A holiday organizing interview with Sarah Buckwalter by Paige Allen of the Sun Chronicle:

The holidays are just around the corner and before long the endless parade of dinner parties, family celebrations and gatherings with friends will be underway.

While the holiday season is supposed to be a fun and festive time, it can quickly become stressful for those trying to get their homes organized and ready to receive guests. Thankfully, Sarah Buckwalter, founder and owner of Organizing Boston, can offer some help so you can achieve holiday zen.

Buckwalter said that the first thing she always tells clients is to declutter their homes before they get down to cleaning.

“Things build up over the summer,” she said. “The first step is to declutter and weed out things.”

It’s important to go through some of the things that have accumulated over the year before the holidays, especially because of the new items and gifts that may be coming in, Buckwalter said.

The timing of the holidays coincides well with the changing of seasons, which Buckwalter said is a perfect time to go through clothing. Plus, going through clothing will allow you to see what pieces of clothing are already on hand and what items you may need to add to your closet so you’re not dashing out at the last minute to find the perfect outfit for a party, she said.

“Have a couple of go-to items, a couple of key pieces to make it easy,” she said.

In addition to clothing, going through what you already own for decor is also important so that you don’t end up with duplicates once the holiday displays of wrapping paper and decorations roll out.

“Take inventory, take a look at what’s in the bins,” she said. “Chances are you already have that and don’t need it.”

Once you’ve weeded through things, Buckwalter suggests hiring a cleaner to come in and do some of the deep cleaning before the parade of guests begins.

“Just to have someone else do the deep cleaning is such a stress reliever,” she said.

Though getting organized is the first step, keeping things that way throughout the entire holiday season will require a little bit of extra effort.

Again, decluttering is key, Buckwalter said, as is having a special spot that you can easily store and access things that you’ll need consistently throughout the season, such as china and special cooking devices for holiday meal preparation.

“Having a place for everything is very important,” she said. “Your kitchen is probably already full with everyday stuff.”

Buckwalter said that the space can be anything from a hutch to a closet or a drawer.

“As long as it’s protected, it doesn’t need to be fancy,” she said.

Schedule organization

Though decluttering and cleaning gathering spaces is important, staying organized during the holiday season also applies to schedules, Buckwalter said.

One of the keys is looking to the future and planning ahead, Buckwalter said. Realizing that you won’t be able to hit every party and accept every invitation is important when trying to keep your schedule organized during the holiday season.

“Look ahead and see what you can realistically do,” Buckwalter said.

Additionally, Buckwalter suggests creating a holiday planner, a space where you can store coupons, menus, recipe ideas, gift lists and more.

“Create a holiday planner and carry it with you everywhere,” she said. “Having a notebook is really helpful.”

The idea is to have it be small enough to carry with you everywhere so that you’re able to constantly keep on top of everything you need to do or check on what you need for a gift or a recipe while you’re out running errands.

Though Buckwalter said a binder or small notebook would suffice, she said there are also plenty of list-making apps on the market that would be able to digitally store the same information.

“Having a notebook or electronically, whatever works better,” she said.

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