I used to think I was very clever whenever I advised people about gift giving for special occasions and holidays. I would always suggest that when selecting gifts for people who actually have material plenty to give beautiful “disposables.” I observed that wonderful self-destructive options abound: wines, beautiful candles, delightful oils, luscious baked goods and candies, elegant lotions, fancy soaps…You see what I mean. And they don’t last forever! What a great idea!
Then, I started to discover that many of my clients – people who were trying their best to de-clutter – were given so many of the very disposables I routinely suggested that I couldn’t imagine how many lifetimes would be needed to use up all these treasures. It is possible to overdo absolutely anything.
So, what to do?? Depending on the closeness of the relationships, perhaps some frank discussions are possible. Can your entire extended family happily agree to pool money and go somewhere really special? Would treating someone to a lovely dinner or show be a delightful novelty? Someone else might love a membership or a day at the zoo or a favorite museum. Maybe the whole family would chip in to hire a chef or caterer to create a marvelous holiday dinner, so no one has the stress of cooking, hosting, or cleanup.
This year, really think about and talk about your gifts. So many of us are truly overloaded with objects, but would benefit from a certificate for a manicure, a massage, dog-walking services, baby-sitting, or perhaps a lovely outing to a tea shop for a long talk with you.
There are also gift cards and certificates for companies where your friend or relative will truly benefit from some extra freedom to choose something they need. One of my clients was actually given a generous check made out to her Professional Organizer! Moved by the friend’s thoughtfulness, the organizer (me) gave the client extra time.
Especially in the midst of all the natural disasters surrounding us, would your loved ones be thrilled (and relieved) if you made a charitable donation in their honor?
You can see where I’m going with this: make this a year of thinking outside the box with gifts that don’t go in a box at all. The key to success with these plans is the gift of intimacy, your shared comfort in discussing your true preferences, ideas, and suggestions.
As a professional organizer, I have seen more than my fair share of wedding gifts…
But not exactly as you’d expect…
I see them years after the big day…
…in their original boxes,
…tucked away in a closet or in storage.
Think ice cream maker (sure, sounds super fun but…), bread maker, fine china, crystal…
In recent years, there has been a real shift in registry selections, a move from traditional household items towards experiences, accessories to fuel their hobbies and lifestyle while still embracing good old gift cards, but to new locales, services.
As a professional organizer, I LOVE that modern, engaged couples are choosing to pack their registries with low clutter or clutter-free options!
So how can you, as a newlywed, plan a better registry with functional (and fun) items you’ll use and love vs those that you won’t? Check out our practical tips to your best wedding registry.
3 Practical Questions To Ask When Planning Your Registry
Does This Make Sense With Our Lifestyle?
Think about your lifestyle right now, as a couple. Do you love to make elaborate meals together, entertain family & friends? Or are you a couple who orders Hello Fresh or prefers to eat out due to busy schedules? How necessary is an 8-piece professional knife set or a Cuisinart Dual Blade 8qt Mixer or the 10-piece mixing bowl set if you have a compact kitchen? Are you planning to start a family right away or is travel and entertainment on your immediate agenda?
Think about what fits your lifestyle as a couple. For example, my husband was a chef, in a previous life, so the kitchen tools we received as wedding gifts have been well-loved & well-used over the years! So DO register for what you love…whether it’s cooking or entertaining, camping or traveling!
If you’re already keeping your life simple, don’t clutter up your kitchen or other spaces with big bulky items you’ll use once or never at all.
What Do We Already Have?
If you and your soon-to-be spouse lived in separate homes before getting married, now is the perfect time to see what you already have for your new space. Put everything where you want it. You may find that your future spouse already has a brand new Kitchen Aid Mixer and a set of glass mixing bowls, so no need to register for them. Have extra towels? Set some aside for guests.
Now you’ll have a great idea of…
…what you’re missing or might need,
…what is on its last legs and needs to be replaced,
…what items are duplicates and can be donated or passed along to a friend.
Repeat this process in every room in your home – declutter, evaluate, and adjust your registry accordingly.
But make no mistake…merging households could require quite a bit of decluttering…definitely more so than starting from scratch.
What Would Our Future Selves Do?
Your wedding registry is all about your future, so fast forward…5, 10, 15 years…
Do you see yourself using that must have juicer?
Are those higher thread count sheets really a priority?
Do you really need a 6-slice toaster or should you opt for nicer everyday towels?
Will being married motivate you to make your own bread?
Will you ever really host formal dinners that require fine china & crystal?
As someone who has been married for 15 years, I can tell you that, over the years, we’ve donated at least half of our wedding gifts…for one reason or another. Remember less is more so don’t overdo it…but get what you love to make your house a home! Good luck!
I had a life-changing epiphany. It was on May 27, 1978 in the wee hours following opening day of Atlantic City’s first casino, Resorts. My then-boyfriend and I were there until the casino closed (pre-24-hour operation). We drove around Atlantic City, off the main roads. I was stunned to see truly deplorable living conditions. I felt guilty about all I had and didn’t fully appreciate.
My epiphany? I would never again complain about things I didn’t have – I had everything I needed and much of what I wanted.
I’ve kept that promise. In fact, a few years ago I stopped buying stuff I didn’t need and avoided shopping centers. Maybe it was due to organizing and downsizing other people’s stuff, sometimes massive amounts. Or because I didn’t want more stuff. Probably both, plus Pareto’s 80/20 Rule: We use 20% of our things 80% of the time.
I don’t mean to sound like a scrooge. If you’re OK with your amount of stuff, have enough space, can afford and enjoy buying new things, and your life is not negatively impacted, that’s great!
But if you feel as I do, walk around your house, take a mental inventory and ponder these questions before buying more things.
Now when I shop for something new (who doesn’t like new things sometimes?), I focus on my goal and try to avoid aimless browsing – you know, how guys shop. I discovered it’s liberating being free from societal and marketing pressures to buy more, or the latest whatever, to be happy. You too can buck the gotta-have-more, gotta-have-it-now mentality with a change in perspective. You can do it yourself or with help from an organizing consultant.
I am truly happy with the many beautiful things I own. I have more than some and less than others. But I have more than enough. I’ll never own an Aston Martin and I’m OK with that!
My Evernote conversion occurred about five years ago. Stuffed in the back of my junk drawer (yes, I also have one) for several years, lay a handwritten recipe for the best maple balsamic salad dressing obtained from a restaurant in Vermont. Frustrated with my lack of organization for something so valuable, I downloaded Evernote and my life was forever changed.
I created a notebook in the Evernote app and titled it “Recipes,” took a photo of the recipe within the Evernote app et voila! Wherever I am, on my phone, tablet or laptop I have a screenshot of the recipe. I quickly saw how transformational this would be in both my personal and professional life. When a friend recommends a great restaurant, it goes into the notebook I created titled “Recommended Restaurants”. I also do this for movies, books, wine, travel destinations, decorating ideas. All those great details we scribble on the back of napkins never to find again.
If I’m surfing the web, I can use Evernote webclipper to clip an article or page and put it into the notebook of my choice. I can also dictate notes into Evernote and draw using the Skitch app.
I also have a notebook for each of my kids. I have a screenshot of their health insurance cards, health records, photos of their artwork from Kindergarten so I could get rid of those large poster-size monstrosities, er, I mean works of art. The list goes on.
For my business, I’m able to share notebooks with my team and with our clients. We often take notes during an organizing session and share these with our clients. Evernote also eliminates the need to email documents back and forth. Instead, the whole team can collaborate and has access whether they are working remotely or in the office to notes, documents, photos, etc.
I’m barely scratching the surface of Evernote’s endless possibilities. For more information and to create your free online account check out www.evernote.com
As a professional organizer, I help people deal with their stuff. Some clients hire me because they have too much stuff. Others because they don’t know how to store their stuff. And still others because they want to learn how to eliminate useless stuff from their lives. I don’t think you’re shocked to hear that I’ve never had to help a client feel less overwhelmed from owning too many cars or dishwashers. People are incredibly thoughtful when making large purchases. We keep in mind all of the costs involved and make sure the new item fills a need in our life and fits our lifestyle.
When we are considering spending a significant amount of money on a car, technology or household appliance, we examine a few key criteria:
• Will it do what I need it to do?
• Will it stay current long enough to warrant the investment?
• Will it integrate with what I already own?
• Is it the right size for the space?
• Can I handle it properly (car, computer, pet)?
• Is required service going to be easy or a hassle?
• Can I afford the maintenance?
These are all reasonable questions.
So why does sanity and sensibility go out the window when we purchase small ticket items? We don’t even think about need for items under a certain price point. We forget that the financial investment we’ll have to make is over the LIFE of the item, not just at the point of purchase. And we don’t look at the price on our life.
Clothes, school supplies, toiletries, kitchen gadgets and sports equipment are just some of the categories where people ignore that there are costs beyond the price at the register. And when someone makes enough poor purchases, there are lots of unseen, down-the-road prices to pay.
The cost is to our pocketbooks, living spaces, psyches and planet. We would do well to ask of each small item the same we ask — dare I say, DEMAND — of significant investments before we look at the selling price:
• Will this answer a real need in my life?
• Can I afford to store and maintain it?
• Do I have the time and mental space to learn how to enjoy it?
On this Cyber Monday, and throughout the holiday gift-giving season, it is even more important to consider, not just for yourself but for your friends and family, is this item worth the price? And remember, not every gift has to be a THING.
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All those “great deals” become clutter when you bring things into the home and either don’t have a place to put them right away or haven’t purged things to make room for them. What happens most of the time? The items stay hidden in bags that pile up. Then there’s a problem.
Too much stuff, with no place to put it, leads to clutter and chaos which do not allow the stress-free, organized home you desire.
Before you buy something, ask yourself these questions:
Remember—if a deal seems too good to pass up, but you don’t need the item, you need to put it somewhere if you bring it home. The floor does not count so no bags should be piled up on the floor.
Before buying more things, ask yourself the above questions. You’ll learn over time that the best way to stop clutter is before it enters your home.
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