The local NBC affiliate, KING-TV, asked me to come in and speak about how to organize all the decorations, gifts and events that happen around the holidays. After leaving the studio I thought “hmm, that might be good information to share on my website.” Here goes . . .
The holidays create a prime opportunity to take a thoughtful look at how we live, from both a “stuff” and “time” perspective.
I suggest people decorate by zone. For example, the tree is a zone, the mantle is a zone, possibly the bathrooms are a zone. What I see happening a lot is that the decorating gets done in time blocks, rarely do we get everything decorated all at the same time. If we try to decorate throughout the house all within the same time block, areas are only partially decorated, leaving clutter throughout the house.
Make a decision to donate decorations you aren’t using. Many of us have decorations we take out of storage, then put right back in storage, because we aren’t using them “this year.” Think about how many years you’ve gone through that process. If it’s more than a couple, chances are the decorations aren’t your style anymore and can be donated to someone that will use them. Now is the perfect time to do this vs when you are putting decorations away for the season. If you do it now, there is a greater opportunity the will get used this year and donation centers aren’t storing them for an extended period of time.
When the season is over, pack decorations away by zone. This will make it easier to decorate next year. If possible, use consistently sized, clearly marked boxes. Being able to stack consistently sized boxes economizes vertical storage space. I particularly like this style.
Gifts are tricky. In my line of work, I see a lot of well-intentioned gifts that create clutter and storage challenges. Some people don’t agree, but I’m a firm believer in re-gifting. My theory is that if you receive something that isn’t your style and you can’t exchange it for something that is, put it in a gift closet to be re-gifted to someone that would appreciate it.
When thinking about gifting I suggest people sit down for 15 minutes and make a comprehensive list of people they plan to give gifts to and set a budget for each. Having a list makes gift selection more efficient. Once you have the list, make a note of anything you remember they’ve expressed an interest in. Do they stop at a favorite espresso stand every morning? Are they into a particular video series? Do they love to scrapbook? Making a note of their interests next to their name will increase the probability that the gift you select will be less impulsive and more appropriate for the recipient.
When giving gifts, unless you really know what the recipient wants, I suggest consumables that don’t require storage or dusting. Think about giving experiences or hand-made treats. If you know someone that loves your Cowboy Cookies, give those. If your specialty is home-made Kahlua, give that. If you traditionally give gifts to a group of friends, setting a date to just get together and spend time would be magical!
If gift cards are your go-to gift, go with a gift card, but maybe jazz it up a bit. If your brother likes to go to movies, give a gift card attached to a package of Twizzlers. Or, if they prefer a particular sporting goods store, give a gift card attached to some hand warmers.
Parties & School Events:
We all appreciate being invited to a party or event, but sometimes the sheer number of events can be exhausting. Multiple parties on the same weekend. Family photo sessions. Endless recitals and craft fairs. Remember, any time committed to one event takes time away from something else.
Take a look at all the invitations and see what resonates with you. If you look at an invitation and say “heck yes, that’s going to be a blast!” put it on the calendar. If, on the other hand, you look at an invitation and say “do we have to?” it’s okay to rsvp “not this year, but thank you for the invitation.” An invitation doesn’t always require a commitment on your part.
Now, there are invitations that probably need to be thoughtfully considered. Your company holiday party probably should be attended. But, the book club mixer could possibly be exchanged for a quiet night at home wrapping gifts.
The same thing goes for school events. There are some things you just need to do. Your child’s recital. Go. Your second niece’s school holiday bazaar may be something you can pass on.
With so much going on, there are times when parents need to divide and conquer. Everyone can’t always go to everything and that’s okay. Can one parent take the 1-year old to the 8-year old’s craft fair, while the other parent goes to the 6-year old’s soccer practice?
This is also the time to call upon your support structures. Can you swap baby-sitting with a neighbor so both parents can attend a recital? Can the grandparents take the kids for a day so all the holiday shopping can get done? People love to help out, give them a chance.
All of these holiday events can create complicated scheduling opportunities. I recommend families sit down and take time to look at the overall calendar and see what’s possible and what’s not. Write everything down and see where there are conflicts. I love using dry-erase boards just for this purpose. Some of my clients color-code by person so it’s easy to see who needs to be going where at a glance.
Yes, there’s a lot to be thinking about as we head into this busy holiday season. Rest-assured, with some planning and patience, it can be, as intended, a season of loving, laughing and joy.
National Association of Professional Organizers, Seattle Chapter Vice President
Level I Certificates earned in Chronic Disorganization; ADD; Client Administration; Time Management; Mental Health; and Hoarding.
Level II Specialist Certificates earned in Chronic Disorganization and ADHD.