Go Minimalist to Maximize the Calm in Your Mind

Lauren Swickard
December Is Declutter and Donate Month!

“It’s not just in your head: Extra stuff is stressful.” Yep, the Mayo Clinic reports that women who describe their homes as cluttered show higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. And it’s not only the adults getting harried by too much stuff. In one experiment, toddlers who were given only four toys played twice as long as those who were given sixteen. Now if that isn’t some vital insight to have as we head into the holidays!

Why December Is the Best Month to Declutter

1. You don’t want to dread buying gifts for family members because all you can think about are more piles on the counters, in the corners, in the closets…. It’s time to cleanse!

Organizing and decluttering has been a passion of mine for a few years now. My mom, who is ultra organized, would confirm that my teenage bedroom was not! I must have had some kind of mommy instinct that kicked in and told me Savannah and I would both be happier if our environment was calm and clutter free (or my subconscious was paying attention to my mom’s model behavior when my teen self was not—thanks, Mom!). I embraced the minimalist trend before Savannah’s arrival and purged all the stuff we didn’t need. Then, I bought bins. Lots of them.

Bin tip: Walmart.com. It’s cheaper than The Container Store or Amazon and they have the same bins! BUT, if you want to splurge and find organizing inspo, a day date to The Container Store with coffee in hand is always a good time. Organized bins of hand-me-down clothes/toys in a neat stack in the back of a closet are a lifesaver to me. We have a certain number of “keep this” boxes for clothes and toys. If they get too full, it’s time to donate.

2. Donate! This is another reason December is the perfect month to purge stuff. Your giveaways can turn into someone else’s gifts. I have a firm two-bin rule per closet. When those two storage containers are full, it’s time to donate to those in need. This is good for both our closets and our hearts!

I love going to the Alexandria House. But now that Justin Bieber has made it super well known, I tend to go elsewhere first, like the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles or I Google different transitional housing for abuse victims with children. The best approach for me is to have a box or two in the back of my car. Josh and I are very “see a need, fill a need.” If we see a person on the street with no shoes or jacket, we grab something from our car boxes and give it to them in real time. And this often means Savannah is witnessing these acts of kindness so it’s like teaching the spirit of Christmas all year long.

The holidays are the perfect time to donate gently used clothing and toys. With scientific research showing us that more toys actually hinder kids’ playtime attention spans, cleaning out the toy chest is a win-win. I can make room for gifts that will arrive this Christmas, and families in need will have more gifts under their trees. When Savannah gets a new toy, I encourage her to pick an old toy to give away. This keeps the Christmas spirit going all year long.

Toy Rotation Time

If you don’t have a toy rotation plan in place yet, jump on it before Santa or Hanukkah gifts arrive! We do a “toy rotation” each month, meaning Savannah’s play area only has about 12 toys/books out at a time, so she doesn’t get overwhelmed. When it’s toy change day, she comes out the next morning to her play space like it’s Christmas, even though she has seen the toys before. She plays with them like new. When we keep her space organized, she loves to put each toy back in its spot after playing. It’s very cute! We use mostly Montessori toys and products. Her toy shelf and book rack have a Montessori layout so she can see everything and grab what suits her fancy.

Toy Tip: Montessori Toy Subscription Boxes are the best! Check out lovevery.com for Montessori toys geared towards baby’s development that come every two to three months. These toys are the best quality by far of all the subscriptions I’ve tried, and Savannah agrees—she always goes for them first!

Clothing Swaps

I love having clothes swap events with friends to cut back on buying new clothing. We all know how bad fast fashion is for our planet (and our closet space!). Try to buy quality clothing or shop vintage. Then when the inevitable doldrums hit with your wardrobe, refresh it with a fun clothing swap with your girlfriends. Throw in clothes the kids have outgrown, and you get some good friend time mixed with a whole-house closet cleanse!

Organization Overhaul

Check out the adorable and functional “Storage Solutions” on projectnursery.com

Cubeicals on wayfair.com are great for the playroom or kids’ bedrooms.

And overhead garage storage racks are a brilliant solution when your home is full to the brim! Check out Saferacks at Costco and rhinoshelf.com.

I promise you that if you follow these tips on streamlining the stuff in your home, you and your family will breathe easier and find a renewed sense of calm, which is just what we all need this time of year. New to the minimalist mindset? Try tackling decluttering one step at a time and apply a tip per month in 2023. Before you know it, paring down all the stuff you don’t need will become second nature.

Have your own decluttering tips, products or a favorite charity to share with us? Email us or comment on our social channels, so we can spread your wisdom to all the moms out there!