It can be a relief to finally be done with the holidays. If you were particularly busy, it can feel like you finished running a marathon. Suddenly, you have more time to yourself. But now that all the presents have been unwrapped, all the guests have gone back home and the holiday food has been eaten, we’re faced with after-holiday cleaning.

Like any cleaning task, it can feel more manageable if you come at it with a plan. By tackling the chore in smaller steps, the project doesn’t feel quite as insurmountable. So below are several ways to get your home clean after the holidays.

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After Holiday Cleaning Wrapped Gifts

You often can’t use everything in these packages. Image:

Sort Out the Gifts You’ll Actually Use

The first step in after-holiday cleaning is to go through all those gifts. After all, you suddenly have a pile of things for which you need to find places. And if you were already feeling like you had little space, this can be the biggest headache of cleaning up after the holidays.

In order to conserve space, it’s okay to go through and assess what you’ll actually use. Many of us have well-meaning relatives who still remain clueless about our personal tastes year after year. There’s no reason to take up closet space on something you’ll never use. Consider donating some of those “it’s the thought that counts” gifts.

On the other hand, you might have the opposite problem: you have all these great gifts you want to keep, but no room for them. In that case, take stock of what you do own and consider donating some of your older items that are worn out or haven’t been used in years.

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After Holiday Cleaning Card Tree

Remember to keep those holiday cards; they make great home decorations. Image:

Decide What to Keep for Decorations

After you have all the gifts sorted and put away, next it’s time to tackle the holiday decorations. It might be tempting to take everything and throw it in a box in storage. However, you’ll end up with a mess to sort through next year. A good way to put away your decorations is to take an inventory of what you’d like to keep for decorations and what you’d like to throw away.

For instance, many people use their favorite holiday cards as decorations in the home. Sort through your holiday cards, figure out which ones are good for future use and throw away any old ones. You can also use the same method for other holiday decorations. If you got a new decoration that can replace an older or worn out piece, don’t be afraid to part with the latter.

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After Holiday Cleaning Christmas Tree

Sure, it’s pretty now, but this jerk is planning to ruin your new year by leaving needles everywhere. Image:

Remember to Vacuum Thoroughly During After-Holiday Cleaning

There’s nothing weirder than finding pine needles from the Christmas tree in the sofa cushion in July. To avoid unpleasant surprises year-round, make sure to clean thoroughly to remove any remaining tinsel, pine needles or other debris like glitter from gift bags. Take the cushions off the furniture and make sure to use an extension on the vacuum cleaner to get everything clean. Plus, this also helps get rid of odors.

Be aware, however, that many home vacuum cleaners cannot handle picking up pine needles or tinsel. In large amounts, both can easily clog many home vacuums, and tinsel can stop the roller bar from turning. Your best bet is to sweep hardwood floors with a trusty broom. For carpeting, you can use a rubber broom or lint brush. You may also want to use a shop vacuum if you have a lot of needles to clean up.

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After Holiday Cleaning Refrigerator Cleaning

After the holidays, it’s a good idea to organize and clean the refrigerator and freezer. Image:

Clean Out/Store All the Holiday Food

After-holiday cleaning is a great excuse to take stock of the refrigerator and freezer. Make sure to clean out any holiday food that has already gone bad or you don’t plan on eating. For things you want to hang onto longer, try vacuum sealing them and putting them in the freezer for extended storage.

If you just didn’t get around to cleaning the refrigerator or freezer before the holidays, now is a good time to do it. Clean out any old or expired food to make room for the new. While you’re at it, give your fridge and freezer a good once-over with your favorite cleaning product. (A half and half water/vinegar mixture works well for cleaning the fridge and freezer.)

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After Holiday Cleaning Guest Bedroom

Remember to clean the linens in the guest bedroom. Image:

Thoroughly Clean Where Guests Slept and Food was Prepared

This isn’t to say our fondest friends and family are filthy, but it’s a good idea to disinfect the house as part of your after-holiday cleaning. The flu and colds like to hitch a ride on anyone this time of year, so after the holidays, launder the guest bedroom linens if anyone has stayed over.

You should also give your surfaces a once-over with a disinfectant solution or wipes. Target areas like the bathroom, the kitchen and tables. You’ll want to focus on areas where food was prepared in the kitchen to reduce any bacteria from raw meat.