Getting into the spirit of giving at the holidays is so much fun! You get to spend time thinking about those you love and dreaming up gifts to delight them.
Unfortunately, Americans will spend $15 billion this year on unwanted gifts. This year, instead of giving unwanted clutter, put on your thinking cap and get creative!
To help you along, I’m going to let you in on my secrets for coming up with the best clutter-free gifts. This list is by no means exhaustive, but consider it a jumping-off point to spark your own ideas.
According to The Harris Poll, Thanksgiving is Americans’ second favorite holiday (Christmas is #1). Thanksgiving’s popularity may be due in part to the fact that it’s one of the few holidays we celebrate that involves no gifts, not even candy. No gifts equals no wrapping paper to throw out, and no abundance of new stuff to incorporate into the house like at birthdays and Christmas.
The frenetic pace of the holiday season can put us into a flurry of shopping confusion. Read on for a simple solution to gain control of your gift buying!
Have you ever been out shopping for gifts, braving the holiday crowds, when you spied the perfect plaid scarf for Aunt Betty, made your way to the checkout counter with your prize in hand, only to stop yourself and wonder in puzzlement, “Uh-oh. Wait. Did I give her a plaid scarf last year? Or was that Aunt Dot?” Since you can’t remember and don’t want to risk giving the same gift twice, you get out of the checkout line and go back to the gift drawing board. Ugh!
Solution: Keep an ongoing gift list.
As I clicked open my own gift list spreadsheet last week to jot down some Christmas ideas, I looked at the tabs along the bottom and realized that I have been keeping a gift spreadsheet since 2005!
[My teenage daughter’s reaction to this news was to sigh, “Of course you have a gift spreadsheet,” accompanied a roll of the eyes.]
But really, it’s an easy thing to do and a great tool for holiday and birthday planning and budgeting, especially if you buy gifts for lots of different people: immediate family, extended family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, teachers, service providers, etc.
If you’re like me, making a spreadsheet helps you organize your thoughts and ideas into tidy rows and columns. However, if the mere mention of the word “spreadsheet” sends you into panic, fear not! You can keep an ongoing gift list with whatever tool you prefer.
Whether you use a spreadsheet, a notes app, or good old-fashioned paper, a gift list will keep you organized and ready for holidays, birthdays, and any-occasion
For a non-spreadsheet digital solution, use a word program (Google docs will allow you to access your notes online from anywhere.) or a list app (I still love Wunderlist but there are other great ones out there.). If you are a paper person, use a page in your planner or designate a little notebook as your Gift Book.
My spreadsheet is pretty simple, consisting of just three columns: name, gift, and amount. You can set up your spreadsheet or notebook the same way.
So this year, streamline your gift-giving by following Santa’s example: make your list and check it twice!
Spreadsheets don't have to be complex and intimidating, but can be a simple way to organize lists of information, such as my Gift List.
Click here to watch my latest segment with Emily Volz and learn how to organize your basement for the seasons.
If your basement is used primarily for storage, one big issue to keep in mind is combatting moisture.
Store items in plastic bins so they are impervious to surface moisture on the floor. Raise the bins on garage-style shelving or pallets. Label the bins so the contents are easily recognizable.
A dehumidifier is a key appliance. If possible, run a hose from the dehumidifier to the utility sink so they unit can drain constantly and you won't have to empty the tank every day. Check with your local utility company for rebates on new, energy efficient models.
Keep the area around the boiler, hot water tank, water meter, fuse box, etc. free of clutter so they can be accessed easily when they need to be worked on.
The main factor in keeping things organized is to create zones for the different types of items you store in the basement, rather than storing everything in one big area with no distinction. For example, you might have different zones for laundry, rarely used or seasonal kitchen items, holiday decorations, outdoor furniture storage, tools and household repair items. Distinctions between zones could be as simple as using different shelves or using painter's tape to mark off areas of the floor. Labeling everything helps the whole family know what goes where. If you don't have a label maker, just use painter's tape and a permanent marker.
Now is a great time to air out your basement and get it organized!
Wondering what to gifts to give your loved ones? Have you seen this funny gag Christmas gift going around? It’s a roll of toilet paper just in case you get crap for Christmas! Don’t be the person who makes them use that paper!
Instead, think of gifts that feature experiences, upgrade everyday necessities into luxuries, or are consumable. Below are some of my favorites, many of which can be bought at the last minute. (Sorry the list is long – I got on a roll!)
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT STUFF
Can't we all use a little laugh to break up the busy-ness of the holiday season? Here's Jerry Seinfeld's 5-minute bit about how we relate to our things. He even throws in a "Swedish Death Cleaning"-type bit at the end. Enjoy!
Are you hosting Thanksgiving and planning to do a quick cleanup of the main areas of your house before guests arrive? Hosting is a great motivator to sweep through your house, gathering everything that’s out of place (Hello, kids’ toys and husband’s shoes!) and returning them to their rightful homes.
What if there’s kind of a lot of stuff out of place and you don’t have time to put it all away before Thanksgiving? Do you use the “throw it all into a hamper and hide it in a closet” method?
That’s not a terrible method as long as you remember to include putting everything away in your post-Thanksgiving clean up. A messy pile loves company (chaos begets chaos) so the longer you leave things in that basket, the more likely other things are to pile up around the house and in the basket.
After you’ve finished the Thanksgiving dishes, grab that basket and get to it!
You might find you need to assign new homes to some of the things so they’re easier to put away in the future. You might also find that the new home is in someone else’s house, in which case you can put those things right into your car and drive them over to the donation center the next time you’re out!
Today's tip is super quick so you can get back to enjoying the day.
Click on this link to find out more about Martin Luther King Jr. Day and bookmark it to quickly and easily look up any holiday!
Happy New Year!
This year, if you want to resolve to be more organized, you’ll need to start by resolving to get rid of the clutter. Stuff has no hope of staying organized and in its place when there’s just too much of it.
My favorite de-cluttering tool is the 2017 in 2017 Challenge Chart by Rachel Jones of Nourishing Minimalism.
It’s a great visual motivator to help you pare down. Even if you don’t achieve the 2017-item challenge, it’s fun to try and you’ll be amazed to see how much you can de-clutter. If you have kids, let them have fun with it by using different colors to fill in the boxes.
The other tool you’ll need: a disposable box or bag placed near the door of your home that is designated for outgoing items.
Mark it “donate” and whenever you come across something you no longer need, want, or love, toss it into the bag (or into the trash, if it’s not worth donating).
When the bag is full, don’t delay! Put it right into your car and bring it to a donation center, preferably one that’s near your home or on your usual route so you’ll actually go there. Can’t make it to a donation center? Call any one of a number of charities that will schedule a pick up of donations (Salvation Army, Goodwill, Savers, etc.).
Resolve to tame the clutter chaos!
Here’s a fun verse I wrote as a Christmas present to you. Just hum it to the tune of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” And, yes, for the record I sound exactly like Mariah when I’m singing this in my car. ;)
I don’t want a lot for Christmas
This is all I’m asking for
I just want to see this clutter
Make its way out through your door.
I’ll put everything in its place,
Make your home a comfy space.
Make my wish come true,
Let’s organize this Christmas for you!
Even though you probably have a lot to do this week to get ready for Christmas, Hanukkah, or just having the kids home for vacation, please remember to plan some down time into your week. Read a book, have a cup of tea, take a bath, play a game with your family, or get together with friends. Enjoy the time!