Friday, November 18, 2011

Prevent Holiday Clutter with a Simple Solution

As we all get ready for the holidays and particularly holiday gift-giving, it's a great time to remind ourselves of one of the cardinal rules of staying organized: the one-in-one-out rule. It's as simple as it sounds - if you bring something new into your space, you must send something old on it's way. Most of us don't live with lots of extra storage space - empty drawers, shelves or closets. So the one-in-one-out rule is really the only way to keep our homes from becoming over-stuffed.
The problem is, it's easier said than done for most of us. The reasons for this are simple - often, we just don't take the time to take the step of finding something to donate. We may not even think about it, or we may think, "I'll do it later." And we all know how that ends. Or we may not realize the true impact of bringing new things into our home one at a time.

Is it okay to save up your donations for a couple time a year - making it more like 25 things in-25 things out? That depends. The answer might be yes if:
  • you have the room to take in the new things that inevitably make their way in while only purging a couple times a year and
  • you make sure to schedule some time to sort and purge your belonging a couple times a year.
Another option is to make a habit of doing a monthly donation drop off. You can keep a box or bag handy to deposit your donations throughout the month and then do one drop off a month at a local charity. This is a great way to make it possible to follow the one-in-one-out rule. Just be sure to schedule those regular drop offs so your donation box doesn't become part of the clutter!

The holidays are a great time to teach kids about the one-in-one-out rule. Kids often get many new toys and clothes at the holidays, which they are usually very excited about. Capture this excitement and teach kids about giving to less fortunate children by having them choose several things to donate before the new presents arrive. Remember, gently used or even un-used items are best for donation.

Whether you're a kid or a grown up kid with some new toys, don't let too much time pass before you find new homes for your new things. Finding an equal number of items to donate is the easiest way to make this happen. Last but not least, don't forget to take care of returns and exchanges as soon as possible so they don't linger and become clutter in your home and on your to-do list.

Bottom Line: Sticking to the one-in-one-out rule is an easy way to keep the fun of new holiday things from creating clutter, which you then have to resolve to get rid of in the new year!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Get Ahead of the Holidays

Feeling overwhelmed this time of year? You're not alone. As much as the holiday season should be about joy and celebration, family and friends, many people find that the traditions and festivities add up to stress and too much to do. If you're determined to make this year different and actually enjoy the season like you used to, we've got some tips to help you make sure the holiday to-do's don't get the best of you! 

Give Yourself Some TLC
  • Start with a KISS - Keep It Simple, Santa. This should be your over-arching theme for the season. As a dietitian, I tell my clients not to fill up at holiday celebrations with boring, everyday foods, but rather to save room to enjoy the seasonal foods they really love. The same should apply to holiday traditions and festivities - make time for those that are most important and give you the most joy and skip the rest.
  • Remember to take care of yourself. I recently read that we are much more genuinely generous if we remember to give back to ourselves in addition to giving to others. So get your rest, make time for activities that keep you sane (yoga, anyone?), and get yourself a little gift while you're at it - you've been nice, right?
Be Prepared
  • Create a holiday planner. Use a basic multi-subject notebook. Create sections for gift lists, holiday card lists, menu planning, decorating, coupons, etc. Bring it with you everywhere, so you can always reference it or add to it.
  • If you're tech-savvy, go digital with your lists and planning. Rest-assured, there's an app for that.
  • Do a wardrobe check. Make sure you have the perfect party outfit. Stock up on a few key pieces that can be mixed and matched. Nothing is worse than a frantic, last-minute mall trip to find something to wear!
  • Hire a cleaner. Arrange to have a cleaner come a few days before your guests. You’ll only have to worry about doing some last minute tidying.
Shop Smart
  • Make a list and check it twice!
  • Start shopping early. Many retailers are already offering holiday discounts and looking to move goods off their shelves.
  • Call ahead if you're looking for a specific item to avoid wasted trips to the mall.
  • Shop Online. Online retailers allow you to shop around and find the best prices.
  • Shop locally for unique gifts. You will get personalized service without the hassle of long lines and messy stores.
  • If you have to go to the mall…try to shop on Monday and Tuesday mornings when stores are less crowded.
Simple Giving
  • Buy in bulk. If you are attending several holiday parties, or have a long list of people to buy for, consider picking up a case of wine or chocolates. This way you’ll always have something handy for that last-minute invitation or forgotten gift.
  • Color-code your wrapping paper. Dedicate a specific color or print to each family member. This will avoid confusion.
  • Secret Snowman. If you have a large family, suggest picking names from a hat, so that each person only has to buy one gift.
Hassle-free Entertaining
  • Plan your holiday menu ahead of time. Try to find recipes that can be made in advance and just re-heated. This will allow more time to spend enjoying the party instead of in the kitchen.
  • Create a theme and get guests involved. Ask each guest to bring a bottle of their favorite wine and cheese. You’ll only need to provide the crackers and fruit.
  • Go potluck!
Bottom Line: While there are endless opportunities to create, bake, shop, and celebrate, just remember that you don't have to do it all! Decide what matters most to you and your family and take time to stop and smell the 'roses.'

Friday, November 4, 2011

Practicing What I Preach

This morning I had a good reminder that sometimes even professional organizers need to remember to practice what they preach. None of us are immune to needing simple organizing solutions to keep our lives and our spaces under control.
I was re-reading one of our previous newsletters, in which we were singing the praises of the backwards hanger trick for weeding out your closet:

Hang all of the clothes in your closet the "wrong" way, so that you are hooking the hangers from the back of the rod. If you wear it, hang the item back up the right way. Anything still left on a backwards hanger at the end of the season should be donated or consigned.

As I was trying to find something to wear this morning, I suddenly realized that I could use a good dose of the backwards hanger trick myself. My closet is definitely not over-stuffed - in fact, I need to do some strategic shopping in the near future. But just because it's not over-stuffed doesn't mean it's not cluttered with items I'm not using and should probably be donated. You see, my wardrobe is in a state of flux...last year at this time, I was pregnant, which as you moms out there know, sets in motion some major and often permanent changes in your clothing size and style. Now that I'm a no-longer-pregnant, but not-quite-back-to-my-previous-size-or-shape, new mom, my closet is filled with not-so-useful remnants of my pre-baby life.

So I did it - in less than 5 minutes, I turned around all of the hangers and will be dutifully donating any of the pre-baby clothes that just don't fit my new life. And that's okay with me. I will give it a month and do a review, weeding out the obvious and leaving a few "maybes" that could make an appearance for holiday festivities.

Bottom Line: Life changes, and as it does, so do our stuff and space needs. This is a perfect example of why organizing isn't a one-time thing. We need to learn the skills to keep up with our stuff and space as life evolves. Take a look around at your stuff - is there anything that's not in sync with your life today?