Tag Archives: gift giving

Holiday Organizing: Stuff and Time

Well, the holidays are officially off and running!

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 conquerEveryone 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.

Cindy Jobs


National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals, Seattle Chapter
National Association of Professional Organizers, Seattle Chapter Vice President
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Institute for Challenging Disorganization
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.


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3 Quick Tips When It’s Time To Pack It Up

Packing Up ChristmasThe holidays are nearly behind us, but there’s possibly one more thing most of us need to do . . . . pack it up!

Tackling this task can either be liberating or daunting, depending on how organized and prepared we are.  Here are some thoughts on making it easier, if not this year, certainly in years to come.

  1. Reduce, reduce, reduce:  It’s always easier to pack away less stuff, so I suggest my clients take a good, long look at what they are planning to pack away.  A couple questions to ask yourself:
    • Do you or someone in your home love it?  If it holds great memories and you decorate with it every year, pack it up.
    • Has it been trapped in a storage container year-after-year-after-year?  Chances are, it’s not your style and doesn’t hold great memories.  Give it away.
  2. Give it away:
    • Has someone you know admired the decoration?  Ask them if they want it.  Gifting items to someone who has admired them is an easy way to release things no longer serving us.
    • Is there a local charity, church, etc. that cold use the item?  Gifting things to those that can’t afford them brings extra honor to the decorations.  (NOTE:  Most charities will gladly accept Christmas decorations even at the end of the season, but it’s best to check before you try to drop them off.)
  3. Store it: There are nearly as many ways to store decorations as there are decorations themselves!
    • Specialty containers like these from the Container Store can be extremely functional, but not very cost effective.
    • Other simple solutions:
      • Wrap lights around cardboard, use a extension cord holder, or for larger quantities, utilize a hose reel.
      • Liter-size water bottles work well to hold beaded garland.
      • Plastic produce clam-shell containers from warehouse stores are fantastic for glass ornaments.
      • Egg cartons work well for small, breakable ornaments.

Going through the sort, purge, and store process probably isn’t the most fun thing you will do this holiday season, but it could very well be the best gift you could give yourself come holiday time next year!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Not Another Tie! Better Gift Giving Ideas

FreeDigitalImages_ApoloniaThanksgiving Doorbusters.  Black Friday Specials.   Cyber Monday Madness.

The holiday gift-giving time is upon us . . . along with the stress we put upon ourselves to find the perfect gifts.  Don’t get me wrong, there is amazing joy in finding the perfect gift (when it happens you hear harps playing and angels singing)!   But more often than not, gift-giving is stressful and, frankly, not very much fun.

In my organizing work, I see lots and lots of not so perfect gifts that get stuffed in a drawer or put away in a cupboard because the recipient is too embarrassed to say that it doesn’t fit, isn’t their style, or doesn’t satisfy a current need.  Many times, as recipients, we would really prefer that the time, energy, and money spent on gifts be directed to those that are truly in need.

So, if you are not quite sure what Aunt Suzi wants or needs as a holiday gift this year and you’re pretty sure another velour robe isn’t going to be the “perfect” gift, how about trying something new . . . give to those truly in need and send Aunt Suzi a sweet card saying that a donation has been made in her name.  (Many charities will send the cards for you if you would prefer she receive something directly.)  My guess is Aunt Suzi will appreciate the charitable thought . . . and not having to return yet another pink velour robe.

Here are some thought starters:

Donate cash to a local charity:  Cash is always a welcome gift for many charities.  Although it may feel good to buy a bag of canned food or a frozen turkey, that may not be exactly what the local food bank or soup kitchen needs right now.  If you plan to go this route, give them a call and see what they may need and follow their suggestions.  And while you’re at it, see if they could use a helping hand or two.  According to a Berkeley study,  “scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.””

Donate to a national charity:   There are those in need all across the country.  National and international charities like Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Goodwill, are well-established organizations that help those less fortunate and those in crisis.

Adopt-A-Family:  Many cities and businesses adopt local families or foster children during the holiday season.  Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or your employer’s Human Resources to see what might be available.  Friends, neighbors, and co-workers coming together behind this cause will bring even more joy to giving.

Spread your gifts around the world:  The  Good Gifts catalog was born 12 years ago, as a refreshing alternative to conventional unwanted presents.  From livestock to tress, school uniforms to an orphan’s dowry, donations can be directed around the world to those truly in need.  Good Gifts will provide a  keepsake card (to send or keep) bearing a light-hearted description of the gift.

Water, education and disaster relief: A gift to World Vision enables them to respond quickly in areas of greatest need to help the world’s most vulnerable.

Whatever gift-giving solution feels best to you, remember the spirit of the holidays is really to spend time with the ones we love.

Click here for more Stressless Holiday suggestions.


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Member Color - Web  National Association of Professional Organizers, Seattle Chapter President
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Stressless Holidays

FreeDigitalImages_ApoloniaYikes!  Thanksgiving is just a few days away!  Where did the time go?

I assume anyone reading this is as short on time as I am, so I will cut to the chase.  Here are a few quick things you can do to reduce your holiday stress:

1.  Limit time obligations:  I know it may sound like bad social behavior, but we truly don’t have to go to everything we are invited to.  There are certainly some non-negotiables like our kids concerts, immediate-family gatherings, and the personal invitation from our boss, but there are a number of invites that our lack of attendance will probably not even be noticed.  Do we really need to attend our condo association holiday gathering?  How about the open house at the gym? Or the mass invite from your bank or Chamber of Commerce?  These type of invites can be handled with a swift “thank you for inviting me, but I will be unable to attend this year.”  End of conversation.  Benefit:  More time to spend on the things we really enjoy.

2.  Reduce gift-giving:  Our family did this years ago and it has been a life-saver ever since.  Here’s how my shopping would have gone just for my side of the family if we hadn’t made this significant change:  Parents: 1;  Husband, son, and daughter-in-law: 3;  Siblings and their spouses:  8;  Nieces/Nephews and significant others: 23.  Total: 35   Years ago, we decided as a family to draw names by generation and by couple.  For example: I only purchase for one of my siblings and their significant other and my nieces/nephews draw names and they purchase for only one person/couple.  My mom gets a gift from all of us . . . as it should be.   Of course,  I still purchase for my husband, son and daughter-in-law.  Total: 5  This change has reduced  our family gift-giving by 85%.  Not only has no one complained, everyone has embraced the modification and appreciates the new-found gains.  Benefit:  More time, Less Stress, Financial Relief.

3.  Make a gift-giving list and budget:  This is one of the hardest things to do, but will pay off many times over in reduced stress and guilt.  Budget an hour so for this process.

  1. Write down the amount of money you would feel comfortable spending for all your gift-giving.  For some it’s $100, for others, it could be thousands.  Acknowledging that there is a financial cap will start the process.
  2. Make a list of everyone you feel you need to purchase gifts for (refer to the above “Reduce gift-giving”  and reduce the list if possible).  If a gift suggestion pops into your head as you are making this list, write that down too.
  3. Once your list is complete, allocate funds based on your relationship with them.  In some relationships, the spouse may get a larger percentage than your siblings; in other relationships, the spouse gets a thoughtful token gift and the bulk of the resources go to other people.  Make this a very personal and thoughtful process.
  4. Once you are comfortable with the list, put together a shopping plan.  This could be one large trip to the mall, or several small stops after work.  Whatever works for you is what’s important.
  5. Always get a gift receipt!  Chances are, every gift is not going to be perfect for every person on your list.  Providing a gift receipt will both tell them it’s okay to exchange it, but will give them the means to do so without having to involve you in the “where did you get this?” conversation.

There are many, many additional ways to reduce your stress over the holidays including getting enough rest, eating right, and making sure to exercise.  Take care of yourself, and you can take care of others.

Although is may sound quaint, remember the spirit of the holidays as a time to enjoy our friends and family.

Happy Holidays!

Cindy Jobs

Organize to Simplify RGB www.organizetosimplify.com

Member Color - WebNational Association of Professional Organizers, Seattle Chapter President
 ICD_LogoTag_Horz_72 websiteCertified Premium Subscriber, Institute for Challenging Disorganization
Image courtesy of: FreeDigitalImages.com; Apolonia