It’s that Spooky Time of Year

Pumpkins, Turkeys, Menorahs, Santa Clause, Baby New Year are showing up everywhere. It may be getting too late to make reservations to see Santa. I saw an article at the end of September saying where the best places were to see Santa and how to make reservations. Scary!

How do we deal with all this holiday 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 new items you have added in recent years? Talk with other family members and get their input as well. You may be doing something for someone, like preparing a special food, that they no longer even enjoy.

I used to really go all out for Halloween when my children were little. I decorated. I helped them make costumes. We did the jack-o-lantern thing and then baked the pumpkin and made pie. It was a big deal. Now that my children are grown men, not so much. Now my husband and I put out a few pumpkins, a small inflatable scarecrow, light up a portable fire pit, and sit comfortably in our driveway waiting for the local trick-or -treaters.

My vision for almost all of my holidays has changed and simplified over the years. It’s good to acknowledge and embrace the change.

Develop a list of the most important things you want to do and experience in each holiday. Then go to your calendar and log in when you are going to do such tasks as parties, shopping, baking, cooking, decorating, undecorating, etc. Remember to build in time to just relax and enjoy your decorations and the holidays.

Make this time of year special and enjoyable for you.  

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Holiday Presents

Buying and receiving presents is so personal. Every family has their traditions and even within the family there are differences.

One of the things I like about my family gift giving plan is that each year we give to a different family member. This year I give to my sister and her family in Washington. Next year I will give to my brother and his family in Ohio.

When I reflect on gifts I consider:

  • The gift should be personal. I like gifts that show you know the person. You are aware of their  interests and needs. I do not want a gift card unless it is for an event or an experience. As an organizer, I have seen so many unused gift cards floating around and I wonder how many just get lost. To me a generic gift card is just like giving money. You give me money. I give you money. This is not very special to me.
  • Gifting memories is better than gifting items unless the person you are giving to has some real needs. Using the gift money for a holiday get together or a special play or event beats a sweater.
  • Thought should be given as to if the receiver has a place for whatever you are gifting. A bread maker is not a good gift for a person with a tiny kitchen.
  • Consumable gifts are good. This might be special coffee, sweets, special soaps, or being taken to the spa or to a theater.
  • Once something is gifted, it belongs to that person to do with as they wish.

Now having said all of that, I do try to listen to the wishes of others in my family. If all my nephew wants is a gift card to Amazon – so be it. If my brother wants a gift card so that he can buy the books that he wants – OK.

I would love to hear comments on how you and your family handle gifting.

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

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

Storage Zone

If you are using the zone plan for organizing, November is a good time to tackle the storage zone. Since this zone might be in your attic, basement, or garage, it often is not heated or air conditioned. The weather in November is not usually really hot or really cold and so this is the best time for this job.
When you are organizing your storage space, make a list of the type of items you plan to store here. Divide your storage area into zones ( archival paper, holiday decorations, decorative items, etc.). As you place items into each zone, take time to purge. Do I have some papers stored that can now be trashed or shredded? Am I really going to use that lamp again? Are my holiday decorations still fresh and reflective of my style? Have a plan for each area and make it accessible. This is not to be just a dumping area.
When storing holiday items, it is helpful to store the items in plastic tubs or containers. Color coordination is helpful. A yellow or orange tub could hold the Halloween decorations. A brown or orange tub could be Thanksgiving. Red or green for Christmas or blue for Hanukkah. Each box should be labeled. Boxes can be labeled by what is in them- ex. tree lights, creche, advent wreath- or by room-dining room, entry way, kitchen.
If your boxes are well labeled you will only need to bring out the ones you want and not have to dig through everything to find the advent wreath the first week of advent.
If your boxes are labeled by rooms, you can bring the boxes down and put them directly into the appropriate room for unpacking.
Some homes and condos have no real storage space. In that case, the best way to store the holiday items is to find an area in each room where the items are used. Christmas towels and candles can go in a back shelf of the linen closet. Entryway decorations can go in a marked box in the hall closet. Bedroom decorations might be stored in a box under the bed. Having your decorations spread throughout your home is less convenience than having them in one place, but may be necessary with limited storage space. It might be a good idea to put together a master list of what you have and where it is stored and drop it into a file labeled “holiday decorations.”

Please share the storage hints that have worked well for you.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer