The holiday season is the perfect time to declutter, organize, and ditch your extra stuff. You’re not only about to receive a lot more stuff, but decluttering your home will also help keep some of that holiday-induced stress at bay. And decluttering before the end of the year could also help you with a tax deduction in April.

One of the hardest parts about decluttering is finding a place to start. Some people like to start with the easy tasks first, but I like to jump into the biggest job. If I get nothing else decluttered, at least I’ve tackled that big problem that nags me the most. For me, it’s usually the garage and the hall closet. Where does your clutter pile up?

Rules of decluttering

Before you start decluttering, keep the following four rules in mind:

  1. Define the boundaries. Are you going to declutter a whole room, a closet, or a toy box? Whatever it may be, define exactly what you’re doing and stick to that plan so you don’t get sidetracked or overwhelmed.
  2. See exactly what you have so you’ll know what to keep and what to get rid of. Lay out all the items you’re working through and put them into three piles: keep, toss, and donate. If it’s not beautiful or useful, get rid of it. If it’s still in good condition, donate it.
  3. Consider placement. Is the item in the best place already? Would it be better tucked away in a basement closet or put in a handy spot near the kitchen to ensure it is even more useful?
  4. Organize. Before you put everything back in its place, think about how you will organize it and determine if you need any organizational solutions.

Some great places to declutter in your house are the kids’ rooms, the kitchen, and the living room. Help your children go through their old toys and identify what they’ve outgrown, no longer play with, or don’t like. This is easier around the holidays than it may be at other times of the year because you can tell the kids that their toys will go to kids who don’t have any. It’s a great way to declutter as well as to teach a life lesson of compassion.

The kitchen is typically the most-used part of a home and often gathers clutter quickly. Check through your gadgets and appliances—are there any you don’t need or can store somewhere else?

Since it is the holiday season, get rid of old decorations. People tend to let their decorations pile up without editing them down. So this year, check through what you already have and get rid of what you won’t use.

Rules of donating

If all this decluttering and organizing results in big piles of donations, that’s great—for both your community and your tax deduction. It’s actually quite easy to get a deduction on your taxes, but you need to follow these three rules, particularly if the value of your donation is more than $500:

  1. Prove what you donated.
  2. Prove that the items you donated were not junk.
  3. Prove the value of the goods you donated.

Taking photos or videos of the items can easily check off the first two. You can also get receipts from companies like Goodwill when you donate. If you’re busy around the holidays, leave it at photos and a list. You can take care of the itemizing of your donations at tax time using software like ItsDeductible, from Intuit, or DeductionPro, from H&R Block, to find the value of your goods. If anything you donate is worth more than $5,000, though, you will need a written appraisal.
If you have collectibles or other higher-priced items to get rid of, consider selling them on eBay or Craigslist. You won’t get a tax deduction, but you could still earn a little extra holiday spending cash.

Happy decluttering!