Post Holiday Damage Control: Organizing and Cleaning Tips for Real People

Ladies, this is the most glorious time of year, the time when you are blessed with a multitude of lovely new sets of pajamas and slippers and wonderfully useful household tools (like, say, a pizza cutter that looks like a shark and a brand new mop head), and the air is filled with the scent of your new perfume/bubble bath/shower gel/powder/lotion set in Trashy Pop Star Delight from your dear, sweet children.  You know who you are.

What better time than this to make a fresh start and kick the new year off right with a house-wide cleaning spree.  Here are just the tips you need to carry it off without a hitch, all while feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, recycling, and lessening your carbon footprint.

1.  In the Kitchen

When you open your refrigerator, you want to see a gleaming, white interior, cheerily lit by your compact fluorescent, energy-saving bulb.  If instead, you see half a cheese ball exposed to the air by its barely-hanging-on-to-life aluminum foil, a ziploc bag of cookies you stole from the office party last month, and the half gallon of buttermilk you bought to make those great Martha Stewart biscuits you never got around to, and it is all lit by a yellow, flickering bulb covered with what you think, but can’t swear to, is margarita mix – fear not.

First, gather together a large, heavy duty trash bag, a sponge,  and a bucket of hot soapy water.  Sit in a chair in front of the fridge with your feet soaking in the bucket.  Eat the cookies.  Throw away the light bulb, but not before licking it clean, because for all you know alcohol doesn’t really evaporate.  Reshape the cheese ball into a…well, ball, and wrap it better, because aluminum foil ain’t cheap, gals.  You can bring it to the office tart’s  baby shower that you are invited to next week.  Buttermilk lasts for weeks after its expiration date – you can make biscuits for Valentine’s Day.  Throw away anything you cannot identify within thirty seconds.  If you can name it within fifteen seconds, you can safely feed it to your husband and teenagers.  Within five seconds, it goes to the dog.  After your feet feel soft and you are relaxed, use the sponge to wipe off any visible surfaces in the refrigerator.  Install CFL by screwing bulb into socket (lefty loosey, righty tighty).  There, perfect.

2.  The Living Room

This is the real kicker post-holiday:  the tree, the gifts strewn everywhere, the wrapping paper, not to mention the decorations.  First, you will need a trash bag.  Black, to hide the contents from prying eyes.  If possible, use the same one you used for the refrigerator.  The odor will motivate you to actually put the bag in the trash bin immediately instead of leaving it in the hallway (not that I’m implying I, or anyone else,  would actually do this, of course).

First, dig through the toys, including the ones that are still under the couch from Christmas Day 2007.  Toss them, along with those too large to keep in a box smaller than a milk crate, and anything that requires an engineering degree to assemble.  Randomly choose half of the remaining toys.  Auction them off on ebay, but be sure to divide the loss equally among your children, to avoid unfair distribution of sacrifice.  Tell the kids the toys had lead paint on them, and why can’t they just play with the wooden sticks and hoops you bought from that nice lady at the farmer’s market?

Use the auction money to pay for their therapy.

The tree is the easy part.  Tell the children that you have a giant chocolate bar, and whoever puts away the most ornaments gets to eat it.  You do not necessarily have to be able to “find” the chocolate after the decorations are all safely away.

After two weeks with no water, the tree should be dessicated enough that if it hasn’t already spontaneously burst into flames, you can carry it with minimal effort to the curb. Leave the lights on it.  They are cheap, and you’ll never get them untangled next year anyway.  Sweep up the fallen needles and place in crystal bowls.  Call it potpourri.

The wrapping paper is a vast natural resource that is sadly overlooked.  Here are some wonderful recycling ideas for the acres of virgin forest mashed into pulp and made into garishly colored paper intended to perpetuate the myth that your children do not know that you bought the gifts, and that they do not already know what the gifts are.

1.  Send the paper through the shredder to make packing material for when you ship toys to the winning bidders.

2.  Use the paper to clean the window that your neighbor puked on after a few too many glasses of your best cabernet.  Vinegar is a great solution to use for this, although nothing will ever get that stain off the drapes.

3.  Cut any unwrinkled paper into pieces to use as scraps for notes to school.  Nothing says “perfect family” more than pictures of the Virgin Mary on the back of the note excusing your daughter from gym class because of morning sickness.

4.  Use the paper as mulch in your vegetable garden plot.  The toy auction money will not be enough to cover produce for the coming year, even if you do buy local.

As for the rest of the living room: put a large box behind the sofa and throw everything into it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  And feng shui, and empty room head and all that other stuff.

3.  The Bedrooms

This is the easiest area of the home to tidy up.  Once you’ve made room, throwing everything from the floor into the closet will be a breeze.  The following items should go into a bag or box and be donated to your local thrift store:

*The Christmas pajamas (last year’s; you got new ones, remember?)

*Any jeans that show rear end cleavage.  By which I mean, any jeans bought after 1998.

*T-shirts from bands.  All of them.  (Yes, even the ones from  Summer Dead Tour ’87)

*Shoes you still own from high school, even though you are thirty-eight.

*Anything with a western theme or embroidery of any kind.

*Fakenstocks (if you have them, you know it)

*The rest of your clothing, with the exception of one pair of jeans you bought because Zafu said they would fit (they do).  Because really, you never go anywhere since you can’t afford a sitter, and no one will come to your house because of that whole overblown botulism incident.  It’s easier to breastfeed when you’re topless anyway.

Make sure you don’t forget to donate your cashmere sweaters.  Because I poor people like nice things, too.

P.S.  If you still aren’t happy with your level of organization and want some help that is actually, you know…* helpful*, you could try the great tips from Right@Home, or get some real-world insight from the folk at The Parent Bloggers Network.  Happy New Year and happy cleaning!

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9 Responses to “Post Holiday Damage Control: Organizing and Cleaning Tips for Real People”

  1. Hilarious. Great post.

  2. Nice blog! 2 comments:

    How are the city guys going to turn your tree into mulch with all those lights wound around it? Nothing green here, and I don’t mean the tree.

    I will never ever throw out my old Depeche Mode and Cure tshirts. Nope. I actually still wear them from time to time, and probably look like a pathetic old woman living in the past.

  3. This is great. All of it. Not least of which because now I know I’m not alone.

    Melissa, I still *go* to Depeche Mode concerts. I hate to think of what that makes *me* look like.

  4. The only reason I mention the ’87 tour shirt is because, well…I still have mine. The teenager wears it. It still rocks.
    Also – they CHOP THOSE TREES UP?? I had no idea. I thought it was some kind of trees for the homeless program. They should really be more clear about these things.

  5. P.S. Melissa – can I borrow your Cure tshirt? 😉

  6. Sorry, kid- some things are just sacred.

  7. I am rotflmbo (the b is for butt because I don’t really like the word usually inserted there:)! I’m glad I’m not alone. Another great idea for the things in the fridge you can’t name in 15 seconds is…..crockpot dinner! No one ever has to know.

  8. […] first.  Of course, one should know this, but if you clean house like I generally do, there’s a chance you might […]

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