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!
Are you worried about the influx of gifts that could be coming your way, or your children’s way, during the holidays? Concerned about incorporating new things into an already crowded home?
A great way to prepare for the holidays (also for birthdays) is to do a quick sweep through the house and find a few excess items you can part with to make room for new gifts.
If you know people like to give you certain types of items (clothes, candles, lotions, food), you might just glance at your closet, bathroom, or pantry and see if there are a few things you could use up or donate in the next week or so to make a little room on your shelves so any new items can easily be incorporated into your home.
For children, this is a great way for them to learn how to be discerning with their toys and possessions. They can see which things stand the test of time and become favorites, and which toys might have seemed so desirable during a fad but are now rarely used (because they weren’t that great) or broken (because they weren’t well made). Children can also feel good about participating in the spirit of giving by donating their used-but-still-usable toys to worthy charities.
This doesn’t have to be a huge chore. Just grab a shopping bag and a wastebasket, take five to ten minutes to check one or two areas (shelf, closet, drawer, etc.), and put the no-longer-needed items either into the shopping bag for donation or into the wastebasket if they’re really trashed.
This time of year can easily get out-of-control busy. Streamline your activities by taking a few minutes to list them using this 1-2-3 system.
Must Do’s are things like buying Christmas gifts for family, putting up a tree, going to school performances and/or church Advent services, and sending cards*.
Want to Do’s might be things like going to a certain party, decorating a gingerbread house with the kids, or going to see a holiday play or concert.
Skip Doing’s are things you enjoy and might have done in the past, but that you can put off for a year or so just to make this year a little less hectic. These could be things like the Want to Do’s (parties, performances, crafts) and they can also be the extra gifts or homemade items that you sometimes do. If making time for those things this year will stress you out, then choose a simpler option. I know someone who now skips gift wrapping: he shops at stores that offer gift wrapping and, when that’s not possible, puts everything in gift bags to make the holidays easier.
If you have a family, it’s a good idea to include everyone in planning your Holiday To Do List so you can get their input about what’s important and then divvy up the chores so everything doesn’t land on your plate.
Happy Stress-Less Holiday Season!
*A side note about Christmas cards: I have a friend who emails her annual family update letter along with candid photos from the year. I always look forward to reading her witty words and to seeing how her kids have changed. As an organizer, I must admire that her Christmas card contributes no physical clutter. And, after addressing, stuffing, and stamping all of my letters, I appreciate how much she must save in time, effort, and money. Email cards are definitely an option to consider!
If you’re like me, you are probably doing a fair amount of online shopping this time of year.
Although I always make sure to spend an afternoon at my local boutiques to find unique gifts, online shopping helps streamline some of the holiday purchases.
Just make sure that when you check out online you’re not adding to your post-holiday email clutter by accidentally subscribing to promotional emails. Online stores really try to hide those check boxes now (and are they getting smaller or are my eyes getting worse?). If you forget to un-check them, you’ll automatically be signed up to receive a slew of email solicitations.
Yes, some of the offers can be good, but do you really need to shop as frequently as the stores think you do? You can always find those same offers through www.retailmenot.com or a Google search.
So don’t forget to un-check the promotional emails box when you check out online.