Are we having fun yet?

If the chaos of December is putting a “ba-humbug” in your holiday, it’s always best to start with a plan. There are little things you can do before, during and after the holidays to ensure you have it all under control.

 Before

    1. Start with a good list of who you need to buy gifts for and a budget for each person. Once you have gift ideas, make a list of stores where you need to shop so you can hit them each once.
    2. If you like to shop on-line, do it early and save the receipts in a folder marked, “Waiting On.” That way you can keep track of what should be delivered. It’s easy to forget in holiday rush!
    3. To budget your time, make a list of the eight most important things to get done for Christmas. Do two a week.

During

  1. If you’re sending greeting cards it’s easiest to have a file with mailing labels on your computer.  Then, as you receive your holiday cards you can make note of any changes in people or addresses right on your file so you’re ready for next year.
  2. If you’re hosting the holiday dinner, make the entrée and one side dish. Ask those who are coming to also make a side dish or dessert or bring the wine. Everyone sharing the load makes it a lot easier on the host and most people are happy to oblige!
  3. If you’re going to grandparents’ house, bring something for the little ones to do: a craft, a movie or one new toy.

 

After

  1. After the holiday shopping is a great time to clear out your pile of catalogs and magazines. Scan the magazines for any great ideas and place those in a folder or binder.  Recycle the rest and get ready for a whole new year of new ideas and things to buy.
  2. As you are packing away the holiday decorations, take a look at what’s left in boxes. Toss or donate the decorations you did not put up this year. Places to donate: schools, libraries, senior centers or local theatre groups.
  3. Make a “use it or lose it” date for your left-overs. Sure those turkey sandwiches taste great but a week or two later all should be gone. Give your refrigerator a fresh start too. I recommend square & clear containers for the refrigerator.

What do you do to keep the holiday peaceful?

And so this is Christmas…

Many people might wonder what does a Professional Organizer DO? And isn’t it just a luxury to be able to hire someone to organize your home? Well, yes,in some ways it is. But in many ways the career of a Professional Organizer is filled with much more rewarding circumstances than you might think. Take my association, the National Association of Professional Organizers (Greater Philadelphia Chapter). We recently embarked on a project that was amazing, fun and rewarding. Here is the summary that I wrote about our experience:

Nine professional organizers invaded the home of Master Sergeant Susan Springsteen on sat. Dec. 15th armed with sticky notes, bins and labelers. It’s not the kind of invasion MSGT. Springsteen was used to, having served three tours in Afghanistan. But it was a welcome day of organizing her home which she won on Veteran’s Day as a prize through “Project Thanks.” This contest was a lottery-style drawing open to all active Delaware Air National Guard Service Members deployed away from home in the last 18 months, made possible through the generosity of the National Association of Professional Organizers, Greater Philadelphia Chapter. (NAPO-GPC)

The NAPO-GPC organizers came once to assess the project which was to organize the home office, creating a paper filing system and doing something with the plethora of family photos and military plaques that Ms. Springsteen had not had a chance to put up and display.

After the assessment they set to work ordering needed supplies like bins and shelves and even finishing touches, like curtains, pillows and frames. It was easy to round up volunteers who wanted to offer thanks to our military servicemen and women. When project day came, much more was accomplished. The eager organizers did go through boxes of paper, sorting, shredding and filing with meticulous accuracy. They also culled favorite photos and created framed collages while categorizing and filing the rest. They hauled away clothing and household items meant for donation. They organized closets, pantry and laundry room.

To some people this may sound like a nightmare, to others, a dream, but MSGT. Springsteen seemed to take all this free help graciously. In 6 hours (54 woman hours) the team of Type A’s had whipped the home into one worthy of a military inspection. The organizers, who all own their own businesses, had a chance to collaborate and learn each other’s systems while MSGT. Springsteen received the benefit of their expertise, energy and enthusiasm. Everyone left exhausted but feeling good for the work that was done. NAPO-GPC plans to make this an annual event between Thanksgiving and Christmas as a way to give Thanks to our military service men and women.

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Buy Local this Christmas


Each year as the holidays approach, giant foreign factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods — merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This stuff will pile up in their homes with no place to be tucked away. Then in January, millions will make a resolution to get more organized this year. And so the cycle continues.

This year can be different. This year you can give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift-giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands.  Yes there is!
It’s time to think outside the box. Who says a gift needs to fit in
a shirt box, wrapped in foreign-made wrapping paper?

Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut.  How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym  membership?  It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed?  Small, American-owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

There are many family-run restaurants in your area– all offering gift certificates.  If your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half-dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint.

Remember, this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom?  Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady or a professional organizer for a day. I happen to know one who is offering gift certificates in December!

If you were looking for something more personal, local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves.  They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes. Find a craft show near you.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner-operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip.  And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theater?


Honestly, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand lights for the house?  When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community.  Why not leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip instead?

The Christmas shopping season doesn’t have to be about buying more for less, it can be about encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams.  When we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine.  Besides, who needs more stuff? No one I know.

What are you planning to purchase locally this holiday season? Leave a comment below:

Scheduling Your Projects

Life is so busy these days with both parents working and kids involved in so many activities, how does anyone keep their house organized? you may wonder.  I believe that involving the family in the projects and the process is the answer and in the long run, being organized will save you,not cost you time. Here are 5 tips on how to get through all your organizing and home improvement projects:

1. Check the Project Plan weekly- If you have a “House Projects Plan” book or binder I suggest you keep it in a central location where you and your husband can easily access it.  As you plan out your week together you can refer to this book if your schedule allows for a home improvement project. Don’t wait for that one magic day when you all have noting to do.

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Absolute: If you don’t plan it, it’s not going to happen!

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2. Don’t leave all the home improvement work for the weekend either.  Sometimes a project may only take 2 hours and you could get it done together on a weeknight.  Or sometimes a big Saturday project may take some prep work that could be done on Thursday or Friday evening.  For instance, if you are going to paint the living room on Saturday, maybe the two of you could move furniture, bring in the drop cloth, and put up the painter’s tape on Friday night after the kids are asleep.  Then whoever is painting can jump right in on Saturday morning

3. Consider your kids – When scheduling projects think about what the kids will be doing at that time.  If one parent can tackle a job, then the other parent can help by taking the children out of the house.  If you both want to do a project, then maybe you can have the kids go to a friend’s or grandma’s house. If possible, plan projects for a weekday if all your kids are in school and you and your husband can take a day off.  When your children are old enough you can involve them in the family house projects. You want everyone in the family vested in the outcome.  Motivate your family with incentives like, “If you all help clean out the garage on Saturday, we can go out for dinner and a movie that night.”

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Where there’s a will there’s a way and where there’s not, there are excuses.

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4. Leave yourself enough time – Having done this job for 10 years, I can estimate that in an average home you can organize a room thoroughly in one day. If you agree that an average size house has 10-12 rooms, that means you can organize your house in 2 weeks.  If you need to fix, paint and organize a room, estimate that it will require a week to organize. Then you’ll be finished in 3 months.  If your rooms each require a lot of work, let’s say one month per room, then you still can estimate that in one year you will have your home exactly as you want it. Not bad when you consider how many years it took to get it the way you didn’t want it!


Getting Beyond Overwhelmed

 

 

 

Where do I start? is one of the most frequent questions people ask when they start thinking about getting their home totally organized.

 

Create a “Home Projects Plan”

My answer is usually, “start with a plan.”  Sounds simple enough, but here are the specifics on how to create a Home Projects Plan for your situation. whether your plan will take a week or years to execute this plan will be there to guide you so you always know what the next step is.  The most important thing is to write it down. Don’ assume you’ve got it all up in your head and you’re ready to jump in. Use a simple copy book or a binder to keep everything in one place.

The Walk Through

First, go with you’re spouse (and maybe even the children) through every room in the house.  Discuss how your family will use each room.  In other words, identify the function of each room and try to limit the functions to three.  Any more than three functions, and the room often becomes chaotic and crowded. Write down everything you want to change in that room. I would include in this plan, not only organizational projects but also home improvements.  If you are browsing in catalogs or home improvement magazines, you can cut out pictures of what you like and put these along side your “to do” items.

Estimate your costs

After you’ve written it all down, estimate the costs.  This may be as easy as pricing something in a catalog or sales paper.  But for contracted services like plumbing and electricity, you’ll want to get a minimum of three quotes.  My husband and I tend to go with the middle range of costs unless one of the contractors is significantly better than the others in terms of quality or customer service.  Many times you just have to choose whomever you feel more comfortable with.   Consider purchasing items like lighting and plumbing fixtures yourself and just hire someone to install them.  This can often save you money. Once you have all your quotes, you can ballpark the cost of doing each room.

Know your budget

Budgeting is another step that I think many couples skip.  If you’re lucky enough that cost doesn’t matter, then you can just keep going until your whole house is done! But most families have to work within a budget.  You definitely don’t want to be in the middle of a big project and suddenly find that you’re out of money. When we moved into our new house, we knew there were some immediate fixes to be done.  We looked at our annual income and expenses and figured out how much we could put aside for home improvements.  When the money was gone, we had to stop. So we were realistic about how much we could do in that first year.

Another option might be to take out a loan.  Whatever your situation, it’s important that you and your spouse are in agreement with how much money can be spent in getting your home organized and updated. Decide on the total amount you can spend and then prioritize your projects.

 

Prioritize

The other purpose of the Home Projects Plan is to help you prioritize. There are different ways to prioritize and no way is right or wrong.  Some common ways to choose which room should be first are by using superlatives like:

* the worst room in the house,

* the most used room,

* the most visible room,

* the easiest room,

* the least or most expensive room to do.

Much depends on your personality.  Doing the worst room first has its benefits because all else will seem easy.  Doing the easiest room first might build your confidence to continue on.  Doing the most-used or most-visible room first may help you feel that “at least we’ll look organized when people come to visit.”  Whatever your motivation, choose the first room and stick to it until you’ve done everything you planned and can afford right now.  Roughly plan out the order in which you would like your rooms to be finished.  Of course this may change along the way, but better to have a plan of where you are going next and change it, than to have no plan at all!

Absolute of organizing:  Finish one thing before you start another.