Clearing holiday clutter–A rare exception to the fifteen minute rule

So you know I’m a big stickler for the fifteen minute rule, right? If we can’t count on ourselves to obey the timer and stop after fifteen minutes, we will begin to dread the task, and find excuses to procrastinate.

After all, fifteen minutes is easy to spare. Thirty minutes or an hour–not so much. When it comes to certain kinds of clutter, though, such as holiday holdovers, sometimes we have to take a step back and re-evaluate our choices.

See this dry, droopy wreath?

Time for our dessicated, forlorn five-week-old holiday wreath to go

Time for our desiccated, forlorn five-week-old holiday wreath to go

So pretty and fragrant when it arrived in a mail order gift box in early December, today it’s a desiccated mess dropping needles on the carpet outside our apartment door.

Knowing that tearing it apart will wreak havoc on my hands, which aren’t as strong as they once were, thanks my doctor says to arthritis, I put off taking it down. But this job can’t wait any longer.

Because my hands are too weak to manage a good pair of pliers, this task is going to take at least an hour, maybe longer by the time I do the cleanup. I have to snip each of the branches one at a time, until I get to the fattest stems that are too tough to cut.

Once I get to them, I can begin working them, one by one, through and out the heavy-duty wire clamps that hold the wreath together.

Oh, to toss that wreath blithely to the curb like so many do! But no. I’ve been recycling and composting and reducing and reusing since before my babies were born. The youngest turns 40 next year. Dumping and running just is not in my genetic makeup.

That’s why I made an executive decision to extend my fifteen clutter-zapping minutes taking down the wreath to however many minutes more it might take. No way I was going to live with that mess for a few days, swiping at it in short increments.

All the same, I was curious, so I set the timer for fifteen minutes, steeled myself against the sharp bite of the needles, and began to snip. Fifteen minutes later, I should have taken a picture of the floor and the bag so you could see how much I’d actually done. This photograph hardly tells the story.

After 15 minutes, I've barely begun to clip the twigs from the wreath

After 15 minutes, I’ve barely begun to clip the twigs from the wreath

Normally, I’d have saved all the decorations to use next year on a homemade wreath, or a table setting, or perhaps to decorate packages. Wouldn’t you know, the company who made this wreath not only wired them and wrapped them with florist’s tape, but they glued them with a super glue even my shears wouldn’t slice.

Colorful holiday bits, glued irreparably to balsam branches, in the trash bin

Colorful holiday bits, glued irreparably to balsam branches, in the trash bin

Unable to preserve any of the pretties, save the bow, I discarded them, gluey branches and all, in the garbage bin. In my younger days, when my fingers were still nimble and my eyesight not so dim, I’d have found a way to separate and save these bits.

Not a joyful thing, this getting older, I can tell you. But of course, when I think of the alternative, my little dancing feet and heart leap for joy that I have so much strength and will.

After another fifteen minutes, I’d made it half way round the wreath and felt like I was making progress.

30 minutes in and I finally have all the decorative trim off and have cut through to some of the wires

30 minutes in and I finally have all the decorative trim off and have cut through to some of the wires

My sweetheart, home for the day and helping me take care of the two-year-old came to see what I was doing and, possessing stronger hands, offered to unbend the clamps. In no time at all, the job was done. All that was left was the cleanup.

5 more minutes of sweeping and shoveling and we've stuffed a large grocery bag full of compostable evergreens

5 more minutes of sweeping and shoveling and we’ve stuffed a large grocery bag full of compostable evergreens

I still have to check with our trash collector folks to see if I can send the wire frame in the recycling bin, and I’ll put the hangar in the (still enormously clutter-challenged) hall closet on a shelf where it will live for now. Until we clear that closet, this hook has no permanent home.

Rescued by my sweetheart's strong hands and a tough pair of pliers, after 45 minutes, we're down to the wire frame and hangar

Rescued by my sweetheart’s strong hands and a tough pair of pliers, after 45 minutes we’re down to the wire frame and hangar

The tot naps in the living room. When she wakens, I’ll pull out the vacuum cleaner and clean up the needles in the hallway outside our apartment.

All in all, by the time it’s finished, this job will have consumed a good hour and fifteen minutes, but boy is it worth it. Maybe next year we’ll receive a box of organic, fair trade chocolates from our loved ones instead of a wreath, but if we do, I know I’ll miss the cheer of coming home to a pretty ornament gracing our door.

How is your holiday clutter-clearing going? Still have some tinsel to put away? Or is everything already neatly packed in boxes and tucked away for the year?

 

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