Category Archives: Holidays

Grab-N-Go Kits for Hassle-Free Outings

Be Prepared For a Day at the Beach

Be Prepared For a Day at the Beach … or Anywhere!

Want to head out to the park and find yourself scrambling around the house trying to find where the sunscreen was last left? Or the hats?

Summer, with its many outings and camps is a great time to put together a few “grab & go” bags. If you have certain activities you do often, it is worth duplicating some items in order to always have them on hand when you’re ready to go. The bag contains the staples that always need to be there and things like snacks or reading material can be added as needed.

Beach/Pool Bag: bathing suits, sunscreen, goggles, earplugs, towels & hats

Park/Outing Bag: sunscreen, hats, bug repellant, picnic blanket

Day Camp Bag: sunscreen, sunglasses money, hat, light jacket

The key is having a dedicated home where your specialty bags live and remembering to replenish the bags after your outings. Make sure freshly laundered items make their way back into their bags instead of into a dresser or cabinet.

This model of making specialty bags also applies year-round to other activities and not just for kids:

  • Sports: uniform, water bottle, sunscreen
  • Overnights: toiletries, flashlight,
  • Classes: paper, pen, class materials
  • Gym/Workout: water bottle, toiletries, snack bars
  • Meetings or Committees: notepad, pen, reference materials
  • Charging kit: extra phone & computer chargers

It may seem like a bit of extra work, but when your supplies are ready to go, getting out the door quickly keeps you relaxed and able to be spontaneous. Spend your time on your outing instead of stressing out and wasting time searching the house for the park blanket. As an added benefit your kids learn the benefits of being prepared ahead of time!

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Holidays, homework, Kids, organizing, School, Strategies, Travel

Too Easy to Buy, Too Hard to Let Go

shopping - 1

“Getting stuff” can be fun and easy…it’s the “letting go” that can be challenging

We Americans have too much stuff.

This is our observation gleaned from decades spent immersed in the home organizing industry and working with people in their homes. Why is this?

Stuff is cheap. It’s easy to come by things relatively cheaply. Big box stores such as IKEA, Target, WalMart, and Costco always have great deals on household goods and furniture…not to mention the ease of buying with Amazon. The advent of online shopping means goods arrive at our door with one click. Even getting used things is easier than ever with sites such as Craigslist, eBay, Freecycle, MoveLoot and NextDoor.

New things are fun! Our media and culture promote the excitement and promise of re-decorating, having the latest fashions and gadgets. We have acclimated to the idea of rapid change and stimulation. These forces help drive us to think of everyday goods and furniture as almost disposable instead of intended to last for years.

Smaller families mean gifts abound – we see this so often with kids’ toys. With smaller families there are more adults to dote on the kids. Gone are the days where a child gets a few things from their parents and maybe the grandparents. Now we have aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors with few or no kids who want to get in on the fun. It all adds up to too much.

Environmentalism. Even our desire to be green adds to the problem. We are lured into buying things that are cheap…Wow! A couch from IKEA for $119? What a deal! But when that couch gives way or wears out we feel bad for wanting to trash it…sometimes we hold onto broken or worn things, trying not to waste them by sending them to the landfill. But then our garage turns into a trash receptacle.

What to do about it?

Curtail the shopping. Make a game out of shopping at Costco and only buying 5 things you really need. Begin with the end in mind and – before you buy – imagine what you’ll do with the item when it wears out or you’ve outgrown it.

Request non-tangible or consumable gifts from extended family and give those yourself. Providing savings bonds, promises of outings, shows or more elaborate vacations…even contributions to a car fund…can provide long-term satisfaction to both the giver and the receiver.

Think “Environment” before you buy. Buy for quality and endurance. Will that item be valued by your children when they’re ready to start their own families? Will there be a market for this item in the future?

Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.” – Bryant H. McGill

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

Living With A Cluttered Valentine

courtesy of Donna Smallin Cooper of Organized Greetings

Cartoon courtesy of Donna Smallin Kuper of Organized Greetings

Do you and your sweetheart have wildly different ideas about what clutter is? Do you find yourself fed-up and frustrated by their organizing “style”? Do you feel like they’re trying to take over the world one surface at a time or leave things out just to piss you off?

Stress between couples over clutter is very common. Here are a few Valentine’s Day tips to manage the stress with your loved one.

What doesn’t work:

  • Purging behind their back
  • Nagging
  • Storing empty boxes on surfaces to prevent their things from landing there
  • Surprising them with a gift certificate from Crime Scene Cleaners
  • Deciding that if they can be cluttered, you do them one better and be messy yourself

What does work:

  • Realize that it’s not about right vs. wrong… it’s about compromising BOTH your styles because you’ve chosen to share space together.
  • Agree to de-clutter together. Set a shared goal that you both agree will improve the quality of the home. Make a game plan and work together to implement it.
  • Give each person a dedicated space (a room or a portion of a room) that they can control completely.
  • Take responsibility for managing your own clutter before trying to “fix” your partner.
  • Get objective outside help: use an organizing book, online resources, a couples therapist or a professional organizer.

What easy-to-tackle project could you and your Valentine take on that would create a little more space at home?

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, middle-age, Perspective, Strategies

Gift Guilt

Unwanted gifts can clutter our homes. How can we deal with the guilt of passing on things we don't want or can't use?

Unwanted gifts can clutter our homes. How can we deal with the guilt of passing on things we don’t want or can’t use?

The hand knit sweater from Aunt Martha that you’d never be caught dead in…the set of candles from a co-worker that you know you’ll never use…the dishtowels from your sister that she’ll probably notice if you don’t put out…

Now that the holidays are over, take preventative measures right away – don’t let unwanted gifts clutter up your closets and drawers!

It’s The Thought That Counts

  • A gift is a show of kindness or love to you, not a contract you must honor
  • You can receive and keep the good intention of a gift independent of the item given

The Closer The Giver, The Stronger The Stick

Post-Its® Gifts: from acquaintances or people you know you won’t see or will never be in your house.

  • Sending an unwanted item back out into the world allows it to be used and appreciated by someone who chooses it purposefully

Scotch Tape® Gifts: the gifts from friends we like a lot. They may never know you got rid of the item but you will and that alone makes you feel bad.

  • If someone really cares about you they would want you to surround yourself with things you love
  • When possible, be honest with friends and family about what you don’t like; it helps them know you better

 Duct Tape® Gifts: the stickiest. Usually from vey close relatives and friends, AND there’s a good chance they will notice if a particular gift isn’t in use.

  • Remember, your feeling about the gift is not a reflection of how you feel about them or how much you appreciate that they gifted you
  • If they bring up the gift in question, reinforce your appreciation of their generosity or sentiment while remembering that it is truly is up to you what fills your home

Look through your unwanted gifts and think about how sticky the attachments are. Lighten your gift guilt by focusing on the least sticky items. Picture them being happily used…by someone else!

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse

Organized Hosting

Hosting doesn't have to be stressful!

Hosting doesn’t have to be stressful!

What makes a successful party at your home? Good company, good food and good atmosphere!

Good Company

  • Be choosy about your guest list. Keep the numbers to a limit where you can still enjoy your party. For larger groups consider hiring or recruiting some prep and party help to lighten your load.
  • If there is a challenging personality included in the guest list be mindful to also invite someone who may get along well with them and also be mindful about where you seat them.
  • When guest offer to lend a hand, take them up on it. Think ahead of a few simple tasks they could do. Being involved helps some people feel more engaged and comfortable in social settings.

Good Food & Drink

  • Use tried and true recipes. Don’t let your party guests be the guinea pigs for your first soufflé.
  • Use food that can be prepped in advance OR buy prepared food for some or all of the dishes to reduce cooking time.
  • Consider having 2 entrees and a variety of sides. Make lots of flavors available and accommodate guests with dietary restrictions.
  • Don’t go overboard on drink variety. In the holiday theme, a simple offering of a spiced wine, spiked eggnog OR hot cider is sufficient–in addition to the standard wine & bubbly water.

Good Atmosphere

  • Music: make managing the music easy by using online streaming services such as Pandora, or creating a party playlist that can run for several hours. If this isn’t your fortè, recruit a music fan or techie to help you out.
  • Layout: if necessary re-arrange furniture to create easy flow during the party. Position the food and drink strategically to pull people through the space and not clog up one area of the house.  Place a few extra trashcans around to catch cups & plates. Folding chairs are a simple way to add extra seating or create small conversation zones.
  • Décor: Keep it simple. Focus on one or two key areas – such as the front door, food and drink tables. You can always add to decor if time allows. But getting some basic decorating done a day or two in advance lightens your load on party day.

Remember, hosting a party is something you do share time and experience with friends. And, your guests are coming for the same reasons! If you’re comfortable and prepared, you’ll create a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere for everyone, including yourself!

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Strategies

Top 10 Holiday Organizing Songs

Caroler

Despite the best planning, the holiday season can be a pressure cooker. For your amusement we present:

Top 10 Holiday Organizing Songs

1 – Jingle All The Way To The Container Store®

2 – It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Chaos

3 – All I Want for Christmas Is A System For Lego®

4 – I Have A Little Clutter, I Made It Out Of …Stuff

5 – You’re A Mean One, Mr. Clutter

6 – Grandma Got Run Over …By An Avalanche From The Guest Room Closet

7 – Do You Hear What I Hear? The Sound Of Paper Filing Itself?

8 – I’m Dreaming Of A Guilt Free Christmas

9 – What Child is This?…And Why Did She Just Dump Her Toys All Over The Floor?

And lastly, our favorite,

10 – Have Yourself A Sorted Little Junk Drawer

“Have your self a sorted little junk drawer, everything in line…

twists and tools where you can find them e-v-e-r-y time!

And have yourself a happy little New Year’s Day!”

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays

Gift Lists – Organized!

Pinterest Board_Family Gifts

Here is a sample of a Pinterest Gift Board

‘Tis the season for shopping and gift giving. Keeping track of what to get everyone is essential to managing holiday overwhelm.

This is a great opportunity to use technology to make your life easier. Here are 3 digital ways to track and sort gift ideas:

  1. A simple note on your phone or computer. Handy to access year round, it makes it easy to jot down gift ideas when they occur. This method is text based – no photos.

iPhone Gift List note

  1. Pinterest is a great visual tool to capture photo links to gift ideas. You can share websites to Pinterest in order to have photos that are linked to shopping sites.
  1. Evernote Is a great app to combine both text and images (and sound!) to collect photos, websites, and notes of potential gifts.

Evernote Gift List

In all cases you can create one note, board, or notebook for each person on your list OR one general one for gifts and the details within that.

Happy shopping! Got a great method for keeping your gift lists organized? Share it here!

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Filed under Holidays, organizing, Technology