I 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:
GIFT CARDS (not entirely clutter-free)
NON-PROFIT GIFT GIVING
GIFTS OF TIME
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
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.
Celebrate life’s blessings.
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.
It’s always reassuring to know that my clients take my advice to heart. We joke that when I’m not around to help them get organized, they often ask themselves, “What would Anna say?”
What would I say? I ask a lot of questions that help me determine what’s going on beneath the surface. Then I can focus on the appropriate solution.
“What is good enough?” Perfectionism gets in the way of moving ahead. If you find a system that works for you even a little, go for it! You can always modify and improve as you go along. “Good enough” does not have to be 100%. One client has gained so much insight with this question that she has been able to accomplish more because she spends less time on the details that do not matter, more on what does matter.
“How does that define you?” If it doesn’t define you in a meaningful way, why do you keep it, take care of it, and devote valuable space to it? One client has been able to look at her life’s treasures and been able to really choose what defines her versus being defined by all of her belongings.
“How do you feel when… you are buying your 15th green long sleeve cotton tee shirt?” Increasing self-awareness is the first step in modifying or accepting behaviors. A client with eight of the same type of jacket was amazed when I asked this question — a huge Aha moment!
“Do you notice any patterns here?” What items do you end up donating? What’s hanging in your closet? Are there patterns of excess or waste? When reviewing the items that a client was donating, I asked her this question and the pattern was that most of the items came from a specific store, now she only goes to that store when she needs something basic at the last minute.
“Start anywhere.” When a client doesn’t know where to start, I like to suggest that they just start somewhere, anywhere. You can start right to left, or left to right, sometimes starting with the floor might be the right solution.
“Start with the low hanging fruit.” Many times when looking at a room full of clutter, all you see is the clutter. A client used this approach when looking at her garage full of years of accumulates stuff. When she looked at the large items and the items on the surface, she was able to make immediate decisions. Once these items were removed the process became more manageable.
When we recognize habits that bog us down with extra “stuff” or cause chaos in our lives through disorganization, we are on our way to a more peaceful and productive life!
I often remark that Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s keep me in business. Frequently, the first thing I recommend to my clients is that they reduce their purchases to essential items. I recognize “essential” is a relative concept, but people understand that we often consume needlessly & impulsively. The heart of disorganization often comes from having an abundance of merchandise. We are exhorted to over purchase by all the agencies of mass media. Their business is to encourage spending and our business is to purchase with discretion.
Purchasing has a complicated physiology; why do rational people over purchase? There are several factors at play here. Mass media is not the only culprit; the availability of credit cards enables people to consume beyond their needs. According to Los Angeles clinical psychologist and wealth consultant James Gottfurcht, PhD, “They’re conditioning people into building debt at a very young, vulnerable age.”
Other major factors that contribute to overspending according to research by Florida State University social psychologist, Roy Baumeister, PhD is too many demands in stressful situations and dealing with difficult relationships.
Finally, the idea that consumerism leads to happiness has proven to be an illusion; according to a post by Rebecca Sato. “Researchers have found that low self-esteem and materialism are not just a correlation, but also a causal relationship where low self esteem increases materialism, and materialism can also create low self-esteem.”
In conclusion, when we find ourselves losing control over our environment, we have to ask ourselves why and put ourselves back in charge of our lives by making conscience decisions based on real needs. As Thoreau so aptly stated, “simplify.”