Summer Project List

blur-close-up-collage-196655School’s out and summer’s here! For many of us, summer signals a new slightly more relaxed schedule –  time off from school or work, weekend or week-long trips and fewer regular commitments. Despite the lack of structure, summer can still be a great time to get some of your organizing projects done. Start your summer off right by creating your summer project list. This should be a list of a few – no more than 5 – projects that you want to complete by the end of the season. It can be whatever you want, but I recommend choosing projects that give you some enjoyment to capture that spirit of summer fun!
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Managing Kids’ Art and Schoolwork

IMG-4793There are few certainties in life, but here’s one I’ve found to hold true: If you’ve got kids, you’ve got art and schoolwork…and lots of it! In my 12 years of parenting, I’ve seen lots of strategies, tried a few – and here’s what I’ve settled on…for the moment.

  1. Start the school year with a temporary storage box or bin. You’ll need one for each child (labeled so you don’t get confused) and they’ll need to be in an easy-to-access location. No worries if you didn’t have that in place this year. You can deal with this year’s memories and start the box method for this coming year.
  2. As art and schoolwork comes in the door, deal with it immediately…or at least weekly. Hang up a few gems, plop the best in your temporary storage box, and recycle the rest. Remember that less is more, but don’t put too much time/effort into this either. The point is to make it easy in the moment so everything ends up in one place. You will whittle it down later. If you want, write the month/year on the back of the keepers – but don’t let that slow you down from getting things into the box.
  3. Mid-way through the year – holiday break is a good time – weed through what you’ve saved so far. You’ll find that as time passes and more accumulates, it’s easier to curate your collection. This will also make sure you have enough room in the box for the rest of the year.
  4. At the end of the year, take everything out of the box and review the whole pile. Again, it’s easier to pick out the gems after some time has passed and you can see that whole collection – pick one snowflake, one family “portrait”, one writing sample, etc.
  5. Decide how you’re going to more permanently store the year’s memories and make it happen over the summer. There are lots of options, but some simple ideas are a file box with 1 hanging file folder per year or a binder using dividers for each year. There are high tech options too, like photo books or scanning services. Just don’t make it so complicated that it never gets done.

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3 Reasons to Consider a Closet System

843w-elfa-inspiration-reach-in-closets-05-BIf you’ve ever had the feeling that the shelf and rod your closet came with just aren’t making the most of your closet space, you’re right! While you can sometimes improve the situation with modular drawers and shelves, it might be worth considering a closet upgrade with a custom closet system. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. They’re Custom! If done right, closet systems are customized to make the most of your space and your specific storage needs. Your designer will work with you to figure out your needs for hanging space, drawers or shelves, shoe and accessory storage and any other specific needs.
  2. Vertical Space – One of the major benefits of a closet system over a shelf and rod is that they make use of often wasted vertical space. Whether it’s 2 closet rods, shelving or drawers, a custom closet system will make use of every inch of your vertical space with a structured system, rather than stacked boxes on your top shelf or piled up shoes on the floor.
  3. Attractive to Home Buyers – Whether or not you’re considering selling your home, making improvements that enhance your home for both you and others who may live there in the future makes sense.

Fortunately, there are lots of custom closet options at different price points to fit your budget and your style. At neatspaces – we love closets! We can help figure out the right system and design for your space and needs.

Pro Tip: Stand ‘Em Up

Whether in a closet or a dresser, drawers are a great way to store your folded clothes. I almost always prefer drawers over folded clothing on shelves, simply because stacks of folded clothes tend to fall over on shelves unless you’re super careful removing an item and because drawers mean less visual clutter. That said, folded stacks of clothes in a drawer can quickly become a disaster too. For one, since you can’t see what’s down further in the stack, you tend to wear the same few items from the top over and over again. And while this is an interesting minimalist experiment, if you do decide to venture down to get something you remembered you own, you risk messing up your whole pile!

Enter the stand-up fold – or folding your clothes so that they can stand up instead of being stacked. This has the benefit that they can all be seen and accessed without messing up the whole drawer. If you are already folding your clothes for stacks, this usually just requires folding the item in half again or perhaps in thirds. Experiment to see what works best. Theses pics are a before and after from a drawer of t-shirts. For the stacks, they were simply folded in half length-wise. For the stand-up fold, I folded them in thirds, then in half again for the perfect stand. For full disclosure, I did the initial fold, but I’m finding the maintenance to be much better than the stacks. Sometimes a small organizational tweak is all you need to go from frustrating mess to lined up success!

Before: Stacks

Before: Stacks

 

After: Stand Up

After: Stand Up

 

Before: Disaster

Before: Disaster

 

After: Success!

After: Success!

Closet Feature: Maximize Style and Function with Elfa Drawer Fronts

Elfa, the customizable shelving and drawer system sold exclusively by The Container Store, is a long-time favorite of ours for highly functional, fabulous closets. Elfa can transform just about any space in your home from cluttered and chaotic to calm, cool and collected! We also love that The Container Store is always working to improve and expand this fan favorite.

One of our favorite new features, elfa Drawer Fronts, adds a new style option to this already great-looking line. The Drawer Fronts are available in all of the Décor finishes – White, Birch and Walnut – so whether you prefer a light or dark look, there’s an option to fit your style. They’re available in two popular drawer sizes, allowing us to maximize your vertical space and storage needs.

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Free Elfa installation!!

Receive FREE elfa installation when you spend $750 or more on your elfa design – but only through June 30th!  Neatspaces can help measure and design your spaces – give us a call! Details – Spend $750 or more on regularly priced elfa products from May 1st through June 30th, 2018 and receive free basic installation on those products. Qualifying purchase must include elfa merchandise valued at $750 or more in a single transaction excluding tax, gift cards, previously purchased merchandise, measurements, shipping, delivery, and Contained Home® services.Contact us to get started

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white elfa decor his and hers

How a Master List Can Simplify Your Shopping Routine

grocery storeLooking for a little simplification for your household shopping? It can be easy to get overwhelmed with keeping track of all the stuff a household needs. You might feel like you’re re-writing the same shopping lists from week to week and yet your pantry and storage spaces are over-flowing with food and supplies you aren’t using, and somehow you’re out of some of the essentials!?!

The key to simplifying your shopping routine (and storage spaces) is to have a master list to work from. A master list saves you from wasting time and mental energy deciding what to buy and also keeps you from making random purchases that will end up stashed in your valuable storage space. The good news is that with a little effort, you can break the cycle! [Read more…]

Spring Clean While You Declutter

baskets-clean-color-271711_pexelsThis time of year, it seems like spring cleaning how-to’s and checklists are everywhere! While an annual deep clean is a great idea, it can seem very overwhelming, especially if you know you’ve got clutter in the way! Who wants to waste time cleaning around and under stuff you know you don’t need?!

So what’s the answer? We could continue to put off both deep cleaning and decluttering because the whole thing just seems too overwhelming. OR – we could tackle the two together – making progress one space at a time. Why does this make so much sense? Because – step one of any good organizing project is to completely empty out the space you’re organizing! Whether it’s a drawer, a shelf, a cabinet or a closet, you have to take everything out so you can see what you have and make decisions on what to keep. [Read more…]

Do You Know Where to Donate?

Whether you’re cleaning out your closet or garadonationsge, or anywhere in between, the process isn’t complete until you’ve moved your donations out the door. Yet, this is the step where many well-intentioned clutter conquerors get stuck. One major reason is simply not knowing where we can or should donate certain items. The good news is that in most areas, there are many options out there. Just don’t overthink the process – choose what’s most convenient. If you wait until you figure out the absolute best place for each type of item, no one will benefit. You can always do something different next time if you find a new option.

Here are a few common donation resources that accept a variety of common household items. Just be sure to scan the guidelines for each so you’re not donating items they can’t use. There are many others out there – these are just a few ideas to get you started. [Read more…]

The Secret to Staying Organized

Do you feel like you’re always trying to get organized? No matter how much you donate or get rid of, it still feels like you’re not making any headway! The answer may lie in looking at the other side of the stuff equation. You may be diligently working to part with unwanted items, but until you get serious about limiting what’s coming in, the stuff will continue to win.

Limiting what comes into your house is often easier said than done – gifts, papers, toys, hand-me-downs, freebies, junk mail, bulk purchases – it can seem like the influx is endless. However, with a little effort, patience, and practice, you can make changes to what comes in and finally gain the upper hand in the battle with your stuff. Here are 5 strategies you can try:

Pause before you purchase – When you think of something you “need” or want – hit the pause button before you purchase. Decide on a mandatory waiting period – at least 1 week, but better yet 1 month. Just like a food craving, if you create a little space, it may pass. If you want to keep a list, go for it – write down the item and the date. If after your waiting period is up, you still decide it’s a worthwhile purchase, you can make that choice. But chances are, your pause button will save you a more than a few unnecessary purchases. [Read more…]

Refresh Your Closet with this Easy Upgrade

platinumHuggable2 (1)It’s finally starting to feel a bit like spring in Boston! Wouldn’t it be nice to refresh your closet as you switch out the winter gear for lighter clothes? It can be easier than you think with this quick closet upgrade we recommend to all our clients!

First things first, it’s time to clear out what you don’t wear!

  • If you can, take everything out of your closet! We’re serious.
  • Donate everything you didn’t wear or wore but didn’t love this past season. Be ruthless – if you didn’t wear it this year, you’re not going to next year. Someone else will make good use of it, but only if you let it go!
  • Set aside winter items you’re done with for the season. Make time to clean them and store them away during the warmer weather.

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Five 5-Minute Projects for a More Organized Kitchen

KT_18_Drawer_Steps_After_RGBMaking use of those little pockets of free time that pop up throughout the day can add up to major progress on those organizing projects you keep meaning to get to. Try out one of these 5 simple kitchen projects next time you have 5 free minutes. Do one a day and you’ll be on your way to a more organized space in less than a week. Mini projects are also a great way to build momentum if you’re having trouble getting started! Ready, set, go!

  1. Clean Out Your Utensil Drawer – Empty the drawer or space where you keep your everyday utensils. Grab a cleaning wipe and give the drawer and utensil try a quick wipe down. Put back only what you use on a regular basis. Put duplicates, randoms and anything you just don’t use in a bag or box for donation. Done!
  2. Sort Through Your Plastic Storage Ware – Empty out the space where you store plastic food storage containers. Give the shelf or drawer a quick wipe down. Match up containers and lids. Recycle anything cracked or lid-less and donate excess items you just don’t need. Nest like containers and lids and use larger containers to corral smaller ones. Done!
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Organize Your Pantry with 3 Simple Steps

KT_17_Multipurpose_Bins_R112916_1200

Do you dream of opening a clean, organized pantry where you can see exactly what you have and know what’s for dinner in a snap? Pantries can easily become cluttered and chaotic with bags, boxes, bottles and cans of all shapes and sizes. Open items go stale in days and forgotten items get pushed to the back causing you to re-buy things you didn’t know you had. Don’t let your pantry set you into panic mode! Shape up your pantry in no time with these 3 simple steps.

  1. Clear it out! If possible, clear out your entire pantry space or the cupboards where you store your pantry items. Toss out any expired food or anything your family’s not into at the moment. Unexpired/unopened items can be donated to a local food pantry. Set aside any items that don’t belong in your pantry and take time to relocate them when you’re done. This is also a great time to wipe down the shelves for a fresh start!
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Dream closet inspiration

Check out these stylish closets. Love the organization (of course!) and pops of color.   After you refresh an area of your home, you gaze adoringly at the space when you walk by, right?  You can (and should!)  feel that way about your closet.   I can help style and organize your existing closet or we can start fresh and create a new closet with a definitive organizational plan.

Top Organizing Tips for Closets

Check out these tips for organizing your closet.  Just in time for swapping out your fall/winter wardrobe for spring/summer clothes!   Our best-selling elfa storage solutions are featured in #4, #8, #10, our drawer storage units in #22 and our clear stackable shoe drawers are featured in #23.  [Note how the shoes are stored heel to toe.  This maximizes the use of space and you can see the front of the shoe plus the heel style at a glance.]

 

 

102 Best Tips to Get Your Home Super Organized

Lots of great tips to inspire you to get organized!  My favs: #2 organizing plastic food container lids, #3, organizing hot hair tools (that file box is The Container Store’s!) and #23 store your shoes heel to toe for maximum use of shelf space.

 

Organizing tip | Folded clothes

I recommend hanging as much clothing as possible but if you lack sufficient hanging space or just prefer to fold your clothes, here’s a tip.  If you fold your sweaters, t-shirts or jeans and stand them up in your drawer, you can more easily see what you have and find what you want.  If you stack clothes on a shelf or in a drawer, selecting the bottom item or one from the middle often results in a messy stack.  This tip works for storing and organizing scarves, too.


file organized sweaters in drawer

Two year anniversary with The Container Store!!

Can’t believe it’s already been two years! I love meeting new clients and helping them create storage solutions that look beautiful and are easy to maintain. 
The only way to do great work quote

Springtime Garage organization

It’s spring and finally starting to feel like it.  Time to put away the shovels and sleds and get your garage organized.  Afterall, kids will be playing outside more and I’d rather be playing with them than searching for balls, bike helmets and other outdoor gear.

First things first. Sort like items together and purge.  I always start an organizing project with a few contractor bags.  It’s usually easiest to sort through the stuff you can do without.  Put trash into one bag and items to donate into another contractor bag or other heavy duty bag or box.

Properly dispose of old paint and oil cans and empty cleaning supply bottles.  Check with your town’s disposal facility to find out when they accept hazardous waste.

Once you have like items grouped together (i.e. gardening, car care, outdoor games, bikes and other ride on toys, helmets, other pads- like street hockey and skateboarding kneepads, chalk, bubbles, etc) think about where to store them.  I like to use plastic shelving like this InterMetro one from The Container Store.  Hard working shelves are 18″ deep (any deeper and items can get lost on the shelves)  and can hold up to 300 pounds per shelf!

intermetro

Frequently  used items used should be stored at eye level or below. Seasonal items should be kept on higher shelves. Choose ventilated shelves and drawers which allow visibility to what you’re storing — they also prevent dust and dirt from collecting. I use mesh handled bins like this one from The Container store to coral

  • baseballs and whiffleballs
  • chalk
  • bubble and bubble toys
  • street hockey balls and pucks
  • wrist guards, knee pads, elbow pads
  • outdoor games

mesh handled bin
Lacrosse sticks, baseball bats, hockey sticks, are oranized in a couple of tall mesh bins. Rollerblades sit on the shelf by themselves but get stored in clear bins during the winter.
mesh bin casters

About 80% of items stored in a garage can be stored on shelving — the other 20% can be organized on hooks.  These items are usually handled tools including shovels, roof rake, and gardening tools.  Other large bulky items like garden hoses, ladders, strollers and backpack carriers can also be stored up off the ground on hooks.  To organize your entire garage, you’ll need a combination of shelving, drawers and hooks to keep everything organized.

I recommend kids’ bikes, sports equipment and toys to be closest to the garage door if possible and everything else deepest in the garage.  Create a “gardening station”, “car care station”, “winter station” to keep like items together. Once you’ve designated a spot to store everything you must be diligent and conscientious about returning everything to it’s proper place.

If your storage space is limited, consider storing items hanging from the ceiling, under a workbench, behind the door, and maximize vertical wall space. Utilizing The Container Store’s best-selling elfa shelving, everything from bikes to hedge clippers to screwdrivers can be in their own designated spot!

elfa Garage

The Container Store now makes house calls!!

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I am thrilled to announce that I have been selected to be one of The Container Store’s Contained Home exclusive professional organizers in the Boston market! My partnership with The Container Store is an extension of my neatspaces professional organizing business.  Here’s a preview of what The Container Store Contained Home service entails.

Contained Home organizers can:

  • Develop an organization plan for closets, home offices, pantries, kids’ rooms, craft spaces, garages and other storage areas in your home.
  • Organize all areas of your home & maintain your organized spaces through regular visits
  • Unpack and organize your new home
  • Repurpose a space after a student has left for college
  • Downsize for empty nesters
  • Transition spaces from toddlers to teenagers
  • Stage your home for sale
  • Prepare a baby’s nursery

For more info on how the Contained Home service works, click here.

Thank you for your support, encouragement and referrals over the last 9 years!  It means the world to me.  So excited to start on this journey with The Container Store…. stay tuned for more on elfa, The Container Store’s best-selling sleek shelving system and TCS Closets, The Container Store’s exclusive custom built luxurious closet.

 

Spring is in the air!

Spring is here. Really it is.  Hard to believe when you’re still sending your kids off to school in full winter regalia.  Days are bright and sunny and the air is crisp.  Perfect time to clean out and organize your closet and wardrobe.

Many clients have told me when they attempt to do this, they get overwhelmed and end up stuffing all the clothes back in the closet and shoving shoes and accessories into any nook they can find.  If you do a little bit at a time  you’ll be more successful.

Step one: Purge current season’s clothes. You know which pieces you love and feel good in.  Those obviously stay.  If there are any pieces that you didn’t wear or that you didn’t feel great in, put them in a donation pile. I often use shopping bags with handles or contractor bags so all the donation items are ready to go.  If there are pieces that need laundering/dry cleaning/repair set those in a separate pile.  Take care of them before you store them.

Step two: Purge and organize tops.  Go through spring and summer tops and remove any that are dingy or that you don’t love.  If you have 15 black t-shirts,  pare ’em down.  If you have hanging space in your closet, I recommend hanging as much as possible. It makes it easier to see what you have vs. going through a pile in a dresser drawer.  Hang them in majority color order: reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, purples, browns, blacks, whites.  Within the color hang by sleeve length: tanks, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve. I like to use these low profile non-slip hangers from The Container Store.  Using only one type of hanger provides a uniform look making your closet neater.

Step three: Purge and organize bottoms.  Same process as for the tops, for shorts, skirts, capris, ankle length and long pants.  I keep shorts, capris and jeans on shelves in my closet and hang skirts, dressier pants and dresses.  I like these hangers from The Container Store to hang skirts because they save space.

Step four: Purge and organize shoes and accessories. I hang my scarves in color order on the back of my door with a rack like this one from Bed Bath and Beyond. I have earrings on a jewelry stand like this available at the Container Store.  I don’t have a ton of earrings, so this sits on my dresser.  Again, I like to see what I have. It makes getting dressed easier.  Sterling silver jewlery is in a closed jewelry box on my dresser so they don’t tarnish.  If you have shoe shelves in your closet, you can use those or a shoe rack like this one.  Most of my frequently worn shoes for the season are in the hall closet on the main floor and not-so-frequently worn shoes are in my closet.  You can sort and hang belts on an organizer like this.  I like to stand purses on a shelf (in their dust bag if you have it).  These shelf dividers keep them separated and from falling down.

You don’t have to sort and organize your wardrobe in one go.  You could do it in four smaller chunks of time.  Once you’ve organized and sorted your wardrobe, it makes it easier to know what you need to shop for!

 

 

Less is more when Decluttering

Often times when thinking about areas in your home that need attention and organization, people become overwhelmed because they think of the big projects, like the basement, the attic or the playroom. If you take smaller “bites”, you’ll be less overwhelmed and more successful.

Here’s a list of 50 areas to declutter. Most should take 20-30 minutes. Print it out and get started. Decide if you are going to tackle one task per day or one task per week and get it done! Don’t forget to schedule donation pick up for those items that haven’t been used or worn in over a year. Find next available donation pick up in your area at www.GoodDonor.org. Happy organizing!

1. Kitchen silverware drawer
2. Kitchen utensils
3. Canned goods in the pantry
4.Tea/coffee/mugs
5. Pots and pans
6. Baking sheets/pans and ingredients
7.Tupperware or other like containers
8. Sports bottles/sippy cups
9. Kids’ lunchboxes
10. Food storage wraps/foils/bags
11. Kitchen towels, linens, placemats
12. Under the kitchen sink
13. Fridge
14. Freezer
15. Glassware
16. Vitamins/medicines in the kitchen
17. Coupons and gift cards
18. Stationary
19. Bills/mail area
20. Junk drawer
21. Batteries/light bulbs
22. Cookbooks and recipes
23. Dry storage
24. Trash/Recycling area
25. Mudroom or entry way shoes/boots
26. Hall closet
27. Catalogs, magazines and newspapers
28. Family room coffee table/end tables
29. DVDs and gaming console games
30. Laundry area
31. Guest bathroom linens
32. Bedroom nightstands
33. Scarves/purses/bags
34. Jewelry
35. Sock drawer
36. Athletic clothes
37. Pajamas
38. Bathroom beauty supplies
39. Bathroom shower/tub
40. Cough/cold/first aid supplies
41. Bed linens and towels
42. Craft supplies
43. Sports equipment
44. Holiday decor: Valentine’s
45. Holiday decor: Easter
46. Holiday decor: Halloween
47. Holiday decor: Thanksgiving
48. Holiday decor: Christmas/Hannukah
49. Cleaning supplies
50. Car

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New Year’s Resolutions

Are you making New Year’s resolutions to get your home more organized?  If so, then you will probably need some products like bins for clothes, toys and food storage, hooks, hangers, folders and other organizing tools.  Luckily all of thees items can be found in one location, one of my happy places, The Container Store, which has various sales that run throughout the year.

The Container Store’s promotions typically run for 6-8 weeks although the specific dates change each year.  Some sales include Elfa products and installation of Elfa is usually applicable for the sale (but this is subject to change).

The Annual Elfa sale is happening now!  It started December 24th 2014 and runs through February 11, 2015. The promotion is 30% off all Elfa products and installation.

Work Smart Office Sale:  typically starts right after the annual Elfa sale and goes through mid-March.  The Work Smart Office sale includes various discounts on office products.

Spring Organizational Sale: typically runs April through May and provides discounts on spring organizing items (think closet!)

I recently designed an Elfa system for a client for her daughter’s closet, and a kitchen pantry.  Working on a design for a basement entryway right now.  Let me know if you have any questions or would like help getting more organized!  Happy organizing!

elfa-sale

One last purge

With the holidays fast approaching and new toys sure to enter your home, I encourage my clients to walk through their home (or at least the kids’ playroom and bedrooms) and donate any toys that are no longer used.  Use contractor bags to gather donations.  They are sturdier than regular trash bags and you cannot see through them, so you’re more likely to get the items out the door. If the items are visible, you may get little hands pulling toys back out of the bags claiming that they are their most favorite toys that they can’t live without.   Don’t let the kids sabotage your plans to stay organized!!   I also like to have a few clear bins on hand for storing new holiday toys.  I usually have a few shoe size boxes and a few sweater size boxes from the Container Store on hand to coral all the pieces to a new game, toy or craft.

You can schedule a donation pick up in advance by going to GoodDonor.org or scheduleapickup.com.  If you schedule a donation pick up in advance of doing your walk through, gestimate how large or small your donation will be.  Scheduling a donation pick up in advance will make it more likely that you actually go through your home and collect items to be donated.  You can’t really blow it off once it’s scheduled, it gives you a deadline for your last purge of 2014.  It’s kinda like working out, you may not initially feel that enthusiastic about doing it, but you’ll feel great after it’s done. :)

10 Strategies for a Stress Free Holiday Season

1. Shorten your to-do list.  Ask yourself, “If I don’t do this, what will happen?”  I’m usually a get-it-done-now-so-you-can-relax-later kind of girl, but in this case, see what you can put off until after the holidays.  When things get crazy and hectic, I ask myself, “will my kids/family/friends remember I did this?” and if the answer is “no” it gets knocked off my list.

2. Limit gift giving.  Not being Scrooge here, but try limiting gift giving to children only and consider do a “Secret Santa”.  You’ll only have to shop for a few kids in the family instead of all the cousins, nieces and nephews!

3. Wrap as you go.  Wouldn’t you rather spend Christmas Eve with a mug of hot chocolate (or hot toddy) instead of doing a gift wrapping marathon?  Label to/from right away, and use sticky notes if necessary to keep track of gift contents.

4. Buy, don’t bake. We bake and decorate Christmas cookies each year, but to save time, you could buy plain sugar cookies from a local bakery or supermarket for the kids to decorate.  I buy a pre-assembled gingerbread house that the kids decorate (baking and or assembling our own house was NOT contributing to the joy of the season!)

5. Use labels for addressing Christmas cards. Last post was about using labels to address your Christmas cards.  If you do it this year, imagine how easy it’ll be next year!!

6. Scale back décor.  We still get a fresh Christmas tree each year but there are several reasons why folks turn to artificial trees. It’s efficient (the lights are already strung), it’s less expensive over the years, and is environmentally conscious.   You can display a pretty door wreath instead of doing large scale outdoor lighting, and a tabletop tree instead of over-the-top entire home decor.

7. Put home projects on hold.  Wait, what?  Yup, just close the door on the messy office or spare bedroom that’s become the dumping ground.  Put off the organizing and house projects until after the holiday season.

8. Downsize dishwashing. Maybe you still want to use your fine china for Christmas day, but hand-washing fine china is no fun, so use everyday dishes or paper plates for other gatherings.

9. Less is more.  Consider serving a variety of appetizers and finger foods instead of a entree and sides.  We’ll always have a Christmas turkey at my in-laws (LOVE it!!) on Christmas day but for other gatherings during the holidays it’s easier on the host to do several appetizers than a big sit-down dinner.  Hosting a pot luck would make it even easier.

10.  Be a homebody. Staying close to home beats holiday travel any day. Staying close to home allows you more time to do the things you really want to do with your family.

Happy Holidays!!
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Christmas cards!!

Some friends feel strongly that they want to hand address their Christmas or holiday cards. While I admit, it does look more personal, depending on how many cards you send out, it can take A LOT longer to hand address them vs. printing out some cute address labels. Also, even if you hand address cards a few at a time, after writing out a few addresses, I don’t know about you, but I would not like what my handwriting looks like! Plus, I’d rather get the whole job done at once vs. doing it over a few days, but that’s just me.

I use Avery #18863 clear labels or Avery #5163 white labels to address our holiday cards. (I used them for birth announcements too!) There are 10 labels per page. The thing about using labels for your holiday cards, is that you can play with fonts and add images. I like to use a larger font for the recipient name, usually in a fancier script andimage then the address in an all caps font for contrast. These Avery labels are large enough to accommodate the use of different size fonts as well as including an image if you wish, such as a wreath or Christmas tree.

I use the Word template that corresponds to the labels and make address changes and additions to the list each year. Not in a bah-bum-bug scroogey way, but there are also a few deletions each year too. For example I don’t send Christmas cards to teachers from previous years and their sport teams change too, so I don’t necessarily send them to their previous year’s coaches or teams in their entirety either.

I used to print out return address labels, but a couple of years ago I ordered a return address stamp from Tiny Prints. They offer a variety of styles. Ours has a script “B” in the middle and then our family name and address in a circle around the “B”. I like how it looks and love the efficiency of it!

You can save yourself a trip to the Post Office by ordering your stamps in the mail. They’ll charge you a nominal fee, which can be worth it instead of waiting in a long line.

Can’t wait to see our friends and family’s holiday cards this season!

 

Christmas and holiday gift organizing

I cannot believe Christmas is less than 30 days away!  I’ve already created a gift list for each of our family members and others who we give gifts to, including teachers, our cleaning lady, and sitters (we don’t call them “babysitters” any more!).   I start with a list of gift ideas for each person. My husband and I go through the list together and make edits.  For the kids, we like to choose different types of gifts, for example, we try to have a gift that encourages movement (like a hockey shooting pad or a chin up bar), creativity (crafts), education (books, science or STEM activity sets) and good old fun (such as Wii games).  Listing out all the ideas makes sure we get a variety of  types of gifts and to stay within our budget for each child.  Once we have decided what we are going to get, I list out where each item can be purchased, whether it is online or at a brick and mortar store.  I prefer to do online shopping as much as possible, as I have already transitioned into my “stalker” strategy when looking for a parking space– I look for someone coming out of a store and ask them if they’re leaving and then follow them to their car.  Santa will not be nice to people who steal parking spaces from others who were patiently waiting. I digress.  The holiday season is about spending time with family and friends and joy and happiness.  In the end, whether you get your child 10 toys or 2 toys, it’s the time spent together as a family that they’ll remember.  image

Timeline project

My daughter, who is in 2nd grade, just completed a timeline project.  The project required writing out a plan, finding the right tools (pictures) and putting it all together.  It got me thinking about planning for the holidays.  Thanksgiving is coming up in just a few days and Christmas is about 30 days away. (Eeeak!  Gotta get to my Christmas shopping which I’ll talk about in the next post.)

Whether you are cooking the main course or bringing sides or dessert, making a plan will help make it less stressful.  Each day you should plan what you are purchasing and from where.  At this point hopefully your orders are already in from stores that require pre-ordering.   More specifically, you should plan what you are cooking/baking and for how long on a timeline.  You can’t double book your oven!  Unless you have two ovens, in which case I’m envious!  You should also plan what serving dishes and utensils will be used for each food item. I  like to put a small Post-It note inside the serving platter/bowl with what I am planning to serve in it.  It ensures I have enough serving pieces and the right serving pieces.  An added bonus is that when it all comes down to putting the food out, it’s easier for others to lend a hand.   Also, make sure you have enough food storage containers to store leftovers.  I prefer rectangular shaped ones, as they stack easier in the refrigerator/your kitchen cabinets.

Hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to my favorite meal of the year.  More importantly, I am so very grateful for my husband and our beautiful children, our families and our health.

 

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Garage organization. Getting ready for winter!

Just finished a project at a client’s home this morning. We had purged and organized items in the garage and decided what was going where.  I ordered an Elfa system for her from The Container Store (passing along my 20% professional organizer discount) was installation went well yesterday.  Today we got everything up off the ground. Nine bicycles in various sizes, 2 balance bikes, 3 scooters and 1 tricycle hang on one wall, along with all the helmets. One spot is was designated to hang wet snow coats and snowpants.  Gardening tools and shovels are along one wall and there is additional storage on shelves and in pull out bins for off season items like coolers, summer toys and gear, car accessories and cleaning supplies.  We both agreed, it was extremely satisfying to see the finished project.  Here are a few pictures for inspiration.  Now they can park their two cars in the garage before the snow comes!!!  IMG_2505[1]IMG_2508[1]

Gift card, store credits and coupon organization

 

How many times have you been out shopping and wished you had remembered where that gift card or store credit is?  I don’t really cut coupons but I do use store coupons for a % off at retailers and I’d rather use store credits and gift cards than to let them go to waste.   You likely receive gift cards and certificates for birthdays and other special occasions.  You may receive loyalty rewards at retailers that are as good as cash.  You probably have store credit for something you bought that you decided you didn’t want/need, which is a good thing if you returned it because you are reducing the clutter in your home!  How to keep them all organized?  If you truly only have a few, maybe less than 10, you could keep them in a small zippered wallet or change purse.  You probably already own something that can be repurposed.

If you have more than 10 or so gift cards/credits/coupons, consider using a coupon organizer.  I found one at Bed Bath and Beyond that looks like a zippered wallet, but has a bunch of divided sections and a note pad and pen holder.  I labeled the sections, “Restaurants”, “store coupons”, “store credits”, “BJ’s” and “CVS”.  The wallet “lives” in a drawer near my command station in the kitchen.  When I am going out shopping or think I might use a restaurant gift certificate, I grab the wallet and bring it with me.  I keep it in the drawer, because as I receive mailings with loyalty rewards/coupons I can easily file them away. Life is busy, so if I can’t put it in right away, the reward/coupon goes into the drawer and when I have a few of them, I file them away.  It works for me to remember to bring the wallet with me when I am going shopping, than another solution, like leaving it in my car.  It might be more likely to have it with you if you leave it in your car, but keeping up with filing your gift certificates/rewards/coupons would be more difficult nevermind the fact that it might not be secure in your car.

I also keep a fine point Sharpie marker in the organizer so that when I have partially used store credits, I can write the remaining balance on the back of the card. It eliminates wondering how much if any value is left on the card.  Happy shopping!
coupon organizer