Saturday, December 6, 2008

Holiday Shopping Made Easier

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is shopping. I love walking around and looking at all of the holiday decorations, seeing the ornaments, and feeling the holiday spirit in the air. While most people put this off until the day after Thanksgiving (or worse, Christmas Eve) I usually start thinking about what to get people for Christmas at the first sign of fall. My holiday stress level is very low because I plan ahead and prepare for the holiday season.

The timesaving tricks I have mastered for holiday shopping are so simple. Usually by September I have created a gift list with the gifts I am giving to my family and friends. After I do some comparison shopping (usually online) I make a note of the store the gift is sold in and how much it costs. Then I use my gift list as my plan of attack for which stores I need to hit. Like I said, this is really easy. Instead of going to the mall empty handed with the intention of "spotting the perfect gift" you go to the mall with a plan and you will leave the madhouse sooner, and probably have more money in your pocket by having prepared your gift list ahead of time.

Many department stores offer complimentary gift wrapping on purchases made in their store. To cut down on your time spent wrapping gifts, consider dropping your gifts off to be wrapped while continuing on with your shopping elsewhere. For stores that don't have gift wrapping services, many do offer free gift boxes with your purchase. Even if you aren't buying a gift, consider taking the box - you never know when it could come in handy down the gift wrapping road.

Grocery shopping is not on my list of favorite things to do. It's time consuming, tedious, expensive and seems to happen too frequently - especially around the holidays. If there is one grocery store trip that you prepare ahead of time and make a list I suggest that you make that trip during the holidays. Generally your list is longer, more encompassing and much more specific than at any other time of the year since many people entertain or bake goodies for friends and loved ones. It is just as necessary to have a game plan to go to the grocery store as it is to go to the mall. Prepare your list (include quantities, of course), get your coupons ready, and plan ahead by creating your meals ahead of time and around what is on sale that week. Need holiday recipes? Look online, ask your family and friends for suggestions, read the paper, check out your grocer's recipe collection, or look on products in your pantry for recipes.

Happy holiday shopping!

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Holiday Wrapping Storage

It's that time to start bringing out the bows, half-used rolls of wrapping paper, un-sorted tissue paper, stray gift tags, and of course the yards and yards of ribbon. If you're like most people you probably have an area or maybe even a box that you throw all of your holiday wrapping paraphernalia into and forget about it until the next holiday season. I find that it makes it a lot easier to get motivated to wrap gifts if you have your gift wrappings in a more orderly way so that it takes less effort to get to everything.

Before I go any farther I must introduce you to my family's method of gift wrap storage as I was growing up. The method is/was: having an overwhelmingly enormous pile designated for gift wrapping. This drove me absolutely insane, as I am someone who is a bit compulsive when it comes to organizing. Every year around the holidays I would go into that bottomless pit and organize the wrapping paper to prepare to wrap my gifts, only to find that the next time I opened that door it was back to being a mess again. Needless to say, I soon became an expert gift wrapping organizer... Now if only I could have gotten my family to maintain an organized area.

I am a huge fan of clear plastic storage containers. My idea of a perfectly organized holiday wrapping storage area would be a whole bunch of different size storage containers with nice, neat labels. The separation of the larger items such as bags and boxes from the smaller items is one of the key points to take away.

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS: I would use smaller shoebox size containers (or even a shoe box would work!) to house my loose bows, spools of ribbon, gift tags and of course several rolls of tape and a pair of scissors (which always seem to disappear at the most inopportune times).

WRAPPING PAPER: I love the idea of a very large (long but low) container to store wrapping paper since it has kind of an awkward long size to it, but if that doesn't work for you consider a tall cardboard box where you can stand up your rolls of paper. I generally store my tissue paper with the wrapping paper.

BOXES: We've all got a collection of gift boxes that either came with purchases or gifts we have received. What the heck do we do with all of these boxes? I suggest you keep them because you never know when they'll come in handy to help you wrap gifts. I have boxes of so many varying sizes it's hard to keep them straight! I use another large container (consider doubling the wrapping paper container with the box container) and break down the boxes so they lay flat inside. For the nicer, decorative boxes that do not break down I stack them inside of each other to save space.

BAGS: My collection of holiday gift bags outnumbers my box collection by a lot. I keep my holiday bags stored either in my box container or my wrapping paper container and find that the combination works out well. Another alternative would be to use a very large gift bag and store the remaining smaller bags inside of it. I find this works very well and looks nice because you can always see the pretty decorative bag displayed on your shelf.

The key with this is to not let it get too unorganized. I mentioned when I was growing up how I was the only one who organized everything and no one seemed to put anything where it went. This is a real problem and leads to overwhelming clutter and can be very difficult to motivate yourself to create order in a space like that. My very best advice is that after you create an organizational system in an area to follow it. Just because you adopt a system to organize doesn't mean you are organized. You must follow your organizational system to maintain organization.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Cupboard Organization

Organizing your cupboards is really easy - you just have to do it and stick to it. With regard to food pantries or cupboards it is really easy to try to stuff things on the shelf to make everything fit. Doing this makes it easier for you to push other things to the back, only to forget about them and purchase duplicate items or let the food go bad. One thing I am in charge of in my house is organizing the newly purchased groceries. I actually look forward to coming home, unloading the groceries and finding a spot for them in the cupboard or refrigerator.

For those of you who are able to regularly take the time to keep your food nicely arranged some tips are: maximize your cabinet space by using elevated platforms so you can put things on top of the platform and underneath it, utilize the shelves that come in your cupboard or pantry and adjust them based on your needs; create zones on your shelves, such as a rice zone, a cracker zone, a pasta zone, a cereal box zone, and a canned food zone, or simply arrange by size and organize your food that way; use baskets or small plastic storage buckets to store things like treats, granola bars, bread, or single-serve oatmeal packets.

When organizing your other cupboards use the same general ideas that you would for your food storage areas, such as maximizing space and utilizing the shelves that you have. My bathroom cupboard has a lot of stuff in it, so I use an elevated platform to add to the usable storage space, in addition, I have a plastic basket where I put my hair products, and a small plastic divided bucket where I store things like headbands and bobby pins, I use a travel makeup bag to store my makeup, a beautiful ceramic bowl to store my lipstick, and a small basket that holds my perfume. I would go crazy every time I opened the cupboard door if I didn't have everything contained in its own area. These tips can work equally well for the cabinet under your kitchen sink, too.

The same rules go for cupboards in play rooms, entertainment rooms, bedrooms, offices and anywhere else you have a cupboard in your house. Utilize bins, buckets, tubs, baskets, etc. to store your objects. My favorite are either small baskets or small clear plastic stackable storage containers with lids.

Remodeling is a great time to re-evaluate the usefulness of your cupboards. I really love cupboards that have sliding shelves where you can pull them out and really maximize their usefulness, lazy Susan cupboards are great for using the corner space that would otherwise be wasted or nearly impossible to reach, and customizing your space to meet your needs. Meet with a custom cabinet designer if you're considering remodeling or adding any cupboards to your home. Explain your wants and needs and the designer should be able to create something exquisite that suits your style.

If you're interested in purchasing cabinet organization kits or supplies, my suggestion is to get creative and figure out your ultimate goal with the space, then visit a store that sells organizational tools or kits. Be creative here - there are so many things you can use to better organize your cupboards.

I really like to line the cupboards and drawers in my home with contact paper or a shelf liner. This makes it so much easier to clean - plus if you have really ugly cabinets this can bring some life to them. Underneath my glasses and cups I use a thicker shelf liner that has a sticky feel to help keep my glasses from chipping and adds some style in the process. You're not the only one who looks in your cupboards, after all... Why not have them look nice like the rest of your house?

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