Houses & Homes: Reverse advent calendar

I really love this time of year.  Everyone is getting into the holiday spirit, putting lights up, decorating their homes and preparing for family and togetherness.  But it is also the time of year where it is very easy for your home to become overrun with toys.

As a mom to three little ones, I am completely sympathetic to this.  The loving push-over of a mother in me wants to buy my kids every last book, puzzle, game and toy that their little heart’s desire.  But the Organizer in me is completely overcome with anxiety around the potential clutter about to enter my home!

In our house we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, which means a double whammy of toys entering our space. I work hard to limit the amount of physical gifts by trying to sprinkle in things like consumables, gift certificates and other clutter-free ideas. But inevitably there is a huge influx of new items right after December 25th. So my ears definitely perked up while I was recently at the Professional Organizers in Canada Conference and another organizer brought up the idea of a Reverse Advent Calendar as a way of decluttering toys. Brilliant!

A more traditional Advent Calendar has us opening up a new little window every day leading up to Christmas and being rewarded with a chocolate or small toy. It's a really fun way for the kids to countdown the days until Christmas, and  it is tradition that we participate in every year.

The Reverse Advent Calendar is more like a giving calendar. The idea is that every day, beginning on the 1st of December your children pick a toy and put it into a box to give away. Ideally, you will have 24 toys in a box to donate by the end of this process. It really feels like a double-win to me! I get stuff out of my house and we can donate to those that are less fortunate.

I am sure that especially in the first few days the kids may choose broken or un-donatable items to declutter.  That's okay! Simply discard or recycle them if necessary and donate the ones that are in good condition to a local charity. The whole point of this is to clear some space in your home while empowering your children in the decision making process. It’s completely ok for them to choose some less than ideal-to-donate toys. They’ll still learn the value of thinking about what they need and don’t need and you’ll still be free of that toy clutter!

If you want to add a little magic to the process you can even say that Santa will be picking them up when he visits on Christmas Eve. If you say this, just be sure to remove and hide the box before Christmas morning, otherwise the jig is up!

If you can, wrap a large cardboard box in some holiday themed wrapping paper to create a designated home for these donations. It’ll make it a little more festive! I also thought it would be fun to give the kids stickers to put on each toy they choose to declutter, so I put together some numbered, holiday-themed stickers just for the occasion.

You can simply download the template and print these stickers out onto Avery 2" Round Labels and you'll be all set. If you don't want to buy sticker paper, print them out onto regular paper, and then you can cut them out and secure them with a little tape. No need to make it complicated.

Here are PDFs for days 1-12, and days 13-24.

These stickers aren't necessary to the process, but it does add a fun element to the whole thing!

I recently appeared on Montreal’s Global TV to explain the details of this fun decluttering idea. You can watch the video here.

I also have some free customizable and printable gift certificates you can use here, and for more clutter-free gift ideas check out these past posts:

The Best Clutter Free Gift Guide

Your Holiday Guide To Clutter Free Gifts

Be sure to take pictures of your decluttering journey using the hashtag #reverseadventcalendar

Happy Decluttering and Happy Holidays!

Do you have an organizing question that you want a Professional Organizer to help you with? Email Allison at We may feature your question in an upcoming post!

As a Professional Organizer and owner of Everything In Place, Allison Weigensberg has a passion for a minimalistic approach to organization and decluttering. She loves to share the tips and tricks she has implemented in her own life, with her clients and Suburban readers.