Getting Organized for the Holidays: How to Save Yourself from Holiday Stress
Do you find yourself loving the time with family during the holidays but dreading all that comes with it? Decorating, gift giving, cookie making, Elf on a Shelf, the list goes on of all the tasks that come with the season of gratitude, merry-making, and cheer. What's the best way to make life less stressful so you can slow down and enjoy the Thanksgiving turkey, Hanukkah moments & the Christmas lights? It's by getting organized for the holidays ahead of time.
Here are our Top 3 Tips for Getting Organized for the Holidays and staying that way into the New Year.
Tip Number 1:
Organize your holiday décor. Are your holiday decorations spread-out in nooks and crannies throughout your whole house? Or is it piled up in unmarked boxes with that smell of mildew in your basement storage room you can't walk through? Or worse yet, is it shoved into that scary crawl space above your garage where only the bats lurk? It's time to gather all your holiday decorations from throughout the house and take an honest look at them. Ideally, this would take place in your basement. Start by sorting like with like, each holiday in its own area and subcategories within that. For example, you would categorize all Christmas items, all tree ornaments, all mantel décor, all the kitchen decorations, and so on. Make decisions on what to keep and what to get rid of by keeping only the items you need, use or love. Is it broken? Haven't used it in years? Does it only hold sentimental value but it isn't something you'd put out? Those might be items to get rid of or in case of the latter move that item to your keepsakes/memorabilia bin, which should be stored separately from your holiday décor. Once you've sorted and purged everything, tested all the lights, and made the tough decisions it's time to organize the décor. We recommend utilizing plastic storage totes with lids for your holiday décor. Clear is always the best option but some people love doing color coding so black & orange for Halloween, red & green for Christmas, blue for Hanukkah & so on. Gently wrap all fragile items in tissue paper or bubble wrap, pack the totes the way you sorted the subcategories within each holiday, and then clearly label each tote with the holiday name and what's inside but be broad. I've even put Christmas PJs, headbands, sweaters, etc. all in one tote for families, especially when their closets and dressers are maxed out. This way you're not battling the Christmas PJs in July when you're putting laundry away. If you don't have shelving units for your basement storage room now would be the time to get some. Line your basement storage room with shelves and even in the center if there's room, think of how the grocery store or library sets up their shelving in aisles, you can do the same. Now place your totes on the shelving units in the order that holidays occur. For example, start with the calendar year beginning with January (New Year's) and end with December (Hanukkah/Christmas). If you think about your year in terms of the school year, start with September (early fall décor/Halloween) and work your way through to July/August (4th of July/summer décor). Organize the totes from left to right. Now take a step back & breath in the organized bliss that is now your storage room. It's breathtaking!
Tip Number 2:
Make lists, and check them twice…it's not just for Santa Claus. Take a moment before everything gets hectic and make some master lists.
The top lists I recommend are:
Gift-giving list. I include whom it's for, the gift requested/idea, and the goal dollar amount to spend. Once the gift is purchased I update the list to the actual item purchased and the amount spent. You can use this list for future years to help budget and to make sure you're not giving the same things over and over.
Gift receiving list. This is where I track the gift ideas for gifts that I'll be receiving. I write down the idea/s and to whom I gave it. You can do this for yourself but also for your spouse and children as well. This way you don't give the same ideas to everyone and when you're asked for ideas you have thoughtful suggestions that you can give right away. On a side note, I highly recommend asking people for their wish lists; I even go so far as to ask what they don't want more of. It's a great way to make sure the gifts you give and receive don't end up in the donation pile by New Year's Day.
Menus and ingredients lists. If you're hosting or bringing a dish to the party this is an easy way to stay calm when the party approaches. Make a menu list spelling out everything that will be served noting which dishes you're making. If you're bringing a dish just skip this step. Then, in a separate list or as bullet points to each dish make a list of the ingredients you need for each dish checking them off if you've already got them in stock. Use this list when you go grocery shopping closer to the party date.
To-Do List. What are the extra things you need to do surrounding the holiday season? It can be a brain dump where you just get it all out and then add items to your calendar from there. Think schedule cookie making with sisters, shopping for gifts, decorating the tree, and the list goes on. Getting it all out in a list will help lower your anxiety and will help you stay organized…it may also help you become more realistic about all you're trying to accomplish in a short amount of time. You just might take some things off your list when you see it all in black & white.
To make your lists use whatever method works best for you, for some that's a dedicated notebook for the holidays, for others it's the Notes App on their iPhone (that's me). Make sure you update your lists as the holiday season progresses and don't forget to cross off what you've accomplished for that oh-so-wonderful dopamine rush!
Tip Number 3:
Gift-wrap early. Start by organizing your gift wrap just like you organized your holiday décor. If you have enough room in your home for a gift wrap station complete with a flat workspace for wrapping gifts on, even better! There are tons of gift-wrap station organizers out there and it all depends on your space and budget. As you organize take inventory of gift wrapping, gift bags, tissue paper, ribbons, bows, and tags. Throw away the scraps and anything you won't use and make a list (there's another list!) of the items you need more of. Then, as you buy each gift, wrap it! Don't wait until Christmas Eve to do all the wrapping, divide and conquer and wrap those gifts as you buy them. You'll thank me later!
If you organize your holiday decorations, make master lists to work from, and gift wrap early, you'll be able to put your feet up and sip some hot cocoa more often than ever before during the holiday season. Organizing takes time, but it gives you time back, which is the best gift! Save yourself from holiday stress and get organized this holiday season.
Not sure where to begin? We have a full list of recommended products HERE! Need some help getting your home ready for holiday guests? Are you feeling overwhelmed by your basement? We've got you covered. Reach out to us today, and we'll be your elves helping you this holiday season.
One of the top questions I’ve been asked since becoming a professional organizer is how do you organize your life’s schedule? My answer is always, I keep it simple but have key go-to apps and rituals that make my life organized. Here are the top 3 that I use, they’re either free or inexpensive and it’s easy.
Number One: A calendar
It’s amazing how many people don’t use a calendar. Whether it’s a planner or an app doesn’t much make a difference so long as you always have it with you and use it consistently and accurately. I’ve used both an actual planner and a digital calendar and find benefits to both. For those who are super visual, having an actual planner can give you a big-picture view of your week or month. Look for a planner that is large enough to write everything in it that you need, I prefer planners that have full letter-size pages. Currently, I use my Google Calendar on my phone to track everything from my work schedule to appointments to dates. Get-togethers with family go on there, weddings, showers, vacations, workouts, and tasks like dropping off donations. Anything that has a date and time associated with it goes on my calendar. The key is to have one calendar for everything whenever possible so that you have a big picture view of your life. It may make sense to have a work and personal calendar, especially digitally, but putting your work schedule blocked off on your personal calendar helps you stay realistic about how much time you actually have to get things done. You can even block off the time you allow for sleeping if it gives you better boundaries and a visual reminder that there are only so many hours in the day. The key is to update the calendar whenever something changes and to always make sure you add events in the first place. I always used a pencil and eraser when I used a physical planner so that I could easily make changes.
Number Two: The alarms on your phone
I use these alarms a lot to keep me on track and not just for waking up in the morning. The best part about the alarms app on your phone is that you can name the alarm with a label so it tells you what to do. I use this for things that I don’t want to muddy up my calendar with. For example, there’s an alarm for the following on my phone:
Number Three: To-Do Lists
I have two ways of planning my day and making to-do lists. The first is just simple paper and pen. I prefer lined paper and a nice pen. I use this for my personal tasks and planning my day with the finite things I don’t want on my calendar and that don’t have a set time that I can set an alarm. I always put the top priority items first that need to be done that day, then things that need to be done that week or month for if I get to them. I use the previous list to make the next list if I didn’t get everything done on the previous list.
My other method is the free Notes app on my phone. I am also a personal assistant in addition to being a professional organizer and I keep my To-Do list for this job on the Notes app so that it’s always with me and I can easily edit it. I have the list broken down into things I do daily and things I do weekly on specific days of the week. I also keep grocery lists on the Notes app both for myself and for my client for whom I’m a personal assistant. I love the checkmarks option for the grocery list, it makes it super easy to see what I’ve gotten and what’s left. I keep other lists as well on the Notes app, like books to read, books I’ve read, places to check out. All sorts of lists are handy to have with me at all times so that’s what I use this app for.
If you implement these 3 tools, calendar, alarms, and to-do lists, your life will become more organized and you’ll be carrying less around in your head which will decrease stress. We must use the tools we have to declutter our brains the same way we declutter our physical belongings. I hope that you start using these three tools today to see what a difference they make in staying on task, organized and to give yourself a big-picture vision of your schedule. It’s always important to know what lies ahead so we can plan.
Here’s to an organized you!
How Prioritization & Trello Can Help You Accomplish Your Goals
Life is filled with many things we don’t want to do, but we do them anyways.
Studying for a test, putting together a presentation, public speaking, making important decisions; these are all things that require preparation and have consequences if not done well. They are also things I tend to procrastinate.
When I was in fifth grade, my dad gave me the advice to study a little bit every day, so I wouldn’t have to stress and cram before a test. No matter HOW HARD I TRIED over the years, I couldn’t get myself to do this. 20 years later, I still think about this advice. It sounded simple, but with a due date so far in the future, I always waited until the last minute.
When I couldn’t procrastinate any longer, my brain would go into hyper-focused mode and I would always get things done. I wasted a lot of time overthinking and stressing, rather than actually doing. For the majority of my life, I assumed I operated “better under pressure” and identified myself as a procrastinator. Something about that didn’t feel right, because I am also a planner and list-maker.
A few months ago, I started thinking about this topic, in-depth. I started reading articles and listening to podcasts and audio books, and quickly noticed a trend: procrastination often goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism. MIND. BLOWN. Maybe you already knew this, but for me, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. The things I had been procrastinating my ENTIRE LIFE had negative consequences if they weren’t done well, and therefore, I was putting off doing them because I subconsciously knew the amount of time and energy I would have to put into them to gain a PERFECT result. I would overthink, over-prepare by making lists and planning out a schedule, and would attempt to line everything up “just right” before actually starting - but what I was actually doing was procrastinating. By the time I needed to take action, there was no TIME to overthink, I just had to DO.
If you complete that task, not only does it feel good when your biggest task is done for the day, but you will gain more momentum to get the rest of your tasks and goals accomplished!
I’m sure you’ve heard that “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” Thank you Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for this wonderfully accurate quote!
Having a plan will give you peace of mind, a sense of structure and stability, and direction, even during uncertain times like the present.
Since my job as a professional organizer is primarily done working inside clients’ homes, I have had to make a massive pivot in what I’m focusing on and where I spend my time.
Over the past year, Trello has been the single best tool I’ve found to help me manage that. It completely has replaced my paper planner, random to-do lists and functions alongside the calendar on my phone!
Trello is an excellent tool for business owners, but is also an amazing tool for managing your LIFE, even if you’re not!
I operate off of several Trello boards, but have one board in particular that I call my Life-Management Board. On this board, I include every task relating to my personal and work life that I need to accomplish so I can see it all in one place.
You can add due dates, checklists, notes, links, and pictures to your boards, prioritize and categorize them as needed, and keep track of everything from your computer or phone.
I have also used Trello to plan trips, study, organize social media content, create shopping lists, to-do lists, and manage projects. Overall, I use it to maintain structure in my days to make sure I’m accomplishing everything I need to.
I want to provide a few basic Trello functions to get you started, because over the past year it has become the most essential tool that I use to keep my life organized (and as a bonus, it's FREE!)
Once you create an account you will:
I created a life management board template HERE that you can save to your own account to get you off to a good start.
To save this template so you can use it, select the button at the top that says “Create Board from Template,” select your settings, and Create.
Once you’ve done those steps, the template is ready for you to use!
My hope is that this wonderful tool can help you the same way it helped me. With all of my “thoughts, tasks, and reminders” living in one place, I spend significantly less time wondering what I have to do, searching for lists, and second guessing due dates. The drag and drop feature helps me adjust my priorities into a timeline so I can time-block and move my “frogs” earlier in the day, serving as a reminder for me to get those done FIRST.
If you use Trello, I'd love to hear about how you like to use it, too!
Don't Forget To Tidy Up Before Listing Your Home!
Decluttering & Organizing is one of the most important factors that should be taken into consideration when preparing your house for sale! The tidiness of your home greatly influences potential buyers’ perception of the space and can have a major impact on their decision-making.
Some important spaces potential buyers will be paying attention to are your:
Here are some actions you can take to prepare your home for sale and present it in the best possible light!
Rent a Storage Unit (if necessary)
6 Benefits of Properly Managing Your Food During Quarantine + Beyond
On March 12th, at 7:45 AM, as I briskly walked through Target down the bare aisles of where paper towel and pasta were supposed to be, it hit me that what we were about to go through was going to have a significant impact on our lives. Forty-five minutes later, panic had begun to set in.
Thoughts of "how long will this shopping trip be able to sustain us for if we can't leave to get more food?" followed by "how much is this going to cost, where will I put it all, and how do I make sure we don't waste any of it?" flooded my mind.
I imagine many people experienced similar thoughts the first time (if not the first few times) they went to the store at the start of this pandemic.
Many people are facing these roadblocks:
How does one combat these issues?
Creating a plan and managing pantry and fridge organization, similar to how you would organize your closet, is essential. By following these six steps, you can develop sustainable habits that will extend beyond quarantine, and it will save you time and money in the long-run.
The 6 Steps:
To assist with this, I have compiled a few of my favorite resources to help with extending the life of your produce and prioritize what you need to eat first to reduce waste:
I am also attaching 2 FREE printable downloads to help with your weekly meal planning and grocery shopping!
What is your biggest challenge when trying to keep your pantry and refrigerator under control?
Helping feed your urge to purge clutter from your life!
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