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.
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
Want to save a little money, reduce your errands, and cross some tasks off the list of things you have to remember (but always forget)? Use Amazon Subscribe & Save!
Most of us already use Amazon to order all kinds of household goods, but by using the Subscribe & Save feature, you can group items you need to reorder into scheduled deliveries, saving as much as 15% on each item.
I schedule deliveries every 3 months, but you can choose the schedule that works for you, from monthly to every 6 months.
Some of the items I put on my list are things like toothbrush heads (every 3 months) and refrigerator filters (every 6 months). Why? Because you're supposed to change those things on a regular basis, but I could never remember when I'd last changed them. Now, I change them when the new ones arrive. This also saves space in my house because I don't have to store them (or remember where I stored them!).
Here's what's currently on my Subscribe & Save list:
Basically, anything that you use up on a consistent basis, don't want to spare space in your home to stock, need to remember to replace regularly, and want to save money on is a good candidate for your Subscribe & Save list.
What ideas can you come up with about what to put on your Subscribe & Save list?
Are you distressed by the huge volume of emails you get?
Are you tempted to shop whenever you get those deal of the day emails?
Are you distracted by from tackling important emails by solicitation emails?
It is so worth it to find that hidden "UNSUBSCRIBE" link at the bottom of the email and click on it!
Even though that takes a bit of effort up front, it really saves time in the future by reducing the amount of unwanted and distracting emails you get.
It'll also save your wallet because you won't be tempted to shop just because some "deal" you're being offered. You know you can just go on RetailMeNot and find a deal when you really need to buy something.
So click UNSUBSCRIBE and get yourself off of all of those annoying email lists!
But not mine, of course.
Following up last week’s blog entry, here’s a second vintage image that I found in London that I thought would interest my readers. Of course, as a Professional Organizer, it got my attention because it’s a question I frequently ask my clients to consider.
Can I do without it?
There are always tempting things we can buy and there are always tons of reasons to keep excess things we already have. This simple question is a good one for figuring out how valuable an item is to you and whether or not you really want to make a place for it in your home. After all, bringing something home from a store and giving it a place in your house means that you are committed to caring for it, cleaning it, using it, storing it, and looking at it for quite a long time.
Is it worth it?
Can you do with out it?
For one month, try asking yourself this question (when you’re in a store and when you’re looking around your house) and see how many times you can say, “Yes, I can do without it.” At the end of the month, maybe you’ll find yourself with a smaller credit card bill from things you didn’t buy and a big bag of things you now can do without and want to donate.
Catalogs and magazines can be fun to browse through every now and then, but this innocent-seeming form of entertainment can have cluttering consequences for your home and your mind.
Here’s a list of reasons why I recommend reducing or eliminating your consumption of catalogs and magazines:
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.
If clutter is driving you crazy, you might think the first step would be to start paring down and getting rid of things.
But how can you control the clutter when more keeps coming through the door?
Step one: Stop the mindless purchases.
Instead of buying on impulse, try this technique to give yourself a little more time to consider new acquisitions.
1. You see a dress/power tool/throw pillow that you really like (online or in a store) and have a strong desire to throw caution to the wind and buy it right now.
(Excuses abound: It's so cute! I deserve a little pick-me-up! This would make things so much easier! It would pull together the whole look of my living room!)
2. Don't buy it! Instead, enter it into your Wunderlist or calendar app with a reminder set for one month from now.
3. When you receive the notice a month later, check in with yourself to see if you even still remember the item, much less still want to buy it.
More often than not, you'll realize you really don't need that thing and maybe not having it has helped you better appreciate the things you already own. If you're still undecided, postpone the decision again with another reminder set for one more month. If you find you still really want the item, it's OK to give yourself permission to buy it. Feel good about having made a considered decision not a mindless purchase.
Look for more tips in the coming weeks about how to stem the tide of clutter coming into your home.