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I had a meeting for Cub Scouts in my home prior to Christmas. Of course the women politely admired my tree—it’s what you do. I told one about my dragonfly, how I had picked it out the year before as that year’s ornament and that I quite liked it. However, my DH doesn’t care for the “glitter-coated bug” on the tree. She, as a loyal woman, commented loud enough that my DH could hear (he was at his desk on the other side of a partial wall), “I really like that dragonfly, Susan.”

Today I will begin to put away Christmas: each beloved ornament from our first Christmas together to the dragonfly, which will be deftly hidden where it won’t torment until next year. I’ll tuck away or carefully wrap each one that has been chosen through the years. The ones that represent different decades, the ones that came as gifts, and the whimsical new comers.

Then I’ll wrap up my nativities. They are placed throughout the house, even one in the guest bath. The place of honor (on the mantle) goes to the small, hand-carved nativity from the Philippines. However, (shamefully) my favorite is the Waterford crystal one a brother and sister-in-law got us one year when they toured the factory in Ireland. I’ll wrap, box, and remember. (There’s a song about this, but since I’m not sentimental enough to cry, I’m going to spare you.)

Then I’ll tackle where everything goes as shimmering lights, glass, silver and gold are reduced to dull green bins. But rather than sigh with regret, my sentimental nature gives way to the practical, organized one.

The week between Christmas and the New Year is a great time to clean, organize and reduce storage spaces. I start with Christmas and spill into other areas. If I allow sentiment to take over, it can take forever. I try to ask myself why I am keeping each item. And if I never use it, will it be something my children are going to wish some day that I had gotten rid of for them? A few things fail every test, but are kept anyway. Like my wedding dress. But beware: the longer an item is kept, the harder it is to let go of.

Winter break is also a good time to sweep cobwebs, dust storage shelves, and rethink spaces. This last week we swapped the “work-out room” with the larger one where shipping supplies were kept. My mantra: condense, sort, trash, donate, and organize. It can be a big project. But when it is over, lightness comes and I feel renewed. I have the mental energy to tackle New Year Resolutions or January projects.

With children out of school—take one day and involve them. Let them crawl into tight spaces to dust the dark corners of your storage. Or give them each the task of attacking their own bedrooms and drawers. Give them sacks or boxes for “trash,” “donate,” and “store” (like clothes for a younger sibling or keepsakes.) Put a limit on the treasures though. My son, who has been married for two years, and has a house of his own, still has bins in our basement filled with cub scout memorabilia, sport trophies and karate belts. Help them now set guidelines that will not burden them with boxes they never open, but move from place to place for the rest of their lives.

Finally, we all have our weak spots. There is one container I never seem to get through. I get distracted reading old journals or letters, and looking at pictures. So I set it aside for last. But if each of us allows ourselves one of those, then someday when we’re gone and six feet under the frost, hopefully our children will find it a slow sort too, and be glad we kept it.

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