Category Archives: Holidays

Clutter-Free Gifts

As Professional Organizers, we meet people who are anxious about what to give their loved ones that are personal, valued and “green.” One solution is to give “consumable” gifts. The advantage of a consumable gift is it gives the recipient a special experience, doesn’t take up any room and doesn’t leave behind any clutter.

food gifts

Edibles and Drinkables

  • Gift baskets of food – nice fruits, cheeses, nuts, chocolates. Who wouldn’t want to try a variety of yummy foods put together by you…or from your favorite vendor? The SF Bay Area is home to many artisan chocolate and food makers; a basket of local treats makes a personal touch.
  • Your parents might appreciate a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant or one you think they’d like.
  • Gift an invitation to dine out with you at the hot new restaurant or a known old favorite – your treat of course!
  • Teens love gift cards to Peet’s, Starbucks, ice cream, lunch food.
  • How about a wine or beer club membership?

 

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Entertainment

  • Consider an outing to an Escape Room – a group game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles.
  • Tickets or gift certificates to movies, dance, theater, museums or sports events can be prized by people who can’t seem to justify frivolous expenses.
  • How about Poetry by Request?  My colleague, Claire Tompkins brings her trusty Royal typewriter to events and creates personalized poetry on demand.
  • Subscriptions to entertainment services such as Amazon Prime or Netflix can provide easy access to movies and entertainment at home.
  • Gift of a special outing with you: ice skating, a picnic in the park, a visit to a children’s museum, the zoo or an amusement park.
  • Annual pass for a ski resort or for a fun place like Six Flags Magic Mountain.
  • Lottery tickets make great stocking stuffers!
  • Did you know that AirBNB offers gift cards?

cooking-class

Education

  • Get cooking!  Kitchen on Fire offers a variety of classes. Cooking lessons are fun to do with a group or with one special friend: either at a store, a cooking school or in your own kitchen.
  • A stack of specialty magazines on gaming or weaving or architecture – whatever they’re into – are a treat!
  • Would your giftee love an art or other adult education class?  Offer to take it with them!
  • How about a subscription to a meditation website such as Headspace – a gym for your head?
  • A block of classes at the local pilates or yoga studio can inspire them to get going on their health goals.
  • Sign them up for a historical tour of a local hot spot

relaxation

Pampering

  • Massages, facials, and nail services are always welcome treats
  • A thorough and expert housecleaning session is great for folks who always do it themselves
  • Hot tub session at a place such as Piedmont Springs
  • Do you know someone who complains about the state of their closets, garage or playroom? Give the gift of a session with a professional organizer!

 

personal gift certificate

Your Time

  • What do YOU do well? Offer a session with your loved one sharing your skills and time with them: interior design help, personal shopping, gardening, back rubs, clutter-clearing, cooking a meal or teaching a cooking technique, a personalized sight-seeing tour, iPhone instruction-sessions…the sky’s the limit!

Remember to follow up with your giftee. Sometimes people forget about gift certificates. Put a reminder in your calendar for a couple months in the future to touch back with your recipient. Re-invite them to take you up on your offer of a fun experience or remind them of the gift certificate you gave them.

Have a great consumable gift idea? Share it here!

 

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

Spooky Storage Solutions for Halloween

halloween organizing tips (1)

Halloween approaches and, as with any holiday, it’s an opportunity to revisit how you organize all the supplies that go with it. Drag out all the bags and boxes where your Halloween stuff is lurking and give it a fresh look!

Costumes

  • Set aside outgrown kid costumes to hand-down to friends & family or donate.
  • Repair or discard damaged/broken props and costumes.
  • It can be useful to separate small props/accessories from larger costume pieces.
  • Ziploc bags or smaller boxes within a larger container are helpful.
  • Give your future self a gift and label all containers.

Decor

It’s a good idea to keep décor in a separate container from costumes. It makes decorating easier and you may need costumes for other parties/occasions/general dress-up play. It makes sense to have them live in different locations.

Party Supplies

There’re basically 2 options for Halloween specific party stuff– keep them with other Halloween supplies or keep them with other party supplies.

  • Halloween friends: Sometimes these end up stuffed into the same box as décor. That can work if you don’t have that much but do yourself a favor and at a minimum use large Ziploc bags to keep paper goods separate from house décor.
  • All party friends: Store all holiday/party specific paper goods in a container together but keep them separated by holiday/event within that container.

A word about containers…

Don’t forget the concept of container as limiter! What containers you choose depends largely on where you decide to store Halloween supplies and how much room you’re willing to give over to it. Lidded tubs are great because they’re deep and can stack and be labeled easily.

Some décor (such as giant inflatables and yard props) are too large to contain in a tub and must have some shelf or floor space. Remember, you get to choose how much is enough in each category – contain it appropriately then live within.

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Filed under children, Closets, Decluttering, Empty Nest, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, Kids

Clutter Free Gifts For Kids

Cowabunga!

Have a cherished kid in your life that you enjoy gifting to? Great intentions and generosity from friends and family leave many homes overrun with toys. Every birthday or holiday brings in gifts from multiple people and often each of those people gives multiple gifts!

When considering what to give, begin with the end in mind. Inevitably the toy you give will be outgrown and need to be disposed of somehow –  it is VERY difficult to donate toys. Most thrift stores won’t take them. Toy consignment stores are picky and toys need to be complete and in great condition. Most families don’t have the time or energy to sell things online or have garage sales. All this means many, many toys end up in landfill or homes get overrun because folks don’t want to just throw things away.

There are lots of clutter-free ways to express your love and care for kiddos, here are some easy gift alternatives to toys:

  • Memberships – or single visit tickets to fun kid places such as amusement parks, zoos, or aquariums
  • Digital Gifts – Audible, iTunes, digital books, online magazines
  • Experiences – movie tickets, miniature golf or fun centers, mani-pedi or facials, a picnic outing with special relative
  • Classes – toddler play spaces or mini gym. Summer camp. Swimming, gymnastics, sewing, cooking, art, nature; there are classes in every topic imaginable!
  • College fund or savings bonds – Open or contribute to a college fund
  • Food – a variety popcorn tin, box of cake pops, tour of Jelly Belly Factory,  candy apple making kit, cake decorating kit

A quick google search of “clutter-free gifts for kids” will turn up lots of other creative ideas. Give your adult children a break by not burdening them with toys to sort, store and pass on when the kids outgrow them.

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Holidays, Kids

Organized Travel – Planning Tips

Travel Planning

Summer is approaching, what are your travel plans? There are a lot of moving parts in travel planning: ideas, resources, and schedules.

Stay Organized, Create a System

Having any kind of system in place to manage the inflow of resources is critical to reduce overwhelm and help make your decision making more efficient. Organizing information is like organizing things in your house.  Having a dedicated space for your travel plans makes it easy to pick up where you left off in your planning efforts.

Choose one location where you’ll keep track of everything. This is critical to avoid having bits of information floating everywhere – random emails, scraps of paper, bookmarked website. Examples:

  • Evernote or Pinterest –online project management tools
  • Email folder and/or Documents folder
  • Spreadsheet
  • Notebook
  • Shared calendars or documents or folders if multiple people are involved in the planning.

Keep a running to-do list of planning tasks. In addition, create a checklist of major components: this includes transportation, lodging, activities … in addition to logistics: banking, credit, phone. Checklists help you know what has been handled and what is still outstanding.

Travel Checklist

Set Your Priorities

Sometimes working with the blank slate of an open 2 weeks is daunting. To help build out the structure of a trip it helps to determine your “have to do’s” vs. your “nice to do’s”.

  • Are your to/from dates set in stone? How much flexibility do you have around travel dates? Prices can vary a lot based on day of week you travel
  • Are there key sights or events that are MUST do’s? If so, are they available any time or are there limits? For example, if you’re traveling to Paris and getting to the top of the Eiffel Tower is a must for you – researching the availability of tickets for that may determine which day that has to happen.
  • Are you traveling for an event such as a wedding or concert/play/tour?

Your top priorities will be fixed points both for day and location that the trip planning will evolve around so figuring them out first makes planning more efficient.

Gather Resources

Planning can take a lot of time – start your research early – talk to friends, put it out on Facebook, browse travel websites. Find out what you shouldn’t miss! This will help give you a rich pool of things to choose from while setting your top travel priorities.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Many people have taken your trip before you…there are tons of travel advice and resources on the Web. A quick search of “things I need to do before traveling to X” will turn up a great list to build your Travel To-Do list.

Delegate

Delegating can make the trip more fun for you…especially if you’re not the only one responsible for logistics.  Share the burden and get your fellow travelers’ buy-in. Can you assign your partner to handle a component of the research and planning… or can your teen-age companion scope out fun things to do at your destination?

Stay Organized on the Road

As the date of departure approaches, tidy up.  Dispose of unnecessary bits of info and separate out the final itinerary details from all the planning materials.

You’ve worked hard to plan the trip – continue to reap the benefits of your organization the whole way. Create digital images of all your important documents and reservations. Keep one pocket of your carry-on dedicated to holding any travel plans. Have a backup also – send it to yourself in an email or make sure you’ll have cloud access to any summary documents you created. Make sure your traveling partner has all the info as well.

Just as being organized at home helps you enjoy your space better, organizing your travel planning helps you focus on the adventure ahead instead of being mired in logistics.

Happy Travels!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Decluttering, Holidays, organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management, Travel

5 Ways to Manage Your Holidays

Pacing Yourself During the Holidays

If you regularly have a lot going on in life the added tasks of the holidays can wreak havoc on your time management. Shopping, hosting, holiday cards, parties, travel…where does the time come from to fit everything in?

Time Estimating

One of the biggest traps of time management is magical thinking around how long tasks will take. An easy rule of thumb is to estimate how long a task will take then double it! If you end up with time on your hands you’ll have no trouble filling it.

Be realistic about your schedule. Some things have to give to make room for the extra tasks of the holidays. Time isn’t going to magically appear in your calendar. Be vigilant about passing on opportunities that arise that don’t help your goal of having a wonderful holiday. That could mean saying “no” to the 7th Christmas party invitation!

Simplify Your Task List

There are many ways to enjoy your holidays and some are less time consuming than others. For example, if you realize it will take you 10 hours to put together holiday cards (including addressing, stamping and getting them to the mailbox) you may choose to do something simpler – or choose a different time of year to reach out and connect. Remember your original desire to make connections with family and friends. Realize there are many ways to do that.

Other time saving examples:

  • Store-bought food instead of homemade
  • Pot-luck instead of full hosting
  • E-cards instead of mailed cards
  • Gift bags and tissue instead of gift wrapping

Don’t Go It Alone

It’s easy to feel like we are solely responsible to make a memorable and magical experience for our loved ones. That can be pretty unrealistic and overwhelming. Have a look at your task list and see how you can share the load…where can the kids participate or invite a friend to work with you- baking or gift wrapping are examples. Is there cleaning or errands you delegate or actually hire out? Where possible, focus your time and energy on the tasks you really enjoy and figure out how to get help with the others.

Learn from holidays past

Think back on what worked before.  Was there a year where you breezed through the holiday with ease?  What worked?

If there was a December that went poorly, you felt more stressed, you didn’t enjoy the celebrations – ask yourself what could you do to avoid those pitfalls?

You could jot notes and track how long it actually took to: prepare for a party, to do the gift shopping, to pick out clothes to wear to the gala, to find the best gifts for your friends and family or to determine which character you’ll come as to the Dickens Faire.  These estimates could provide a template for happy holidays to come.

Balance

Holidays can be a time when life gets out of balance. In order to make more time in our schedules we often sacrifice personal time for exercise or re-charge. Make it a priority to plan in time for self-care so you can give the gift that really matters – yourself!

Taking this time to practice time management can help you in the rest of your life!

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Strategies, Time Management

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