Once the presents have been opened, you’d think there would be this great feeling of relief and accomplishment.

Considering how many long hours of fighting the crowds, searching the deals, coordinating, decorating, wrapping and hiding it took to get to that point, the end should bring contented relaxation. But it doesn’t.

Instead, there are the post-holiday challenges that loom behind the torn ribbon curls and under the plates of cookie crumbs. As soon as you get comfortable, out they pop to cause additional tension and stress.

One of the first challenges is the clean up. Ripped and balled up wads of used wrapping paper, torn ribbons and used boxes are strewn everywhere. Most make the mistake of scooping it all up and tossing it in a giant trash bag. Unfortunately, this method is dangerous.

When you scoop and toss, you run the risk of inadvertently throwing away presents—like the duck of 1992. That was the year my mom made me a beautiful cloth doll duck. It resembled a wooden duck. From a few feet away, you couldn’t tell it was made of printed material rather than painted wood.

After all the gifts were opened and food was consumed, it was time to head home. As my then-husband and I were gathering our bounty, we realized the duck was nowhere to be found. Ma told us not to worry and reassured us she’d send it when it turned up. But it never turned up.

The duck had to have been scooped up with the mess and tossed into the giant heavy duty black plastic trash bag, never to be seen or heard from again. We were lucky it was just a cloth duck. I’ve heard of pets and small children going missing after episodes of holiday wrapping clean up.

Another challenge is repacking the car. If you were visiting, you have to fit all your opened gifts into the same space you transported your wrapped gifts for others. There is a university working on the physics behind it, but it is a well-known fact that wrapped presents and luggage packed with clean clothes take up much less room than unwrapped presents and dirty clothes.

Maybe you didn’t travel. Maybe you played host this year. Once everyone leaves, you will have to at some point put your gifts away. If you didn’t already go through your things and thin out your belongings before the holidays, you are faced with doing so after. You’ll of course want to donate your gently used items to a worthy cause, like the Habitat for Humanity Restore, Goodwill, Salvation Army or, one of my favorites, Christians United Outreach Center.

If you haven’t used an item in over a year, consider shedding the closet cramping dust collector. Stay away from rationalizations such as, "But I’ll need it if …"

You won’t remember to put it out when and if so and so visits. If you get thinner you deserve NEW clothes. And the part you keep meaning to pick up to make it work again is no longer manufactured. Get rid of it!

Now that the house is tidied up and your new things are put away, you must deal with the refrigerator. You went out to eat right after Christmas because you didn’t want to eat the leftovers right away.

You’ve been eating out ever since, spending all your Christmas money, because every time you look in the packed fridge, it’s too overwhelming. Rather than reorganize and use it, you shut the door and head out for Chinese.

I have two words for you: homemade pizza. You would be pleasantly surprised about what tastes good as a pizza topping. Cut all the leftovers into pieces, put them out like a buffet and let everyone top their own pie. It’s creative, fun and you’re not technically eating leftovers. You’re eating pizza.

The final post-holiday obstacle is deciding when to take down the lights and put away the holiday decorations. We never actually finished putting all of our exterior lights up, so there is no telling when we will get what we did put up packed away for next year.

When I was a child, my mom left our decorations up until the second week of January. She’d take everything down while we were at school. One cold January morning, we’d leave a fully decorated house and come home to our everything’s-back-to-normal house. Ma was always super productive when we were not in the way.

In between dealing with post-holiday obstacles, there are resolutions to write, New Year’s parties to attend and the dreaded return to work. One of my resolutions for this year is to be much more organized for Christmas 2013, so as to lesson not only the holiday stress, but the post-holiday chaos as well. Wish me luck.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

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Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of "Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville." She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is mickibare@inspiredscribe.com