Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you find some helpful hints for organizing your time and space. My passions are to help you make home a refuge instead of a crisis center, and to help you function in peace rather than chaos - at home or at work. I have switched my main blog to 1-2-3 ... Get Organized on WordPress, so please visit me there.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Buried by Holiday Mail?

Do you find yourself buried under a pile of mail each day? By standing next to your recycling bag, you can eliminate a huge portion of it. As you look through your mail, file those catalogs, ads, and sales fliers your're not interested in directly into your recycling container.

If you have time to read your Christmas cards, do so when you bring in the mail. If not, put them in a basket to read later and update your correspondence list.

Make sure to shred any sensitive mail - credit card offers, mail with account numbers, etc. To reduce the amount of junk mail you receive, write to: Mail Preference Service Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 9008, Farmingdale NY 11735-9008. Legibly type or print your full name, address, and zip code on the letter. Include a request to be removed from any marketing mailing list.

Stop the pre-approved credit card offers. Those 'pre-approved' credit card offers are a nuisance and a potential credit rating danger. (Be sure to shred all that get sent to you.) To stop a lot of them, you can call Trans Union at 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5-OPT-OUT).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Organizing your to do list

I have a page full of things I need to accomplish before Thanksgiving Day. To ease the chaos in my mind, I wrote down everything I could think of that I need to do between now and then.

Next, I put an M by the things I hoped to do today (Monday), a T by the things I hoped to do tomorrow (Tuesday), and a W by the things I plan to do on Wednesday.

Evaluating the Ms, I prioritized them by putting a 1 beside the most important and urgent item on the list, 2 on the next, and so on. Tomorrow, I'll look over the Ts and any Ms that didn't get done today and prioritize that list.

This process helped me keep focused on what I need to do, and motivated me to use my time well. It also showed me that I needed some help from my husband - he agreed to write the Christmas letter this year!!!

As things came to mind, I added them to my list - so everything is is one place and I'm less likely to forget something with a written list.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Destressing Christmas - One More Time!!

One more time on destressing for Christmas. This time it's an article by Mary Beth Breckenridge that appeared in today's Akron Beacon Journal. Mary Beth interviewed two other professional organizers and myself and wrote a very helpful and practical article you'll want to read. The link is: http://www.ohio.com/lifestyle/11513966.html?page=1&c=y

Friday, November 16, 2007

Organizing Your Holiday Meals

Take a little time and plan out your holiday meals from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
What will you serve for each meal?

- Is there a balance of protein, starch and green and red vegetables/fruit?

- Are there some items you could prepare in advance - breads, desserts, cornbread for cornbread stuffing, etc.?

- If you are having guests, what could they bring?

For each week, plan your menus and your shopping list. Try to go shopping only once a week to save those time-costly trips back to the grocery store.

- During such a busy time, try to piggy-back from one meal to another. Put a roast in the crockpot, and use the leftovers for beef stroganoff, for example.

- Have some ideas for using leftover turkey or ham: chow mein, stir fry, pasta salads, split pea soup with ham/hambone. Or freeze some in meal-size portions for the future when you are not turkey-weary.

- Have some easy-to-prepare foods on hand if you have a disaster day: frozen ravioli, for example.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Destressing Christmas, Part 6 - Think through your calendar

Think through your calendar

Write onto your calendar all the holiday events from school, sports teams, church, work, friends and family. Check with everyone in your family to make sure these are events they want to attend or think are important.

Schedule in those activities your family wants to include in their holiday celebration, including time to decorate, see Christmas lights, bake, make gifts, read stories, etc.

Is what you have scheduled on your calendar going to allow everyone to get enough sleep and rest? If not, rethink things. Create margins and boundaries. Know your own limitations as well as those of your family members.
Schedule in some "breather dates" into your calendar. When someone invites you to do something else, you can say you have something already scheduled - it's true!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Destressing Christmas, Part 5 - Think through your health


Don't go to a party hungry. Eat something before you go so you're not ravenous. Think ahead of time about the amount of food you will eat.

Don't give up your workout. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress. As your schedule gets more hectic, make sure to guard your exercise time. Eliminate something less important if you must eliminate something.

Don't neglect your sleep — you’ll be irritable and less able than usual to deal with stress. Research shows that your emotions will be all over the place and your logic powers suffer without sleep.
Make sure your family members are getting enough sleep, too. Try to keep normal bedtimes and naptimes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Destressing Christmas, Part 4 - Think through cleaning/decorating/entertaining


· Determine cleaning chores that need to be done for the holidays. Parcel out chores over the weeks remaining before Christmas. If the chores seem too overwhelming, divide them up into 15-minute segments and do them 2-4 times a day. If they are still too overwhelming, eliminate some!

· This is not a time for purchasing new furniture, major home repair, sewing or painting!

· As you decorate, remove regular decorating items and put them in the boxes from which you took your Christmas decorating items. That way, you won't have to remember where you put them. Take this opportunity to purge any decorating items or Christmas items you no longer need or want. A great time to declutter!
· Make holiday decorating a family affair, using items that have sentimental value to family members.

· When you put your Christmas items away, make a list of what you have - decorating items, wrapping supplies, paper products, cards, extra gift items, dishes, etc., so you don't duplicate them.

· If you choose to entertain, cook simple meals with some make-ahead dishes so it's not all last-minute. Consider buying dessert from a local bakery.

· If you're giving a party and people ask if they can bring something, let them!

· If you haven't been invited to a party, give one yourself, if you're inclined. Invite people who may not have relatives in town who don't have a party to go to either! It's a great time to make new friends.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Destressing Christmas, Part 3 - Think through gifts

Make a master list of gifts you need to buy or make along with a budget for the amount you want to spend. Stick to your budget and don't buy impulsively. Don't compete with family and friends - spend what you can afford.

Remember those gifts for teachers, Sunday School teachers, extra-curricular instructors, and stocking stuffers.

Buy the same gift for several people on your list, if appropriate. Take advantage of the sales after Christmas to shop for next year's list.

Plan your shopping trips. What stores might have most of your gifts? What is the most efficient route to the stores on your list? A little planning avoids backtracking, saving you time and gas.

Set a deadline for finishing your shopping to avoid crowds, the last-minute rush, and poor selection.

Consider gift certificates that can be sent to the recipients via email. Or shop online and have your purchases sent directly to the recipients.

Or, if you're into making your own Christmas gifts, mass produce a gift and give it to as many people on your list as possible. To reduce stress, choose a gift that doesn't have to made at the last minute.

As you buy or make gifts, wrap them so you don't have a massive pile to do at one time. Use TV time or other mindless time to wrap - you're doubling your time use.

Have a conversation with your children (if applicable) about realistic expectations so they won't be disappointed. They will be bombarded with commercial after commercial during the holiday season, and they may want it all!

Make gift suggestions to relatives who are shopping for your children (if applicable).

If you want to get away from expensive or excessive gifts, consider alternative ideas:

- Trade services: babysitting, cleaning, meal preparing, handyman work, etc.

- Instead of exchanging gifts, experience an event together - a day trip, cutting your own Christmas tree, a service project, etc.

- Take the money you would have spent on gifts for each other and donate it to a cause or your favoriate charity or a needy family.

- Consider giving a donation in their name to a charity of their choice. My parents live in Oklahoma and year of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, they asked us to donate to The Salvation Army in their names rather than give them gifts. Salvation Army was so instrumental in helping in the aftermath, they wanted to say thanks.

- Consider drawing names or doing a "nice" white elephant game with a dollar limit on the gift.

- Give gift certificates of your time or service.

Destressing Christmas, Part 2 - Think through your family/friendship needs and commitments


Be realistic about what your children (if applicable) will enjoy, understand, and be capable of doing in light of their ages. For example, if you always went to see The Nutcracker at Christmas time, but your children are 3 and 5, wait until they (and you!) will enjoy it more. And don't over-schedule.

Consider family problems when planning gatherings. Be proactive in order to minimize Uncle John's drinking problem by having a brunch rather than a dinner. If cousin Sally's conversation is predominantly negative or a never-ending flow, plan some conversation starters or games to reduce her dominance.

If it's just too difficult for you to travel during the holidays, don't let others guilt-trip you into travelling anyway. Be honest and stick to your guns for the benefit of you and/or your family. Invite your relatives to visit you (if that is better for you) or suggest another time of year for a visit when life is less hectic.

If getting together with your relatives is too painful or unhealthy, give yourself permission not to attend. If you, your spouse, or your children are subjected to verbal, emotional or physcial abuse, don't put yourself in this unsafe place. Even if it hurts others' feelings, you cannot allow yourself to condone unhealthy or painful treatment by attending.

Choose whom you want to spend time with over the holidays - friends or family who refresh, encourage, and cheer you. Take the initiative to make that happen.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Destressing Christmas, Part 1 - Think through your expectations

As your anticipate the holidays, think through your expectations. Talk with your family members or those with whom you will be spending the holiday season. Ask what is important to them to celebrate at Christmas - activities, traditions, food, spiritual emphasis, giving, service opportunities, etc. This is the time to determine what is important to emphasize.

Make a list of all your traditions, from decorating to Christmas caroling. Keep the ones you love (forget about impressing other people), and cross off the ones you don't. I have a tendency to feel I needed to incorporate all we had ever done, but it's rediculous if no one wants to do it!

Be flexible when things don't fit with your expectations. Christmas Day doesn't have to happen on December 25th. When we lived in Kenya, we worked with an expatriot medical team who usually gave their staff Christmas Day off. So we celebrated Christmas as a team on other days. My husband and I are going to my parents' home for Thanksgiving, but have to fly on Thanksgiving. So we are celebrating on Friday instead of Thanksgiving. Our children won't be with us for Christmas, but we'll adjust.

Enjoy the moment rather than compare it to memories or expectations. Be present and relish what is happening. And if it's not the greatest, do what you can to make it pleasant. Be other-centered instead of self-centered.

Keep a sense of humor. I like things to match and I appreciate beauty. However, my son-in-law insisted on placing a very ugly decoration on the tree one year. I did manage to resist my urge to snatch it off the tree, and we left it on the tree for giggles. It has now become a tradition.

Be realistic!!! Know what you can handle and what you cannot. Each year is different. One year we were moving right after Christmas and our holiday traditions were very few. Other years I decided to have a theme - starts, hearts, trees, etc. But after a few years, the number of decorations were getting out of hand so I stopped that tradition. Don't hesitate to limit activities so you can enjoy the season!!

Tomorrow we'll think through family/friendship needs and commitments.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

More about cookies

Speaking of cookies (see yesterday's blog), let me pass on an idea that my friend Pam and I have done to get ready for Christmas cookie baking. We used to set aside a day in December and make Christmas cookies all day, split them and stock our freezers. But that was pretty exhausting.

Then one year, we couldn't find a date in December and that changed things from then on. We decided to get together in November and just make the dough, freeze it in small batches, and cook as needed. It's so easy to just thaw a small amount, form into cookies, and bake! All the work and mess is over with and you have fresh baked cookies in a jiffy when you need them.

And the bonus was getting to spend the day with a friend!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies

My daughter Sara sent me this amazing list of cookie recipes. Thought you might like it as the holidays approach.

1-2-3 Cookies 7 Layer Cookies Allie Nelson's Famous Snickerdoodle Cookies Almond Crescent Shortbread Amish Sugar Cookies Andies Candies Cookies Angel Crisps Angenets Applesauce Cookies Apricot Fold-Overs Aunt Edy's Molasses Crinkles Auntie Linda's Ginger Gems Bakeless Dream Cookies Banana Drop Cookies Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World Biscotti Biscotti Blueberry Cookies Boiled Chocolate Oatmeal Drop Cookies Bronwnies Brown Sugar Shortbread Brownie Cookies Brownie Delight Brownies Buccaneer Snowballs Buried Cherry Cookies Butter Cookies Butter Nut Balls Butterballs Butterscotch Haystacks C.O.P. Cookies Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cookies Caramel Shortbread Cheesecake Brownies Cherry Buns Cherry Crowns Cherry Winks Chewies Chewy Noels Chinese Chews/Haystacks Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars Chocolate Chip Cookies Chocolate Chip Meltaways Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies Chocolate Christmas Trees Chocolate Cream Cheese Squares Chocolate Crinkles Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (no bake) Chocolate Snowball Cookies Chocolate Streusel Bars Chocolate Sundae Cookies Chocolate Walnut Crumb Bars Choco-Scotch Crunchies Choose A Cookie Dough Recipe Christmas Crackers Christmas Crunch Bars Christmas Ginger Snaps Christmas Macaroons Christmas Mice Cookies Christmas Shaped Cookies Church Window Cookies Coconut Cookies Congo Squares Cookie in a Jar Corn Flakes Cookies Cornflake Christmas Wreaths Cowboy Cookies (oatmeal) Cream Cheese Cookies with Apricot Filling Crème De Menthe Chocolate Squares Crème Wafers Crescent Cookies Crispy Crunchies Date Nut Balls Date-nut Pinwheel Cookies Diabetic Peanut Butter Cookies Disgustingly Rich Brownies Doodles Double chocolate chip cookies Double-Chocolate Crinkles Eatmore Cookies Eggnog Cookies Elizabeth's Sugar Cookies Elves Quick Fudge Brownies Emily Dickinson's Gingerbread Cookie Recipe Emily's Best Brownies Famous Oatmeal Cookies Firemen Cookies Fluffy Shortbread Cookies Forgotten Cookies Frosted Peanut Butter Brownies Fruit Cake Cookies Fruitcake Squares Fry Pan Cookies Gems Ginger Cookies Ginger Crinkles Gingerbread Baby Gingerbread Cookies with Butter Cream Icing Gingerbread Men Gingerbread Men Ginny's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Glory's Golden Graham Squares Glory's Sugar Cookies Gramma Chapman's chocolate coconut drops Grandma Elsie's Zimt (cinnamon) Cookies Grandma J's Butter Cookies Grandma Olson's Parkay Cookies Great Grandmothers Sugar Cookies Gum Drop Cookies Gumdrop Gems Haystack Cookies Ho-Ho Bars Holiday Cereal Snaps Holiday Chocolate Butter Cookies Holiday Raisin Walnut Bars Holly Cookies Hungarian Cookies (Little Nut Rolls) Ice Box Cookies Irresistible Peanut Butter Cookies Italian Cookies Jacob's Peppermint Snowballs Jam Bars Jessica's Famous Brownies Jessie's Chocolate Chip Cookies Jubilee Jumbles Juliet's Peanut Butter Blossoms Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies Kentucky Colonels Kiefle (cream cheese cookies with jam filling) Kifflings Kiss Cookies Lacy Swedish Almond Wafers Lemon Angel Bar Cookies Lemon Bars Lemon Cake Cookies Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies Lemon Squares Linzer Tarts Log Cabin Cookies Luscious Lemon Squares M&M Cookies Magic Cookie Bars Melt in Your Mouth Cutout Sugar Cookies Melting Shortbread Meme's Cream Cheese Cookies Milk Chocolate Florentine Cookies Mincemeat Cookies Mincemeat Goodies Molasses Cookies Molasses Forest Cookies Molasses Sugar Cookies Mom Mom's Crescent Cookies Mom-Mom's Ginger Cookies Mom's Nutmeg Sugar Cookies Mom's Old Fashion "Puffy" Sugar Cookies Monster Cookies Moravian Christmas Cookies Nana's Famous Soft Southern Cookies Nitey Nite Cookies No Bake Chocolate Cookies No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No-Bake Cookies Norwegian Sugar Cookies Nut Balls Oatmeal Bars Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies Oatmeal Coconut Crisps Oatmeal Cookies Oatmeal Scotchies Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies Ooey Gooey Caramel Chocolate Dunk Ooey Gooey Squares Orange Slice Cookies Parking Lot Cookies Peanut Blossoms Peanut Butter Bars Peanut Butter Blossoms Peanut Butter Cereal Cookies Peanut Butter Chewies Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut butter fingers Peanut Butter Reindeer Peanut Butter Surprises Peanut Marshmallow Cookies Pecan Puff Cookies Peppermint Snowballs Peppernuts Persimmon Cookies Persimmon Cookies Petey's Yummy Spicy Almond Thins Pfeffernuesse Pffefferneuse Cookies Pineapple Filled Cookies Pizzelles Potato Chip Cookies Potato Flake Cookies Praline Cookies Praline Strips Pterodactyl Nests Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin Chip Cookies Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Pumpkin Cookies Queen Biscuits Quick Cookies Raised Sugar Cookies Raisin Filled Oatmeal Bars Raspberry Meringue Bars Really Peanutty Butter Cookies Reese`s Brownies Reese's Peanut Butter Bars Rich Flavor Christmas Cookies Rich Lemon Bars Ricotta Cheese Cookies Royal Almond Christmas Bars Rudolph Cinnamon Cookies Russian Tea Cookies Russian Teacakes Samantha & Kelsey's Chocolate Chip Cookies Sand Art Brownies Santa Claus Cookie Pops Santa Claus Cookies Santa's Butterscotch Melts Santa's Shorts Santa's Special Squares Scotch Cakes Scotch Shortbread Scotcharoos Scotcheroos Seven Layer Cookies Short Bread Cookies Shortbread Skor Squares Snicker Doodle Cookies Snickerdoodles Snickerdoodles Snow Balls Sour Cream Apple Squares Sour Cream Christmas Cookies Special K Cookies Spice Cookies Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Spritz Cookies Stained Glass Window Cookies Stir & Drop Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Swedish Pepparkakor (Pepper Cake) Cookies Swedish Sugar Cookies Sweet Marie's Swiss Treats Taralle (Italian Cookies) Tea Time Tassies Texas Brownies The Best Shortbread in The World Thumbprint Cookies Thumbprint Cookies Toffee Squares Traditional Christmas Sugar Cookies Traditional Gingerbread Men Cookies Triple-Chocolate Chip Cookies Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies Vanilla Waffer Balls Walnut Butter Cookies Walnut Crumb Bars White Chip Chocolate Cookies Wild Oatmeal Cookies Will's Famous Apple Jack Cookies Yummy Yummy Peanut Butter Blossoms