Our American Boxing Day
This year, my wife and I were looking forward to Christmas, as we always do, celebrating with our 1 and 3-year-old children. It’s the first year that Santa really figured magically into the day for our oldest and spending time with family (with no less than 4 Christmas celebrations) brought much joy. But for my wife an I, we were most excited about the day after Christmas: Boxing Day.
Boxing Day?! It’s rarely acknowledged in the US (but is commonly on our calendars). What is loosely attributed to 19th-century gift giving to the lower class is now celebrated as a holiday and shopping day in the UK, Australia and Canada amongst other places. Allow me to clarify: we were not celebrating in that same vein - we were instituting our own Boxing Day.
There’s an urban myth that Boxing Day arose from the need to purge your house of boxes and wrapping paper post-Christmas celebrations. We make the myth a deeper reality. We had been feeling cramped for months and intentionally planned to take December 26th off to “purge” our house. I’m a bit of a neat-freak and with two small kids, the stuff has multiplied over the years. It was time to reclaim control of our house.
We laid out a list of rooms to work through in the house, sent the kids off to daycare, and then got to work sorting through our stuff into 4 key piles.
1. Put Away
This is the stuff to keep. While it can feel like “everything must go” when you’re getting started, you will want to keep some stuff. Marie Kondo recommends a litmus test of keeping only things that “bring you joy” in her seminal book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’m a bit more pragmatic and also ask if I’ve used it in the past year and will likely use it in the next year. If not, move it down the line into another pile.
2. Sell Away
If it’s in good shape (and maybe even still new!), there’s a good chance you can sell it for some extra FUEL (and to recoup some of that overspending we all did during the holidays). Here are some tips on selling:
Facebook: Your neighborhood likely has a group. Your city or town likely has a “parent’s exchange” group. There’s also a broader Facebook Marketplace. Cross post items you’re selling in each of these. If you’re selling a lot of items, it may be easier to create 1 post and list everything out. Always include photos. If you’re selling small stuff (likes baby toys), consider grouping items together. Coordinating and meeting up with buyers can be a big time suck, so make it easy on yourself and only sell stuff worth $10 or more.
Craigslist: The old-faithful of online selling, Craigslist can be very hit or miss. Usually, Craigslist is better for bigger items. I usually like to meet in a neutral place, like a coffee shop, to conduct the exchange. Cash only. Always use photos.
Consignment Shops: Most cities have at least one consignment shop that will buy your kids clothes, toys, and other items and give you store credit or hard cash. This is a great way to get stuff kids have outgrown out of the house and get paid for it with minimal effort.
Remember the original purpose of our Boxing Day is to get stuff out of the house. So, if it doesn’t sell within a week or two or it’s not a good match to sell, move it into the next pile.
3. Give Away
Get stuff out and to your local charity. Most charities that accept goods (clothes banks, food banks, etc.) could likely use restocking after the holiday season. Take note of everything in this pile before you haul it away and use an online calculator (like this one from Goodwill) to tally up your donation value.
If it’s not in good enough shape to donate, move it into the last pile.
4. Throw Away
No one wants your old workout shirts and college homework. Recycle what you can and dump the rest. You’ll be surprised by how good it feels to haul these bags out to the curb on trash day.
We cleared out a lot on our new Boxing Day tradition. To be honest, we didn’t quite finish in one day and have been working through the rest of the house over the past week, but getting started was the hardest part. Now our house is feeling more like our own again and our kids love having all of the “new” toys out that were previously buried around the house.
Remember as you’re decluttering that the blissful feeling won’t last forever. Stuff will come back into the house. Leave some wiggle room in your storage areas to buy yourself time, but when you find things overflowing, start the process over. Worst case: set aside Boxing Day each year to purge your clutter and stress.