Tag Archives: christmas

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?

 

live-escape-game-1155620_640

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

Organize Your Charitable Giving

Giving for Change

It’s end of the year and the charities are out in force with their hands outstretched. Do you succumb to every request?  Or do you give nothing out of overwhelm? Having a strategy will help make this process more satisfying and deserving charities will appreciate you.

Who to give to? 

  • You can sort charities by their mission to focus on the ones that have the most meaning to you or your family.  Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance are two organizations that research charities based on their financial health and accountability. A good benchmark for a worthwhile charity is having at least 75% of their income spent on the the non-profit’s mission.  One of our clients recommends Charity Navigator because they provide a rating for each of the 1,600 charities they research and you can do all your donation tracking and giving through them.
  • Ask your friends who they give to.  It can be a very enlightening conversation.
  • Keep a running list of your favorite charities and donations given. This helps at tax time but the bigger purpose is to avoid confusion about what you’ve given and to whom.“Did I give to ‘Children’s Alliance’ or ‘Children’s Allies’?” A spreadsheet or chart can help you track how much you give year-to-year.

How often to give?

Taking control of how often you give helps avoid feeling pressured every time you get a solicitation in the mail.

  • Rotate donations into monthly bills
  • Recurring automatic donation payments have the convenience of knowing you’re supporting your cause without having to remember to do it. Guaranteed monthly donations also help with an organization’s cash flow.
  • Setting aside a time to donate once a quarter or once a year helps you keep perspective.
  • If you are concerned about tax or estate planning considerations, work with a wealth manager, estate-planning lawyer or certified financial planner on your giving strategy.

Do you give a donation and later find yourself inundated with multiple requests from other charities?

Charities have varying privacy policies. According to Charity Navigator, the more small donations you give, the more likely your name will be sold to other organizations.  Charities are more likely to protect the privacy of their larger donors. The reason is; small donations barely cover the cost of processing them.  They can make more money by selling your name. Once you establish your list of favorite charities, just recycle any solicitations that aren’t on your list.

What to do with all the solicitations that flood the mail?

This depends on how complete your list of charities is. If you feel the need to hang onto solicitations to consider “later” create one box or folder to catch them and sift through them regularly to eliminate duplicates.

Does this make giving any easier? If so, then go out there and share the wealth.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, Office, organizing, Paper, Strategies

4 Under-Utilized Areas of the Garage

 

This week’s post is about products you can install in your garage. But remember, the first step is to decide what you are keeping. You won’t know what storage you will need until you have made some decisions.  Start with a big sort and purge.

Thank you to guest writer Kenady Ghent from Monkey Bar Storage for her ideas and inspiration!

Is there ever enough space in the garage? Garages are the repositories for tools, sporting equipment, bikes, gas cans, lawn mowers, christmas decor and miscellaneous clutter. How are we expected to park our vehicles in there? If you never have a sufficient amount of space it could be because you aren’t utilizing valuable areas of the garage. Check out this list of the garage’s 4 most underutilized storage spaces.

Ceiling: Homeowners often overlook the ceiling as available storage space.  Overhead storage racks are perfect for storing rarely-used and seasonal items. Items are overhead and out of the way while relatively easy to access when you need them. Not to worry, these shelves have a 750 lb weight capacity, so your family and car are safe underneath.

Garage-Ceiling-Storage

Walls: Get your things off the floor and hung neatly on the wall. Products like garage cabinets and  shelving store your belongings in ⅓ of the space they used to take up. If your space is small and limited install shelving over doors and windows.

Garage Upper Shelves

Garage Wall Cabinets

Storage Products: Even your storage products can be optimized. Purchase garage shelving that has layering capabilities, that way you can store 3x more on the same shelving unit. You can even add accessories like bike hooks and sports ball bags to shelving for those items that are more difficult to store efficiently. Also, adding drawers inside garage cabinets can maximize that storage space.

Garage Wall Rack

Adjacent to the Door: The open space next to the door that leads into the house is perfect for a mini mudroom. Creating this command center prevents clutter like shoes, backpacks, jackets and keys from entering your home. Just add hooks, a shoe rack and a trashcan for wrappers and loose paper.

Garage Mud Room

Are you taking advantage of these underutilized spaces in the garage? After you’ve maximized your space, you’ll have room for the items you’ve been keeping in that storage unit and can get rid of the monthly storage unit bill. There is money in your unused garage space! With the money you save you can invest in a  garage flooring alternative that is both functional and beautiful.

For questions about garage organization solutions, visit: http://garagestoragesanfrancisco.com/.

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Decluttering, Garage, Guest Experts, home organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Storage

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