Organizing

6 Tips to Get the Most from Your “Good Things” Jar

Posted by on Jan 2, 2013

If you’re on social media sites like Facebook or Pinterest, chances are you’ve seen posts about “good things” jars. My friend Carol gave me such a jar for the New Year, and it’s a great tool to keep track of all the meaningful things that happen in our day-to-day lives.

The idea is to write down good things/successes/achievements that happen during the year on a slip of paper, place the papers in the jar and collect them all year through New Year’s Eve, when you recap the year by reading all of the good things inside the jar.

Sounds uplifting and fun, doesn’t it? But like so many good ideas, good intentions only get us so far. So for those who would like to keep this “journal in a jar” all year, here are some tips to make sure you keep up with the good intention.

1. Be sure to date your notes to bring more clarity to the memory at the end of the year.

2. Decorate your jar to make it fun and eye-catching, and to make it more of a game or a pleasure to fill it up.

3. Keep the jar in an accessible area, with a pen and a supply of paper nearby. This way, you’re more apt to write something down in the moment rather than hunting down a pen or paper. When the paper supply runs low, replenish it.

4. Keep track of good things on the run with a voice memo or a quick note on your phone. Choose a time at the end of the day, week or month to transcribe them onto slips to put in the jar.

5. Expand your idea of “good things” beyond events or things that happen to you to include a-ha moments, observations of nature, amusing things your kids say to you, an act of kindness done to or by you … you get the picture. The idea is to create a beautiful bouquet of experiences.

6. Set aside time each day to reflect upon the day and write down the good things from that day. It may take some time to make this a consistent habit–or to find something good some days–but this practice alone can bring more peace, gratitude and experiences of abundance into your life.

If your jar runneth over, start a new jar! In fact, why not have a family jar or a couple’s jar and encourage other family members to participate?

By consistently taking note of the good things in life, no matter what else happens, next New Year’s Eve will be a good day as you reflect on the positive things, the blessings and the grace of the past year.

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Organizing the Christmas Chaos

Posted by on Jan 3, 2012

Sad to say, but it’s time to start thinking about taking down the Christmas decorations. It seems like you just put them up, right? Here are some tips to make the deconstruction of Christmas a little easier this year. As an added bonus, taking the time to organize the “tear down” will make decorating the house that much easier next year.

Step 1: Schedule a “changeover day.”

There really is no hard-and-fast rule to take down Christmas; some people leave up the decorations through Valentine’s Day. Purists pack everything away by Epiphany on January 6, but for most of us it’s a matter of having the time to do it. So that’s the first step: setting a day, a series of evenings, or a weekend to put Christmas away and return the house to normal (more about that in a moment).

Step 2: Revisit the past.

Before you take one ornament off the tree or remove one light from the roofline, take some time to go through what you didn’t put up this year. Why didn’t you use those items? Are they broken? Worn out? Has your taste changed? Did you inherit it from a relative, and it’s just not “you”? Perhaps it is time to donate those items to charity or sell them on eBay and bless someone else’s home next year.

Step 3: Evaluate your storage options.

If your holiday decorations are stored in cardboard boxes, consider gradually replacing them with clear plastic bins as your budget allows. Most stores will put them on sale this time of year, so watch the Sunday paper for good deals. The bins are easy to carry, see-through and last much longer than cardboard, which can harbor little creepy-crawlies. There are bins with little compartments for ornaments, and durable nylon bags for wreaths and even trees; find out what works best for your situation.

Step 4: Collect and sort.

One of the guiding principles of organization is keeping like things together.

Everything for the living room Christmas tree is in one place.

With this in mind, collect all the decorative items you placed around your house and corral them in one location such as the dining room table. Natural groupings should emerge. For example, put all the kitchen items in one corner, keep all the nutcrackers together, etc. Pack these items together. For example, all of my clear and silver accessories are in one bin, all the bathroom décor items are in another. For the ornaments, remove them from the tree and pack directly into bins or boxes. Remember to collect all the ornament hooks into a zipper bag and pack with the ornaments.

Step 5: Pack and track.

Pack away items in appropriate containers and store them in the appropriate locations. For example, you may not want to keep Grandma’s porcelain angel in a garage or attic that has extreme temperature swings.

In the garage, easy to see.

Try to find a place in an interior closet for such delicate items. Remember to wash any holiday linens and towels before storing them. Space-saving, airtight plastic bags (such as Space Bags) are perfect for condensing these items for storage. While you’re packing, make an index card for each bin or box and detail the contents; mark the box or bin with a corresponding letter or number. Keep the index cards in a desk drawer or in a section of your recipe file box – wherever it makes sense for you.Finally, if you purchased new Christmas items this year, make sure you have room to store them. If space is at a premium, use the “one in, one out” rule: for every new item you bring in, one has to go out. If you don’t have space for it, be strong and don’t buy it!

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A Holiday Plan that POPS!

Posted by on Oct 2, 2010

Do you ever feel like you’re slingshot at warp speed into the holidays after Halloween? Sometimes it seems like one minute we’re closing the door on the last trick-or-treater and the next minute we’re popping the cork for New Year’s, doesn’t it? And everything in between is a blur.

The first couple weeks of October are the ideal time to begin making plans for Halloween and beyond. This will take the speed and the stress out of the holiday equation, and make for more memorable and thoughtful times with family and friends.

An ideal plan – whether it’s for an entire holiday season, a home decorating project or a party – is one that POPS. It’s just 4 simple steps:

  • Plan
  • Organize
  • Prioritize
  • Schedule

Let’s look at this method on a macro level – the whole season – first. Then you can break it down into more manageable chunks for each particular holiday. The Ultimate Planning Guides for Thanksgiving and Christmas are both excellent for keeping track of meal planning, shopping lists, activities and gifts. Download them here.

Plan

What would you like to accomplish this holiday season? Take out a piece of paper and a pen and write down your goals for each holiday: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah. Or, better yet, download my Holiday Planning Guide worksheet. Here are some questions to get you started.

Budget: How much do you plan to spend on Halloween costumes, candy, entertaining and decorations? The Thanksgiving meal? Do you plan to travel? How much do you plan to spend on gifts for family and friends? Have you started setting money aside, or have you identified sources of extra income, such as a holiday bonus at work or those items you’ve been meaning to put on e-bay?

Decorations (outdoor): Do you want to decorate the house for Halloween/autumn? What outdoor decorations would you like to put up? Are you trimming the house with lights for Christmas?

Home décor: Are there summer accessories that need to be put away in favor of more autumnal tones? What Halloween accessories will you display this year? Will you follow a central theme?

Home projects: Is there a room in the house that needs attention (such as decluttering or redecorating) before holiday guests arrive? Are there smaller “honey do” projects that need to be tackled before the weather turns cold? What needs to be done? What is the budget?

Entertaining: Would you like to throw a Halloween party this year? For kids, adults or both? Are you hosting the Thanksgiving dinner? For how many? Is a holiday party in your future, such as a tree-trimming party, cookie exchange, or full-on Christmas dinner?

Organize

Once you know what you’d like to get done, it’s time to figure out where and how. (We’ll get to “when” in a moment.)Do you know where the Halloween decorations are? Where the china for special occasions is stored? What will you need to buy for home improvement projects and holiday meals? Do you have a safe zone to keep Christmas gifts as you purchase them? (Hint: Keep track of gift-giving on a guide such as my Ultimate Christmas Planning Guide.)

Get a 3-ring binder and make tabs for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah, and any other topic that makes sense for your plans. Maybe you’ll want a section for home improvement or party planning. Keep your task lists, receipts, shopping lists and Ultimate Planning Guides in the binder.Personally, there have been times where I search for something – a document, my keys, a cookie tray I just know I have somewhere – for what seems like hours, getting more frustrated with each passing minute. But when you know what you need and where to find it, changing out seasonal accessories, setting the table for dinner or decorating the tree are all a snap. Take time now to assess how your seasonal items are stored and organized and if it’s an area that needs improvement, do it now.

Prioritize

Time for a reality check. No matter what the occasion or event – from getting ready for work in the morning to cleaning the house before your mom comes to visit, there are usually things that are left undone. And yet the world doesn’t end. Yes, we’d like to do everything on our lists, but sometimes it’s just not realistic. When you can learn to do the most impactful and important things first, and work your way down to the least important things – and then let them go if need be – everything in life will be more joyful and less stressful and frustrating.Look at your “plan” list. What on that list is the most important thing for each holiday? What is indispensable for your family’s celebration? What “makes” the holiday? Rank that #1 – that is the element that you will do first. And if nothing else gets done, you will have the keystone of your holiday in place. Then think what would be nice, but it’s not going to ruin the holiday. Maybe it’s carving pumpkins or putting holiday sheets on the beds. Rank that last – you’ll do it if you have the time and the energy.

Schedule

This is perhaps the most important step aside from actually putting your plan into action. But without a written schedule, it is less likely that your plan will come to fruition.If creating special holiday experiences for your loved ones is important, then the tasks associated with those experiences are important, too. Just as important as an appointment with a client, or a hair appointment or a child’s doctor’s appointment. We write those down and block off the time and make the time. And so it is with holiday tasks. Get each task on your calendar – block off time and adhere to it just as you would a business schedule. Literally pick a day to purchase Halloween candy, trim the tree, order the turkey – whatever is on your plan. Start with your #1 priority for each holiday and work your way through the list, being realistic as to the time it will take to complete a task. While you’ve got your planner out and ready, be sure to schedule some down time as well – a pedicure or a massage will do wonders right around December 12.

So there you have it! Take some time to think about these questions now, put it all on paper, and you’ll have a holiday season that POPS!

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Saying Goodbye to the Holidays

Posted by on Jan 1, 2010

While we’re still technically in the Christmas season (the Christmastide or “12 Days of Christmas” lasts until Epiphany on January 6), many people will choose this weekend to take down and store their Christmas décor.No matter when you choose to pack up everything Christmas, keep these tips in mind:

Document your décor. When I get a particular room or an arrangement just right, I take a photo of it so that the next year, I can remember what I did and either re-create it or improve on it.

Revisit the past. Before you take one ornament off the tree or remove one light from the roofline, take some time to go through what you didn’t put up this year. Why didn’t you use those items? Are they broken? Worn out? Has your taste changed? Did you inherit it from a relative, and it’s just not “you”? Do see yourself ever using a particular item? Perhaps it is time to donate those items to charity or sell them on eBay and bless someone else’s home next year. Give yourself permission to let it go.This step is particularly important if you purchased new Christmas items this year. OIf your storage is already maxed out and you need to make room to store the new decorations, use the “one in, one out” rule: for every new item you bring in, one has to go out.

Evaluate your storage options. If your holiday decorations are stored in cardboard boxes, consider gradually replacing them with clear plastic bins as your budget allows. Most stores will put them on sale this time of year, so watch the Sunday paper for good deals. The bins are easy to carry, see-through and last much longer than cardboard, which can harbor little creepy-crawlies. There are bins with little compartments for ornaments, and durable nylon bags for wreaths and even trees; find out what works best for your situation.When evaluating your storage, also consider where the container will go. For example, are the shelves in the garage or storage room deep enough and tall enough to hold the bins? Can wreath bags be hung on an empty wall in the garage?

Collect and sort. One of the guiding principles of organization is keeping like things together. With this in mind, collect all the decorative items you placed around your house and corral them in one location such as the dining room table. Natural groupings should emerge. For example, put all the kitchen items in one corner, keep all the nutcrackers together, etc. – whatever makes sense for you and your belongings. Remember those photos you took of the great vignette you created? Pack those items together and a copy of the photo right in the bin.For the ornaments, remove them from the tree and pack directly into bins or boxes. Remember to collect all the ornament hooks into a zipper bag and pack with the ornaments. If the ornaments fall into natural categories, such as a specific colors or themes, consider packing them together. Next year, you may want to do “themed trees” for different rooms in your home.

Pack and track. Pack away items in appropriate containers and store them in the appropriate locations. For example, you may not want to keep Grandma’s porcelain angel in a garage or attic that has extreme temperature swings. Try to find a place in an interior closet for such delicate items.Remember to wash any holiday linens and towels before storing them. Space-saving, airtight plastic bags (such as Space Bags) are perfect for condensing these items for storage.While you’re packing, make an index card for each bin or box and detail the contents; mark the box or bin with a corresponding letter or number. Taking the time to organize the “tear down” will make decorating the house that much easier next year. Keep the index cards in a desk drawer or in a section of your recipe file box – wherever it makes sense for you.

Return to your regularly scheduled décor … or not. Your walls, tables, front door and vanities may look a little bare once all the Christmas décor is taken away. It’s time to convert back to your everyday look. However, this is the perfect time to refresh any tired or tattered art and accessories. Look at your towels, rugs, knick knacks and other accessories with a fresh eye. Is it time for an update? Even if you don’t buy anything new, you need not return the same accessories to the same locations. Mix it up! Rotating items you already have is an easy and economical way to make a room look fresh.

Happy packing!

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Make a List

Posted by on Dec 1, 2009

Make a list … and check it often. Seriously, the best way to stay organized through the holidays is to keep track of essential tasks. The Ultimate Planning Guide on the website provides you plenty of space for meal planning, gift lists, and a handy holiday task checklist.

Here are a few items to target for completion this week:

- Spend 20 minutes creating a gift list and a spending plan for holiday gifts, new decorations and meals.

- Plan a holiday party and invite guests.

- Create a holiday card list and draft the holiday newsletter. Schedule a date to send the cards; December 12 sounds good!

- Pick up a couple of extra toys for a holiday toy drive.

- Order gifts online and have them shipped directly to the recipient.

- Complete holiday decorating.

- Celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6 by giving a small token gift at breakfast or dinner.F

or the next few weeks, Holiday Hints will bring you ideas for homemade gifts (including presenting and shipping them), making your own gift wrap, a perfect Christmas morning menu, and much more.

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Change of Seasons

Posted by on Nov 1, 2009

Halloween marked the end of the autumn to ancient people, and today, November 1, was viewed as the start of the winter season.

And so it is modern times, except these days we get into full holiday mode after Halloween, eagerly preparing for the winter holidays of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s.

But first, we have to deal with the remnants of Halloween. It was a little depressing waking up this morning to house nearly devoid of decorations. Everything Halloween-y is piled up on the kitchen table, waiting to be sorted and packed about for another 11 months. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when storing your Halloween goodies:

- Look at what you didn’t unpack this year; is it time to let it go? There was probably a reason you didn’t use it: it’s broken, faded, or there’s just no place for it in your home. If it’s still in usable condition, consider donating it to a local charity thrift store.

- As you pack items away, wrap anything fragile in tissue paper, paper towels or whatever you have on hand. Nest smaller items into larger ones to protect them.

- Make a note card for each box of decorations and write down what’s in each box. Number the box and transfer that number to the note card for easy reference. This way, let’s say you need a mask for some reason in April for a project or a school play; you’ll be able to find it in a snap because you’ll know exactly what box it’s in.

- Keep like items together. For example, all the kitchen related items may be packed together, all the bathroom accessories, etc. This makes it super easy to decorate next year.

- Wash any linens before packing. Store them in airtight bags such as SpaceBags® and the other brands widely available.

- Here’s the absolute best way to store wreaths (of any season): wrap the wreath in a plastic dry cleaning bag and hang it on a wall in the garage or storage closet. You will see every wreath you have at a glance. I started this idea using nails and picture hanging hooks; last year I had a custom wall organizing system installed and hang other things there now, too like decorative branches (bundled and wrapped in plastic) and this year I’m going to hang the tombstones I made on the wall as well.

Once the last witch, bat and ghost is packed away, decide whether you’ll decorate for Christmas just yet, or go back to your everyday look, or add autumnal touches in favor of Thanksgiving. I’m working to update the Holidays By Dsign website with autumn candle crafts and decorating tips. I’ve already posted the Ultimate Thanksgiving Planning Guide as well as the Christmas guides (the Ultimate Christmas Planning Guide and Gift Giving 101) to give you a jump start. Check them out at www.holidaysbydsign.com/planningguides.

Now on to Thanksgiving. We have only three and a half week to prepare for what some consider the most meaningful family holiday of the year. Holiday Hints will be breaking it down for you with planning tips in week 1, new recipes ideas in week 2, home essentials guides in week 3, and plenty of scheduling tips in week 4. Along the way, I’ll be passing on some lore and history of the holiday, of course. For example, did you know that this year is the exact anniversary of the first presidentially-declared Thanksgiving? You’ll have to keep reading in the next few weeks to find out more.

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