Using wedding registries to avoid gift-related clutter

I have mixed emotions about wedding registries. On one hand, I tend to agree with Miss Manners, who recently wrote:

Registries are never proper, not for weddings, not for baby showers and not for birthdays. Not for christenings, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras, sweet sixteens, graduations, engagements, coming out, announcing gender, changing gender, getting a job, losing a job, buying a house, divorcing, retiring or dying.

It is simply never polite to ask someone to buy you a present. Everyone is just going to have to go through life’s milestones without the explicit intention of reaping material rewards.

However, the practical part of me knows people are going to create registries, and they do help avoid couples getting gifts that get shoved to the back of a closet. If you’re going to create a wedding registry on Amazon or elsewhere, consider the following to help ensure the gifts you receive won’t become clutter.

You won’t develop a whole new personality after the wedding.

If you’re an introvert and throwing a fancy dinner party for 12 makes you shudder, it won’t suddenly sound appealing after you get married. If you tend to eat take-out meals and easy-to-prepare foods, you’re unlikely to become interested in gourmet cooking in the near future. So select items that match the person you actually are, not the person the registry checklists might presume you are. If your tastes and interests evolve later — as they certainly can, in unpredictable ways — you can get what you need for future-you when that time comes.

Consider the other members of your household.

I have cats who eat cut flowers, so vases would never go on my list. And any quilts and other such bedding needs to be machine washable, because hairballs happen. Consider what items may or not be appropriate given your specific family members. Do you need to avoid easily broken items? Are there medical conditions to take into account?

You still need to store the stuff.

Make sure everything you’re asking for will have an appropriate storage place in your home. And if you’re considering things you’d use once or twice a year — sports gear, Thanksgiving dinner kitchenware, etc. — consider whether or not you’d be better off renting or borrowing these items rather than owning them.

Consider items beyond the traditional housewares.

Your registry can incorporate consumables (such as wine) and experiences (such as museum memberships). Another option: Ask for donations to a charity of your choice. Rather than looking for cash donations, some couples have created registries of things they will turn around and give to local homeless shelters or other nonprofit organizations — making it clear to the gift-givers that this is their intention.

Add items to your registry as carefully as you would choose them if you were buying them yourself.

Are the items on your list things that you’ll love having in your space? Alternatively, are they just really practical items you need to have? (I once got a couple the paper shredder that was on their registry.) If not, consider whether they really belong on your list.

Wedding gifts we still use 16 years later

Way back in the year 2000, my then girlfriend and I decided to get married. We created a gift registry, as so many engaged couples to do. As a pair of young people with very little in the way of “real world” possessions, we asked for many things we thought we’d use for years. Fortunately many of our friends and family obliged and a year later we found ourselves happily married with a pile of new stuff.

Sixteen years later, there are items from that registry that we still use every day and others that were donated/tossed/given away long ago. Here’s a list of the few keepers that still see active duty.

Dishes

The first item we registered for was a set of dinnerware from local potter Steve Kemp. We loved Steve’s work and thought, “What the heck. Maybe someone will buy us a setting or two.” We ended up with full service and those very plates and bowls are still in daily use at our house. Yes, I’ve broken a few but that’s what anniversary gifts are for, right?

Flatware

My mother was raised in Oneida, New York, home to Oneida flatware and, before that, The Oneida Community (I’ve been inside the fabled “Mansion House” many times). My maternal grandfather worked for Oneida, designing flatware. Of course, I had to have a set, which we asked for and received.

For the first few years, I kept those utensils tucked away until Christmas other other “special” occasion. Eventually I decided that that was silly and now we use the Oneida flatware every day.

We didn’t ask for things like knifes or pots and pans, as we inherited sets of each, which we’ve since replaced.

Bed

As two single people we had, of course, two twin beds. As a gift we received a queen sized bed with some nifty storage compartments and it’s still in use.

Stuff we asked for, have, and never use.

Wine glasses. My wife and I drink wine maybe once a year. Yet we requested and received a set of wine glasses, figuring we’d be entertaining wine-loving friends. That hasn’t happened yet, and to this day a set of pristine wine glasses sit idle in a cabinet. The same goes for the blender. Again, we’ve used this maybe a dozen times over the past 16 years. The thought of fresh fruit smoothies every morning sounds great until you have to make them and then clean the blender.

Items we no longer own

First things first, if you’re reading this and you’re the person(s) who gave us any of the following, I’m sorry! We tried, honest. Let’s start with the bread machine. At the time when we got married, these things were very popular. Toss the ingredients inside, hit a switch and presto, you’ve got bread. The bread machine we owned was huge and took up a massive amount of counter space. So it sat in the basement until we decided that we wanted to use it. That day never came. The same goes for the ice cream maker. Oh, how charmingly naive young couples are. “We’ll make ice cream! It will be great.” Add a few kids to the mix and you realize there’s no time for that. Away it went.

What I wish we’d asked for

If I had a time machine, I’d go back to the year 2000 and ask for the following:

A decent, basic set of tools. You can get a way with cheap tools for a while, or skipping some essentials entirely, but starting off with a high-quality starter set is well worth the investment.

A rice cooker. We didn’t buy a rice cooker until a few years ago and we’re amazed at how useful, compact and efficient it is. Everybody should own one.

A full set of Pyrex: 1 cup, 2 cup and quart measuring cups; 8×8 cake pan; 2qt, 3 qt and 4 qt baking dishes. You can’t kill these things. They last forever.

If you’re getting married soon, consider creating your wedding gift registry with Amazon. They have a vast selection of gifts at various prices. Your guests will know exactly what you want and your guests will appreciate that the gifts can be automatically delivered to you.

When shopping for wedding gifts, consider giving something that the couple likely wouldn’t buy themselves. Personally, I lean towards the practical. It’s kind of boring, but let’s be honest. There’s no time for making ice cream.

How to wrap gifts without paper

Every year I get a few comments from Unclutterers about the wastefulness of wrapping paper. It’s there for a few minutes and then it’s gone and tossed into the trash.

Now, I understand that wrapping paper adds to the festive feeling of gift-giving. A carefully-wrapped gift can express caring and affection for the recipient. I love a well-wrapped gift, but I can see the other side, too. If you’re in the anti-wrap camp, here are several ideas for clever ways to wrap gifts without paper.

Cloth

A beautiful cloth can make a gift look fantastic. Furoshiki is a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that’s perfect for oddly-shaped packages or gifts. It’s also a great choice when a scarf or beautiful cloth is part of the gift.

If you want to give this a try, download this beautifully illustrated PDF from Japan’s Ministry of the Environment. Likewise, the video below provides a nice step-by-step for a popular method.

You can also re-purpose decorative napkins, old curtains or scrap fabric. Simply stitch them together for a fun, vintage look.

Lastly, I found this great idea using a cable knit sweater , some ribbon and decorative pine cones. It’s clever and looks great.

Re-purposed paper

For many, the issue is the single-use nature of wrapping paper. One thing you can do about it is re-use decorative retail bags. Here’s a great example using holiday-themed grocery bags from Trader Joe’s . Likewise, you can buy an inexpensive stamp like this and some scrap paper from the printer, junk mail, etc. and create great-looking wrap.

When I was young, my mother would occasionally wrap presents in the color Sunday comics from the newspaper. It always looked great and I thought it was a lot of fun.

Containers

You can buy a gift bag. It’s not my favorite solution, but it’s there. If that’s not your thing, consider these other fun packages and gift wrap.

Here’s a great tutorial on turning a cereal box into a lovely and charming gift box. Likewise, here’s a tutorial on using a Pringles container to present beautiful, customized gifts.

I hope this list was helpful. A thoughtfully-wrapped gift can say as much as the goodie it contains. And yes, paper is not your only option. Have fun wrapping! And don’t worry, there’s plenty of time left.

Organize a game night

Entertaining at home is a great way to spend time with family and friends, and is often a less expensive option than meeting at a restaurant. One suggestion for what to do is to host a game night. With a little preparation and careful game selection, you’ll have a fun event.

Make a plan

Whenever you invite guests to your home for something beyond “let’s hang out,” it’s good to make a plan for your evening in your head. In the case of a game night, decide in advance if you’ll serve food, what games you’ll offer to play, how long you’ll spend playing games, what activities you’ll provide beyond playing games, etc. You don’t need to write anything down or tell your guests your plan, but take at least some time to organize the flow of the night and how you can make it a good experience for everyone.

Snacks

A party means snacks and with games involved, this area needs some extra attention. Stick with non-messy options. You don’t want gunky fingers all over your game pieces. Dry snacks like plain popcorn, nuts, sliced cheese, hard candies, and crackers are a great option. Napkins are good to provide, even if you provide snacks on the clean side.

Location of your snacks is another consideration. If you’re going to have snacks and games on the same table, make sure there’s enough room for each. Smaller serving bowls/plates are good to have in multiple locations to reduce having to pass items. Or, pull up a smaller table next to the game table to be the snack center. Even a card table with a nice tablecloth will do the trick.

Keep it small, at least at first

While it’s tempting to bring a crowd over for that hilarious party game, keep the party small, at least at first. I’d recommend four or five, that way everyone can play the same game. Otherwise, you risk breaking the gang up into two groups, which is fine until you’re running back and forth trying to teach two games at once or refilling snack items.

Select a variety of game options

Game selection is important and can make or break your event. Plan on having several titles ready to go, but not so many that you overwhelm guests. You’ll also want to have several types of game available, to accommodate tastes and skill levels. Lastly, make sure you know how to play each game you’ve selected, so you can teach them easily.

Party games

This genre of games are obviously great for a party, as the emphasis is on getting everyone laughing rather than identifying a winner. They’re even better toward the end of the evening after a couple bottles of wine have been opened.

Telestrations. Think telephone meets Pictionary. One person draws an image, the next guesses what it is, the next draw’s that guess….on and on. Always hilarious.

Wits and Wagers. A trivia game that asks questions you feel like you should know the answer to, but almost no one does. Like, how wide (not long) is a NFL football field? How many days in a school year?

Card games

Cards are familiar, even if the game isn’t. The following are two options that are easy to learn and a lot of fun.

Love Letter. In this fun, fast-paced deduction game, you’re trying to pass a letter to the princess, while your rivals try to prevent that from happening.

Sushi Go!. This is a set-collection game, similar to rummy, but with super-cute sushi. The premise is that you’re in a sushi restaurant, watching all of the delicious choices go past. Score points by making sets (most dumplings, rolls, etc.) and gain other bonuses. A round of play goes pretty quickly.

Strategy games

Ready to level up? The following are a couple of games with a little more “meat” to them.

King of New York. In this game, there’s a little more going on than in other titles. Each player is a B-movie style monster rampaging through the Big Apple. You must damage the city and each other, while conquering the five boroughs and avoiding that pesky army trying to take you down. It’s a great-looking game with big, chunky dice to roll. Who doesn’t love that?

Seven Wonders. You lead one of seven great cities of the ancient world in this game. Gather and manage resources to build the seven wonders of the world.

Wind-down

Finally, recognize that some guests may be tired of playing board games after only a couple rounds. Have a dessert or coffee ready, so everyone can chat and unwind a bit before the evening ends.

For me, playing tabletop games is a tremendous way to spend time, get to know people, build memories, and laugh. Even if you haven’t played a board game since the first time you ID’d Colonel Mustard in the study with the candlestick, consider giving an organized game night a try.

Re-gifting done right

I’ve been a fan of re-gifting ever since I received a well intentioned, expensive, but off-the-mark gift: a large serving bowl. I don’t do the type of entertaining that would require such a bowl and it would have taken a lot of storage space. Just as I was pondering what to do with it — donate it, probably — a dear friend mentioned she was attending the wedding of a relative she wasn’t close to, and she was trying to decide what to bring as a gift. Suddenly, both of our problems were solved.

On the other hand, you don’t want to be like the very embarrassed Tim Gunn, who needed a last-minute present and re-gifted a Tiffany pen he’d been given after judging a design competition. Unfortunately, he didn’t take a good look at the pen, which he learned (when the gift was opened) was inscribed, “Best wishes from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.”

But done with care, re-gifting can work just fine. If you feel any guilt about it, let Miss Manners put your mind to rest. In Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior she wrote that returning, donating to charity, and re-gifting are not rude “if the rule is strictly observed about protecting the donor from knowing. This requires fresh wrappings and logs of who gave what, and a ban on yard sales and re-gifting anywhere near the donor.” (If the gift-giver has specifically told you returning or re-gifting is fine, that’s a different situation.)

Paul Michael, writing on the Wise Bread blog, has listed a couple additional cautions:

  • If you suspect the item you got is already a re-gift, you can’t take the risk of re-gifting it again. (I think you could still re-gift if you were giving to someone in an entirely different social circle.)
  • Don’t give outdated items. If you’re going to re-gift things like electronics and clothing, do it while the electronics are still current models and the clothing is still in style. As Michael wrote, “The older the brand new item becomes, the more obvious it becomes that this is a re-gift.”

And you’ll want to match the gift to the recipient just as carefully as you would if you were buying something new. Even for a Secret Santa type of gift situation, where you may not know the recipient well, you want to give something the receiver has a decent chance of appreciating. As Genevieve Shaw Brown wrote for ABC News, “Never re-gift ugly.” (But if you are giving to a white elephant gift exchange, ugly is just fine.)

One final caveat: Don’t keep things around for ages thinking you’ll eventually re-gift them — you don’t need that clutter! If no person or occasion comes to mind within a month or two, you’re probably better off returning, donating, or selling the item.

Holiday preparations you might overlook but will save you time and energy

For those who celebrate winter holidays, December is usually time for family, friends, and lots of preparation. A good amount of what is on your to-do list is obvious: shopping, cleaning, and cooking. But not everything is as obvious, so the following are six items that you might overlook but can still plan and organize for during your preparations. Doing this work now can help your holidays (and winter) go more smoothly.

Make room in the coat closet. Incoming guests arrive with bulky coats and hats that must be stored away during their visit. I don’t know about your house, but our coat closet is pretty full before anyone new arrives. Prepare now by making some room and a few extra hangers available. Also consider, if you live in a snowy climate, guests might arrive with wet hats and gloves and slushy boots. You’ll want to have a plan for where you’re going to put those additional items without making a mess, too.

Prepare bad weather gear. Tell me if this sounds familiar: You need to shovel a mountain of snow, but the shovel is across the yard and in the shed? That situation is not ideal. Before the first flakes fall, I get my shovels, bucket of salt, and scrapers for the car out of the basement and into their winter storage locations. Now, when the snow falls, you can start shoveling right away as all of your equipment will be ready and you won’t have to worry about your guests slipping and falling.

Plan ahead for post-holiday light storage. Holiday presents mean, among other things, an influx of cardboard boxes. If you don’t already have an organized light-storage method for after the holidays, keep a few of those boxes because they’re perfect for storing holiday lights. Break the box down flat and then cut the boxes down into their individual sides. Wrap lights around the cardboard squares/rectangles prior to storage. They won’t tangle and you can even leave a note to yourself on the slab of cardboard yourself: “Kitchen window,” “Tree.”

Outfit an ornament repair center. Many people have an eclectic collection of holiday ornaments, from the inexpensive pieces you picked up on a whim to the old, sentimental decorations with high sentimental value. It’s a bummer when they need repair and it’s a real problem when you’re not equipped. A little glass adhesive, some pliers, a wooden stick or a pin-tool (for applying adhesive), a razor blade, and plastic gloves will serve you well.

Make shelves and food easily viewable in your refrigerator and pantry. There’s nothing like opening the spice cabinet and being confronted with the backs of several dozen little plastic containers. Where was the allspice again? It’s like a memory game, and it’s not fun. Turn everything with the label-side out for easy reference or write on the lids with a permanent marker the shaker’s contents if you can’t see all the labels.

Set tables the night before a holiday meal. I’ve spent a whole day cooking only to notice that, just as the final dish has finished cooking, the table is not set or decorated. Before you hit the bed at night, set the table and save yourself a lot of time the next day. This is a great activity for children, too, if you’re looking for ways to get them involved.

Have a great — and organized — holiday season.

Storing Christmas decorations

If you celebrated Christmas this year, you’re likely ready to take down your decorations (if you haven’t already). The following are suggestions for how you can do that chore and be organized in the process.

Trees

Artificial trees must be broken down and stored, and there are numerous storage solutions available to you. In our house, we use tree bags by Vickerman. They easily hold a tree and its stand. The handles on the bag are nice and wide, so you can get a good hold of it while crawling into the eaves of the house (where we store ours). The bag’s material is sturdy, too, and after years of use there’s not a tear or a puncture to be had. Plus, they fold up to be quite small when the trees are out and on display.

If you have a real tree that is ready to go, you have a few options. Stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s will often take your trees, as will local Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups. Alternatively, call your local municipality, as many governments have erosion programs that utilize old Christmas trees.

Lights

It’s tempting to toss these into a bag and figure you’ll deal with the mess in 11 months. Again, there are several options here, but my favorite is the good old coat hanger. Just wrap them on, hook them into place and hang as you would an article of clothing.

Extension cords

This is one of my favorite tricks for storing outdoor extension cords, so often used for outdoor lights. Don’t wrap it around your arm or wad it into a ball. Instead, braid it. By putting the two ends together, making a loop, pulling the length through to make another loop, repeating until you have a perfect braid that can be hung in the garage or basement. The best part is that the next time you use it, you only need to “unbraid” the length that you need.

Ornaments

Some of our ornaments have a strong sentimental value and deserve a little extra protection. An archival storage box does the trick. For the rest, we use significantly less expensive containers that are sturdy and easy to store. What I like here is that the wing-top folds completely out of the way, making it easy to get items and hands in and out.

Wreath

For storing wreaths, we use a wreath-shaped storage containers with a handle. My wife made a pair of artificial wreaths a few years ago that fit nicely in these containers, which keep them protected throughout the year. I will admit that after a few years of use, the latches aren’t as trust-worthy as they’ve been, so I’ve supplemented with a little bungie cord. Other that that, they’re fine and easy to transport.

What are your strategies? Let us know in the comments.

Holly jolly clutter

While it’s such a fantastic privilege to be able to share gifts with friends and family this time of year, this privilege often comes with the side-effect of discovering clutter in your home. I’ve found several options for dealing with holiday clutter, some of which come from Unclutterer readers, and I’d like to share them with you.

Way back in 2007, we suggested you use the “one for one” rule. That is to say, if you receive a coffee maker, get rid of the old one. Love that new pair of jeans? Eliminate an existing tattered pair. For many items this rule is a good one to follow, but it’s not always practical. For instance, you can’t swap out consumables, like one-of-a-kind homemade items or cards.

Speaking of cards, readers Jan and Kate have shared some awesome suggestions for processing greeting cards. Jan cuts the front of cards off and reuses the colorful cover as a post card. Kate massacres (her word) the cards to use their images as gift tags. Those are both good ideas.

While you’re at it, this is also a good time to do a general purge of the items and decorations you typically only see once a year. If something is worn beyond repair or no longer working correctly, get rid of it. Decorations that are faded or looking a little long in the tooth should go, too. Resist the urge to just pack them away and get them out of sight until next year. And, if you have ornaments or decorations that need to be repaired, do that work now so you can enjoy the items this season.

If there are any items you didn’t unpack this year and left in the holiday decorations box, it might be a sign that it’s time to get rid of those things. Items you simply don’t like any longer can always be donated to charities and organizations that decorate for the holidays. You’ll enjoy freeing up some space and the eventual recipients will have the benefit of your generosity.

Gift giving is a tricky business and you may receive some items you appreciate but aren’t interested in keeping. If you’re thinking of re-gifting the item, check out Clementine Daily’s interview “Regifting: Yay or Nay?” with a modern manners and etiquette expert Diane Gottsman. She provides tips for doing this in such a way as to be considerate to everyone involved.

I’m sure several of you also have inventive and effective ways to manage holiday clutter. So, share your favorites with everyone in the comments below. How do you deal with the holly jolly clutter?

Happy Thanksgiving from Unclutterer

Unclutterer is taking the day off to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones. We hope you’re having a great, restful day, too. In the meantime, here are some posts from Thanksgivings past to review at your leisure.

Have a great day and we’ll be back in full swing next week.

Have a great day, folks! We’ll see you next week.

Introducing the 2014 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide

Starting Monday and going through the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we will be running our annual Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Each post will focus on uncluttered, useful, and/or organized gifts that you might want to consider giving to others this season.

The holidays are a time when we can easily feel overwhelmed with responsibilities, as well as by stuff. With our Guide, we hope to inspire you to think outside the traditional gift-giving process or to be more aware of how you proceed within its regular bounds.

The next seven weeks, however, aren’t only about gifts. You’ll likely be invited to parties and have special work or school obligations. You may be the host of this year’s Thanksgiving gathering. And you may find yourself packing up a suitcase or two or three and heading across the country to see far-flung friends and family.

So, how do you keep yourself from going mad?

  • Make a plan now. Create a to-do-list of everything that needs to be accomplished. Then, set specific deadlines for shopping and preparations or whatever it is you have to do in the next seven weeks. Mark these on your calendar with blocks of time to work on meeting your deadlines. If playing host for a holiday meal, consult a guide that lists day-by-day and hour-by-hour suggestions for getting food on the table.
  • Take a break. You don’t have to constantly be on the go until the New Year. When scheduling all the things you need to do on your calendar, be sure to include time for reflection and rejuvenation. You’re likely to go bonkers, otherwise. Also try not to be afraid of saying “no” if you feel that your schedule is becoming too much to reasonably handle.
  • Keep it simple. Whether it’s with your decorations, your gift giving, or any other task that could complicate this time, try your best to keep things simple. You don’t have to put out every snow man you own. You don’t have to serve every dish your grandmother did at Thanksgiving. You don’t have to give New Year’s guests four choices of champagne. Have a signature cocktail and make a pitcher of it instead of standing behind a bar all night making custom orders. Santa Claus can bring the kids a single, larger gift instead of 40 little ones. Don’t be overly complicated about things unless you have to.

Stay focused on enjoying time with family and friends and you should be fine this holiday season.

If you’re eager to get started planning your gift giving this season, feel welcome to check out our past Guides for ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Have an uncluttering party

One of the fun things I’ve done a few times with friends is to have a clothing swap party. During the party, people exchange articles of clothing that are still in good condition but that they no longer use. It gives participants a chance to unclutter their closets, socialize with friends, and pick up a few items that they really will use and enjoy. Although donating can be accomplished through charity drop-offs and services like Freecycle, the Swap Party is a good excuse to get together with friends.

It is fairly straightforward to organize a Swap Party. Send an invitation to your friends indicating the date, time, and location of the party (send it electronically and you won’t even have to worry about the clutter of invitations). You should also lay out the Swap Party rules in the invitation. Here are the rules that I used for my last clothing swap party:

  1. Bring unwanted women’s clothing; clean and in good condition.
  2. Feel free to bring shoes, purses, scarves, jewelry and other accessories.
  3. No arguing over the clothes — remember we are friends!
  4. You may take home as many or as few clothes as you like.
  5. Don’t feel bad if nothing fits you and you don’t get to take home anything. There will always be a next time.
  6. Don’t feel bad if no one takes the clothes you brought. There will always be a next time.
  7. You may return home with the clothes you brought or you can leave them with the hostess to take to a local charity.

Before the party, ensure you have an area that can be used as a changing room. Make sure it has good lighting and good curtains. Ideally, you should set up a full-length mirror in the room. When the party is over, arrange to deliver the leftover clothing to charity.

While women’s clothing swap parties seem to be the most common, there are other types of swap parties you can organize with your friends and neighbours.

Holiday decorations: You can limit this to one specific holiday such as a Christmas Ornament exchange or include all sorts of holidays.

Baby/toddler items: Swap parties of baby and toddler clothes, furniture, and accessories are popular with the parent-tot crowd.

Toiletries: The hairspray you don’t use since you got your hair cut, the hand cream that Aunt Bertha got you for your birthday, and those other personal care products cluttering your cupboards might be of value to your friends.

Pet products: Your pet-loving friends may enjoy a get-together to swap pet clothing, unused pet shampoo, and toys. It could be a chance for the pets to socialize too!

Cleaning products: There is no point storing a can of oven cleaner if you have a self-cleaning oven or carpet shampoo if you have hardwood floors. Prior to spring-cleaning, consider gathering for a neighbourhood cleaning product exchange.

Sports: Sport specific clothing and equipment, especially children’s sizes, as well as specialized cleaning products and accessories, can be swapped within your sports team or club. You could also invite the teams in your league to participate for some pre-season socializing.

Office supplies: Fellow entrepreneurs can get together and trade supplies to get what they need: pens, markers, report covers, binders, even computers.

Hardware: If you have friends who are into building, have a hardware swap. Eliminate the nails, screws, hardware, lumber, and paint cluttering your garage or garden shed. You may get the items you need for that fix-it project.

Hobbies: Whether your hobby is rebuilding cars or scrapbooking, find a group of fellow enthusiasts and “swap ’till ya drop”!

Remember, it should be good stuff, good friends, and good fun at your party. With the extra items going to charity, it is also good for the community and the environment.

Uncluttering during the holiday season

Holiday parties, festivities, and gift giving can generate clutter. One of the ways to reduce the clutter build-up is to have effective clean up and disposal systems in place before the big holiday rush begins.

Parties and Festivities

At banquets in hotels and restaurants, they often have tables in the corners of the room on which guests can place their used dishes and cocktail napkins. Set up a similar system at your home party. You may choose to clear a section of kitchen counter near the sink or place a festive tray in each room. As a host, you can see when the trays are filling up and remove the dirty dishes quickly and easily.

Having a small garbage bin near the dirty dish collection point will allow your guests to drop in their soiled napkins. You may wish to have a separate bin for soda cans/bottles for recycling. Most guests are happy to put trash in its place if bins are accessible and clearly labeled.

If you decide you do not want to keep party decorations and holiday flowers, they could be donated to local hospitals and nursing homes if they are still in good condition. Please call ahead and see if they would appreciate your donations prior to dropping them off.

All of these tips could work for parties at any time during the year, too.

General Clutter-Busting Tips

This is the biggest shopping season of the year so more stuff than ever enters the house. Keeping donation boxes or bags in the closet or laundry room is a good idea to help you quickly get rid of any old stuff (like clothes) that will be replaced with new stuff. Once the donation bin is full, take it to your favourite drop-off location or arrange for pick-up from an appropriate charity.

Designate a place in the home for out-dated electronics. It could be a box or bin in your laundry area or office. If they are still functioning, you may be able to sell or donate them. Broken and non-functioning electronics can be sent to electronics recycling programs. Check your municipality’s website to see how electronics should be disposed.

Batteries are required for almost all electronics and many toys. But, many batteries contain materials that can leak into the environment when they are dumped into the trash. In order to protect the environment and keep dead batteries from cluttering up your home, consider creating “Dead Battery Bins.” Ideally there should be three small bins; one for alkaline batteries, one for button batteries, and one for rechargeable batteries. Used batteries may still have a bit of life left in them. Grouping used batteries together can bring these live batteries into contact with one another creating safety risks, so it is important not to accumulate a large amount of alkaline batteries. Small “dead battery bins” such as clean yogurt or margarine containers should minimize the risk and allow you to safely dispose of the batteries before you collect too many. Ensure the containers have tightly fitting lids and keep them out of reach of children and pets.

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season sometimes the simplest things get forgotten, such as the day the waste bins need to be at the curb. Often municipalities will reschedule waste pickups so that they do not fall on statutory holidays. Check with your municipality to confirm the trash and recycling pickup dates and mark them on your calendar. If you need to have your bins out early in the morning, set a reminder for the day before.