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Need Help Organizing For The Holidays?

7 Holiday Organization Ideas for a Merrier Season

Starting to feel that seasonal stress kick in? Well, take a breath and grab your favorite hot beverage. We rounded up six holiday organization ideas from the team at The Container Store, plus organizing experts Natalie Gallagher, Donna Dubinsky and Gayle Goddard, to help make your season merry and bright—the way it should be. 

How to Get Organized for the Holidays


1. Reorganize Your Holiday Schedule

One reason the holidays are so busy is that we tend to overextend ourselves. Instead of squeezing in every seasonal event, limit yourself to what your family enjoys the most. If your kids don’t really care about waiting in line to see Santa, skip it so you have more time for the cookie decorating you all love. And if it turns out they did miss something you sidelined, you can always add it to the list next year.

For your must-dos, Natalie Gallagher, professional organizer at Refined Rooms, LLC, recommends knocking out certain tasks before the season is in full swing, like stocking up on holiday dinner and baking supplies, buying gift-wrapping materials and writing holiday cards.

Natalie Gallagher Headshot


“There are some key tasks that you can focus on knocking out in November, in order to carve out more time for fun in December.”

Natalie Gallagher | Refined Rooms, LLC



Person in Red Sweater Writing in a Notebook Surrounded by Holiday Gifts


2. Make a List (And, Yes—Check It Twice!)

It’s a classic for a reason. Whether you use an app, an Excel sheet or a good old-fashioned notebook, Gallagher recommends getting organized by creating a “Master Holiday To-Do List” with categories for:

  • Home Preparation: List tasks related to cleaning, decluttering, decorating and prepping the kitchen.
  • Gift-Giving: Include a list of who you’re shopping for, what you’re buying, what needs wrapping, and any homemade gifts you’re planning.
  • Hosting: Record everything related to menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking and baking.
  • Holiday Traditions: Note the events you decided on in the last step. This could be things like taking a family portrait, watching a favorite seasonal movie, visiting relatives and more.

Once you’ve got your list, Donna Dubinsky, professional organizer at Simply Orderly, suggests giving each task a deadline, then arranging them in order. This way, you’ll always know which items on your list to tackle at a given time.

Simply Orderly Logo


“You should also include a time estimate for each item on your to do list, so when planning for tomorrow, you won’t consider items that are more time consuming than the hours you have available.”

Donna Dubinsky | Simply Orderly

Little Girl Cutting Out Holiday Cookies

3. Prepare the Kitchen

The holidays are a prime time to try a family recipe for a side dish or kick off a cookie bake-a-thon with the kids. As you plan these moments, an organized kitchen makes them all the easier. Before you start your holiday cooking and baking, make sure all of your baking sheets, cookie cutters and appliances are clean and ready-to-go. As you do this, make note of out-of-date, worn or seldom-used kitchen accessories, and either toss them or add a new one to your Christmas list.

4. Make Space for Christmas Cards

'Tis the season to send and receive handwritten cards and family photos to your loved ones. If you have a lot of recipients on your list, it's helpful to create a designated space for your cards. Choose a table where you can organize your cards, envelopes, family photos and stamps. Now is also a great time to update your address book, whether it's physical or digital. Along with creating a mailing station, you'll want to create a spot to showcase the cards sent to you by friends and family. You might clear your fridge of old notes and magnets or save a little room on your mantel between your holiday decorations.

5. Create a Wrapping Station

One of the best ways to get organized for the holidays is to keep wrapping supplies like paper, gift bags, tape, scissors and ribbons in a portable organizer. This way, you can move it wherever you have room to wrap and stash it out of sight the rest of the time. This can be as simple as sticking all your supplies in a plastic bin under your bed or tossing them in a tote basket that can be tucked behind the couch. 

Gayle Goddard, Certified Professional Organizer at The Clutter Fairy, recommends storing the small stuff inside their own organizers within your bin or tote. “Add a pencil-type box for pens, scissors and the scotch tape, and a large Ziploc with all the gift tags and stickers.”

Keeping everything together and portable makes it easy to wrap gifts as you buy them so you won’t be scrambling at the last minute—and can enjoy a tidy house in between wrapping sprees.

Gayle Goddard Headshot


“Don’t forget to clean out your gift wrap storage before you put them away after the season. Lose supplies you’ll never use, throw out all the trash scraps, and refill your Ziploc with the gift tags, resetting them for next year’s use.”

Gayle Goddard | The Clutter Fairy


Wrapped Presents Under a Christmas Tree


6. Make Room for Incoming Gifts

The holidays are a great time to declutter and donate. When the holiday dust settles, you’ll need to find homes for a slew of new stuff, so make room ahead of time by weeding out the things you no longer need. To decide where to focus your holiday organizing efforts, experts at The Container Store recommend planning around your family’s wish list items. 

The Container Store Logo


“How bulky are the kids' new toys going to be? How much hanging space do you need for your new articles of clothing? Shop for organization solutions that will contain the items that are staying in the space, as well as storage for new items you expect to receive.”

The Organizing Experts at The Container Store


Once you know where to create space, you don’t have to go overboard. “Decluttering and donating needn’t be a monumental project,” said Dubinsky. “Just a bag or two, collected in 10 or 15 minutes, can make a difference in your own space and in the life of someone else.”

Simply Orderly Logo


“Are you clinging to stuff you don’t use just in case you need it “one day?” Consider whether it would be easier to part with some of your excess, knowing these items will be put to great use now.”

Donna Dubinsky | Simply Orderly


Hands Clinking Glasses Over a Holiday Meal


7. Get the House Ready for Guests

You’ve wrangled your wrapping and conquered some decluttering—now it’s time to bring holiday organization to the rest of your home. “Identify the spaces in your home that are the most often-used during the holidays, and focus on those areas,” said the team at The Container Store. “For example, you might choose the family room, kitchen or the kids' closets.” 

Again, you don’t need to go overboard during this busy time of year. Just make sure each focus area is ready to serve its purpose:

  • Is there a place for everyone to hang their coats?
  • Is the bathroom stocked with extra toilet paper, tissues and towels?
  • Is bedding easy to pull out for overnight guests?
  • Are your holiday dishes and cookware washed and ready to use?
  • Have you removed non-essential items from the kitchen, living room, dining room and other common areas to make room for meal prep and gathering guests? 
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Organize Your Coat Closet and Mudroom

With the winter season, your guests will likely arrive bundled in coats, boots, scarves and other accessories. Before they arrive, be sure to create room for all of these items to be stored neatly and out of plain view. A few weeks prior to the holiday, take a few minutes to organize your hall closet to decide whether or not you need all of the items hanging. If you notice a few jackets that you never wear, consider donating them to a local charity to help those in need. This way, you'll have space available for guests to hang their coats.

If you have a mudroom to organize, now is the time to tuck away your shoes to make room for your guests' boots. Clean off your family's footwear and place them in a temporary spot like an upstairs closet. Remove your personal belongings from hooks to free up hanging space for your guests wherever possible.

Organize room by room, focusing on tasks that will have the biggest impact, and you’ll quickly be ready to host a gathering your whole family will enjoy. 

The Container Store Logo


“If you identify items that are better stored elsewhere in your home when cleaning house, relocate them. Golf bags stored in the closet? Move them to the garage. But don't be tempted to start on another area until the first one is complete.”

The Organizing Experts at The Container Store


What if you’re really down to the wire? Goddard recommends prioritizing three things that will do the most to make sure your guests enjoy their stay: the guest bedroom, the main bathroom and the coffee maker.

Gayle Goddard Headshot


“Make sure their bedroom is tidy so they can unpack their luggage and charge their phones. Spend your cleaning energy on the bathroom they’ll use. Create a coffee station that has everything they need out in case they get up earlier than you. If these things are all you get done, your guests will still be comfortable and you’ll all enjoy your time together.

Gayle Goddard | The Clutter Fairy

White Holiday Decorations and Dishes in a Candle-Lit Room


How to Organize Your Holiday Decorations

There are two stages to this task. First up, take some pictures of this year's set up to make decorating for next year easier. Next, do some decoration downsizing while you’re decking the halls this year:

  • Toss broken decorations and light strings as you work.
  • Set aside any décor that no longer suits your style or has become too difficult to put up. These can be sold or donated.
  • Consider selling or donating anything you haven’t used for the past two holiday seasons.
  • Look through any decorations you didn’t have room to put up. Do you really need to keep them? Are there duplicates you can pare down so you do have room to hang a few?

Do this now so at the end of the season you’ll only be storing holiday decorations you actually use. And don’t worry, we’ve got you covered for the keepers, too.

Holiday Decor Storage Tips

  1. Store fragile ornaments in old egg cartons or muffin tins.
  2. Avoid tangling lights by wrapping them around old gift wrap or paper towel tubes—or buy a store-bought version. You can also try coiling them inside a shoe box.
  3. Create DIY sectional storage by lining up plastic cups inside a bin or making partitions out of box lids and other cardboard scraps.
  4. Keep non-fragile ornaments in a couple plastic bins—no need for a complicated system when you’re not worried about damage. You can even reuse holiday popcorn tins or gift boxes for this.
  5. Slide wreaths and other large hanging decorations onto hooks, nails or clothing racks instead of stuffing them into boxes.
  6. Cover your artificial tree with garbage bags to keep dust and cobwebs from building up. 
  7. Store an artificial tree in a rolling case if you have the space, so you can wheel it into place next year fully assembled. 
  8. Use a hanging pocket organizer to hold wrapping paper scraps, pint-size gift bags and boxes, ornament hooks and other small holiday necessities.
  9. Color-code your holiday storage containers so you can easily spot them among the other stuff stored in your basement or attic.
  10. Label each container with its contents. This way, you know exactly what goes where when you’re taking down decorations—no more storage bin Tetris.

Natalie Gallagher


“Whether you love to deck the halls or you’re the type that dreads decorating, it’s crucial that you put systems in place to store your holiday items in an organized manner so you can minimize the stress come next December.”

Natalie Gallagher | Refined Rooms, LLC


Feeling Holly Jolly?

With these holiday organization tips you’ll be able to spend less time sweating the seasonal grind and more time enjoying your favorite traditions with friends and family. Need to let go of some nostalgic items as you get your home ready for hosting? Use our guide to cleaning out sentimental clutter to make the process easier. 

Recommended reading: Christmas Tree Disposal Tips | Decluttering and Organization Rules

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