Archive for the ‘Holiday Organization’ Category

This Year I Resolve To Keep My Resolutions… Again

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

We all have a few resolutions that make it to the top of our list every New Year, and there are two reasons they keep showing up there: 1) we believe this resolution will improve our life in some way, and 2) we have never been able to make this resolution stick. If “Get Organized!” is at the top of your resolutions list every year, I want to share some ideas that will help you cross it off once and for all.

While the vast majority of resolutions will not outlast your New Years hangover (a 2007 study at the University of Bristol showed 88% of people who make New Year resolutions fail to follow through), the fact is you still have a much greater chance to make real, positive change in your life if you declare your intention to do so.

Once you’ve resolved to get organized for 2014, enlist some help. Get a friend or two on board and make yourselves accountable to one another. Help each other solidify the practice of organization while tag-teaming each other’s spaces! Schedule a regular weekly date to rotate through each friend’s closet, then master bedroom, then kitchen, and so forth. The key to lasting success when instituting change is to recognize that a resolution is just a launching point. For it to stick, you must make the change a regular part of everyday life. By joining forces with like-minded friends, you’ll maintain the willpower that more often dwindles before your resolution can become habit.

Organizing your desk, your office, your garage or even your entire home is a first step, but it is not something you do once and you’re done forever. Get organized with a method that you can incorporate into your daily lifestyle, and you’ll maintain order throughout the year. Support from friends and family is helpful, but they may not have the tools you need to make your changes last. You need to create systems to maintain your organized space. Without a system, it is too easy to fall back into the habits that created the clutter in the first place.

If the idea of a “system” seems intimidating, don’t be afraid to consult a professional. Organizing may not come naturally to you, but a trained pro can show you simple adjustments that, with a little discipline, will become second nature before you know it, and that can deliver big results. And before you agree to work with any professional, ask them these key questions to make sure you find the right fit that will produce the best results.

A huge goal may seem insurmountable, so think of your resolution as an ongoing action plan. If “losing 30 pounds” was an easily approachable resolution, you wouldn’t need to wait to New Years to take it on. But take that goal and break it down into clearly defined monthly, weekly or daily activities, and your unlikely resolution has become and organized approach to changing your lifestyle. And it will continue to bring you measurably closer and being the person you want to be in the New Year.

Which elusive New Years resolution do you want to commit to once and for all? What plan for getting organized is on your list for 2014?

Post Holiday Debriefing – Getting Organized for Next Year

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

You made it through all the holiday festivities, and you’re finally sitting still for a moment, relaxing, right? I won’t tell you not to chill out since you’ve obviously earned some time to just kick back and reflect on a holiday well done, but don’t forget the post-party debriefing!

If you’re like me, in addition to feeling great joy for having turned out a terrific celebration for your friends and family, you’re also doing a mental play-by-play, imagining things that you could have done differently, and already dreaming of how you’ll top yourself next year.

While your guests’ raves and reviews are still fresh in your mind, now is the time to start making notes for next year’s holiday gathering. You won’t feel like you’re starting from square one next December if you jot down the best of this year’s feedback and tuck it away for future reference. Start a notebook to keep track of which dishes were the biggest hits (if anyone asked you for a specific recipe, make a note to send it along as a thoughtful follow up), and which ones may not have been worth the trouble. Evernote.com makes collecting and sharing recipes and decorating ideas simple. Use their Web Clipper to grab ideas from the Internet all year round, and then easily organize them in virtual notebooks.

Noting how gifts were received while reactions are fresh in your mind can help you plan ahead for a more successful shopping season in 2014. Keep a list of what you gave everyone this year, what you spent, and how well each gift went over. Then use your notes to create a budget and preliminary gift list for next year. Plan to put aside a little money for it each month, to avoid the shock to your wallet that’s often inflicted by the crush of December shopping.

Taking the time now to note what worked and what didn’t will make for a more organized holiday season next year. If you had houseguests, take stock of linens or air mattresses that may need replacing, and keep an eye out for sales throughout the year. What errands did you have trouble scheduling this year? Pull out your 2014 calendar and pencil them in now. By planning ahead and blocking out the time to tackle those tasks and you can look forward to less stress next time around.

The most important thing to acknowledge is how you felt throughout the planning and celebration. If something or someone made your holiday less than happy, design a contingency plan for next year so you can eliminate as much unpleasantness as possible. And if you found yourself too exhausted from all the preparation to enjoy yourself, then book some extra “me-time” next year; get a massage or even a full day of pampering before the guests descend next Christmas – and write it in your 2014 calendar now! Whatever changes or improvements you think of, make them a plan and not just an idea, and you can look forward to out-doing yourself in 2014.

Help your fellow readers get organized for next year, too… please comment below and share with us either what made your holiday gathering special this year, or what will you do differently next year?

How To Get Out Of Your Own Way & Have a Drama-Free Holiday

Friday, December 27th, 2013

You may be entertaining at home, braving highways of holiday traffic to visit your in-laws, or escaping the family altogether by trading snowy roads for sandy beaches, but the one thing that will remain the same in each scenario is YOU! So, if your holidays are always wrapped up in drama, aim to be drama-free this year by taking an honest look at how you might be adding to it.

I’m not suggesting that outside irritants and stressors aren’t everywhere this time of year. It’s no wonder you get a wee bit cranky when the radio is barking out Christmas cheer twenty-four/seven. I know that when stress is running high, I’m like a lot of people who tend to become rundown because, in doing so much for others, I can neglect to take proper care of my own physical and emotional needs. If that sounds like you too, then these few minor adjustments may have you ringing in a much happier New Year, instead of mumbling “Good riddance,” as you wave goodbye to 2013.

Have a slightly “less spirited” holiday. You maybe looking forward to starting the night off with a cocktail or three to brace yourself against the rush of relatives, but by cutting back on your consumption of alcohol, you’ll ensure a smoother scene unfolds. By hitting the eggnog with gusto, you give up control over your reactions to the onslaught of irritants that you’ll surely encounter at your next family gathering. Have a plan to keep your wits about you: institute your own two-drink maximum policy, make sure to have a glass of cider or a soft drink in hand at all times, or make yourself the designated driver. It may seem backwards, but staying sober can make enduring your relatives easier because you’ll be less likely to react to their antics.

Santa screwed up? No biggie! It doesn’t matter if you’re fourteen or forty-two, some of us just can’t hide our disappointment when we receive a dud present. We can sigh and pout and bemoan how ridiculous it is for anyone to think we would actually like to receive a digital alarm clock circa 1986, but in the end, you’re really just ruining your own fun. So what if the gifts stink?! If you b*tch and moan about getting “horrible gifts,” then you’ll have no one to blame for your bad night but yourself.

Excuse You! Strategic scheduling may be the keep to keeping your cool. If listening to your aunts arguing makes you nuts, then when they’re warming up for battle that’s a great time to excuse yourself. Offer to wash dishes, play a game with the kids, or just take a walk around the block. By the time you return, the annual argument over heirlooms will probably have passed, as will your urge to explode at your relatives’ incessant bickering.

You can’t expect every elf in your life to cater to you, so give yourself permission to take care of YOU during the holidays. Take this time to recharge, refresh and regroup before the New Year arrives… and please, post your comments below to share your favorite trick for staying calm when the holiday crazies kick up. You may help our readers have an even happier holiday!

Holiday Drama – It’s All in Your Head!

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

avoid dramaIt’s happening again. Sleeping kids everywhere have those silly dancing sugarplums in their heads, but you’re tossing and turning with the vision of your obnoxious Aunt Helen barreling through the house complaining that there’s “Nothing to eat around here but cheese? What, do you want me to have a heart attack right in front of the tree?” Well… no, Aunt Helen. That would be bad.

Stop worrying and get some sleep! This year, you’ve made sure to be prepared for anything and everything (at least we hope you did!) and organized back up plans for even the most random guest request. Your nephew’s vegan girlfriend has a problem with the turkey? Tofu and veggies wrapped and ready to serve! Grandma Joan spends all night asking to be reminded of the names of each of her seven grandchildren? You bought all the kids personalized Santa hats, so Granny has a cheat sheet on each of their foreheads.

Nothing could go wrong that you haven’t thought of and prepared for already… so why are you still so stressed? You’re anticipating the drama.

When family gets together, invariably drama ensues. You may not be able to prevent it, but you can control how you react to it.  Reducing family drama at the holidays can be as easy as shifting your perspective.

Soothing the savage beast… in YOU! You can keep a level head by preparing an auditory prescription for calm. Load up your iPod with your favorite music (keeping the guest list and occasion in mind) and you can compile a mix of your favorite fun and calming music to keep you floating through the festivities. Here’s a helpful How To in case you’re new to playlists. Add a few toe-tappers and Grinch-crushing feel good tunes, (and check out our favorite Christmas album http://bit.ly/JnWF9i ) and your personal playlist will keep everyone will in good spirits, most importantly, you.

Have a few conversation starters on hand to steer clear of troublesome topics. Avoid heavy subjects such as parents’ health issues or the kids’ trouble at school, which can stir up emotions you aren’t prepared to deal with during a holiday setting. And if listening to the same old small talk is as irritating to you as nails on a chalkboard, have a few go-to distractions ready. Write them down if you must, just be ready to toss out a new topic for them to dig into, and spare yourself the aggravation of listening to another 40-minute account of what traffic was like on the expressway on the way over.

There may be room at the Inn, but it’s definitely not in the kitchen! If you know what gets your ire up is interference in the kitchen, then prepare for the bulldozing relatives who can’t help but come in and “just add a little love” to whatever is in the oven. Make a couple of charming signs to post at the doorway, warding off unwelcome sous chefs. Say it sweetly, and they can’t complain. Then have an alternative activity to direct them too. Decide ahead of time what tasks you can save for guests… napkin folding and flower arranging can keep idle hands away from your stovetop!

Organizing is usually about the tangible things, but organizing your thoughts and being prepared for those non-material barbs that arise when family gathers is just as important this week. Getting your mental checklist straight can ensure you’ll stay calm and neutral, and maybe even be have a relaxing holiday! If it isn’t “Serenity Now!” then please tell us in the comments below, what is your pre-holiday mantra for staying calm in the midst of family?

Chocolate Rum Balls

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Each year, Nina (one of our lead organizers) always makes me her infamous Chocolate Rum Balls.  This year, I couldn’t resist asking her for the recipe and sharing it with you.  So, enjoy this holiday treat.  If you have a holiday cookie or dessert you’re famous for, please share it in the comments below.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup dark rum (or more if you’re feeling jolly!)
  • 2 1/2 cups finely crushed vanilla wafer cookies (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans

Preparation

Stir chocolate in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Whisk in the 1/2 cup sugar and corn syrup, then the rum. Mix vanilla wafers and pecans in medium bowl to blend; add chocolate mixture and stir to blend well.

For each rum ball, roll 1 scant tablespoon chocolate mixture into generous 1-inch ball. Cover and refrigerate at least overnight and up to 5 days.

Planning for a Stress Free Holiday Part Two: Preparing for Tranquil Travel

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

(Missed Part One, Read it here)

It’s been said that there’s no place like home for the holidays, but for some of us, when this season rolls around, home is the last place we want to be. But just because you’ve decided to skip town, doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the pre-vacay stresses of family and friends and all the holiday cheer you feel obliged to spread before you run off to sip eggnog under a palm tree somewhere.

With a little planning, a couple of phone calls, and an hour or so on your laptop, you can travel with a mind that’s free and clear, knowing that you’ve taken care of everything and everyone before you left. Here are a few pre-travel tips to make sure your trip is smooth and stress-free:

1. Hassle-free holiday cards. In this day of online e-cards, sending real, tangible holiday cards may seem like and outdated time-suck. But the fact is that opening an email does not deliver the same warmth or personal touch that you get from pulling a real card from the mailbox. Now, sending cards to all your loved ones is as easy as emailing! Automated services like Vistaprint or Red Stamp make it easy and affordable to upload your list and design your perfect card. You’ll find tons of options for personalization, and you won’t have to stuff a single envelope or lick one stamp. They’ll send your love to mailboxes across the country… even while you’re busy swinging in a hammock somewhere far, far away!

2. Give the people what they want! If you’re too busy packing to run around town shopping for presents, you don’t have to forego the gift-giving all together. Everyone knows that online shopping lets you skip the madness of the mall and still get everything off your gift list. I say you can take it even further, reduce your stress significantly, getting all of your holiday shopping done in under an hour, AND make the world a better place in the process. You can easily make donations to charities you know will hold personal significance to each person on your list. Or give one lump sum to suit your budget to a website such as Must Have Gifts or Heifer International. These organizations are working to end poverty and hunger and improve the lives of children and their families around the world. Not only will you be giving a meaningful – and “clutter free” – gift, you’ll be making the world a better place, while also saving time, shipping costs, and even the hassle of gift wrapping!

3. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. When you’re slammed with errands and details and holiday crazies, it’s often the adrenaline that keeps you pushing through. Then, so often it happens, when you finally have a chance to kick back and relax, you find your immune system has conked out, and you’re on holiday, too sick to get out of bed! To stay healthy, make sure that in the frenzied days leading up to your vacation, you don’t neglect your exercise routine, don’t replace your healthy meals with Christmas cookies and candy canes, and keep yourself hydrated… and not just with copious amounts of mulled wine! Also, don’t forget to schedule a haircut, manicure, and maybe even a massage for the week before you leave town. It’s hard not to feel good when you look your best, so pamper yourself a little before you leave town, and you’ll slip into vacation mode that much faster when you finally get there.

There’s no way to avoid stress completely when you’re travelling, but with a little planning and a positive attitude, you’ll be prepared to breeze through it and have a very happy holiday. Share your favorite tips in the comments below and help your fellow holiday travelers get organized and de-stress, too!

Planning for a Stress Free Holiday – Part One: Easy Entertaining for a Holiday at Home

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

In an ideal world, the holiday season would be a joyous time for us to spend relaxing, reminiscing and celebrating with friends and family. But in reality, you’ll have to be organized if you want your holidays to be stress-free. In this two-part post, I’ll share some tips to help you get through your holiday vacation or stay-cation, with lots more smiles and far less stress.

With less than two weeks left until we ring in the New Year, you may think it’s too late to plan, but you’re wrong! If you’re entertaining at home, a little creative scheduling will go a long way to preserve your holiday cheer right up until your company arrives. Try these tips to get ahead of the crunch:

1. Drop the vacuum and pick up the phone. When company is coming, you want your house to look its best, but if you don’t have time to clean, running around shoving things into closets or under beds will not relax you, it will just breed anxiety. This year, set an appointment for a reputable cleaning service to come and thoroughly clean your house from floor to ceiling. Let them scour the baths, Swiffer the bookshelves, or polish the stemware, while you focus on crossing other items off your To Do list. Your guests will be impressed and you’ll have saved a lot of time and aggravation.

2. Forget snowballs… make dough balls! If you think serving your guests store-bought cookies is akin to putting coal in their Christmas stocking, then you’ve probably set aside an entire day to bake your signature treats. Make sure you don’t run out of time by preparing your dough the week before and stashing it in the freezer. Having frozen dough on hand means you’re minutes away from warm, fresh-baked goodness, and you’ll have one less mess to clean up before your guests arrive.  This works all year long, not just during the holidays.

3. Call in reinforcements. Ask a few choice people to arrive a bit earlier to help manage the last minute crazies. A good friend or sibling can field phone calls and keep the kids occupied while you put the finishing touches on your meal or decorations. Just think carefully about who to invite… remember some people can make your life easier, while others will distract you and drain all your energy before the party even starts. Have the right people there early and you can share a glass of wine, wrap up the final details and by the time the rest of your guests arrive, you’ll be a festive and happy hostess.

The most important tip to enjoying your holiday gathering is not to expect perfection. Accidents will happen; gravy spills, uncles get drunk, and children will cry if they don’t like their presents. The way to prepare for these unexpected hiccups is to practice smiling right through them, because at the end of the day, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being together.

To read part two of having a stress free holiday click here to read on DeClutterYou.com or here to read on Facebook!

Organizing At Home, Residential Resolutions in 2009

Friday, December 5th, 2008

“Residential Resolutions”
This year, make that list of attainable goals apply to your home.

PLAYFUL PLACES: De-cluttering and organizing your spaces are at the heart of fun play zones.

PLAYFUL PLACES: De-cluttering and organizing your spaces are at the heart of fun play zones.

‘Residential Resolutions’ was the title of an article featuring tips for getting organized in the new year.  Getting organized is a popular resolution, but many people don’t know where to start or how to stay organized.  The resolution to be clutter free and more productive is right up there with losing weight, spending more time with family and friends, to quit smoking, or to get control of your debt.  What I often hear is people don’t know how to get started with living an organized life. These organizing tips will help.

In this article, I offer a four week plan to get January started as the month to get organized!

Week One – It’s all about post holiday recovery.

Week Two – Attack your kitchen and beyond.

Week Three – Learning about cleaning ‘maid’ easy.  Yes, that’s cleaning made easy.

Week Four – Organizing your extremities, where I talk about an organized wardrobe, your organized car, and successful meal planning.

To read the details of this four week plan, check out the article on Rubbermaid’s website.

Clutter Free Holiday Gift Giving That Is Both Meaningful and Useful

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

You know it happens.  The gifts you give often become clutter in the back of someone’s closet, or stuck in a drawer, or simply lost.  We also always have people in our lives who are the ‘hard to shop for’ type.  Sometimes they already have everything they need, yet you want to give them a gift.  In either case, in place of a physical gift, here are some meaningful and useful gift ideas – I promise they won’t end up in the back of the recipient’s closet.



Bedandbreakfast.com
– Accepted at more than 4,000 locations, no blackout dates, this certificate can be the perfect get-away weekend idea, starting at $25.

JustGive.org – Make a donation in honor of the gift recipient, or give a friend a membership to a non-profit organization. At Just Give you can donate online to thousands of charities.

AMEX Gift Cards for Gas – Since we don’t have reindeer to pull our cars, everyone can use a little gas. Gift cards are accepted by most major fuel brands.

Gift A Tree – Plant a seed for a greener tomorrow with the Arbor Day Foundation.  With each $5.95 card purchase, a tree will be planted in a national forest that has been damaged by fire, insect or disease, and you’ll receive a Give-a-Tree card to present as the gift.  Buy more then 100 for only $3.95 each.

Fandango.com – Everyone loves the movies and having Fandango Bucks makes going to the movies easier. Personalize your gift with a message and choose one of the many occasion-based themes! This gift can be emailed or printed for delivery.

Food and Friends.org – This is one of our favorite local charities. Your donation allows Food & Friends to serve more than 1,100 men, women and children, each day, who are living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-challenging illnesses.  Just $25 provides enough food for a week of freshly-prepared meals.

Six Holiday Survival Tips to Help You Save Time And Money

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

It’s not even December 1st, yet with Black Friday behind us, we’re already feeling pressed for time?  I over heard someone at the store saying, “each year I don’t think I’ll survive the holidays!”  The person with her agreed holidays were very stressful.  Wake up!  Holidays are not suppose to be stressful!  If you’re easily stressed during the holidays, keep reading.  I’m giving you six holiday survival tips.  I hope they make life easier for you.

  1. Wrapping Paper: If you run short of holiday wrapping paper, or simply want something more creative, use your child’s art work. Grandparents especially love this packaging. If you have rolls of unused wall paper, use it to wrap gifts.
  2. Save on Gas: Driving from store to store to buy gifts can be tedious, not to mention time consuming. Shop online for holiday gifts. Sites such as Amazon.com waive shipping charges!
  3. Gift Notebook: Have one central location for all your holiday lists and ideas.   You’ll include your shopping list, meal planning, notes on travel, sales fliers, etc.  Also, designate a folder pocket or envelope for gift receipts to make returns a breeze.
  4. New Tradition: Must a traditional holiday meal be rich in calories in order to make your family happy? Start a new tradition of health-consciousness dining this year. Consider polling your guests for their favorite dishes. Then look for low-calorie version recipes online!
  5. Say Yes: When someone offers to bring something to a party, or to help you out in any way, say YES! They wouldn’t offer if they didn’t truly want to help.
  6. Donate Decor: If decorating is part of your holiday celebration, edit and donate the items you’re no longer displaying in your home. This will make storage easier after the holidays.  This should be done before the holiday as many donation sites will not take holiday decor after the date has passed.