Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Organizing for the Holidays

                As the Holidays near, the “to do” lists seems to grow longer and longer, with endless tasks to accomplish, gifts to buy, and events to plan and attend.  New Years is just around the corner, but with a little bit of thought and planning, organizing your life even before the time to make new resolutions can make this year and this holiday season run more smoothly than ever before.
                Buying gift for your loved ones can be an overwhelming experience.  Often, people wait until last minute to go shopping, and end up spending more time and money than they had planned originally.  This can be avoided by taking a few simple steps.
                Firstly, make a list delineating whom you plan to give gifts to, with several possible options next to their names.  Think about how much money you want to spend, and how much your loved one wants or needs the intended gift.  Has he or she recently bought a new home, had a child, or started a new job? Keeping these types of things in mind will direct you to buying a gift that will truly be appreciated, whether it is a beautiful new mailbox, a gift certificate for two for dinner and a show (for the new parents who need some alone time), or desk organizing trays and the perfect scarf to wear to business meetings.  When buying for children, keep their parents and friends in mind, Will the child be able to play/wear this at school?  Will his parents approve of the gift?  By contemplating gift options and personal needs, you avoid buying something that your friends or family member will not really appreciate.
                Go through your house with a pen and paper and jot down a list of things you and your family need or want.  That way, when friends or family ask you if there is anything specific they can get you, you can mention some thought out options. People want to get you something you will enjoy, and by putting some time and thought into your own needs, you will save yourself the hassle of returning gifts after the holidays.
                Finally, save valuable time by ordering gifts online.  So many hours are spent driving, parking and wandering through stores looking for appropriate gifts.  Market research analysts advise retail chains to place certain items in the high trafficked parts of the store, and place toys and clothes they desperately want to sell at eye level, while other (possibly cheaper) items are stored in harder to find spots.  Online, however, a savvy shopper can compare prices on websites such as www.shopping.com, and on most websites, can organize the gift possibilities they are viewing by price or choose toys based on a specific price bracket (i.e.: $50-$70).  Many stores offer free shipping this time of year, so a shopper does not lose out monetarily by shopping online rather than traveling to the store.  Another bonus is that you can check your shopping cart every few minutes to make sure you are staying on budget.  This is much harder to do at tan actual store, where you may feel embarrassed to put things back once you have already reached the cash register.
Your house:
                Before you start entertaining your family or friends and before the loads of new packages and gifts arrive, you may want to de-clutter your home.  Spring cleaning is just around the corner, and there is so much to do around the holiday season as it is, so don’t set such high expectations for you.  However, there are a few simple things you can do so that you can enter the New Year feeling like your life is in order.
                Remember that the focus is on de-cluttering instead of deep cleaning.  Right now, there is no need to wash all the curtains and carpets in your house.  They will probably just get dirty again from all of the entertaining that will be going on!  Rather, go through your closets as well as those of your children. What can be better than donating like-new clothes that are never used or don’t fit to those who really need them this holiday season?  Prepare three bags or cardboard boxes marked:”Trash”, “Store” or “Donate.”  Instead of throwing everything that needs to be out of your closet on the floor (to be divided into piles later), immediately put the item into the appropriate box.  If you or your child hasn’t worn something in the past 6 months, it probably has no place in your closet.  Similarly, if a toy has not been used frequently in the past 3 months, or there are multiples of the same items, it does not need to be taking up valuable room.
                Another area which can be organized is your kitchen.  We tend to cook and bake more during this time of year than any other.  Don’t you deserve for it to be an enjoyable experience?  Invest in buying matching plastic, glass or aluminum containers for all of your baking ingredients.  When you look in the pantry, your flour, sugars, chocolate chips, and assorted powders will be neatly and beautifully arranged.  Go through your pots and pans and see which ones need replacing.  Are some pots missing their lids?  Are some too scratched to be effectively used?  Use this opportunity to figure out what you really need in your kitchen to make cooking and baking a pleasure.
                This season is the time when family and friends get together to celebrate and to enjoy each other’s company.  You can avoid being overwhelmed by planning your events in advance.  Think about which other events you will have to attend, the family and friends who will want to host at your home, and do not overbook yourself.
                Here is where making a list is once again so valuable.  Who do you want to see or spend time with this season?  Jotting down the names of family and friends you want spend time with will help you avoid forgetting to invite someone to a party and hurting their feelings.  Don’t overlook getting together with friends if that is what is important.  So, if you are having family and enough “free nights” where you can go to bed early, or relax without having to attend a function.
                Buy things that can be used multiple times or later on in the year in bulk.  For example, clear plastic plates are essentials at almost all parties or events and are much cheaper when buying a few hundred of them at a time.  If using nice paper and/or plastic is acceptable for your functions and will save you time and energy, take this option into consideration.  Treat yourself to some pretty household items (new picture, plant, candles, and vase) for around the house.  After all, there is no better time to invest in beautifying your home than right before an opportunity to get complements from your family and friends!  People tend to take more pictures inside that outside during this time of year, so the elegant touches vases, plants, or pictures will give to your background will really make a difference.
                Finally, it is important to make a list before you set out to the supermarket to buy food and goods, for your events.  This is a good rule all year round, but is especially important now.  Think about where you can take shortcuts in your cooking, and where homemade items will really be noticed.  For example, rice pilaf from the box or ready make icing for a cake will save you a lot of time and will allow you to focus on preparing a delectable roast or Grandma’s special chocolate fudge cake from scratch.  Be cognizant of how much you can handle and do not overwork yourself in the kitchen and when entertaining.
                The holidays are an exciting time.  We all enjoy being with our loved ones, sharing meals, exchanging presents, and spending quality time with people we don’t get to see all year.  Utilizing some of the tips mentioned above  can help you avoid the rush and stress that often comes along with the gift giving and entertaining in the next few months.  When your home is de-cluttered, and your events planned and well organized, you will be able to truly enjoy this holiday season!

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