How to Have a Focused and Stress-Free Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, thoughts turn to the stress that holidays can bring … and how to avoid that stress this year! We still have time to make a plan to get focused and breeze through Turkey Day (relatively) unscathed. Here’s how!

 

 

One of the best, surest solutions for busy people on a busy week like the days before Thanksgiving is to use a timeline and/or a checklist.

So I’ve come up with the Thanksgiving Countdown to help you navigate through last-minute details and help you make sense of everything that needs to be done. And it’s free!

The Countdown includes essential tasks from shopping to homekeeping for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then a full-blown hour-by-hour schedule for Turkey Day. Plus, this year I’ve included directions on how to roast a turkey, including a roasting timetable.

My goal is to help you arrive at your own dinner table a little less stressed and filled with gratitude for the gathering of family and friends. Download your copy of the Thanksgiving Countdown here.

And don’t forget all the resources available to you in the Etsy shop, including the more expansive and comprehensive Thanksgiving Planner. I’ve included suggestions on organizing your time and resources, setting a gorgeous holiday table, and of course lots of space to write out your plans for:

  • The guest list
  • The Thanksgiving table
  • Menu planning and budget
  • Shopping list
  • Thanksgiving decorations

And lots more — like getting ready for Black Friday with a gift list planner and a holiday card organizer. It’s only available on Etsy. Click the graphic below to learn more!

Thanksgiving planner for a stress-free Thanksgiving

I’ll be giving more tips and last-minute solutions on social media over the next ten days, so be sure to follow Smart Solutions for Busy People on Facebook and Instagram.

Sending you lots of love and wishes for a peaceful, joyful and grateful Happy Thanksgiving.

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8 Tips for Holiday Gift Giving to Save You Time and Money—Part 2

 

Last week I gave you the first 4 tips for your holiday gift giving. Here’s the rest of the tips that are designed to save you time and money this holiday season.

 

 

5. Embrace one for all.

 

The idea here is everyone receives the same kind of gift. Talk about consolidating your holiday gift giving list! A visit to just two departments or a single website could satisfy your entire list.

A teddy bear Christmas c. 1983.

Probably the most magical and memorable Christmas my family ever had was the year that my mom decided that everyone—from my 7-year old cousin to my 65-year old aunt—would receive a teddy bear. But not just any teddy bear, a “personality bear” (many of which I understand were embroiled in a lawsuit by the personalities impersonated by the bears).

It was especially easy to wrap them—because they weren’t wrapped! My mom and I set them out around the living room with name tags. Finding your own bear was part of the fun on Christmas morning!

Other years, Mom would pick a general item for the girls and women, and another for the boys and men. Within that general category, she selected something that fit each person’s personality. For example, one year all the women folk received nightshirts and all the men received wallets. One of my favorite years was the one where all women received Coach purses.

A recent trend in the “all for one and one for all” gifting idea is getting the family together for dinner and a show (or, the more inexpensive option, lunch and a matinee). It helps create a sense of family, it’s festive and it creates shared memories which are the best gifts of all.

Other great family gifts include a subscription to an online movie services or a “fruit of the month” club—each of which continue to give throughout the year.

6. Harness the power of the Internet.

Recently I was watching a show on BBC that traced the development of digital currency, and I was shocked at how recent so much of the technology of online shopping really is. Can it be that the iPhone was only introduced 10 years ago?  Click here for a brief recap of e-commerce from the National Retail Federation.

Now of course everyone seems to have a smartphone and consumer behavior has radically shifted to mobile shopping and online cashless payment.

Attendees at Shop.org—e-commerce’s annual convention—say that smartphones aren’t just for browsing, and they’re the best point of contact between a merchant and a shopper.

Simply put, more people are shopping online and via apps these days and skipping the malls and big box stores. With exclusive online merchandise and sales, periodic free shipping promotions and the option of delivering the gift directly to your recipient, what’s not to love?

Plus, you’re not tied down to regular store hours—perfect for the busy person! You can shop in your robe at 2 a.m. and still find just the right gift for everyone.

Another way to use the Internet to save you time is to comparison shop online before heading out to survey several stores for the best deal. In addition, many retailers allow you to order and purchase online and pick the item up at a store if you need it right away or want to save on shipping.

Personally, I love the convenience of buying online and picking up in the store, and use it frequently, even for everyday items.

Remember to download your free gift tracker to keep your holiday gift giving on track, because being organized is key to a lower-stress holiday!

 

7. Ask adults for a “bye.”

For better or worse, holiday gift giving has become an expectation—even if we never use the gift card or you put that too-small sweater right into the donation bin.

But sometimes (even following the tips in my book), you may run out of steam or ideas for gifts for everyone on your usual list.

As bizarre as it may sound, ask each of the grownups on your list if the two of you could not exchange gifts this year. After all, the holidays spark the most wonderment for children, so keep them on your list.

You may be surprised at how relieved and agreeable the adults are! Instead of gifts, take the money you would have spent and donate it to a local charity that provides food and gifts for the needy in your area.

8. Use a system to find the perfect gift.

To paraphrase Maya Angelou, it’s how you leave them feeling.

How do you feel when someone gives you a gift that is just “you”—your style, your color, your interests? It feels great, doesn’t it? Like, wow, this person gets me. They know me.

We feel special, seen and understood when we receive the perfect gift.

Wouldn’t you love to give people that feeling with your holiday gift giving?

Find the perfect gift, gift giving made easy for holidays and beyond.

It is possible to find the perfect gift; all you need is a system! In Gift Giving for Busy People, I give you a simple but effective series of questions that all lead you to the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday gift giving list, and on any budget.

It can take just minutes to run through the questions, and readers all over the country have gotten great results using the method in Gift Giving for Busy People.

Recently, a reader sent me a message on Facebook, saying that, she had been giving her friends the same present for their birthdays (that’s the “one for all” concept in action!) for a year. Now she needed a new idea for this next year of birthdays starting with her first recipient, who loves to bake cookies for her son and friends.

“I was having a tough time coming up with a new idea, so I looked through your eBook and thinking through her hobbies was just the ticket.I went to Barnes & Noble and got her a recipe book with lots of gorgeous photos of cookies. She loved it and said her son was telling her he was tired of the same old cookies. They like the photos so he can point out which ones he’d like her to make, and she’s planning to try a few new ones this weekend. Just wanted to say thanks!”

What are you waiting for? Find the perfect gifts this holiday season! And don’t forget to download your free holiday gift giving tracker to write down all of the gift ideas you’ll have once you read the book!

All of the tips in this series were adapted from Gift Giving for Busy People which goes more in depth on finding the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday gift giving list. You can get the Kindle version for a limited time for only $1.99!

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8 Tips for Holiday Gift Giving to Save You Time and Money – Part 1

Start your holiday gift giving engines with these smart tips that save you precious time and money!

The holiday season will soon be upon us, and consumer surveys show that most holiday gift givers start shopping in October.

If you’re among those who start their holiday gift giving now, here are the first of 8 tips to help you get the most of the time you’re devoting to your holiday gift giving. Plus, I’ve got a free gift tracker for you to stay organized with your holiday gift giving.

 

1. Shop where you are.

Getting as much done as possible in one place is a secret that time managers and professional organizers tell their clients. And shopping for gifts is no different—no matter where you are, from a hardware store to a discount megastore to a car dealership waiting room—gift ideas are all around you.

For example, let’s say you’re grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon and you realize there’s no time to sprint across town to the chic boutique to buy a hostess gift for the dinner party you’re attending that evening. No problem. Head to the floral department for a gorgeous bouquet or a healthy house plant; add a beautiful ribbon when you return home. Or, find a nice bottle of wine in the liquor department or box of quality chocolates.

The next time you’re in a time crunch and need a gift, no matter where you are, if you look at things from a gifting perspective you will find something prefect.

 

2. Shop when you are.

You know when Christmas is. You know when Hanukkah, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and your mom’s birthday are. If you find the perfect gift for someone but the occasion is months away, buy the gift now.

I used to think, “oh, I’ll remember” and even if I did remember, the item was usually gone when I went back. Buying a gift “when” you are will save you time and stress later.

Who knows, maybe you will be swamped with work or a family situation when the holiday or birthday comes around; by shopping when you are, you will have the perfect gift stashed away in your gift drawer.

To help you stay organized with your holiday gift giving, use a gift tracker. You can write down who you’re buying for, ideas for gifts and where to find it. Then, wherever and whenever you are, you’ll know what you’re looking for! Click the graphic below to download the gift tracker for free.

 

3. Create a signature wrap.

One of the best ways I’ve found to reduce stress in any area of life is to simplify and streamline. To adapt these concepts to holiday gift giving, develop your own personal style to present every gift you give.

Select one or two coordinating gift wraps (or gift bags), one or two colors and styles of ribbon, and one style of gift tag and keep these items in stock and handy. My mom often did this, purchasing multiple rolls of wrapping paper all at once (usually at a discount shop), even going so far as making sure everyone in the family has some of that year’s wrap.

Doing this decreases the amount of space required to store your holiday gift wrapping items, ensures you’re ready to wrap even the most last-minute of gifts and makes your gifts memorable. (Get more tips on creating a signature wrap.)

Plus, wrapping all your holiday gifts in a signature wrap creates a festive and cohesive look under your Christmas tree. There’s nothing like it! You can get creative with ribbons, bows and tie-ons.

 

4. Re-gift with confidence.

If you’ve ever asked, “Is re-gifting OK?,” think about these questions:
– Do you think recycling is OK?
– Is living without clutter OK?
– How about blessing someone else with a useful item?

As much as you strive to select the perfect gift, sometimes your recipient just won’t like it. Her tastes may have changed. She may not have room to store it. It may be a duplicate.

Whatever the reason, sometimes your recipient will pass your gift on to someone else. Is it OK? If the gift is perfect for someone else, then absolutely it’s OK. Your recipient appreciated your efforts and your remembrance of her occasion. Your gift will find the perfect home; just maybe not with the exact recipient you intended.

And by the way, the same goes for gifts you receive. Cherish the thought of your well-wisher, and let go of what would otherwise be clutter.

I once received a three-panel, brushed nickel picture frame. A nice frame, but I didn’t have space for it, and it did not coordinate with my home décor. I put it in my gift drawer, knowing that the perfect recipient would come along.

A few months later, a friend was visiting and while we were out shopping, she expressed a need for a brushed nickel frame. I pointed out a frame similar to the one I had unopened at home, she loved it, and it saved her some money!

***

Next week I’ll bring you 4 more tips for time-and-money saving holiday gift giving tips. Stay tuned! Be sure to download the gift tracker to get started!

These tips are adapted from my book Gift Giving for Busy People which goes more in depth on finding the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday gift giving list. You can get the Kindle version for a limited time for only $1.99!

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5 Quick Decorating Ideas You’ll Fall For

You'll fall for these quick decorating ideas to bring some autumn ambience to your home.

 

Ahhh …. Fall. It’s a season of effortless decorating with natural elements, a few tricks and some pops of warm color. Here are 5 quick and easy ways to refresh your home and get ready for fall.

 

Birdseed is a unique and inexpensive way to add lots of fall color and texture to your home decor.

 1. Fill in with natural elements.

Nature is abundant source of home accessories this season! Look for what’s plentiful in your yard: gather pine cones, seed pods, colored leaves, and even twigs and branches. Mix in bird seed (adds texture and color for not a lot of money) and add some softness with Spanish moss. Display them mounded in bowls on your coffee table, layer them in vases, or use them as a base for a candle display. Here are 10 natural elements you can adapt and use as vase fillers.

 

 

Everday votive cups get a fast fall makeover with twigs gathered from your yard and a few crafts supplies.

2. Get twiggy with it.

Transform simple votive holders into textural accessories perfect for your Thanksgiving table with just a few crafts supplies and some twigs from your yard. This is great craft to get the kids involved in, too! Get all the instructions to make twig votives here.

 

 

Extend the life of your outdoor living space with cozy throws, piled in basket by the back door.

3. Go hygge and go home.

Have you heard of the Danish concept of hygge? It crossed my path a few times earlier this year and intrigued me. Essentially, it’s getting cozy at home, spending time with friend and family in a non-digital way. Hunkering down and enjoying each other’s company is my way-too-simplified way to explain it.

Here are two ways to set your home up for hygge:

  • Give yourself a warm and welcoming space to come home to by setting a few lamps on timers and placing LED candles on timers around your living space. Pay special attention to the area you first see when you come home from a long day.
  • Extend the life of your outdoor living space. Cozy up on cooler autumn evenings with warm throws, a mug of mulled wine or cider, and maybe even a fire pit. Keep those throws easily accessible by rolling them and placing them in a basket near the back door so you can grab one on your way outside.

 

4. Add some color to your couch.

When I was about 10 years old, I wanted a home with white couches so I could change out the throw pillows with the seasons.

Little did I know how impractical white couches are (especially with the chocolate habit I have), but I do still love to change out the pillows with the season. It takes minutes and makes a huge impact! When I can, I buy just the pillow covers and re-use the inserts season after season. It’s easier to store flat covers than bulky pillows.

Punch up your sofa with autumnal colors that coordinate well with your everyday décor, and mix in a print or an embroidered design. My go-to shops for pillows include Pier1 (shown), Pottery Barn, West Elm, Home Goods and World Market. New hues this year include navy, along with traditional deep oranges and russets. Woodland critters are big this year, and we’re still seeing some gorgeous grays.

Have fun with this! You only need 2 or 3 to make a big impact.

 

 

Create the perfect fragrance for your fall home with savory spices.

5. Infuse your home with fall.

I love scented candles, particularly in the fall. Filling the air with pumpkin, cinnamon, spices, apples and a dash of sandalwood is a sure-fire way to reset your mind and body to the season.

But, not all scented candles are created equal! Some use harsh, artificial fragrances and chemicals that actually coat the hairs and membranes in your nose. Gross, right!?

Instead, try this totally natural way to set a fragrant fall backdrop for your home: fill a small pan with about 2 cups of water. Add a couple of cinnamon sticks, some cardamom pods, a few cloves, a few strips of orange peel (use a vegetable peeler to remove just the peel, none of the white pith), and a few star anise if you like. Let it gently simmer, but keep an eye on it! Add water as it boils down, and do not let it boil dry (you’ll ruin your pan, speaking from experience.)

Want more quick holiday decor tips? Check out my free Holiday Home Quick Start Guide by clicking below.

 

Recommended and useful items to get that fall feeling at home:

There are affiliate links within this post that we can earn a commission on at no extra cost to you. Thank you for helping to support the site!

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It’s the De-boo of Our Etsy Shop!

Etsy Shop holiday planners Hallowen

 

If you’re looking for a way to stay organized and focused on what’s most important for your holidays this year, have I got great news for you!

All of the Smart Solutions planners for holidays and home will be available on our new Etsy shop!

It’s been years since I’ve updated our signature planners that use my POPS system to Plan, Organize, Prioritize and Schedule everything for your holidays. Now you’ll find the Halloween Planner updated and expanded to 16 pages of fangtastic Halloween organizing glory.

Smart Solutions Studio Etsy Shop Halloween Planner

 

Also up in the shop right now are the Holiday Home Essentials with checklists and shopping lists to get you ready for all of your holiday entertaining including the essential pantry, essential utensils, holiday table essentials (including the best diagram on how to set your table) and the essential guest room and more!

Smart Solutions Studio Etsy Shop Entertaining Essentials

 

 

I’ve also posted the Room Arranger room layout toolkit with everything you need to re-arrange the furniture and accessories in every room of your home. Over 40 furniture icons and step-by-step directions make it easy to move things around without breaking your back!

Smart Solutions Studio Room Arranger room planner Etsy shop

 

Each of the planners is listed for $5 or less! Click on the links or the planner photo to go directly to the shop!

Over the next two weeks I’ll be adding the Thanksgiving and Christmas planners, as well as in-depth holiday handbooks with daily to-do’s, recipes, decor ideas and much more. Stay tuned!

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