Tips for Gifting the Perfect Children’s Book

In my household books are always under the Christmas tree. If you are choosing a book as a gift for a young child, what should you look for?

  • A book that grows with the child is ideal. Choose a book that you read to a little one. In time the child will start to recite some of the words to you. And eventually he will enjoy reading the book by himself.
  • Younger children like stories that mimic experiences that they have had. Books about milestones like potty training, learning to help around the house, starting school are great. As children get older fantasy becomes more appealing. Also notice the child’s interests. Does he like to collect rocks or have outdoor adventures? Find books with those themes.
  • Find a book with appealing illustrations and a good cover. Illustrations that invite participation (find all the stuffed animals) and conversation keep the attention of young children.
  • Note the language in the book. Younger children love repetition and rhyming. Vocabulary that is part of the sight vocabulary of the young reader helps the child learn more quickly to read the food for fun alone.
  • Find a theme that is enduring. Can the story relate to other life experiences? Is it a book that will be enjoyed over and over?
Diane Quintana and I have written two children’s books that pretty much cover these suggestions (OK, they don’t rhyme). Check out Suzie’s Messy Room and Benji’s Messy Room on Amazon or Barnes and Nobel or ask for it at your local book shop.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Annual Christmas Panic

OK, it is really December and the days are speeding up for sure. I feel a combination of excitement and panic. I’m looking forward to some parties and church events. I am looking forward to enjoying my decorated home. I am enjoying the holiday foods and music. But, wow! There are a lot of things that are not done. Most of the cards have not been mailed. Some gifts still need to be purchased – still unsure of what to even get a couple of people. I still have more baking to do. The house is in some disarray because of the process of decorating. No gifts have been wrapped.

Breathe.

These projects are scheduled on my calendar. I am only a little behind there. I am finding though that although the date is scheduled, when that day comes, finding the hours to prioritize those tasks is not easy. However, I am working on it.

Breathe.

I must get back in touch with my vision of the perfect holiday. How do I make this happen? Certainly not by using up all my energy every day. How do I deal with setbacks?

Breathe.

Some baking may not get done. There will still be plenty. The boys’ favorite cookies will get done for sure.

Breathe.

The house will get back to normal once I finish the decorating. That should get done this coming weekend.

Breathe.

I’ll look at that friend, my calendar, and schedule a time to wrap packages to mail and another time to wrap packages for here. I’ll put on some music and sip a hot beverage. It will be fun.

Breathe.

I have scheduled one day away from all chores and work to spend with my hubby. All is good.

Breathe.

Enjoy your holidays!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner. What organizing tips can we incorporate now to make this Christmas and the next a little less stressful?

Cards:
As the Christmas cards come in, take the time now to check addresses and update your contact list. Plan on how you want to handle the cards you receive. Do you want to keep all of your cards, just the very special ones, or none at all? If you like to use some pretty cards for gift tags, after the holidays put them in a small box, label them, and store them with your holiday wrap. If you want to keep some of the notes and pictures, consider scanning them. Another option is to place very special cards in your memorabilia box. If you plan on answering notes that you received in your cards, schedule the time to do this now or very likely they will sit in a bag or basket for the whole year (This I know very personally).

Wrapping Paper:
Let go of those little bits and pieces of the roll that are left after wrapping your gifts this year. You might want to keep some smaller pieces to use as gift tags. If this is your plan, put them in a small box, label them, and store them with your holiday wrap. Paper that came off gifts you received might be kept for next year if it is pristine. The same can be said for keeping and reusing gift bags. If you find that you have a lot of paper left from previous years, Now is the time to decide what you really love and let the excess go. Extra tissue paper can be used to wrap fragile ornaments when packing up after the holidays. Do have one place to store your entire holiday wrap collection.

Gifts:
Start your gift list for next year now. What have you discovered that your friends and family really love? Make a list. Keep a list of all clothing sizes. Shop all year round and keep all gifts that you buy in one place. This shows you how much you already have when the holiday shopping season hits next year. Tag the items with the names of who you though of when you bought the gift. If you do re-gifting, mark who gave you the original gift.

Decorations:
After Christmas, wrap up carefully all of your decorations that you plan to keep and use next year. As you box them, divide them up so that it will facilitate putting them out next year. I have all early advent items in the top of one marked box. Others, who do more extensive decorating, mark boxes by the rooms where the decorations are used. Discard broken or unloved items now.

Donations:
As you receive gifts, now is the time to donate what you no longer need or love. If you receive a new coffee pot, donate the old one. If you got a new robe, let the old one go to charity. Have children participate in clearing out toys they no longer love to make room for their new gifts.

Have a happy holiday season!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Annual Christmas Panic

OK, we are now really in December. Christmas will be here really soon.

Time to panic!

Noooo!

In spite of my best efforts, I have run behind on my timeline. In spite of my great plan early on, I have also over scheduled.

What should I do now to keep away that panic and stress?

Here is my current plan:

  1. Back to envisioning how I want this holiday to look and feel.
  • I want my holiday to include time with loved ones and friends.
  •  I want to feel happy and at peace with the world.

     2. Getting real about what can be done.

  •  I am still working on cards – but individual messages are going to be very brief and only to those I don’t communicate with except at Christmas.
  • My decorations will be less than previous years.
  • My house will not attract the board of health, but this is not the time for any deep cleaning or organizational projects.
  • I will streamline cooking – eat out more – and keep foods for the party and the holiday meal simpler than in the past.

    3. Getting help.

  • I will ask for help from friends and family as needed.
  • I will hire help for some cleaning and yard work.

    4. Revisiting my calendar.

  • I will move some items around to accommodate my new commitments.
  • I will let some items go.

   5. Taking care of myself first.

  • I will sleep more.
  • I will eat healthy (well, at least most of the time).
  • I will do my weights and walk.

   6.  Laughing and smiling – a lot.

  • I will schedule time with fun friends.
  • I will go to uplifting events.
  • I will laugh at the absurd and ridiculous – and that means laughing at myself at times.

OK – Now, I have a Plan B. I feel better.

     

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Christmas Gifts

I love to shop for Christmas gifts. I like to think about the people I am buying for and try to find something that reflects their likes and interests. I like to keep an eye all year round to find the special gift but usually really get motivated in November.
I remember so many Christmases past when our extended family would gather and presents would get piled up around the tree. The quick looks at a package- the lifting to feel the heft- the poking- all heightened the anticipation of opening the gifts on Christmas morning.
I love receiving the gifts as well. When I open the gifts I can tell that I have been thought of. I know that people cared enough to spend time finding what they thought would please me. I love to read, so I often got books. The books might not have been the ones I would have gone and bought myself, but I often found myself enjoying a book that I would never have chosen. I might find myself wearing and enjoying something that I would not have bought myself. You could feel the love.
I love seeing the aftermath of the gift opening. Especially rewarding is seeing the children, still sitting among the strewn papers playing with a cousin a new game.
Gift cards are great for some people- but for me- I love a gift.
I would love to hear what others feel about holiday gifts.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

To Tree or Not to Tree- That is the Question

A couple of days before Thanksgiving, I saw my first live tree on top of a car on its way to some one’s home. It made me consider when or if I was going to put up my tree.
My friends and family always seem to have a discussion about this time of year about putting up a tree.
I hear comments like:
“It’s just one more thing to trip over.”
“I’m not going to be home for Christmas anyway.”
“I don’t mind putting it up but I hate the job of taking it down.”
“I love my tree and I only want a real one.”
“My tree is up all year in the basement. I just unwrap it and bring it up.”
In spite of all the discussion, most of us do what we have always done. If we have had a tree in the past, we’ll have it now.
I thought about not having a tree this year (for about 30 seconds) because I would not be here for Christmas and it is a hassle to put up alone. Then I thought, “Well, what are friends for?” and asked a girl friend to help me put up my tree. In return, I will take her out that evening for a tour of homes in Decatur.
I will be simplifying and downsizing my decorating this year. I have made my schedule for all that I plan to do for the holidays and there is only so much time. But, even though I will be gone on Christmas, I will still enjoy my tree. I love getting up in the morning and turning on the lights and having my coffee just looking at my tree. My ornaments all hold meaning for me and I love to look at them.
Do you put up a tree or trees? What makes you want or not want the tree? I would love your feedback on this debate.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Christmas Memories

Every family has their traditions – the things you do year after year that flavor the holiday – the things you look forward to and look back and remember. One of the traditions that stands out for me are Christmas stockings. Our stockings held some of our most remembered gifts. I remember a ring when I was a preteen. I remember some fishing lures the year I received my own fishing pole. Our stockings were put out in different locations depending on what house we were in. I remember them by the heating stove. I remember them on the mantel. I remember them going up the stairs – one on each step. Christmas morning, the stockings were placed on each person’s lap. Adults had them too. We would delve in and you could hear the comments and laughter as items were fished out of the stockings. At first I am sure it was my mother who was responsible for the stockings when we were little, but as we girls grew older, we each contributed as well. At this point in our lives, we women go into a bedroom on the eve after any little ones are in bed and lay out all the stockings of everyone in the house. Sometimes it can be close to 20. We pull out our bags of goodies that we have been accumulating. Some items are for very specific people and if it is for one of us, we tuck it in when the recipient isn’t looking. Some gifts are more generic – socks, pens, candles, candy, lotions and they go into stockings that look like they are needing a little bit more. But the next morning– oh, the fun of it. We often know who put what in our stockings and smile our thanks to that person.
I have my bags of goodies ready to take to Florida and tomorrow night I will help with being one of Santa’s elves. Such fun!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

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Where does it go?

Gifts and purchases – This time of year we buy gifts for others and receive gifts. We might even be out there buying items for our own house. When we look at the potential purchases we tend to think of how they will make us or others happier. When contemplating an exercise device we think -the back will feel better. When contemplating the newest coffee maker -everyone in the house can have the type of coffee they like. When contemplating the bread making machine – it will be such a treat to make our own bread. When contemplating the drink machine- this will be so much fun at the next party.
Great thoughts but……. before you purchase something for yourself or others also think, where will it be housed or placed? Where do you or others have space to store it? If it is stored there will it get pulled out and used? What will have to leave the house to make room for this new purchase?
Do not let new purchases or gifts become clutter. If you receive something that you cannot use or have space to keep, consider passing it on to someone who can use it or has space for it. Try to give gifts of the non-cluttering type!
Enjoy your holidays!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

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Christmas strategy

Christmas is coming closer. We look at the calendar with a mixture of anticipation and fear. We look forward to seeing our grown children return home or visiting our family. We look forward to the favorite holiday rituals.
We panic over the things that have not yet happened. The cards to family are not yet mailed. When is the last date I can safely mail these packages? The gifts I ordered to be shipped overseas had to be back ordered and now I get an email that one of the items has been discontinued. When am I going to get the cookie baking done that I had scheduled for last week but couldn’t get to?
Breathe.
Remember your vision for the perfect holiday. Close your eyes and visualize what it will look and feel like. Now, come up with a plan for the setbacks. Put the cards not yet finished in a cloth bag, carry them with you, and work on them today and this weekend when waiting or when there is a few free moments. Set aside time on Sunday for wrapping those gifts that you have and prepare them to mail Monday.
Breathe.
Look at the calendar again and find another time to bake. Follow up on the unarrived gifts and send an email to Scotland explaining the problem. After all, your gift is not their only Christmas. The children will have lots of gifts and yours coming later will just be fine.
Breathe.
Take the time to see your friends and enjoy your mostly decorated home. (Finish decorating Saturday evening and put the boxes away.)
Breathe.
Enjoy your holidays!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

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Busy Women and the Holidaze

I enjoyed giving a presentation Wednesday to a group of professional women at Houston Healthcare in Warner Robins. The presentation dealt with reducing the stress that comes with the holidays.
I asked the group to first identify the triggers that in the past have caused stress. I next asked them to envision what their perfect holiday would look and feel like.
One of the main thrusts of the presentation was time management. While we are all pretty good about putting the major events on the calendar like parties and programs, we usually do not put down the times we plan to do holiday chores and rituals. As we went through the common rituals like shopping, decorating, sending cards and gifts, baking, parties at our home – I put on the calendar all the dates this would take place. By the time that was complete the calendar was pretty full – and the day to day living events like weekly grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, choir, children’s activities, paying bills, going to work, etc. was not on this calendar. I believe it was an eye opener.
What could be dropped without losing the Christmas vision? What was on the list that eats a lot of time and causes stress – could it be dropped?
The positive side of having all of these events on the calendar was that you could see how much time was devoted to the tasks and you did not have to worry about when you were ever going to find the time to do a task, because the task was already scheduled. This would allow you to go shopping with your children at the time you scheduled and really be in that moment with them without worrying about what else you should be doing. This allows you to throw a party and enjoy the party stress free because you have planned every task leading up to the party and have written those times on your calendar.
We also covered tips on how to keep the clutter low and use the time wisely when decorating, writing cards, gift wrapping, and baking.
The women were very responsive and I enjoyed the experience.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

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