THE BLOG
10/21/2014 12:53 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

18 Ways to Have a Clutter-Free Halloween (Without Being Boring)

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Photo credit © JZhuk - Fotolia.com

I've been hard-core decluttering the house. And I've been working hard to keep the clutter from coming back in.

I'm guessing you're here because you"re on the same kind of journey.

And Halloween is working against us!

With all of the costumes, candles, spooky decor, junky little trinkets and toys, the clutter situation can get quickly out of hand.

How can we cut the clutter without cutting back on any of the fun?

I promise, it's possible! Here's how.

Clutter-free decor

Think about using temporary decor you won't have to store afterward until next year. This might be things you could eat or compost aftward, or handmade things you could recycle. The fun of making them could be something to look forward to each year, so embrace the process!

1. Decorate with pumpkins, winter squash, or gourds.

If you choose to carve the pumpkins or squash to make jack-o-lanterns, you can compost them afterward. If you just decorate the outside, you could peel it to cook and eat later! The great thing about winter squash is that they keep for a long time, so (as long as you don't cut them) you can decorate with them all month, and they'll still be good for eating.

2. Another edible decoration is colorful Indian corn.

Hang some on your front door in place of a wreath, or use it to make a center piece or mantle decoration. Once you're finished enjoying looking at it, have your kids remove the kernels as a fine-motor-skills lesson. Then, (after you wash any dust off) heat it in a covered pot with some coconut oil to pop it and eat it. Who doesn't like popcorn?

3. Make temporary wreaths out of natural materials you can compost afterward.

Twist vines together and decorate with pretty leaves or pine cones.

4. Or make paper decorations you can recycle afterward.

Cut out paper bats and attach to the wall with a loop of painter's tape on the back. Cut out shadowy figures to add creepy silhouettes to the windows. Print paper buntings or make some from scratch. Create sun catchers using coffee filters painted with watercolors to hang in your windows.

5. If you're okay with glow sticks...

...you might make luminaries made of paper bags and glow sticks (or get reusable LED candles if you think you'll use them besides just for Halloween). Or cut out eye-shapes in tubes of cardboard, and place a glow stick inside them to create glowing eyes hiding in the bushes or in your windows.

6. Also know when NOT to decorate.

You don't need a special candy bowl or plastic cauldron. Just use a serving bowl or a basket you already have. Or you can even drill holes in a large pumpkin to turn it into a lollipop-holder.

Clutter-free costumes

7. Real clothes can be costumes too.

Use costume elements you already have, or things you can re-use as regular clothing.

"I use as much as I can of the kids' regular clothes. So this year, my 4-year-old is a ballerina. She is wearing pink leggings and a pink long-sleeved shirt she already had. We bought pink ballet flats she can wear as dress shoes, and I made a beautiful tutu that will go in our dress-up box. My 2-year-old wants to be Mickey Mouse. I got a Mickey stocking cap with ears she can wear all winter. I'm pairing it with red sweatpants and a Mickey t-shirt she already has."

- Chris Jacobs Clark

8. Add something special to the dress-ups.

That's another great point by Chris too! If you're making or buying something new that isn't wearable "in real life" afterward, make sure it's durable enough to be a well-loved piece in the dress-up bin.

9. Limit yourself and your kids to one costume each.

I don't know when it became popular for kids to wear a different costume every day of the week at school, one to each Halloween event, and one on "The Big Night" but there's really no reason for all of that! Have your kids decide on ONE costume to really focus on.

If they choose to make up others with things they already own, that's just the same as playing dress-up any other time, so fine. But let's seriously keep things simplified a bit.

I mean, do you go to Starbucks and order ALL OF THE DRINKS just because you like them all? No? Then your kids probably don't need to manifest all of their complicated costume ideas just because they're good ones. Decision-making is a good skill to practice.

10. Keep it simple.

Can you use makeup you already have instead of buying special face paint? Could you style your child's actual hair (and combine it with the magic of imagination) instead of buying a princess-hair wig? Think beyond buying new things, and see if you can make something you already own work.

Clutter-Free Celebrations

I may not love clutter, but it doesn't mean I'm a Halloween Scrooge. My family has lots of fun!

11. Borrow, don't buy.

We borrow Halloween books, music, and DVDs from the library. We can enjoy the media festivities without spending any money and without giving up storage space in our home. When we're finished with something, we just give it right back for someone else to enjoy. There are a couple of kids' Halloween movies on Hulu that are nice now and then, too.

12. Enjoy people, not stuff.

If you are in a neighborhood with other families with kids, try having an afternoon parade or play date instead of trick or treating. Invite everyone to come in costume, and let the kids just enjoy each other's company. Chat with the other parents, get the kids all tired, and then go home.

13. Have a Fun-Focused & Clutter-Free Party.

Host or attend a party that doesn't focus on the "stuff."

Remember when we could have sack races, three-legged races, egg-and-spoon races, bob for apples, eat a donut hanging from a tree with our hands behind our back (was that just my family?), play musical chairs, have a cake walk, and play other simple party games, without the expectation of a junky prize? Let's bring that back. Once my kids are a tiny bit older, I'm totally there.

For older kids, you could have a dance party with a costume contest, or a How to Host a Murder party.

For adults, pot luck gatherings with spooky-looking (but not spooky-tasting) food would be a lot of fun, and party games like Cards Against Humanity or (for a cleaner version) Apples to Apples will get everyone laughing.

Clutter-Free Trick-or-Treating

14. Of course, the usual choice is handing out something to eat.

"Candy. They eat it and it's GONE." - Phyllis Panozzo

Of course, if you're not on the anti-candy bandwagon, candy IS pretty clutter free once it's eaten. Coupons for free treats can be fun too, or if you'd like to hand out a healthier snack, that's another option.

"I like the little coupons from Wendy's for a free tiny Frosty. We have also given out cold Capri Sun/juice boxes for their treat. Huge hit!!!" - Carol Hofmister

" Yummy Earth brand makes allergy-free suckers." -Kate Harvey

15. Non-edible consumables are always a hit with kids and parents.

Small things that will be used quickly (and used UP) are a great idea. Avoid plastic spiders, bouncy balls, witch fingers, and other little toys if your goal is to keep clutter out of your home and the homes of others (and to reduce waste).

"Halloween pencils, erasers, or items like tattoos are popular for the younger age. They use it and then throw the paper out. " - Prepared Minimalist

"Halloween coloring books with a few crayons (tied with a ribbon), stickers... these would get used and then thrown away or recycled." - Meg Annan

"We give out glow bracelets which kids frequently put on right away." - Chris Jacobs Clark

"We do glow bracelets -- a bonus is they help others see kids who are out at night." - Melody Green

"I love giving out stickers, mini play-doh, and glow bracelets! They are all consumable products that kids love! I hate all the candy and I have a friend whose son is severely allergic to peanuts (as are so many kids) Halloween can be deadly for them. This allows them to participate without fear (other than the fun fear!) One year I gave an option. Candy or play-doh. I was amazed that almost all of them (even older kids) were way excited about the play-doh!" - Tabrina W.

"Bubbles are fun too." -Kate Harvey

16. Give out money.

And if you want to be that weird old lady (and I'm thinking I might do this), you could hand out pinch-fulls of pennies and nickels. Kids always love money, and honestly, even with a generous pinch-full, this might still cost less than buying the good candy or consumable toys.

"What about pennies and nickels?? Is that too old fashioned??" - Jennifer Miano

17. Reduce the total amount of trick or treating (giving and receiving) your family does.

We only go to a few houses (homes of good friends and neighbors we know, or particularly spookily-decorated houses) when we trick-or-treat. The kids get the fun experience and a few special things to enjoy, without being loaded down with enough sugary treats to last them an entire year.

"You could not take them trick or treating as long. My kids love handing out candy too. But we limit our purchase of candy. When it's gone, the doors close, and lights go out." - Barbie Wood

18. Do nothing

It may get your house egged if you live in a neighborhood with too many "festive" teenagers, and it might not be the popular choice, but it's a valid one. Lots of people don't celebrate Halloween. And you don't need any justification if that's your choice. It doesn't have to be on the grounds of being anti-clutter, or because of a religious belief. You can just decide not to participate.

"Don't decorate and turn off your porch light. It's like Halloween doesn't exist!" - Anastasiya Didok

Are you ready to embrace a clutter-free Halloween this year?

Take 15 minutes now to plan out your Halloween.
  • How will you decorate?
  • What will your family's costumes be like?
  • How will you celebrate?
  • What will you pass out to trick-or-treaters?
Comment below to share how you're going to celebrate, clutter-free.

This post first appeared on So Damn Domestic as 18 Ways to Have a Clutter-Free Halloween.

Emily Chapelle is an expert homemaker, having set up 7 homes in just as many years. She helps busy and overwhelmed women change their homes from chaotic to calm, 15 minutes at a time, so they can regain a sense of control and focus on what really matters. She shares home organizing tips, decluttering your life, time-management for homemakers, and other homemaking topics at So Damn Domestic.

Her ebook, Finding the Awesome - 3 Steps to Doing More & Stressing Less, has been downloaded over 2,312 times, and you can get it for free.