Sunday, November 30, 2014

Organizing Tips for December

photo courtesy of

We are approaching the end of the year but this is a busy month for everyone.  Some organizing strategies for this season have already been covered in the previous months.  Here are some final reminders and tips to help you through the holidays and the end of the year.

  • Children and adults should take time to donate any items that are no longer useful. Many families will be forced to shop at thrift stores for holiday gifts and donating toys and clothing can be a blessing you will never see. 
  • If you have not done so already, immediately send cards, packages, newsletters and email messages.
  • Begin traditions with your family if you have not already begun them. For young children, simple activities such as baking cookies or decorating packages are best. Older children can help with community or church events. The family can purchase gifts for an "Angel Tree", read the Christmas story together, watch a favorite Christmas movie, etc. Keep it simple.
  • Take pictures of family and friends and the decorations you chose as a keepsake and reminder for next year. 
  • Be flexible on the big day and welcome any help offered. Don't sweat the small stuff and keep the mood light and happy.
  • Avoid the after Christmas sale unless you absolutely immediately need the items. Avoid the long lines, parking problems and traffic jams. Items that need to be returned can usually wait for a few days. 
  • Resist the urge to buy more holiday decorations just because they are on sale.
  • Keep a journal of what worked and what didn't, the gifts you gave and any changes you would make in the future. Keep a list of clutter free gifts you can give next year. (A list can be found in my book on pages 103-105.)
  • Keep the collection of all the lists, ideas, recipes, pictures, evaluations, etc. related to the holiday in a manila folder or create a folder for them on your computer. 
  • Plan the holiday clean up when others are there to help you.  Make it as much a part of the traditions as decorating.
  • As you put up and take down the decorations, consider purging what you can. Eliminate as much permanent storage as possible. Make sure all items are clean and in good repair.  Try to maintain only those things with special significance or that cannot be replaced. Donate or pass on the others. 
  • Consider color coding holiday containers and label with the contents.
  • If you have space, hang bows in bags on hooks to maintain their shape.
  • Set a family goal to make the holidays even more meaningful next year. Adopt a charity, volunteer in the community, participate in your church holiday program, etc. Write down your decision and make plans for it next year.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Organizing Tips for November

Photo courtesy of
With the holiday season approaching, this month we will concentrate on organizing the kitchen and pantry.  At the end of this article are a few other tips to consider in November.  Hopefully these will make planning and staying organized easier.

Maintain a current inventory of food supplies.  Check the pantry often to be sure you do not get caught short as grocery store shelves get depleted quickly.  I have already purchased my frozen pumpkin pies and Pillsbury All Ready Pie Crust.  (Please don’t cringe; my family doesn’t know the difference!)

  • Arrange food items, cookware and utensils used in food preparation as close to the range and refrigerator as possible.
  • Remove items from one cabinet at a time and sort.
  • Dispose of any expired food products, broken appliances, containers without lids, lids without containers and excess margarine tubs, grocery bags, etc. that you may have collected.
  • Place any food products, cookware, appliances or utensils you do not use in a donate or sell container.
  • Clean the cabinet and place a shelf liner that can be wiped clean on the shelf.
  • Place similar types of food items together.
  • Canned foods can be placed on stair step shelves that can adjust to the width of the cabinet, in gravity feed containers like those used for soda cans or on pull out shelves or racks.
  • Spices can be stored on smaller stair step shelves in cabinets or drawers or on turntables.
  • Unless you use them quickly, boxes of cereals, pastas, rice and other dry goods that have been opened should have the contents moved to air tight containers.  Clear plastic containers or recycled clear glass food containers with labels are good choices.
  • Use a standard size of food container for leftovers.  The lids should fit the shallow and deeper containers to make organizing easier.  Square and rectangular containers use space more efficiently and clear containers make identification easier.
  • Free standing wire shelves, under the shelf wire baskets, pull out wire baskets or shelves and turntables are all options to add more storage space in the cabinets.
  • Drawer dividers should be used to contain utensils, knives and other small items.
  • Potholders should be kept near the range in a drawer or container on the counter.
  • Hanging racks with hooks from the ceiling or placing a towel rod or dowel with hooks on the wall under cabinets can be used for pots and pans or large utensils.
  • Magnetic tool strips can be mounted on the wall for knives and other metal utensils.
  • Racks and hooks can be placed inside cabinet doors to hold smaller items.
  • Pull out shelves and/or wire baskets are essential for storing items in the back of lower base cabinets.  It is very difficult to reach items so near the floor and so far inside the cabinet.
  • Store small packets of drink mix or sauce and seasoning mixes together in small square containers on the shelf.
  • Wire racks designed to hold pan lids can be used in deep cabinets to store cookie sheets and baking pans vertically rather than stacking them.  Cabinets over built in ovens are an ideal placement for these.  Permanent vertical dividers are also a good idea for that space.
  • Pot lids can be hung inside some cabinet doors on specialty racks or behind a towel bar mounted so the handle at the top of the lid catches on the rod. 
  • Label shelves inside cabinets so that other family members will return items to their home.
  • If your pantry or refrigerator has wire shelves, consider purchasing acrylic or plastic shelf covers. Measure for a good fit.
  • The refrigerator should have similar items grouped together.
  • Use the designated bins in refrigerators for those items.  They are designed to maintain the correct temperature and humidity for those items.
  • Add turntables, free standing wire shelves and other space saving items to the refrigerator to keep items organized.
  • The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator.  Do not store eggs, milk or meats in it for food safety reasons.
  • Cookbooks should be stored near this zone, but should be purged so that they do not take up valuable space.  Try not to store any on the counters. 
  • Cookbooks you do not use can be donated or sold.  If you must keep those, consider displaying them on the hidden spaces at the tops of counters or on shelves over doors or windows in the kitchen. 
  • Keep an attractive container with pens, pencils, note pad and scissors in a convenient location in case they are needed.
More November Tips

If you send holiday cards, buy, address and get them ready to mail.  The earlier you purchase them, the better the selection.   Consider creating an attractive e-mail card wherever possible and save the environment, time and money.  You can even include pictures, etc. If the recipients love paper cards, they can print it. 

If you choose to send a holiday newsletter, remember to keep it short and sweet.  The shorter, the sweeter.  No bragging is allowed; keep it newsy with love and appreciation for the input the recipients have had in your lives.

Have packages for mailing out of town ready to send.  Some overseas deadlines occur in November.

Now is the best time for online shopping.  Almost all stores are offering free shipping and the selection is better now than later.

Send out “save the date” or invitations for holiday gatherings.  The earlier the better as this is a busy time of year for everyone.

If you use a paper planner, purchase one now.  The selection is better and you can begin putting important dates for next year in it.  I recommend a planner that shows a week at a glance with the days divided vertically into hours. 

There are several good tips to keep Thanksgiving Week an orderly and peaceful event.

 1)  Use a schedule to plan the activities for the week.  Work backwards from the time of the big event (Thanksgiving Dinner is usually it).  Be flexible with the amount of time you allow for meal preparation, decorations, clean up, etc.  You should do as much ahead of the big day as possible. 

2)  Do not leave home for Black Friday sales unless you are prepared.  Use whatever media you have to decide where you should go, when you should get there and what you will buy.  Make a list and stick to it.  Being surrounded by great deals on so many items will tempt you to buy items you really don’t need but hate to pass up because they are such a great deal.  This can be a great budget buster as well as a clutter creator.  Retailers are counting on luring you in with the super sale only to have you lured into the other wonderful items not on your list.
Consider staying home for a peaceful end to the week and shop online if you must make purchases.  Many outlets have the same sales online with free shipping this time of the year.  With no parking problems, traffic jams or lines at checkout, you can have even more reasons to be thankful.