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.
Organizers often ask clients if they will really miss a particular item when helping them decide to keep or pass it on. I was thinking of this on a recent trip out of town. My family and I stayed in a rental cabin that was very comfortable but didn’t have everything we were used to at home. A very obvious difference was the lack of a TV in the main living area. Like most homes, we have our TV front and center in our family room. Much to my surprise, we didn’t miss it! Even the kids didn’t complain! I noticed that our family had more conversations, read more and simply looked out the window to enjoy the scenery. I’m not so sure we would have used our time like this had there been a TV to distract us.
A couple of years ago, I discontinued the daily newspaper subscription. Newspapers would pile up through the week. I would feel obligated to make time over the weekend to catch up on reading them. It became a chore so I decided I would cancel my subscription knowing that I could re-subscribe if I really missed it. Honestly, I haven’t missed the newspaper at all! If I want to read the news, I can easily do that online. By eliminating this subscription, I’ve saved money, time and the clutter of piled up newspapers.
My point is sometimes we have things in our life that have always been there. The items may become like wallpaper so we don’t really notice them. Possibly we have habits like turning the TV on but not watching it. Perhaps we need to take a closer look at these things and just try life without them. We may be surprised and not miss these things at all! Take notice of how you FEEL without that object or service. Do you feel less stressed? More focused? Do you have more space and time for something else or do you really miss it? I would love to hear your responses to these questions and how you have simplified your life. Please 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.
Having four sons who have been very active in different sports means lots and lots of sports equipment in our home. I know from personal experience, that it is difficult to keep it all grouped together. Sports equipment is large and bulky therefore making it difficult to organize and, depending on the sport, it may be grimy. Below are things to consider as you organize sports equipment in your home.
- As with most organizing tasks, the first step it to sort through all of the sports equipment. Toss broken equipment. Donate un-used and outgrown equipment. Another option is sell or trade gently used sports gear to a retailer such as Play It Again Sports.
- Whether you store sports equipment in the garage, closet or mudroom, make use of vertical space. Using wire grid or pegboard, sports bags, tennis rackets, helmets, even bikes and golf clubs can be hung on the wall. Home improvement stores sell modular garage organizing systems that include baskets, hooks and accessories for sports equipment.
- Group like items together or organize by child? Generally, I would suggest putting like items together but sometimes it makes sense to keep the equipment in a bag that the child takes back and forth to practice and events. Think about how your child uses the equipment and do what makes sense.
- Take a look at Pinterest. There are lots of ideas for organizing systems that can be adapted to fit your needs.
- Storage and organizing containers should be easy to use. If purchasing new containers, opt for those that you can see inside. Use hooks that are in easy reach for the kids. Small balls, gloves, goggles, and other little parts often get lost in large buckets. Sometimes I see balls stored in large mesh, drawstring bags. These are fine for taking balls to the field but not ideal for garage storage. That extra effort to open the bag may keep the kids from putting it away.
, 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!
Most of us can use better time management skills. Time gets away from us. We have so many things pulling us in so many directions. This is especially true for our kids. Our kids are busy and have full schedules. Life is very different from when we were kids. Today, there is more to learn in school, countless after school activities and greater pressure to be accepted into a good college. Below, I discuss three time management tools/techniques that should be incorporated in all homes with students. Again, I refer to Donna Goldberg, author of “The Organized Student”.
ANALOG CLOCK - Digital clocks are everywhere. Cell phones, alarm clocks, kitchen appliances and automobiles all have digital clocks. We tend to have more digital clocks than analog. Consequently, kids don’t “feel” the passing of time when they look at digital clocks. They see numbers changing but don’t get a good sense of time going by. It’s difficult to accurately estimate how long a task will take to complete if you don’t have a good sense of what a half hour “feels” like. It’s important that even young children see an analog clock or watch to learn how time moves. Have several analog clocks in your home but especially have one in the area that your student does his homework.
PLANNER WITH A GRID - This should not be just a to-do list of their homework for the night. Students need to use a planner for all of their activities. They should be writing their after school activities in the planner and block out the time with lines or a large X so they can see the “chunk” of time being spent on a particular activity. They also need to write in time to do homework. This is when it’s important that they have the skill to estimate how long their homework will take. Also, have them plan out their time to work on big projects and long-term assignments. Teach them to pace themselves and break a large project into smaller segments. Be sure to schedule these sessions in the planner.
TIMER - Kids are easily distracted by texting, iPods and Facebook. Allow kids to take a five minute break from homework every 30-60 minutes depending on their age and attention span. During this short break, the student can reward themselves with time to text friends, check social media, or grab a quick snack. The key here is to set the timer for five minutes. It’s easy to loose track of time and that short break can become a very long distraction. Set the timer again for study/homework time so the student isn’t distracted by frequently checking the clock anticipating the next break.