Surviving the Holidaze

Thanksgiving is almost here. The Holidaze season is already upon us. This is the time to make your calendar one of your best friends.

There is so much to do during this season and the ideas just spin around in our head. When will we get it all done?

Most of us are pretty good about putting major events on the calendar like parties and programs. What we do not put down are the times we plan to do holiday tasks and rituals.

First, brainstorm with your family all that you would like to do in the next couple of months.

Next, bring out the calendar that you use daily – you know – the one that has regular family events on it like PTA, choir practice, sports events, doctor appointments, etc. Plug into this calendar the non-negotiable holiday events. This might include special church or holiday events, traveling to visit a relative, a business or neighborhood party, or a special school event.

Now, think about the rituals your family loves to do each year. Check over that brainstorming list for new ideas. This might include making cookies or a gingerbread house. You might like to get a tree and decorate. Perhaps you like to send out cards. Maybe you have an annual shopping spree event. Do you like to give an annual party? All of these rituals are fun, but to really enjoy them, time must be planned for them to happen. So, now block out on your calendar – just like events you go to – the times you plan to do each one of these rituals. Some may take multiple days.

If your calendar already looks too full, discuss what might be dropped this year. Do not fill in every spare moment because you know unexpected opportunities will appear. Allow some time to enjoy your home and your decorations. Allow some reflective and quiet time during this busy season.

Above all, enjoy your holidays!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

The Time is Near- Happy Holliday!

The holiday season is rushing toward us. This year we have quite a crunch with Chanukah starting on Nov. 27, Thanksgiving on Nov. 28, and Advent beginning Dec. 1. Our holidays become a long list of “things to do now.” We end up exhausted by our over commitment, over buying, over eating, and sleep depravation.

How do we escape this madness?

  1. Work on your vision right now of how you want this season to look and feel. What is really important to you over the holiday season? What are your big 3 items? What do you dread about the holidays?  What do you want to change? Make a “do not do” list.  Have a family meeting and let everyone share what they would like to do over the holiday season. Compromise and come up with a plan then make a list.
  2. Brainstorm all that has to happen in order for this vision to come true. Assign tasks to everyone. Get very specific and detail oriented.
  3. Block out times on your calendar. Don’t just put in the events but also schedule tasks like shopping, putting up the tree, decorating, baking, and sending out cards. If the calendar looks overwhelming, see if there is anything you can delegate or eliminate. Leave some days blank for the unknown.
  4. Designate zones in your house for holiday activities. Set up a gift wrapping/card writing zone. Designate a staging area for house decorations.
  5. Come to my workshops on Surviving the Holidaze either on Oct. 10 at The Juice Box, 6300 Posers Ferry Road Nw, Atlanta, GA 30339 (5:00 – 6:30) or on Oct 13 at Atlanta Unity, 3597 Parkway Lane, Norcross, GA 30092 (1:00 – 2:00). The workshops are full of good ideas and tips and a chance to win a door prize. Call 404-299-5111 or email to register.

What ever you do, visualize this holiday season so that you experience the joy and not the stress!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

The Calendar – Your BFF for the Holidays

I have talked before about the importance of defining your vision for the holidays and then making plans to fit that vision.

How much is too much? What is really important to you?
After developing your vision, and then brainstorming all you need to do to make your vision come true, actually placing those tasks on your calendar, makes it real.

I use a paper monthly calendar to get the whole picture. I  color code the tasks. I use the categories of  major events (black), traditional holiday rituals and chores (green) , baking or other food preparations (red), and the giving of a party(blue).
Remember that all of these tasks are on top of what you normally do. It can get pretty scary seeing so many of the blocks on the calendar get filled in.

Major events will include all parties, plays, church events, plays, concerts, etc. that you wish to attend.

Holiday rituals and chores will include time for sending out cards, buying gifts and wrapping them, mailing gifts,decorating your home, and hauling out the holiday CDs.

Food preparation will include finding recipes for, buying ingredients for, and actually preparing all special holiday baked items, special meals as well as dishes you take to events.

Giving a party will include making your guest list, sending out invitations, planning the menu, shopping, decorating, and extra cleaning.

Is this what you want? If it is too much for you, what can you let go? Decide this up front and have a family consensus. This will keep you from impulsively agreeing to doing too much.

The lovely thing about having it all down on the calendar, is that you don’t worry about when you can possibly get it all done – you have a plan for it.

Just be sure you allow some free time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and some extra “wiggle” time to allow for life’s unexpected events.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Harried Holidays

It’s almost Christmas! I look at the calendar and am at the same time excited and frantic. I am so looking forward to having my grown boys and spouse visiting. I am still looking forward to some parties, gatherings, and church events. I am enjoying the holiday foods and music.
But, whoa! A lot of things are still not done. The cards have not yet been mailed. One of the gifts I ordered is back ordered and may not make it on time. I still have more baking to do. The house is still in disarray from some recent events. No gifts have been wrapped.
I must remember my vision for the perfect holiday. How can I still make this happen? How do I deal with my schedule setbacks?
OK. The cards that are not finished can go in a bag with me in the car. When I need to sit and wait for an appointment I’ll have them with me. I’ll have moments here and there and if I just do a few each time, I’ll make it.
The back ordered gift will not make it but I can cut out the picture from the catalog and put it in a card with the promise of the gift when it arrives. After all, it will not be his only gift.
Some baking may not get done and the most important items can be done next week.
The house can be tackled in small increments. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Sunday I ‘ll put on some music and wrap the gifts. It will be fun.
I plan to take time this weekend to see some friends and go to a church event. The holiday spirit will be there. By the time family arrives, all will be good. It doesn’t have to be perfect. No one will care.
Enjoy your holidays!!!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Sending Holiday Cards – Joyfully!

I love getting holiday cards! Each day I prance to the mailbox to see what came. I display my cards on my bookshelves.

Every year, almost 2 billion holiday cards are sent to bring warm holiday wishes to those we love. The custom of sending greeting cards can be traced back to the ancient Chinese, who exchanged good will messages to celebrate the New Year and to early Egyptians who ssent greetings on papyrus scrolls. So, this is not a new thing.

For me this is often the only time I connect with some of the people on my list. I catch up on a year’s worth of happenings with this card exchange.

Sending out cards can be very time consuming and therefore add to our stress. So how can we make this tradition less stressful and more joyful?

  1. Schedule time on your calendar to send out the cards. Do not try to do them all in one fell swoop. Instead, schedule multiple 45 minute blocks and set your timer.
  2. prepare a basket with all the materials you need to send out your cards. Pull out this basket on your scheduled times. Fix a hot beverage. Listen to some music. Reflect on the people to whom you are sending the cards. Tailor the card to the recipient.
  3. Write a line or two that is personal to the recipient unless they are friends you see often.
  4. Have some extra cards available so that you can reciprocate all cards you receive.
  5. Consider getting help from others in the family even if it is just putting on return addresses and stamps.
  6. Plan to send early to ensure timely delivery. This is especially true for those cards going abroad.
  7. Buy special stamps early. Count up what you think you will need so that you only have to make one trip to the post office to buy them.
  8. If you just can’t find the time before the holidays, you might consider sending out New Years cards.

Happy Holiday! I’ll be looking for my card from you ;-}

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Preparing for Holiday Cooking: Organizing the Pantry

This time of year is great for organizing the pantry. It gives you a chance to organize your food items to see what is on hand for the increased cooking that comes with the holidays. The purging of unneeded items as well as organizing what you are keeping will open up space for the extra items you bring in for special holiday dishes.

It doesn’t matter if you have a very small pantry of only a few shelves or a large walk in pantry, after a year things will have gotten out of order and need organization.

Organize your pantry like a grocery store. Have all pastas and grains in one area. Put all canned goods in another area, separating vegetables, fruit, soups, etc. If you have more than one can of green beans or tomato soup, put the newer cans behind the older cans in order to keep rotating your food. While going through the process of organizing the cans and condiments, take a look at expiration or “best used by” dates. Discard cans that are past their expiration date and donate cans of items you bought some time ago but have no plan of using soon. This will open up your shelves for holiday shopping.

Think before you stock up on large quantities on a sale. Will you really use all those cans before they expire? Do you have space to store the cans in a usable manner? Are you saving enough money or time shopping by buying in bulk to make up for the inconvenience of cramming your shelves or having to look elsewhere to store the extras? Next year will you find 10 cans of pumpkin in the garage along with the 20 rolls of paper towels?

Once organized, you will be surprised at how much space you now have for your holiday shopping.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Holiday Travel

Many of us will be traveling over the holidays. Planning for this travel experience can help keep it from being a dreaded time and might even turn it into a part of your overall holiday experience.
If reservations are involved in your travel, designate a folder or better yet a bright colored plastic envelope to hold all reservation information- car reservations, flight, bus, or train reservations, hotel reservations, etc. If you need your passports, slip them in there too. This envelope will travel with you in your car or carry on.
Have a packing list. This will not only make sure you get everything packed but look at it again before coming home to make certain nothing gets left behind. Don’t forget to include items like medicines and books.
If you are traveling by plane and parking your car at the airport, take a picture of the parking location sign with your camera phone or digital camera in case you lose that slip of paper with the location jotted down on it.
Before taking off, check the weather at destinations and check on any new wrinkle in what TSA is requiring.
If you are traveling out of the country, scan your passport, driver’s license, and any other important document and email them to yourself so that if you find yourself in a position where you need a copy, you can simply access your email and print them out.
Always put your flight number and name inside each checked bag in case the bag tag falls off.
If part of your travel involves traveling with young ones, put together a pacifying travel kit – something new for each child like a book or quiet game or a camera or a notebook to draw and write a journal. Also add snacks that travel well as well as sanitizer and wipes.
Don’t push yourself when traveling. Leave extra time. Try to enjoy the trip. Allow lots of time between connections – time to get a meal, stretch your legs, or to read or listen to a book on tape.
My son, Darin, and I will be traveling to Ohio by car. We will rent a car as we both drive “clunkers.” We will pack books and music, food, and extra outerwear, boots, and blankets. It will be a good visit time for us as well.
Stay safe over the holidays!
Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Surviving the Holidaze

Thanksgiving is next week. The Holidaze season is upon us. This is the time that the calendar must become your good friend.
Make a list of all the things you are planning to do between now and New Years Eve. Your list might include items like mailing holiday cards, decorating, preparing special meals or baking, giving and/or going to a party, travel, going to plays or concerts, shopping and wrapping gifts….
Get out your calendar or planner. Use the one that has all of your regular family events on it like PTA, choir practice, sports events, doctor appointments, etc. Now block out the times for all of the things on your list. Some items like shopping, preparing and mailing holiday cards, decorating, or baking may take multiple entries. If you are planning on ordering gifts, especially some that may have to be mailed, leave plenty of time for delivery on your calendar.
Do not book that calendar solid. Allow some time to enjoy your home and your decorations. Allow some reflective and quiet time during this busy season.
If your calendar looks overwhelming, stop and think about your vision for your holidays. Are you doing some things simply because they have always been done? Are there some items on your list that can be dropped?
I would love to hear how you manage your activities over the holiday season.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Ho, Ho, No! Seasonal Chaos!

It’s that time of year again. Pumpkins, Turkeys, Menorahs, Santa Clause, Baby New Year are showing up everywhere. I always am taken aback when I read in the newspaper that the Santa reservations (at $15 a pop) are sold out by Oct. 15 at Phipps Plaza.
How do we deal with all this seasonal clutter? Like any clutter, it can cause you stress.
Right now is the time to sit down, breathe, and write down your vision of how you want the holidays to look and feel. What is important to you in each season? Has this changed over time? Are you on autopilot doing what you have always done plus the new items you have added in recent years?
I used to really go all out for Halloween when my children were little. I decorated. I helped them make costumes. It was a big deal. Now that my children are in their forties, not so much. I may put out a pumpkin and buy some candy- done. My vision of this season is simply to enjoy the neighborhood children and their costumes.
My vision for each holiday has changed as my life has changed. Do you allow changes in your expectations?
Develop a list of the most important things you want to do and experience in each holiday. If you live with others, check with them about what their most important items are. Now go to your calendar and start to log in when you are going to do tasks such as parties, shopping, baking, cooking, decorating, un-decorating, etc. Remember to build in time to just relax and enjoy your decorations and your holidays.
I would love to hear how you handle your holiday stress.
Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Kitchen Zone

If you are following the zone plan, this is the best month for the kitchen. If you organize your kitchen now, it will be ready for the heavier holiday use.
Divide your kitchen into 4 zones and tackle just one zone a week. This way the job will not feel so overwhelming.

Week one – work on the Cooking Zone. This would involve cleaning the stove, oven, and microwave as well as organizing pots, pans, cooking utensils, and bake-ware. If your space is crowded, consider giving away pots that are rarely used. If you have special cookware that is used only for a specific holiday, consider storing that item with the holiday decorations instead of taking up space in your kitchen all year long.

Week two – work on the Food Preparation Zone. This would include cleaning out the refrigerator as well as organizing cutting boards, knives, mixing bowls, spices, mixers, blenders, measuring cups and spoons. After emptying out and cleaning the refrigerator, return items to specific zones in your fridge. There might be a dairy zone, a snack zone, a leftovers zone, a fresh produce zone.
Check your cutting boards. Are they still usable? Keep only the best ones. Check your spices. Get rid of the ones that are past their prime and see what might be needed for the holiday cooking.

Week three– work on your Dishes Zone. This will include your sink and dishwasher. Organize your dishes, bowls, mugs, glasses, and flatware. Again, purge any items you do not need.

Week four– work on your Food Serving Zone and your Food Storage Zone. Look over placemats, napkins, trivets, large serving pieces and any groups of items you have not already organized. When you go through your pantry, pull out any cans that you have been holding on to and are reaching expiration or you do not expect to use soon. Donate these to a food pantry. When you replace your food in the pantry, group the foods by type – all soups together, all vegetables, all pasta, etc.

Any cleaning/organization areas that were missed like cleaning windows, light fixtures, or the floor can be added to any week that you have enough time.
Now step back and enjoy your fresh kitchen. You are ready for the holidays!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer