Holiday

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…Or Not

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The time between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve can be the most festive, but also the most stressful time of the year. Between holiday parties, work events, shopping for gifts, eating too much and spending too much, sometimes we wish we could skip the entire season. But since that’s not an option, here are some guidelines to help you feel more in control this holiday season.

  • Say no. You don’t need to attend every party to which you’re invited. If you don’t go, you don’t need to find a babysitter, pay a babysitter, find something to wear, or purchase a hostess gift. Think of all the time you save.
  • Buy multiples of the same gift for as many people on your list as possible.
  • Have hostess gifts on hand. Whether it’s a bottle of wine, a candle, or chocolate, prepare in advance.
  • Purge your playroom. You have more leverage now than at any other time during the year. Tell your children you can’t buy them any new toys if there’s no space on those playroom shelves. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to donate what your children truly don’t use.
  • Get gift cards in a variety of dollar amounts. These take up almost no space, and are great for when you forgot about a last minute gift you might need.
  • Plan a go to outfit that you can wear to multiple parties. A simple black dress and a pair of black slacks and heels can take you through a variety of parties from business casual to more formal.
  • Breathe deeply and engage in some form of mindfulness each day.

Holiday Organizing Tips

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Here are some helpful tips for getting through the holidays…

  1. Be prepared with suggestions when someone asks what you or your kids want as gifts. If you’re at a loss, ask for a gift certificate. Return the favor and give gift certificates whenever possible.
  2. Display holiday cards until New Years Day, then discard them. You’re not expected to keep pictures of children other than your own.
  3. Don’t keep gifts you don’t want. If you can’t return it, give it away. You won’t feel any better about disposing of it in a year or two, so you may as well do it now.
  4. Now is the time to clean out the playroom and children’s bedrooms. Tell your children that they can’t get anything new unless they make room on their shelves by donating what they no longer use.
  5. Teachers like to send home all of the semester’s artwork just before winter vacation. It only takes a few minutes to look through the pile when it comes home. Most of it should be discarded. If you don’t do it immediately, you’ll end up shuffling the same pile around for the next 6 months. Then, you’ll discard it anyway.
  6. When packing for a holiday vacation, think light. New airline regulations levy a charge for suitcases that weigh more than 50 pounds and most charge extra for more than one piece of luggage per person. If you’ve been accustomed to traveling with large heavy pieces, invest in some lighter weight canvas/nylon carryalls.
  7. Before starting your holiday shopping, search your closets for those gifts you bought throughout the year and then promptly forgot.
  8. Keep a supply of hostess gifts and gift wrap handy. A bottle of wine is always appropriate and can be put in a pretty bag in seconds.
  9. If you entertain, keep a list of everything you prepare or order. Make notes about what you’ll need more or less of next year.
  10. Create a spreadsheet of all of your addresses in Excel or another similar software program. This enables you to make labels for holiday cards that can be easily updated each year.
  11. Distribute your holiday tips a few weeks before the holiday. The recipients will be able to enjoy the gift when it’s needed most, and you’ll be able to cross one big thing off your list.
  12. Get ready for next year by keeping a list of all of the holiday gifts you give this year. In addition to family, include your hairdresser, housekeeper, nanny, doorman, garage attendant, secretary, teachers, and postal carrier. You’ll no longer have to wonder if you’re forgetting anyone, whether you’re giving anyone less than last year, or how much you need to budget.

Shopping Tips for Black Friday and Every Day

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I love shopping, and I pride myself on not getting sucked in by sales and not buying what I don’t need. But, based on the closets that I help organize everyday, most people are easily sidetracked and end up buying too much and not the items they need. So, for those of you who may be shopping on Black Friday or any other day, here are my tips for an efficient shopping experience.

  1. Don’t be sidetracked by items you don’t need.
  2. Check that inventory tags have been removed before leaving a store.
  3. Have gifts wrapped at the store when possible. Also have them shipped whenever possible.
  4. Don’t go into a store without knowing what you want and how much you want to spend.
  5. Ask for help. If it appears that an employee is clueless, disengage immediately
  6. When shopping in a department store, start on the top floor, get everything you need there, and work your way down.

 

Finding Your Inner Peace Before the Holiday Frenzy Begins

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Between agitating over the perennial what to wear, where to go, what to buy, how to pay, and why you ate so much, the time between Thanksgiving and New’s Year can be filled with high-octane stress.

However, there are safe ways to self-medicate that have nothing to do with booze, pills or acute psychotherapy.  Here, I’ve streamlined some of the easiest to swallow, tackle and take effect organizing tips that will leave you feeling calmer, more in control and believe it or not — more festive this holiday season.

  1. Clean out your underwear drawer.  Anything ripped or saggy goes straight in the trash.  Then, move the sassy to the front, and you might end up wearing them!
  2. Throw out any and all pens or markers in your house that are out of ink.  If you have kids, make it a game for them to hunt, peck and test out the goods.  Once you’ve grouped them together, you’ll likely to find that you DON’T need to restock anytime soon.
  3. Don’t just look in that medicine cabinet — throw out every prescription or medication that has outlived its expiration date.  Not only will you have more room for great creams (go ahead, buy yourself a new one now that you have room!), but your skin may be more luminous for having invested this time.
  4. Audit your electronics.  Loose wires, old chargers and extra remotes do not make for lovely object d’art.  Chuck with bravado.  The odds that you will need them again, are the odds that Kim Kardashian married for love.
  5. Clean out your fridge and pantry.  Expired goods, crusty-almost-done jelly jars, anything unrecognizable —out!  You may not actually lose weight in doing this — but your kitchen sure as heck will.
  6. Bid adieu to all of your mismatched socks.  They’ve been hanging around all year waiting for their sole mate.  If a sock’s mate hasn’t appeared yet, it’s gone for good.

Commit to just a few of these, and I promise you’ll feel more in control and less overwhelmed!  Happy holiday!

Organizing Thanksgiving Like a Pro

· Holiday

Every Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for many things…my loving family, good health, and fulfilling career. And, I’m especially thankful that I don’t have to host Thanksgiving dinner. On Thanksgiving morning, my family participates in the Turkey Trot, a multi-generational 5K race. While my father-in-law, husband, and son try to beat previous years’ records, my mother walks, I run so slowly I may as well be walking, and my mother-in-law rides in a golf cart. My daughter collects t-shirts and takes pictures. After the run, we have a relaxing day at the beach. Dinner is eaten in a large restaurant with many other families. While it may not be the most intimate of settings, I love not having to spend the day cooking and cleaning.

If you’re not as lucky as I am, and you’re hosting the meal, it’s important to plan ahead so you can enjoy the holiday. If you follow these tips, on Thanksgiving morning you should be calm and ready to start crossing things off your list.

1. Have a game plan and be ready to execute.
2. Start by determining who will be on the guest list. When you invite someone, and they ask what they can bring, do not be a martyr. Tell them very specifically what they should bring. If they have a special dish they like to make, by all means take them up on it. With any luck, this will lighten your load significantly.
3. Select the menu and keep it as simple as possible…turkey and two or three side dishes. Make your grocery list and shop for non-perishable items in advance. Prepare anything that can be made in advance.
4. Figure out the flow of the kitchen. How long does each item need to cook, what can be in the oven at the same time, when does each dish need to go in and come out of the oven?
5. Think about what time you’ll shower and dress and what time the children will bathe and dress. Know what everyone will wear (including yourself). Write this all down, so you don’t forget a single detail.
6. On the night before Thanksgiving, set the table. Or, if your children are old enough, let them set the table. Engage your children by allowing them to decorate the table with homemade crafts. They can also make and decorate place cards.
7. If there will be a large group of young children invited, you may want to select a movie in advance that can be watched if 10 shrieking children descend into complete chaos, and you crave quiet.
8. Unless having your spouse and children around is helpful, send them out of the house for as long as possible. And if things start to feel out of control, there’s no shame in ordering in a few pizzas and calling it a day. It’s the sentiment that counts!

New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

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One of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to get organized.  Yet, it’s easier said than done, and getting organized can be a tall order.  But, what if you could get organized in 5 minutes or less each day?  Here are my top ten organizing resolutions you can actually keep:

  1. Memorize the credit card number you use most.  You’ll be amazed at what a time saver this is.
  2. Register online with the Direct Marketing Association’s registry to keep junk mail to a minimum. Less paper clutter means less stress.
  3. Throw out any markers or pens that are out of ink…at work and at home.
  4. Throw out any mismatched socks.  If the mate hasn’t shown up yet, recognize that it’s probably long gone.
  5. Throw away all expired medicines from the medicine cabinet.
  6. Throw away all expired foods from the refrigerator.
  7. Discard all of the unimportant receipts cluttering your wallet.  Let’s face it; you can’t return the Starbucks latte, so why hang onto the receipt?
  8. Say no to the request that’s causing you the most stress. You don’t have to be a martyr.  Save your time and energy for things you really want to do.
  9. Make your bed every day.  Your room will look neater, and you’ll start your day feeling calm and collected.
  10. Throw away that box/bag of wires/chargers that’s been collecting dust in your closet for years.  If all of your electronics are functioning, there’s nothing there that you need.

 

Making Halloween Organization Less Scary

· Holiday

As a child, the whole concept of Halloween seems too good to be true.  You get to wear a costume, knock on strangers’ doors, and ask them for candy.  Then, you pretty much eat as much candy as you want for an entire night. As a parent, Halloween can be downright scary.  Your pre-schooler changes his mind 4 times about his costume, your tween wants to trick or treat with friends (and no parent), and your teenager’s costume seems to be exposing an awful lot of skin.  And, you haven’t even started thinking about the costume you’re wearing to your friend’s annual Monster Mash. So, how can you enjoy the holiday while making sure it’s fun? Here are some tips that are sure to help.

  1. Take out your Halloween decorations two to three weeks before the holiday.  If you’ve gone to the trouble of buying and storing the decorations, enjoy them for a few weeks as excitement for the holiday builds.
  2. Begin to think about Halloween costumes as soon as the “back to school” fervor fades.  If you’re going to order a costume online, leave yourself enough time for it to be shipped to you and returned if the size isn’t correct. If you’re planning on making a costume, start early enough so you can enjoy the process with your child.
  3. Buy your Halloween candy early.  The prices for candy are the highest in the two weeks before Halloween.
  4. This is the perfect time to sort through your child’s dress up clothes.  Maybe you can find a costume your child wants to wear or some accessories that can be used.  It’s also the perfect time to purge the costumes that no longer fit.
  5. Sort Halloween candy by type and store in glass or clear plastic cylinders of different heights.  You’ll be amazed at how pretty the candy looks when stored this way.
  6. After trick-or-treating, invite your child’s friends over for a cake or cupcake decorating play date.  Unwrap the candy and place it in bowls in the middle of the table.  Then, give them each several frosted cupcakes or one cake to decorate.  The candy will stick to the icing, the children will have a great time, and you’ll be rid of the candy by the end of the afternoon.
  7. November 1st isn’t too soon to take down the Halloween decorations.  All things Halloween related should be put away by the weekend following the holiday.   Halloween books, pumpkin carving kits, Halloween decorations, and costumes should be stored in a clear plastic box with a lid (size and number of boxes depends on the quantity you have).  This should be put away, out of the way, until next year.
  8. Be realistic about saving costumes.  If you have a child that loves playing dress up, add it to the stash.  However, if there’s little chance the costume will be worn again, donate it.

 

 

Move on Over, Milk! How to Store Thanksgiving Leftovers

· Holiday

You’ve been to the grocery store too many times to count, cooked for a small army, made small talk with the relatives, and you’re still standing!  The problem is…now you’re standing in your kitchen, looking at your leftovers, and wondering how they will all fit in your refrigerator.  Entertaining is fun, but, if you’re anything like me, you’d rather have too much food than too little food.  So, inevitably, that means that when I entertain I have a ton of leftovers.  And while my best strategy is to send as much as possible home with my guests, here are some of my favorite food storage products for what remains.

 

Pyrex, Bake-Serve’N Store Containers

The PYREX® Bake-Serve ‘N Store containers with glass and plastic lids may be the most versatile item in your kitchen. Use the glass lid for baking, reheating and serving.  Then, when it’s time to store your leftovers, place the plastic lid on top and it’s ready for the refrigerator, the freezer, or to take on the go.  This glass is microwave, dishwasher, oven, refrigerator, and freezer safe.   I love that the containers nest, and rectangular and square containers take up less room than round ones. It just doesn’t get any better than this!  As Pyrex says, “One dish, two lids, and so many uses.”

http://www.pyrexware.com/index.asp?pageId=14&CatID=380&SubCatID=400

 

Tupperwear Vent’N Serve Containers

Tupperware’s containers have a unique venting system that allows steam to escape when reheating foods in the microwave. Like Pyrex, these containers also go from microwave to the refrigerator or freezer, just not the oven.  And, the Tupperware plastic stays cool to the touch when being removed from the microwave.

http://order.tupperware.com/coe/app/tup_show_item.show_item_detail?fv_item_category_code=4000&fv_item_number=P10059651000

 

OXO POP Containers

For dry goods, I love the POP containers. “They’re airtight, stackable and space-efficient, so your dry foods stay fresh and your kitchen stays organized. The Containers have a unique push-button mechanism that creates an airtight seal with just one touch. The button also serves as a handle to lift off the lid. The containers are designed for modular stacking so that you can efficiently organize your countertop and pantry. In addition, with their square and rectangular shapes, the POP Containers make the most of any storage space, while their corners allow for easy pouring. The POP Containers are available in 12 different sizes to meet your dry food storage needs.  All POP Containers are BPA-free”.

http://www.oxo.com/p-436-pop-container-big-square-55-quart.aspx


Bread Box

Instead of piling up your breads and bagels on the kitchen counter, a bread box is a stylish way of containing your carb clutter.  This one from The Container Store is sufficiently large, and the chrome is sufficiently neutral to look great in most kitchens.

http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10000733&N=&Ntt=chrome+bread+box

 

Fridge Binz, Stackable Storage for the Refrigerator

If your refrigerator lacks enough separate drawers and shelves, you’ll love Fridge Binz.  By stacking them in your refrigerator, you maximize the storage space that you have.  When your refrigerator is organized, you won’t stand around with the refrigerator door open while you’re looking for that special snack.

http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10027634&N=&Ntt=Fridge+Binz