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, October 28, 2011

Destressing Christmas 2011, Part 3 - Smart Gift Giving

With the economy being so difficult, we all may need to get very creative in the gift-giving department this year. I hope the following re-post helps. 

My brother loves the crowds and the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping. I don’t know many others who do, though! I am stressed if I have to elbow my way through a store or not be able to find what I want because I waited too late. If you are smart, you can make holiday gift-giving less stressful. Here are a few ideas:

- 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.

- Set a deadline for finishing your shopping in order to avoid crowds, the last-minute rush, and poor selection. Remember those gifts for teachers, religious 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 time and gas.

- Consider gift certificates that can be sent to the recipients via email or U.S. mail. Or shop online and have your purchases sent directly to the recipients. You don’t have to wrap either of these gifts!

- 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 be made at the last minute. Create deadlines for each stage of production, if applicable, so you’re finished in plenty of time.

- 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. How efficient - you're doubling your time!

- Your children will be bombarded with commercial after commercial during the holiday season, and they may want it all! Have a conversation with them about realistic expectations, so they won't be disappointed. Make gift suggestions to relatives who are shopping for your children.

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

- Instead of exchanging gifts, experience an event together: a day trip, a service project, a holiday event, etc.

- Take the money you would have spent on gifts for each other and donate it to a cause or your favorite charity or a needy family. My parents live in Oklahoma and the year of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, they asked us to donate to The Salvation Army in their names, as that organization was so instrumental in helping during the aftermath.

- 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: babysitting, cleaning, meal preparation, handyman work, running errands, etc.

- Consider a “buy nothing” Christmas. This site gives scores of ideas from people who want to leave no footprint on the earth. Last year we gave home-grown herbs from our garden to some of our family and friends.

- With some friends or family, you may want to call a moratorium on gifts, especially when you get to the point of not needing anything. If it’s the thought that counts, try writing your thoughts down and giving them a note or letter expressing your gratitude for their friendship or love.

The holidays can be a stressful time. With a little planning, you can reduce the stress of holiday shopping and enjoy blessing your friends and family - without straining your budget or your temper! 

What are your creative gift-giving ideas?

More on destressing Christmas:

Destressing Christmas 2011, Part 1 - Thinking Through Your Expectations

Destressing Christmas 2011, Part 2 - Thinking Through the Needs of Your Family and Friends

Organize Your Life in Three Weeks

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Top 50 Productivity Blogs Award for 2011 - Two Years in a Row!


1-2-3 ... Get Organized has been named one of the Top 50 Productivity Blogs for 2011 by Evan Carmichael's The Entrepreneur Blog. Check out the others on his list! I'm honored!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

10 Tips on Preparing for a Long-Distance Move

If you know a move is imminent in your future, start planning now! We started planning last Christmas for our move in October, as we felt the timing would be right to make a change. Here are some steps we used which might be helpful to you.

1. Start decluttering. When I put the Christmas decorations away last Christmas, I began purging. Even though I had gone through Christmas decorations other years, there was more I could get rid of. I had an advantage - I could leave what I didn't want for future houseparents to use. I didn't have to worry about disposing of them.

Each season, I would do the same - purge out those items I no longer wanted or needed. I did the same with other things as I had a chance, too - kitchen linens (tablecloths, placemats, kitchen towels, etc.), books, knick knacks, vases, dishes, towels and other linens, and clothing.

2. Start scanning and shredding. We had a goal of reducing our file cabinets from two four-drawer and two two-drawer cabinets to one four-drawer cabinet. My husband started using our Epson scanner to put many of the files onto our computers instead of leaving them in paper form. 

If you have a bunch of papers you no longer need, but they contain sensitive information, start shredding! Our heavy duty shredder was a gem! Here are some tips on what you need and don't need:

You only need to keep back-up information for income taxes for the last seven years. Beyond that date, just keep the income tax forms.

For investments, once you have received the end-of-year statement, the monthly or quarterly statements may be discarded. 

The same with bank statements - once you have reconciled your bank statement with deposit slips, payments, etc., keep the bank statement and get rid of the rest. 

Once you've received your W-2 from your employer, you can toss your pay stubs.

Since moving is charged by the pound, and paper is heavy, it is wise to get rid of as much paper as possible. We felt like a huge weight has been lifted to get rid of all that paper!

3. Get your important documents together. Just as we talked about in a previous blog post about having your important documents in one place in case of a quick evacuation, you'll want all your important papers with you when you move, whether in your car as you drive or with you on a plane. Here's a list of what you need.

4. As it gets to be time to pack, you'll want to declutter again. Even though I purged things throughout the year, I found more to purge when I went through those boxes again. I would ask myself, "Do I want to pay to move this?"

5. Start packing if you are going to pack yoursef. Place items that will go in the same room in the same box. Label the contents and label the box according to the room in which it will go. Remember that items that go in a certain room now, may fit better in a different room in your new home.

6. Once you have started packing, interview movers. By the time they come, you should have decided what will go and what will stay. We decided to hire Two Men and a Truck. We liked the idea that the same guys that packed our truck would drive it and unpack it. No one else's stuff would be on the truck. And it would arrive at the same time we would, not 7-15 days later.

As it turns out, the two guys who moved us had both been teenagers who had lived in two of our Shelter Care homes. Small world. It was nice to see them doing well after having a difficult start in life. 

Another thing I liked about Two Men and a Truck is that when they give you a quote, it will not change on the other end. I've heard many horror stories of moving companies who quote one price and add costs later. And Two Men and a Truck allow you to charge your move to your credit card, unlike many moving companies who require a cashier's check or cash. 

7. Close out your safe deposit box and retrieve any items loaned to others. Place the items from your safe deposit box in your important paper box, if appropriate.

8. Inform friends, family, businesses, and service providers of address change, email address change, telephone change, etc. Because we were having to change internet providers, we had to change our email addresses. You want to have plenty of time to inform people and transfer your address list.

9. Plan your trip. Determine how far you will travel each day and make hotel reservations or other arrangements for each night. If you need to change them, like we did, you usually have until 3 or 4 pm to do so without being charged.

10. On moving day, walk through the house to make sure the movers got everything. On the day the movers arrive, walk through the truck to make sure they didn't leave anything on the truck. Have snacks for them and tip them if you liked their work. Check for damage and write it on the document you sign off on so you can be reimbursed for loss or repair. 

Moving is a huge job! It's wise to start as soon as you know you're going to move. If you need help, hire a professional organizer who will be able to help you declutter and sort. 

More help on moving:
Three Steps to Downsizing to a Smaller Residence
Three Steps to Decluttering
Declutter Any Room in 3 Weeks

Monday, October 24, 2011

Destressing Christmas 2011, Part 2 - Thinking Through the Needs of Your Family and Friends

I'm excited about Christmas this year! In Christmases past, it was a major ordeal to get three households together from three different parts of the world. Now our one daughter is planning to come and join the rest of us here in Montana. I can't wait!

Today we'll look at another way to destress Christmas: thinking through the needs of your family and friends. By using this as a filter, you can reduce some holiday stress. Here are a few ideas:

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

Do you have friends who might be alone whom you could include in your holiday plans? Have you included a healthy amount of giving to others who might otherwise be neglected? Your heart will overflow with joy as you reach out to others! It doesn't need to be expensive, just something that says you're thinking about them.

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

- 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 traveling anyway. Be honest and stick to your guns for your own benefit and that of 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.

- Consider the needs of your nuclear family. If you have small children who need naps and a consistent bedtime (who doesn’t qualify for that one?!!), don’t overschedule. Make sure the events you plan to attend are age appropriate for your children. Don’t have an unrealistic idea of what they can grasp and endure.

- Study your family. Know what delights each one and what stresses each one, including yourself. Plan accordingly. When our girls were small, one of our daughters would respond to an overplanned schedule by vomiting - a pretty clear message! (Sorry to be graphic.) So I had to be careful not to pack our schedule too tightly.

One of our daughters loved to help my husband get the tree in the stand and put the lights on. The other one did not! So we did not include it as a family event, but chose other things they both liked, like the Christmas Eve service at our church.

By anticipating your needs and those of your family and friends, you can be intentional about your holidays. You’ll be able to weed out those items that don’t fit, plan around potential hazards, and create memorable experiences for those you love.

More on Christmas:

Easy Decadent Fudge Recipe

Toy decluttering

Tackle the Clutter before Christmas

Three Steps to Clever Cleaning

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Some of My Favorite Organizing Products - My Heavy Duty Shredder

We always have good intentions of keeping up with our shredding, don't we? But it gets out of hand and we overheat our shredders (or catch them on fire!!) when we finally get around to shredding.  

One of the best investments we've made is the Royal MC14MX 14 Sheet Microcut Paper Shredder. It is a heavy duty shredder which will shred 14 sheets of paper at a time.

I don't know about you, but we get a lot of paper. Even though we've joined LifeLock, which removes us from credit card ads, etc., we still manage to have a considerable amount of mail and documents to be shredded.

What I like about our shredder:
- it's heavy duty - if it is getting close to overheating, which is rare, it stops
- the shredding basket holds 10 gallons of paper
- it microcuts, which means it shreds into one-fourth the size of normal shreds
- it shreds 14 sheets of paper at the same time
- staples, DVDs, CDs and credit cards can be shredded
- auto stop and start
- it makes the job of shredding shorter and safer.

I can't remember where we bought ours, but I saw it on several online sites at varying prices. And there are similar products at local office supply stores. It's an investment, but in my opinion, well worth it if you do a lot of shredding. 

More on my favorite organizing products:

Some of My Favorite Organizing Products - The Epson 1500 Scanner

Some of My Favorite Organizing Products - Cabinet Expanders

Some of My Favorite Organizing Products - Tall Laundry Hampers