Frugal Holidays: 5 reasons why dejunking before the holiday season is essential



Last week we kicked off the frugal holidays series by discussing the concept of simple giving.

Many of you had a lot to say on the matter–thank you for sharing!

Scroll down to the bottom of the post to see a roundup of all your great comments.


For this week’s installment, let’s talk about dejunking, and why it’s particularly important right before the holidays.

I spent a good deal of time this weekend rearranging my kids creative space–going through puzzles, craft supplies, papers, books, dolls, & other miscellaneous things.

I have to do this every few months, usually compelled by the fact that there’s a library book missing & the only way to find it is to go over the house with a fine tooth comb. In this case, said library book was stuffed underneath a couch. As were multiple pens, a few toy cars, lots of cheerios–how do they get there anyway? It defies reason.

I also took some time to remove all the covers off the couches in our family room (which were covered in pen markings, smeared with peanut butter/jam) and wash them. Thank goodness for Pottery Barn furniture which does that. I’m convinced that the only furniture worth buying while you have toddlers are ones that allow you to remove the covers & wash.

In my cleaning spree (which I’m still attempting to finish), I realized a few things about why it’s important to regularly declutter, especially before the holidays.


5 reasons why dejunking before the holidays is essential


1. Create space 

When you declutter, you make space. If you’re going to be giving & receiving gifts this holiday season, there needs to be a space for those things. Otherwise, they’ll most likely get lost among the clutter & chaos.

Consider, if everyone in the family gets 4 gifts, & you have a family of 4, that’s 16 new items to your household that need a place to go.

Think about giving away a minimum  of 4 items before the holidays, for every person in your house. I’m not saying just get rid of stuff to get rid of stuff, but rather, take some time to be mindful about the things you actually need & use, & those that are just taking up space & could be utilized by someone else.


2. Order, order

It’s important to keep things, toys in particular, in order, for a number of reasons. Most obvious, is to have a space & place for each toy. If everything is just thrown together & there’s no rhyme or reason, toys get forgotten & not used. They’re also more apt to get broken. Going through all of your kids toys & setting aside those that they no longer play with (give away) or that are broken (throw away or fix) is important part of frugality & saving money.

Also, even though kids are “kids,” they need to learn at an early age the importance of being good stewards over their things. This can start as early as 1 year old, just by doing something as simple as teaching your toddler to put their blocks away after they’re done playing with them, or not drawing in books.


3. Gratitude

You gain a greater appreciation for what you already have & realize that you really don’t need more stuff. Which helps in curbing the buying appetite & frenzy that can often set in post-Thanksgiving.

You also realize that every thing you own requires time, energy, & space to maintain. Remembering this will make you think twice about purchases, & help you make wiser purchases.


4. Contentment

Every time I do a deep clean/reorganization of the kids toys I find things that the kids haven’t played with in awhile & realize–hey, we have PLENTY of toys! The kids also see their toys in a new light & they feel like they have new toys again.

I also take note of toys that have been a hit & worth the money, & other toys that have just become junk/clutter. This is a good practice right before the holiday season when I’m thinking of the purchases I’ll make, the toys & gifts I’ll buy.


5. Joy of giving

Having your kids (as well as yourself) figure out what toys/things/clothes they no longer need/use/want but are still in working condition & can be given away is a great ritual in teaching kids the joy of giving to others, a lesson in non-attachment to things. Two of the main messages of the holiday season, in my opinion.


Do you declutter before the holidays? How do you keep things in check to avoid clutter & chaos? Please share your tips!

Frugal Holidays Part 1: simple gifting
Frugal Holidays Part 3: easy DIY washi tape Christmas cards
Frugal Holidays Part 4: 5 of our fave Christmas traditions
Frugal Holidays Part 5: DIY clay baked ornaments




About simple gifting, you said: 

“I have taught my 2 boys the pleasure of receiving & givng an experience gift rather then a toy or thing. They love getting certificates to the movies, mini golf, an amusement park, skiing lift tickets. Kids learn from their parents, so if you enjoy having less stuff around the house, they will too.” —Kelly

“I love this idea! I don’t have kids but I for one always love getting practical things. We still do gifts at Christmas and I love both giving and receiving (!) but just for immediate family. We established the rule that when we reached 18 we were going to stop presents from cousins, aunt & uncles etc.” —Emma

“I love giving my kids presents. I also really love presentation. I only give each child a few small things, but they are all chosen with care and then I go all out with the wrapping.”–Candice

“I really love this idea- and we’re trying to add a service element this year too. It’s really about family for us – not stuff!”–Laura 

“I am on the lookout for ideas and special things all year long to give as little gifts. […] I enjoy the spirit of giving, the sites, sounds and smells of Christmas. I love curling up with a hot cup of tea in our dark living room with only the Christmas lights on thinking about my little family and the reason for the season. We like to give our girls 3 gifts each to represent the 3 gifts that Baby Jesus received when he was born.” —Kristen

“What I hope for every Christmas is exemplified in this passage from “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison: ‘I did not want to have anything to own, or to possess any object. I wanted rather to feel something on Christmas day….’I want to sit on the low stool in Big Mama’s kitchen with my lap full of lilacs and listen to Big Papa play his violin for me alone. The lowness of the stool made for my body, the security and warmth of Big Mama’s kitchen, the smell of the lilacs, the sound of the music, and, since it would be good to have all of my senses engaged, the taste of a peach, perhaps, afterward.’ ‘How beautiful!’ I thought when I read that years ago. ‘That’s what Christmas should be’…but it’s REALLY hard to achieve: giving or receiving an experience…maybe this is why I have something of a love-hate relationship with Christmas now. I’m glad I didn’t have such high expectations until after I was an adult!”–Laurie 

“This entire year we’ve only been doing handmade or re-gifted gifts to keep our spending extra low. It’s been fun to try and come up with things made with materials or items we already have around the house.”–Adina

“We have always done limited gifts. They get pjs (slippers this year) on Christmas Eve, a Santa gift (which is always their nicest) and then 3 gifts from mom and dad (usually a smaller toy, a book, and then the other just depends on the year – this year we are doing church dresses for the girls and a tie for Caleb). Stockings are never stuffed with ridiculous breakable toys or crazy expensive items. They usually get a toothbrush, a treat, and a couple of things from the dollar spot that I know will get used (love the crayola board books at Target, or a coloring book, usually a package of crayons from my 50 cent stock up when school starts). I really like it this way.”–Stephanie

“Beautiful memories – yes! Nothing can replace those!”–Joya 

“I usually fill at least half the stocking w/ things they need but in a fun way. So they get character shampoo, character toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. We are low on playdough and water colors paints this year so they will be getting those in the stocking. My daughter needs a new thermos for her lunch box; she’ll get that. After all those “funner essentials” then I fill with small toys and treats. The treats are things that are special but not junk–like individual packs of pretzels and crackers, fruit snacks, etc. The toys are ALWAYS toys that I intend to be played with and used-not just junk that will break and be tossed in a day or two. Small toy animals, glow sticks, hair bows, nail polish, etc. So essentially the stocking is quite fun for them but still nearly 100% useful.”–April 

“I grew up in a family that gave a few thoughtful gifts. That’s the way that I give gifts too — so you can imagine my confusion about marrying into a family that gives an abundance of gifts on Christmas day – many of them being useful things, but not particularly thought-filled ones. Maybe it’s just the way I grew up, but I would really rather receive ONE thing that lets me know the other person was truly thinking about conversations we’d had or some special thing we have in common rather than a plethora of  ‘stuff.’ I think the four gift guidelines definitely help with that.”–Joy

“I have always had high hopes for keeping things simple but then either me or my husband get a bit carried away and there is just too much excess. We have a couple of gift traditions. We have given our kids an ornament each year. Their first is a special engraved ‘Baby’s first Christmas’ with their name and birth date. The others are ornaments of things they are interested in or some special place we went or just something cute. I have loved this because our tree is filled with special ornaments and when they start their own families I will give them their collection. The other tradition similar to that is we give them each a Christmas book on Christmas Eve. We store them in a tub for the rest of the year. They love when it’s decorating time and we get the books out again. We have skipped each of these traditions one year each because we have five kids now and it was a bit much, but maybe every other year for the ornaments will work. Also, our extended family is large and we have a book exchange for the gift exchange. It is great because it is a little easier and more frugal to buy a book instead of a toy or something else.”–Lindsay 

“I can think of no better gifts that DIY stuff and/or books! Preferably used books. I am soooo terrible at planning appropriately for gifts. I don’t have any kids but I do have a lot of nephews and nieces. I always want to knit them stuff for gifts but ultimately run out of time and just end up buying them some small toy or book. Then I mail the intended knitted item late”–Luminous Vegans


From facebook: 

“Call me materialistic. we live a pretty frugal/minimalist lifestyle most of the time but we go all out for Christmas. We save and sell and then we spend it on toys and frills and merry-making…and I don’t lose one minute of sleep over it.” —Jenny

“Having an only child, she tends to ‘get’ all the time and I have wanted to make Christmas more well-rounded. My church has a project every year called Christ Child. I participated two years ago but Ella was too young to understand. This year, she and I are shopping for two five-year-old girls. I want her to know that there are so many (so many!!) people in this world who do not have what she is blessed to have BUT most importantly, I want her to learn the absolute JOY that comes from serving and giving.” —Abby

“We have been giving 3 gifts to our 4 daughters for years (plus stockings..). They don’t mind at all, with all our other family members they still get way too much!!” —Leanne

“I haven’t been able to go as low as 4 gifts but our general approach has been about 6 gifts from mom and dad totaling $100 per kid. Then about $20 per stocking. The kids also get their siblings a gift. On Christmas morning they have 6 from us and 2 from each sibling. The reason we’ve tried to stick with a “low” number is because I don’t want to ever be in a situation where we are short on cash and have to go from a lavish Christmas to a meager one. The way we do it now is in the middle or lower. I will admit that this year has been harder to stick to budget. I’ll end up close to $150 per kid plus their stocking.” —April 


Next week’s Frugal Tuesday’s post: a continuation of our Frugal Holidays series, in which I share my top frugal/simple/cute DIY gifts for boys, girls, & adults.


  1. Kelly
    on November 20, 2013 at 8:37 pm said:

    I always have a “donation” pile in the back of a closet. When the kids come up to me and say this doesn’t fit or I don’t play with this. I can tell them to go add it to the pile. I make frequent trips to the Salvation Army store. I’d rather keep up on it, then have it get out of control.

  2. luminousvegans
    on November 19, 2013 at 2:31 pm said:

    This post could not be more timely! We are in the process of decluttering right now in anticipation of a move. But even when we’re not moving, I generally try to purge every so often. I strive to be as minimalist as possible which leaves me with less clutter in my life so I can enjoy life and the things and people that really matter to me. I agree with all your points. Plus, it makes cleaning easier 🙂

  3. Ashley F.
    on November 19, 2013 at 12:53 pm said:

    Lots to think about here. I always go overboard with giving – I do it all year, though, not just at the holidays 🙂 Even though my gifts tend to be very thoughtful, I still give way too many.

  4. Carrie Chapman
    on November 19, 2013 at 11:55 am said:

    I think moving makes you dejunk too. After so many boxes you suddenly become pretty detached from your stuff. Grateful I moved right before the holidays!

  5. Joya
    on November 19, 2013 at 11:45 am said:

    YES!! I LOVE to declutter! I’m am not a “stuff” person at all so it makes me really happy when I can get rid of things. I had the boys do this just last week, since we were talking about Christmas, I thought that would be a good opportunity to have them go through their toys and get ride of some things. I usually give them a trash bag and have them fill it at least half way up. It’s amazing how many things they accumulate. And they love the idea that someone else will get to enjoy their toys.

  6. Living on Love
    on November 19, 2013 at 11:19 am said:

    I love this series!!! Such great ideas about getting rid of excess before MORE comes. 🙂 I mentioned on fb, we love to give handmade gifts. I just put this together and I bet your readers would love it!