As seen in Huffington Post
I love, love, love the holiday season, but I do not enjoy all the additional stuff it brings into my home. If you’re looking to spread the holiday cheer without adding clutter I put together some great alternatives to traditional gifts that you can find here.
However, if you are past that point and know that you, your kids, your dog and your gerbil will be receiving an insane amount of presents this year, you’re going to need a strategy to deal with all of those things without your home looking like a department store.
Trust me, I feel your pain. I know I’ve mentioned this before but since we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas the amount of new items that find their way into my home can be a bit overwhelming. Especially with three kids in the mix.
One In One Out
Tough rule, I know. But it doesn’t matter how organized you are, if you have too much in your home you'll never be able to maintain it and it will always feel disorganized.
However this can be a great way to help your children learn the value of charity. I try to frame it that they are so lucky to be getting all these new toys, but other kids are not so lucky, so we pick some toys that we aren’t playing with anymore so that other kids can have a chance with them. Look in your area for places that will accept gently used toys and donate them.
Unfortunately you need to apply the same rule to the adults in the house; while that new scarf is super soft and beautiful I bet you have at least one in your collection that has either seen better days or that you don’t wear anymore. Get it out of there.
Put It Back
One of the most important steps in maintaining an organized space is to put it back. I go into it in more detail here but it is a step that can be easily overlooked during the holiday season. We are so excited to try on our new clothes or play that new video game or test out that new toy that before we know there is just stuff. Everywhere. Enjoy your the new additions but don’t let all of the excitement get the best of you. Once you’re done put it back.
Find A Home For It
This one goes hand in hand with the ‘put it back rule’, but sometimes it can be really hard to put something away if you don’t know where it goes. Find a spot that makes sense for you. Especially if this new item is something that you will use frequently in the coming weeks. You want a space for it that is accessible and works with your routine. This may require you to go through some of your existing stuff and declutter a bit. I know you want to use that fancy new mug with great mouth feel that you just received but if your cupboard is already bursting at the seams you won’t have a place to put it.
I can already hear the groans and gasps at this suggestion. As good as the gift giver's intention may have been, sometimes they just miss the mark. Think of the space in your home as valuable real estate. Why waste that space on something that you don’t want, need, or love?
There is nothing wrong with repurposing that gift for someone else. As long as you do it right:
Put a little post-it on the bottom of the gift with the name of who gave it to you
Only regift items that are in their original packaging and have not been opened
Only regift it to someone who you genuinely feel will appreciate it
Put it in a new gift bag/re-wrap it. Nothing says “I regifted this” like a ratty gift bag and crumpled tissue paper.
Tell the recipient. If you’re really feeling bad about regifting it then simply give it to someone that you feel would appreciate it and let them know where it came from. ‘My aunt Sally got my this beautiful coloring book, but it’s not really my thing. I thought you would enjoy using it’ Simple. Honest. Easy.
Donate it. If all else fails, get it out of your home and donate it.
Happy Holidays and Happy Organizing!
One of my all time favorite desserts is pecan pie. I'm not sure why, because I don't really even like pecans. Maybe it's the Quebecer in me, having grown up eating sugar pie, (which is exactly what it sounds like, a pie filled with sugar). Sometimes in Quebec we get fancy and use maple syrup along with brown sugar in the filling. Either way it is one of the sweetest (and therefore yummiest) desserts you will ever consume.
Because of this nostalgia I love making pecan pie for the holidays. A couple of years back I found a great recipe and have adapted it a bit through some trial and error. This pie is actually pretty easy to make, mainly because I opt to not make my own crust. I find it way too labor intensive and finicky for not enough of a payoff. The frozen crusts you can buy in the store are perfectly acceptable. It's really all about the filling anyway.
Here is the link to what the author calls "The Perfect Pecan Pie" and here are my changes:
- I buy frozen crusts (the recipe isn't super clear, but the filling is enough to make 2 ~9 inch pies)
- I lightly toast the pecans first and I like a very "pecan-y" pie so I use ~2 1/2 cups of pecans, but really it's to taste ( to toast the pecans I put them on the stove-top in a dry frying pan on low-medium heat and stay very close, because they can go from toasty to burnt in seconds)
- I sometimes use corn syrup (as they call for) but I have also substituted it for molasses
- The recipe also doesn't specify salted or unsalted butter for the filling. I use salted butter because it just tastes better.
- I check my pies at the 40 minute mark, and then every 5 mins after until they're done. Keep in mind that it will continue to cook a bit after you take it out, and you really don't want to over-bake it.
- These pies freeze pretty well, so they can be made in advance. Yay!
As featured in Huffington Post
With the holidays a few weeks away the yearly “what am I going to do with all those gifts” anxiety is settling in. Being an interfaith/inter-tradition family we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. To my kids’ delight and to my dismay that means double the gifts. As a Professional Organizer and semi-minimalist you can see why this stirs up anxiety.
Don’t get me wrong, I love giving and receiving presents but I also firmly believe that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and that children tend to play more creatively and better when there are less toys around them. I see it over and over again with my clients and in my own home, after we have cut down the number of toys kids play more productively with what they have left.
The same tends to be true with adults. Less stuff = less clutter = less upkeep = more time to live your life and focus on what matters. Now, I’m not advocating everyone to get a green suit and be all Grinch-like for Christmas this year, but I do think we can shift our focus. So, here are some of my tips for a clutter-free (or at least a reduced clutter) holiday season.
Secret Santa: An oldie but a goodie. This is not just for your office gift exchange anymore! We are a large family (10 adults & 6 children with another on the way) and we started this a few years ago for the adults, with great success. It cuts down on the crap, excuse me, gifts you receive and if you add a wish list to your exchange you may actually get something that you want. There are tons of on-line programs and apps out there but we have been using DrawNames.com for a few years. It’s free, allows for restrictions (so couples don’t get each other) and you can post your wish list so that it’s visible for the group.
Experiences: This one works for adults and kids alike. I much prefer to get something I can do than something I can use. A gift certificate for a favorite restaurant means a future date night for me & the husband. You can have a group chip in for tickets to an upcoming event (sports, a concert, a play, etc). The same theory applies to kids; I love giving and receiving movie theater gift certificates. Kids love going to see movies on the big screen (at least mine do!) and it’s wonderful to have that time out with them. The same goes for gift cards for a local indoor play area (especially great when it’s too cold to play outside), a kid-friendly museum, a local zoo, etc
Donations: The answer to what do you get for the person that has everything. A donation to their favorite charity and a beautiful handwritten note to go with it. This can be especially helpful if you send gifts to relatives that don’t live near you. Save on shipping a heavy gift and do some good. Double bonus! I have a friend who asks for donations for a local animal charity in lieu of gifts for the children at their birthday party. It’s a hit every year!
Time: A good one if your budget is a bit stretched this year too. Offer to babysit their kids, take your mom out for lunch just the two of you, prepare and deliver a delicious meal to the busy family, take your BFF to get her nails done, treat your brother-in-law to a round of golf with you. Try to use your skills or common interests to spend time together.
Consumables: This one works for people who like to eat (and really, are there those out there that don’t?!?!?) A box of their favorite candy or chocolates that are too decadent to buy for yourself but are great to receive as a gift. A make-your-own kit: all the fixings for delicious hot chocolate, fancy cones and toppings for ice cream sundaes, take a few minutes to search on Pinterest. . . there are sooo many great ideas out there! For non-food items you can get some yummy smelling hand soap, favorite beauty products, membership to a shaving club or an e-book.
If these ideas aren’t for you and you would rather dip your toe into clutter-free holidays instead of doing a cannon-ball try talking to your family and friends about limiting the number of gifts that are given. I know this can be tough when it comes to kids. Grandparents, aunts and uncles all love to buy gift after gift for the children in the family. But having a conversation with them about how you want your children to focus on appreciating what they have instead of how much they are given can go a long way. The advice I give to a lot of my clients is to blame it on me. Just tell them that “my Professional Organizer has asked me to limit the number of new things that come into my home”. Blame comes off of you and onto me, another win-win!
Happy Organizing & Happy Holidays!
Do you have an organizing dilemma or question you want answered? Comment below and I may feature it in a future post!