The holidays are just around the corner. For many, this time of year is very stressful! We try to meet other's expectations and follow traditions that have been in place for years. Somewhere a long the way, the true meaning for us is lost. The activities associated with the holidays become drudgery instead of joyful. If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, follow the steps below to a simplified and more peaceful holiday season.
1. Determine what you want your holiday season to look like. How do you want to feel when you think about the holidays? The key to this is to put it on paper. Write down the vision and the tasks needed to achieve this goal. Place this paper where you can see it frequently. This will be your road map for the rest of the holiday season.
2. Enter the above tasks on the calendar. Shopping, sending cards, decorating and parties should be added to the calendar too.
3. Determine menus now. Use tried and true recipes that have become a tradition for your family. Prepare what you can ahead of time.
4. Seek assistance. A decorator, caterer, house cleaner or a professional organizer can help with the tasks that you don't like to do or that are over-whelming.
5. Create a holiday binder so you can record recipes, gift ideas, Christmas card lists and party plans. You'll be so glad you went to this extra effort next year.
6. Give non-clutter gifts such as movie passes, gift cards, savings bonds, spa treatments or make a donation in the recipient's name.
7. Limit shopping to two or three trips preferably before December 15th. Avoid crowds by shopping on weekday mornings.
8. Do not feel pressured into sending a holiday card complete with family newsletter and a perfect photo. This may take hours to complete.
9. Use only red, white and gold wrapping paper that you can use all year round. Don't be tempted to purchase gift wrap at the end of the season just because it's on sale.
10. Donate decorations that you did not use the past year. This will free up space in your storage area and make decorating flow more smoothly next year.
Please share your tips for simplifying the holidays. Leave your comments below.
In the last blog, I shared my favorite organizing products that I use most often when organizing kitchens. This blog discusses containers and products I like to use when organizing pantries. 1. Clear, square canisters with air-tight lids for flour, sugar, rice, pasta, and other dry goods. Be sure they stack and come in a variety of sizes. Don’t forget to label.
2. Expandable tiered shelf organizer - This is kind of like “stadium seating” for canned goods. Expandable is the key. It will offer flexibility to fit most spaces. There are smaller tiered organizers for spice jars. 3. Clear food storage bins - A home for snack bars, chips, microwave popcorn, pasta and rice packets. The bin contains those frustrating packages that get lost or flop over on the shelf. Be creative and use containers that aren’t necessarily made for kitchen organizing. Some people use plastic shoe boxes or wicker baskets. Any will work but I prefer clear or opaque so you can see at a glance what and how much is in the bin.
4. Under shelf baskets - Food can be stacked only so high so there’s often wasted space under shelves. My favorite under-shelf storage is the placemat holder. http://bit.ly/XHoryB In addition to storing placemats, this can be used to hold cutting boards and baking sheets.
5. Turntable/Lazy Susan - Turntables work well especially in corners or those hard-to-reach areas. They are great for cooking oils, vinegar, and other bottles. I prefer turntables with a lip around the edge. I do not like double tier turntables. It may seem like a good use of space but it’s difficult to see things on the bottom tier and bottles on the top tier may topple when the turntable is spun. Be sure the turntable is made to be easily cleaned.What containers have you used to keep your pantry organized? Please leave your comments below.
Click on Picture for the Container Store
Many of my clients want to know what organizing containers I use in my home. In this blog, I will discuss my favorite kitchen organizing products that I use in my house and also in many client’s homes. This is the first of 2 blogs focused on kitchen organizing products. The next blog will look at pantry organizing products.
1) Expandable shelf - This is one of my favorites because it can literally double shelf space inside a cabinet. It’s expandable so it fits most cabinets. I use this in upper cabinets for dishes and lower cabinets for pots and pans. It can also be used as a corner shelf. 2) Drawer Organizers - I prefer the modular interlocking variety but this may not work for all drawers. Utensils can be sorted by size or by purpose.
3) Junk Drawer Organizer - A junk drawer is a .... drawer full of junk but it can be useful junk if it’s somewhat organized. Like the divided drawer organizers for utensils and silverware, it allows for easier visibility of the contents. 4) Expandable Pot Lid Organizer - Another organizer recently introduced this Ikea item to me as one of her favorites because it not only organizes pot lids but baking dishes, trays and cutting boards. It’s adjustable so it fits in most cabinets and can accommodate various sizes of lids/ dishes. At just $5.99, you can’t beat this multi-purpose organizer. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70154800/
5) Food Storage Organizer - Food storage containers and lids can be the bane of my client’s existence. I hear many complaints of containers and lids falling out or just not stacking neatly in cabinets. This organizer helps to contain the containers! http://www.containerstore.com/shop/kitchen/cabinetOrganizers/lowerCabinets?productId=10021557&N=186
What are some of your favorite organizing products? Do you have some containers/ products that are not what they promised? Please comment below.
The holidays are just around the corner! If dinner is at your house, it's time to come up with a menu plan! As over-whelming as it may feel, the menu-planning process can be simplified by following these 10 steps.
1) Determine who and how many will be coming to your dinner.
2) Write out the menu. Be sure to include mostly tried and true recipes. This is not a good time to try new recipes. Don’t forget to include some make-ahead dishes.
3) Do the math - Based upon the number of guests, determine the amount of servings needed. Do you want leftovers? If your guests are staying with you for another meal, plan for leftovers. Have ingredients on hand to prepare meals from leftover turkey and ham.
4) If guests offer to contribute, ask them to bring an appetizer, dessert or their favorite side-dish.
5) Write a grocery list and check it twice to prevent stressful last minute trips to the grocery store.
6) Don’t wait until the day before the dinner to grocery shop. Stores will be crowded and possibly out of some of the ingredients you need.
7) Clean out the refrigerator a few days in advance so there is plenty of room for groceries and leftovers.
8) The night before the big dinner, plan a very easy meal or eat out.
9) Set the table and chop vegetables the night before.
10) Make a file or binder with menu, shopping list and recipes for next year taking note of what worked and what didn’t.
How much time do you spend cleaning house on a weekly basis? Do you share my dream that you could snap your fingers and the house would be perfectly clean and tidy? For most of us, cleaning house is one of those necessary evils. A clean house is essential to keep our homes safe and healthy. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) getting rid of clutter eliminates 40% of housework. So it would make sense that if you want to reduce the amount of time you spend cleaning, you should reduce the amount of clutter in your house. It’s important to distinguish between cleaning and de-cluttering. To clean is to remove the dirt, grime and germs. To de-clutter is to remove the items that are no longer used or simply to return items to their designated ‘homes’. Below are 10 tips to reduce the amount of time you spend cleaning house.
1) The less you have, the quicker cleaning will be. Keep only the things that you love.
2) De-clutter daily. Have all family members pitch in. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Or create a basket for each family member for their “clutter” that must me returned to its home before watching TV or eating a snack.
3) Delegate household cleaning tasks. Kids can make their beds, empty trash, load and unload dishwasher, vacuum and dust their bedroom and clean their bathroom.
4) Keep cleaning supplies under each bathroom sink for easy access.
5) Use multi-use/all purpose products. Fewer products to purchase and store.
6) Listen to music, a podcast or talk on the phone to pass time while cleaning.
7) Clean the house on the same day each week. Establish the same routine with kids cleaning their room. Maybe Saturday mornings work for your family.
8) Host a book club or dinner club. Having people over regularly is great motivation to get your house in order.
9) Be comfortable while cleaning. Dress in comfy washable clothing.
10) Let go of perfection. Settle for “Good Enough”.
What time-saving tips do you have to keep your home clean? Please comment below.
, I asked Inspirational Organizing Facebook
fans what they wanted to read about in my organizing blog. There were many great responses. One of the requests is the topic for this blog - Organizing Food Storage Containers
. Most kitchens have a good supply of tupperware and rubbermaid. Typically they’re differing sizes, shapes and brands making it difficult to stack or nest. Finding the corresponding lid can be frustrating and time consuming if the cabinet or drawer isn’t organized efficiently.
When purchasing new containers, there are several considerations.
- Match lids to containers and toss any without mates. Another great option is to re-purpose orphaned or damaged containers for crafts or painting projects.
- Discard any bubbled or damaged plastic. These are no longer food-safe. I recommend tossing all older plastic containers that are not BPA free.
- Sort by size - Small, medium and large.
- Donate containers that you do not routinely use. If you rarely use a container or if it is an odd shape that does not easily nest with other containers, consider passing it on. If you have more than one cabinet dedicated to food storage containers, you may have too many.
- File lids with the largest lids in back, smaller in the front. Use a spare container or purchase a food storage organizer. Storing all the lids together takes up less space rather than attached to the top of the container.
- Nest the containers as much as possible. Round with round and square with square.
- Plastic or glass? I like to have a combination of both. Glass is safer for microwave use but plastic is necessary for freezer use. Another option if you are freezing food is zipper freezer bags. Freeze soup, sauces, meat, etc. horizontally. After the food is frozen, store in the freezer up-right.
- Square or round? It’s personal preference but I like square containers because they make a better use of space in cabinets and refrigerators.
- Clear or opaque? Always clear so you can see what is inside. Leftovers tend to not get eaten if someone has to take that extra step of lifting the lid to see what is inside.
1. The first step to organizing your holidays is to compose a mission statement or an inspiration statement that summarizes your vision of the holidays. This will help you stay focused on what is most important to you throughout the holiday season. You may want to post it in an obvious place in your home as a frequent reminder. Throughout the holidays, do only those things that fit your statement and your vision.
2. Decor - Decide now how long you want to spend on decorating your home inside and out. Don’t let the amount of decorations you own dictate how long it takes you. Take control of your time. Determine how much time you realistically have and how much time you want to spend. If you enjoy decorating, then you may want to spend more time. Do you want to spend two hours or 10? Do you want to spread the process out over a period of days? Whatever you decide, put this on the calendar now and stick with it. Don’t fret over the decorations that don’t get displayed and consider donating them.
3. Budget - Look at your finances now and decide how much you want to spend on gifts, entertaining, decorations, party clothes, etc. Using the same concept as above, take control of your money. Don’t let guilt and expectations determine how much you spend. Over-spending will create stress well beyond the holidays. Consider gifts that don’t cause clutter for recipients such as savings bonds, gift certificates for a pedicure/manicure, movie theater gift cards or homemade treats.
4. Shopping - Limit your shopping expeditions to THREE! Put these dates on the calendar. This will help you avoid the crowds and the frantic, last minute shopping. Knowing that you have limited shopping time may keep you from endlessly looking for that “perfect” gift. Having a deadline is a good way to get anything done so have your shopping completed by December 15th.
5. Plan your menu - Cook ahead and freeze what you can. Cookie dough, cheese balls, appetizers and egg casseroles, just to name a few, can be prepared and frozen. I was surprised how many websites I found dedicated to “Holiday Freezer Meals”. Even if you enjoy cooking, having part of it complete can really ease stress. Each week prepare one dish to be frozen. Add the ingredients to your weekly grocery shopping list and schedule a portion of time in the kitchen to prepare it. Instead of being in the kitchen all day cooking, you’ll be enjoying time with friends and family!
I hear this a lot from clients. It’s hard to donate or sell things that we paid a lot for. But is it really worth that much now? It may be very valuable to you and hold some sentimental value, but the real value is most likely not as much as we think. I don’t force anyone to get rid of anything but sometimes it’s clear that the “abundance of stuff” is causing stress. Ask yourself these questions to determine whether you should keep or pass on certain things.
If I keep it, does it have a home?
Is the space it takes up worth it?
Do I love and honor this item?
Is it easily replaceable?
Will a new product be more efficient?
Do I know the true value of the item? Will it go up or down in value?
What’s the worst thing that can happen if I get rid of it?
Have I used/worn/viewed this within the last year?
Does it hold some special family sentimental value?
If I’m saving this to pass down to future generations, will they honor it? Or will they just be guilted into accepting it?
Options for creating more space by removing things things that no longer fit into your life include selling on Ebay, Craig’s List, local online and newspaper classifieds, garage sales, consignment stores, or simply donate and use as a tax deduction. Remember that other people will get more satisfaction from the items than you will.
If you’re having trouble with over-flowing clutter in your house, then maybe you haven’t adequately defined the function of your rooms. Every room, closet, nook and cranny of your home needs to have a well-defined purpose. When I go to a client’s house for the first time, I ask what the room is currently being used for. Then I ask what they WANT and NEED the room to be used for. My job is to get the room from it’s current state to the clients desired vision. As I’ve mentioned before, everything needs a home. But do you have well defined “homes” set up?
Often, the rooms in our homes are multi-functional. For example, a kitchen’s purpose is for food preparation but may also be used for eating, homework, socializing and mail sorting. Kid’s bedrooms are for sleeping but may also serve as a play area or study area depending on the age of the child.
The guest bedroom tends to be our “catch-all” space. Stress sets in when house guests are expected and the bed and floor are taken over with clutter. Define the purposes of this room and set it up accordingly. Ask yourself if you need this room to serve as storage. If so, then create desirable storage solutions.
Another consideration is under-utilizing a space. We don’t use the room for it’s intended purpose such as formal dining rooms and living areas. This isn’t a problem if there’s enough space in the rest of the house. If not, consider breaking away from the traditional use of the room and converting it to serve a different function such as a home office or a play room if you have small children.
Ask yourself these questions: What do I want this room used for? What activities do I want/need to take place in this room/ area? It’s important to assign the purposes to a room. Keep this vision and don’t allow the defined areas become over-taken by clutter that belongs elsewhere.
If you walk by a typical teenager’s room, you’re lucky if you can see the floor. It may be covered with clothes, books, backpacks and electronics. The goal of organizing your teen’s room is having a “home” for all of their belongings. It’s very important to involve your teen in this process. LIsten to them and get their input. Ask them how they best study. If space allows, create different areas for the various functions such as studying, reading, sleeping. Consider the 5 tips below to help in the process of organizing your teen’s room.
1) Designate a charging station for cell phones, Ipods, etc.
2) Set up a desk top file for school papers that need to be kept for year-end exams and paperwork for extra-curricular activities they’re involved in.
3) Designate a study area with a clear work space and school supplies.
4) Sort clothing by like items, teach kids how to hang properly. Use baskets and organizing containers for flip flops, hats/caps.
5) Encourage teens to keep a calendar/planner whether on paper or on their phone.
Getting your teen’s room organized may be relatively easy. Keeping it organized is the tricky part. Make a checklist of tasks your child needs to complete daily and weekly to maintain their organizing systems. Most importantly, articulate the advantages of being organized and be a role model for them by respecting your space and belongings.