays!