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Author: Naomi CookClutter Donating General Holidays Recyling Seasonal

Recycling Christmas

Recycling arrows decorated for Christmas

The magical holiday season has come and gone and now it’s time to face the reality of the New Year…and the inevitable task of taking decorations down and cleaning up. You can just toss your tree to the curb, but what if you want a more meaningful way to lay your tree to rest? Read on for some great ways to tackle your clean up list and do some good for the planet at the same time!

Recycle Your Christmas Tree: Yes, you can recycle your tree! Just make sure that you take all the light strands, tinsel, and ornaments off before doing so. Earth 911 (earth911.com) offers a great link for anyone to be able to recycle their tree and turn it into mulch.  Type in your zip code and find the closest drop off spot near you.

Recycle Your Shipping Boxes: Of course you can break them down and put them into the recycling bin, or pass them along to a friend who will be moving soon. Note to my colleagues — as Professional Organizers, you can also offer them to clients who are moving, for their belongings and/or for taking away any donations.

Recycle Your Wrapping Paper: If you were careful to unwrap your presents because you love the paper — hang onto it for another gift. Or if it’s a larger piece, create a placemat (by simply cutting the sheet into a small rectangle) or a pretty tray liner. Another fun idea is to use a hole puncher on your wrap scraps to create confetti for your next party!

Recycle Your Gift Bags: Keep your holiday spirit going throughout the New Year! Use them as a lunch bag to bring to work or as a catchall for coupons and sale ads when you’re headed out shopping.

Recycle Your Greeting Cards: Treat your favorite cards to a frame and use them for your décor next year, or keep them up year round. You can “re-gift” them by cutting off the back of the card, which has the writing on it and give it a postcard look, writing on the flipside of the front of the card.

Recycle Your Gift Boxes: Smaller cardboard jewelry boxes work well as organizers in your catchall drawer, while shirt size cardboard boxes can be used to separate stacks of items in drawers and keep them vertical.

I hope you learned some fun tips to make recycling fun. Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year full of special times ahead with your family and friends, and of course…a clutter-free home!

Author: Vali HeistClutter Family General Holidays Organizing Seasonal Shopping

CLUTTER-FREE GIFT GIVING

image showing 3 wrapped giftsI spent this past Thanksgiving holiday with my son and his extended family in Florida. Traveling during a major holiday has never been my first choice, but as a professional organizer, I realize that being organized helps to lessen the stress that holiday travel can bring. Most would agree that Thanksgiving has the best part of Christmas (family gathering) without the gifts getting in the way. In my profession, I see many gifts go unused regardless of the generous spirit in which they were given. Some of my clients dread the pending influx of additional clutter and want suggestions on how to curb the CRAP.

As a result, I often recommend clutter-free gift giving. A clutter-free gift is the gift of time, memories, an experience, or health. You can also give a gift that helps others who have needs beyond our imagination. Here are some suggestions:

CLUTTER-FREE GIFTS

  • Car wash coupons
  • Cooking lessons
  • Dance/Yoga lessons
  • Gym membership
  • Movie tickets
  • Museum membership
  • Pottery/glass-making glasses (think Goggleworks)
  • Savings Bonds (purchase online at www.treasurydirect.gov)
  • 529 plan contributions
  • Self-defense classes (think young women)
  • Tattoo in honor of someone (my son did this for my husband and me)
  • Tickets to the symphony/theatre

GIFT CARDS (not entirely clutter-free)

  • Garden nurseries, home improvement stores, and bookstores
  • Gas stations, grocery stores, and convenience stores
  • iTunes, eMusic, and Ticketmaster
  • Restaurants, coffee shops, and fast food restaurants
  • Spa, facial, and massages

NON-PROFIT GIFT GIVING

  • Cash donation to a charity in honor of the recipient. Let the recipient know via a card.
  • Give a gift certificate so they can choose what charity to donate to: www.justgive.org.
  • International Relief Fund: www.oxfamamericaunwrapped.com
  • Green gifts for global impact: www.thegreenguide.com
  • Life-sustaining gifts to help abolish global poverty or renew our planet’s environment: www.altgifts.org
  • Donate an animal in honor of someone: donate.worldvision.org or www.heifer.org/gift
  • Participate in the local toy drives
  • Give a tree in honor of someone: www.newgrowth.com
  • Donate a book on health information to communities all over the world at www.hesperian.org

GIFTS OF TIME

  • Join a friend (instead of exchanging gifts): local art studio classes, yoga, book club, film club, craft and scrapbooking classes
  • Babysitting coupons for nieces, nephews and grandchildren
  • Take a child: to lunch, on a day trip, to the museum, to a local college for a sports event, to the zoo
  • “First Christmas Together” (or other name) coupon book: Make a list of the things you know your partner would enjoy and include practical and fun things: e.g. a back rub, do the dishes for a week, make a candlelit dinner, do grocery shopping, etc.

Finally, if you can’t go clutter-free, choose a gift that donates a portion of its profit to a favorite non-profit agency of your choice. Verify the charity at www.give.org.

Organize your best holiday season by starting early and focusing on family. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Author: Gabrielle Watters-SmithGeneral Goal Setting Holidays Project Management Seasonal Shopping

The Holiday Time Puzzle

Keep Calm & Twinkle On

Yes, it’s that time of the year again. The grocery store revealed the first clue that something was happening. There — I was greeted with remnants of goblins and candy, cranberries and stuffing, tinsel and gift wrap galore – ALL AT ONCE.

Immediately, my mind tallied the numerous tasks that needed to be accomplished in the next few weeks. By the time I made my way to the check-out line, I’m fairly certain that my frazzled expression and my declaration that the “holiday season has arrived” caused the cashier concern.

I really do enjoy the holidays, but sometimes it’s hard to wrap my head around the extra seasonal tasks and obligations that need to fit into my already busy 24 hours. It’s a time puzzle indeed!

With these five simple strategies below, you — and I — will have time to enjoy this season.

Take a few minutes and “Brain Dump.” Do NOT keep your holiday to-dos in your head! One of my favorite everyday organizational tools is workflowy. It’s a great way to organize your projects and tasks on your computer, smart phone, or tablet. For those who like to write, a notebook works just as well, but have it with you everywhere you go.

Focus on what’s important. Pause and really think about what makes your holiday season special to you and your family. Are there traditions and events that you look forward to or approach with less than a little enthusiasm? For example, if the thought of baking 12 dozen cookies does not fill you with the holiday spirit, take it off your list or delegate it!

Calendar your important holiday projects and tasks first. You will be more productive knowing that you are planning for and doing what brings you joy during the holidays. Then fill in with the less significant tasks.  Be at peace, if you cannot accomplish it all.

Set time limits to these tasks. Parkinson’s Law states that ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ You will be amazed how quickly you are able to make a decision with a time limit. Go ahead, limit time spent gift shopping at the store or online.

Delegate, delegate, delegate. If you are entertaining during the holiday season, allow others to help you. This can mean a guest bringing a dish to contribute to your festive meal, someone setting the table, or helping with the mega dish clean-up. This year, I recognized that hosting the Thanksgiving meal was more than I could take on. After discussing alternatives with my family, we agreed that getting together was very important. Our solution — to meet at a centrally located restaurant for a leisurely family dinner. Less time shopping, cooking, cleaning, traveling and MORE time being together. I am grateful!

Feel free to share with us how you are planning to ease the stress of your holiday season.

Author: Kelly GalfandGeneral Holidays Seasonal Shopping

Gift Giving the Green Way

Celebrate life’s blessings.

Still life with hands

Opening presents sure can be fun — but dealing with the hassle of wrapping paper, tissue wrap, ribbons, and recycling trash can sometimes be the bummer at the end of the party. That task sometimes falls to me…even on my own birthday. As I turn one year older this month, I treated my family to the gift of captured moments with a professional family photo sitting. We got all of the shots we wanted PLUS which I’m sharing at the end of this post.

What kinds of gifts can YOU give this year that don’t involve packaging or plastic — and don’t take up room on shelves? Theater events, spa treatments, and special meals out are just a few ways to celebrate the good times in life with the people you love. Keep this in mind while you shop for the holidays. Ask nieces and grandparents what events (sporting or cultural) they’d like to attend in lieu of cappuccino makers and electronic gadgets. Cousins could organize a bowling party instead of racking their brains for what “Suzy” wants this year for Christmas.

Now is the time to get your family on board with the idea of green gifts — like time spent together — rather than purchased goods. If the idea of intangible gifts is too big a leap (this year) then at least make sure to share your want-list. Don’t be shy telling people (friends, family, co-workers) what you’d really like. In this economy, no one wants to throw good money after bad. Happy Holidays.

Kelly with Husband

NOT your typical siblings shot

Family Portrait in FEET!

Author: Rie BroscoHolidays Organizing Seasonal Travel

How to Pack for a Trip

Last week, my partner Naomi, and I traveled to New England to visit family. It was her brother’s 50th birthday and there was a surprise party for him. I also have family in Massachusetts and looked forward to seeing folks I have not seen in too long. It was going to be a short trip by car… only 5 days (including the two days of travel time).

Now, I need to confess, I do not usually travel lightly – especially when we
have a station wagon with a large cargo area in it but since it was such a short trip, we decided that we would not need much. And so the packing began.

What I already knew (and actually followed this time)…

  • I really do spend most of my time in one or two comfortable pairs of pants (no need to bring more).
  • Pack items that you can mix and match. Sometimes you wake up and just don’t like what you had planned to wear. It is nice to have a choice without bringing extra stuff.
  • Check to see if there are laundry facilities in the place you are staying (or a nearby Laundromat) so that if you do spill something on an article of clothing you wanted to wear again, you can launder it quickly.

Things I should have known but just learned…

  • Bring a flashlight for each person to have by their bedside. Our hotel had a power outage and finding the bathroom in the middle of the night without bumping into the furniture was a challenge (especially since the one flashlight we brought was still packed in the suitcase and the batteries died after 3 minutes of use!) The flashlights can be small and fit on a keychain (or most cell phone screens light up when turned on or have an app for a free flashlight).
  • Before leaving home, check all batteries to make sure they are charged and working. This applies not only to flashlights (see above) but also cameras, phones, tablets and any other gadgets you bring.
  • Before packing all those gadgets, ask yourself whether you truly need to take your laptop, a tablet, cell phone, portable dvd player, gps, and… or will one or two items do the job of many?  Besides, if you are on vacation, shouldn’t you leave the work at the office?
  • If your phone or tablet does not have an alarm clock feature, bring a small battery-operated travel one with you (especially if you have to wake up at a certain hour).

Traveling lightly can be a challenge for some people (ok, I include myself in that category) but one of the most important things I learned is that it is an incredibly long way to carry multiple (heavy) bags up or down four flights of stairs when the elevators don’t work. Plus, unless you are visiting the wilds of Labrador or the back trails of the Appalachian Mountains, most places have stores where you can buy almost anything you left behind and can’t live without… like flashlights or batteries!

Author: Sherry CastaldiHolidays Home Seasonal Storage

How to Organize Your Holiday Décor

The holiday season means decoration time. Pulling out boxes, bags and containers of all kinds of special treasures you’ve saved   for embellishing your home every year and they are all marked “holiday”.   Where to begin, but to open them all and start dragging items out until you find what you are looking for at that moment.  Eventually you make your way through it all in time to enjoy the holidays for the family gatherings and entertaining of the season, only to be quickly followed by the dreaded post-holiday season of taking down those decorations and putting them away for another year.  But did you know the post-holiday season is the best time to organize all those decorations?

Here are some organizing tips for making this a really productive organizing season too!

  1. This is the most perfect time to take stock of your exterior and interior décor. Has anything served its time well and is no longer useful, looks dated or worn, or anything you would ever use again? Now is the time to purge those items. If you are not going to use them next year, certainly do not take precious space and time to pack them up again. Donate what may be reusable to someone else that you won’t use again. Throw away anything that no longer is of use to anyone.
  2. Sort your items, keeping in mind you want to keep like and similar items together.  Here are some examples of how to sort depending upon what you have; exterior décor from interior décor,  exterior lights from Interior lights, wreaths, garlands, holiday linens, centerpieces, collections of holiday items should be grouped together, ornaments,  candles, etc.  You should now have everything sorted into categories so that all like items are grouped together.
  3. Now is the time to visually see the amount of the items you have and the size and shape of the containers you will need to store them in. There are many assorted storage containers available during this season for just this organizing event.
  4. When you pack your items away remember to use a little packaging paper or bubble wrap for any breakables so they are not just loose in a container.
  5. Label each container from the categories you made when sorting the items. Put the items in the corresponding containers. You may have multiple categories in one container. That’s ok. Just label what is in there.
  6. Now you are ready to store all your containers in their designated area until next year and you will now know exactly where everything is!
  7. There is another sorting option and that is to sort all the décor for each room into its own category, for example; Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, Family Room, etc.  This is not advised for everyone but works for some folks that don’t like to think about where they are placing their decorations every year, so a designated container for each room works well for them.

When next year comes around you won’t be opening 10+ containers at once looking for certain items as you are trying to decorate.  By sorting all of your holiday décor into categories and packing the décor into labeled containers will keep your décor organized and easy to access for the next season.  You’ll look forward to knowing where everything is when you’re ready to decorate and knowing where everything belongs when you’re ready to put it away.