Posts Tagged ‘Professional Organizer’

Top 10 Garage Organizing Tips – Just in Time For Spring

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

As the temperatures are finally creeping up, it’s time to take our Spring cleaning and organizing campaign outside… to the garage. Make the most of this underappreciated space in your home and get it ready for smart storage and for working on your favorite projects. Even if you just want to just make room to finally move your car inside, remember these top tips for your best organizing results:

1. Designate separate spaces or zones in which to group like items together, such as sports gear, gardening tools, automotive supplies, house repair, etc. It makes finding things easy, clean up is simple, and overall a more functional workspace.

2. When it comes to storing off-season or occasional items in the garage, nothing beats stackable, clear plastic bins. Make sure they have tight sealing lids like the Rubbermaid Roughneck line, to protect your belongings from moisture and critters. Not everything needs to be in a bin with a lid, especially if you’re accessing the items frequently.

3. Pegboards are terrific for vertical storage and they come in a variety of sizes and materials. Useful for hanging everything from gardening tools or hand tools, pegboards are also versatile, so you can adjust them as your needs change. Choose a system that is sturdy enough to carry the weight you need. For a dressed-up look, check out this pegboard system.

4. Give yourself some room. If lack of space is keeping you from your list of DIY projects, make your garage more functional by adding the right workbench. Wall mounted versions like this fold-down model give you the surface you need without taking up any floor space. Add casters to any table to make your workstation mobile, and when you’re done, tuck it neatly out of the way again. Gladiator Garage works makes a handy, adjustable leg workbench I plan to have in my next garage.

5. Whenever possible, use open shelving instead of cabinets. Not only are they easier to install and less expensive, they also take up less room because you don’t need to allow for swinging doors. They also let you see everything you’ve got, increasing the space’s functionality. One exception would be a cabinet with doors that can be locked to store hazardous chemicals if you have small children, especially if the chemicals cannot be stored high out of reach.

6. The only way to keep organized is to keep an eye on what you have. One idea is to store the tiny tidbits on your tool shelves in clear spice jars, so you won’t have to hunt them down when you need them, or mount the jars under a shelf. I use a parts organizer like this for my spare hardware. If you have drawers, try painting them with chalkboard paint, so you can clearly label – and re-label – what’s inside.

7. Not everything is appropriate to store in your garage. If you think you’re saving money buying paper goods in bulk, you’ll be throwing that money away if you leave them out to become insect bait. Paint should also be moved inside, as it will be ruined by extreme weather if your garage isn’t climate controlled.

8. It may be easy to just lean a ladder up against the wall when not in use, but that can be an accident waiting to happen. Avoid having it tip over onto your car – or worse, on a person – by laying it down horizontally and pushing it against the wall. If possible, keep it off the floor entirely by storing your ladder on hooks.

9.  Repurpose wire closet shelving by screwing them into the ceiling joists in your garage. It creates a huge amount of storage for things you don’t need to get to regularly, and you can always see what’s overhead.

10. Once your garage is organized, for an even more streamlined look, install moisture resistant curtains to hide your storage and work spaces. You can also use it as an opportunity to add a pop of color to the typically stark surfaces of a garage. You could even consider laminating posters or your kids’ artwork to create some visual interest in the garage.

Share with us your dreams for your garage in the comments below. What would you use the space for if you could do anything with it, and more importantly… what’s stopping you?

Spring Decorating: Accents to Push The Season

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Most of us were done with winter by January, but apparently Mother Nature didn’t get the memo. With a few more weeks before spring finally arrives, regardless of what’s happening outside, a few quick decorating tricks can push the season inside your home and bring on a serious case of spring fever!

Color is key in setting the mood in a room, so changing or adding color is the easiest way to transform it. If you don’t want to repaint, you can change the feel of a room by introducing spring colors into your rugs and fabrics. This is a great way to make a big impact, without committing to a complete makeover. Think about the colors you already have in your décor when choosing what colors to add. Use lighter shades of the existing color palette, or find the most complimentary spring shades to accent them. Balance the new colors across your space by repeating them at least three times. This gives a feeling of continuity instead of randomness.

Opt for lighter fabrics, by replacing velvet slipcovers with cotton twills, and heavy drapery with sheer panels. Carefully store the off-season fabrics to protect them from dust and moisture. Toss a couple of throw rugs in sunny citrus hues… or if you’re feeling crafty, you can crochet your own patch of grass to bring some of the green of spring indoors!

White accents around your room, in groupings of picture frames or a freshly painted pair of side tables instantly elevate the mood and infuse an airier quality to your décor. If you prefer a more dressed up space, display objects in symmetrical patterns; leave them slightly askew for a less formal vibe. If you have a collection of frames or an old piece of furniture that you’d like to give a seasonal facelift, follow these tips from Martha for the best whitewashing results.

Like a garden ripe for picking, abundant fruit bowls and fresh flowers bring life to your kitchen and living spaces. Spread some around to add color and vibrancy to darker spaces. In the bathroom, treat yourself and your space to a few fresh towels. Relegate any dingy hand towels to the B-list or donate to your local animal shelter, and choose fluffy, new towels in bright white for an instant update to the bath… and your mood!

Add spring topiaries and a room spray that infuses the sweet smell of fresh linen to help the final few weeks of winter pass painlessly. No matter how cold it is today, we can be (relatively) certain that spring IS coming, so tell us about your favorite room accents or accessories that bring a little spring into your home.

Prepare Your Garden & Yard Tools for Spring

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

If you’ve been counting the days until your snowy white yard melts into the gorgeous greens of spring then this article is for you, because I’ve got some ideas for getting your hands dirty now. It may be too early to get to your garden’s soil, but there’s plenty of prep work to be done if you want to make the most of your lawn and garden this year.

Get your greenhouse in order! Or your shed or the corner of your garage that is dedicated to your gardening… whatever space you have, getting organized before you take on any project will make everything run smoothly. After you’ve swept up your entire workspace and all the surfaces, eradicate any winter creepers that may have taken up residence with an appropriate product. Make sure to ventilate the space thoroughly afterwards.

Start with a clean slate. Clear out drainage ditches, fix your fences and trellises, and mend any containing walls that may have collapsed under heavy snows. Clean your tools and take your blades in to the local home center for a professional sharpening to make sure they’re ready to work.

Stock your gardening tote. You want to have what you need to get started, but don’t go crazy and over-shop when you see all the new supplies at the store, promising you that spring is just around the corner. Remember, you’re not stocking a nursery, but you will need a few essentials on hand:

  • Tending to your plantings can be back breaking work, and a trusty wheelbarrow is a gardener’s best friend. Make sure yours weathered the winter well, oil up the wheel and clean any critters out of the nooks and crannies. If space is a concern, look for a collapsible wheelbarrow so storage during the off season is easier
  • If the glove fits, wear it! With gardening gloves, proper fit is key to your comfort. If they aren’t comfortable, you aren’t likely to wear them. Try on a variety and collect the best ones for heavy-duty jobs like shoveling and moving rocks, and also for more delicate garden work like transplanting.
  • Trowels are multi-purposed which may be why they’re the most commonly used handheld tools for gardening, so you’ll want to have a few different sizes on hand. For tools with more reach, a selection of rakes and shovels will come in most handy.
  • Hand Pruners should be purchased specifically for right- or left-handed gardeners. More substantial pruners called loppers, should be used on branches larger than ¼” in diameter to prevent damaging your pruners and preserve the life of your tools. It’s worth it to pay a few extra bucks for a well-designed tool that fits comfortably in your hand. Pruning saws and hedge trimmers are only necessary if you’re taming with larger trees or shrubbery.

Taking the time to prepare your gardening workspace is an important step to maximize your plantings’ potential throughout the year. How are you getting your garden ready for spring? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Planning Your Spring Break Road Trip

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

When you’re thinking about getting away this spring but the idea of air travel is less than enticing, remember that there is no better way to see this beautiful country than by taking to its almost 47,000 miles of highway. You may prefer to getaway on your own; just you, alone, on the open road, or perhaps your ideal road trip involves a convertible overflowing with friends, or a mini-van with just you, your spouse and kids. Whomever you choose to travel with, there are a few things to consider if you want to ensure that a good time is had by all.

Get together with your travel buddies to discuss the timing of your trip. Once you have mutually agreeable dates, determine how far you can travel in the allotted time by rolling out a map and perusing it together. Pinpoint all your potential destinations based on the criteria that matter most to you: budget, desirable driving distance per day, people or places you may want to visit, or attractions you’d like to see.

With countless places worth visiting in the US, deciding where you want to go will help you determine the best way to get there. There are plenty of sites like Expedia, Booking, Hotels, and so on, that will help you book your rental car and accommodations, while offering insights into each location and the best places to eat, visit, and shop there. For a road trip, however, there are a few sites that can take your planning to the next level. When you’re choosing your destination, RoadtripUSA is a great place to start, offering a detailed view of eleven classic US driving routes, from coast to coast, and from Canada to Mexico.

When considering your budget, lodging and meals are the categories with the most flexibility. Decide whether you want to camp out, crash with friends, “rough it” in bargain basement motels, book on AirBnB, or experience a different luxury hotel in each city you pass through. Mark off your intended accommodations for each night and adjust your budget accordingly. And if you want to avoid subsisting on fast food and gas stations snacks, checkout TVFoodMaps for the Food Network’s guide to great eats nationwide.

Unless budget is of no concern, it’s a good idea to consider every possible expense, starting with the big three: gas, food and lodging. TravelMath is a website that will help you assess the cost versus time for each route option for you, while FuelMyRoute will help you find the cheapest places along your chosen route to fill up your tank.

Once you’re on the road, having a GPS is a great and comforting resource, but it should not replace your paper maps. In fact, it’s best to print out everything before you go – directions, reservation information, rental car info, etc. – so you don’t have to rely on available cell signals or WiFi to find what you need. Create a binder with all your travel details and put the pages in order of your journey. Also, make sure to sign up for AAA or an equivalent nationwide roadside assistance program.

Lastly, be sure to add these essential items to your packing list, both for road safety, as well as for the pleasure and comfort of your passengers:

  • MP3 and DVD players, along with headphones or ear buds
  • A blanket, football, Frisbee, etc., so you’re prepared for an impromptu picnic lunch
  • A cooler and freezer packs to keep snacks and beverages handy
  • Bathroom tissue, garbage bags, and Wet Wipes to make it a bit more comfortable when nature calls and you’re in the middle of nowhere
  • A first aid kit with all the basics for minor injuries, headaches and car sickness
  • Small pillows and a blanket or two for anyone who needs to catch some shuteye
  • A couple of flashlights and extra batteries
  • Jumper cables
  • A spare tire and jack
  • A second set of car keys

Once you have your companions, budget, route, destination and supplies sorted out, the best thing about a road trip is the feeling of freedom it conjures, because with the planning taken care of, there’s nothing to worry about but having a good time.

Have you ever taken a truly fantastic road trip? How about the one you wish you’d never taken? Please share your experiences in the comments below, and let us know your best tips for planning an epic, awesome road trip this spring. And, next time you see me, ask about my moving myself from Kansas City to Washington, DC. #Nightmare

Time Management For Couples

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

The idea of “finding time” is a silly one, don’t you think? There are only 24 hours in a day and no matter where you look you won’t find any more, so if something is a priority then you have to make the time for it, by clearing your schedule of other less essential obligations.

But making time for each other is increasingly difficult for modern couples. Our over-filled calendars and mounting responsibilities have us feeling that any time we’re not working, if we’re under the same roof as our loved one, then we’re “spending time together”… right? Wrong. It takes a little more effort than that. So, whether or not you’re a fan of Valentine’s Day, you can use it as a reminder to carve out some quality time with your main squeeze. Here’s how:

1. Love always… but do it on schedule. It may not seem romantic, but carving out time for one another is actually a very loving gesture. Planning ahead will mean you’re less likely to miss out on couple time because work ran late or the other obligations that did make it on to your calendar ended up taking precedence. Block out some time – and book it! – not just for Valentine’s day, but every week or two thereafter. Seeing that date on your calendar will not only give you something fun to look forward to, the anticipation will help you feel more connected.

2. Get in line. Aligning your schedules at home isn’t always possible, but the intimacy it cultivates is worth the effort. Making an effort to go to bed at the same time so you have the chance for some pillow talk (or something… ), or creating a daily ritual like having your morning coffee together will help bond you to your partner. Take a look at your schedules and see where you can make them line up every day.

3. Find something you both like doing and commit to it… together. Shared activities are a great way to keep things exciting between you and your honey, so make a commitment to something you both enjoy. Whether it’s just for fun, like a playing or watching sports together, or it gives back to your community, like a volunteering at a local charity, doing something positive together on a regular basis requires planning. Remember, in any relationship, compromise is key, but don’t agree to an activity that makes you miserable, as this will only lead to tension and resentment. Find something you both enjoy and get it on your calendar.

Keep the lines of communication – and all your possibilities – open, by apprising your partner of any changes to your schedule. If you know what the other person is up to, not only does it makes it easier to manage your time together, it also makes it possible to be spontaneous. Make your relationship a priority and give it the space on your calendar it deserves.

Help our readers have a happy Valentine’s Day by sharing one ritual that you and your love make time for together.

Tips For Throwing a Winning Super Bowl Party

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

A Super Bowl party may be pretty hard to screw up. All it takes is a TV, some snacks and beer, and your guests are guaranteed a great time, right? Maybe, but still… just a little attention to the details and you can elevate your party to the stuff of legends.

Get pumped up pre-game. Even if your guest list is already set, a pre-party email will get everyone excited. Send the message out today or tomorrow. Be sure to include relevant details (where, when, what to bring) as well as your enthusiasm, and set the tone for the day ahead. Don’t just encourage guests to dress in team colors from head to toe, make it mandatory!

Prep the field for play. Obviously, the room should be focused on the game, so make sure you have enough seats in front of the TV for everyone to get comfortable. If you don’t have enough folding chairs, ask friends to bring some, and don’t be afraid to bring your lawn chairs inside – they’re perfect for the tailgating crowd! – but leave yourself time to wipe down anything that’s been collecting dust in the garage. Floor pillows also work well for younger football fans.

Put some heart into it! Football diehards may balk at the idea of decorations, but wrapping the room in team pride can make for an epic showdown. Of course, if you’re in Colorado or Washington your décor will be appropriately biased, but if you’re hosting a mixed crowd of Seahawks and Broncos fans, be sure to represent everyone’s colors on the buffet as well as on the furniture. Football themed rugs, banners, and blankets are inexpensive and easy to come by, so be bold and don’t hold back! You can also look for décor items in team colors that are not covered in football team logos. This will allow the items to be more versatile for future purposes. This reduction in décor clutter is key if storage is at a premium. Hang a couple of team jerseys on the wall, and they can double as prizes for your party games.

Extend your decorations into a nearby space for anyone who is looking for a respite from the crowd’s excitement. Deck out any space where guests are welcome to hang (don’t forget the snacks), so guests will know it’s okay to relax in there, too. Don’t forget to turn on and tune in every TV throughout the house. Your guests will be grateful that they didn’t miss any of the action during their bathroom break!

Feed them… well. Next to football, the food will naturally be the star attraction at your party. It’s a long game day – at least three to four hours – so expect people to be snacking and grazing the whole time. Think of appetizers and snacks that can be easily replenished and will stay yummy despite standing out for a while. The key is to have enough food and supplies on hand to keep guests feeling full and festive.

A buffet of finger foods are most appealing for their portability, so think “grab-and-go.” A big batch of stick-to-your-ribs chili (or your signature cold weather dish) is also easy to serve and satisfying fare. Just be sure to have plenty of extra napkins on hand, because spills are inevitable on Super Bowl Sunday.

Make sure everyone can reach snacks no matter where they’re seated. No one should have to miss any action just to grab some more chips! Likewise, place a few coolers or small tubs of beer and soda at various vantage points around the room, each with a stack of cups and an extra bottle opener. It’s another prime spot for team-themed decorations, plus your guests will appreciate the convenience… and the plentiful refreshments.

Beer is the football fans’ beverage of choice, so stock up on a variety or bottles and cans or even mini-keg to help keep the suds flowing. Have an ample supply of non-alcoholic options on hand for the designated driver, and an extra bag or two of ice, as well.

Make sure you won’t run out of snacks or spirit and you’ve got the right recipe for great game day. Even if you couldn’t care less about football, these tips will serve as your guide to throwing a Super Bowl party for the record books. If you have other ideas for a winning Super Bowl party, please share them in the comments below. Go team!

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?