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Last minute organizing tips for the holidays

With less than a week till Christmas you may find yourself scrambling to get everything done. Here are a few tips that could make the next few days a bit easier to get through.

Too late - conceptual alarm clock showing that you are too late

Gifts

Prepare before your shopping trip – Have a list and know who you are buying for and what you are buying before you go. That way you can get in and get out quickly.

Shop in slow periods – Stores will likely be packed but shopping really early in the morning or late at night may make the process a bit easier on you.

Re-gifting – Perhaps this might be the year to start a new tradition with your family. As an organizer I know that everyone has something in their house that they no longer want or need so why not re-gift? However, I would lay out some ground rules with the family before doing this so everyone is on the same page.

Buy from a friend/neighbour or other small business – If you know someone who is a small business owner call them up and see if they have anything on hand for last minute gifts.

Gift certificates – You may not get the personal touch but if you go to stores like Super Store or Shoppers you can buy gift certificates for a large number of people all at the same time. You can also get these from small businesses too!

Leave the kids at home – If you have kids and can get someone to watch them this may lessen the stress factor for you while trying to get things done on a time crunch.

Dog with Santa Hat Popping out of Present

Meals

Eat out – Some restaurants are open on Christmas so if you haven’t had time to get a meal planned why not eat out. Do a search to see if your favourite restaurant is open in your area. Here are some restaurants open in Toronto.

open sign

Hire a service – No time to grocery shop? Hire a  grocery services like Grocery Gateway.To bring it local, you could also contact a concierge service that offers this. The same thing can be said for cleaning services if you are struggling to get your home in tip top shape before relatives arrive.

Travel

Car travel – If you are travelling by car be sure you check weather ahead of time so you can give yourself enough time based on weather conditions. If you don’t already, make sure to have your car stocked with the proper emergency equipment should you need it. Blankets, snacks and a charged cell phone are good to have. Also be sure you have at least half a tank of gas and extra windshield washer fluid.

By plane – Be sure to arrive ahead of time. Printing your boarding pass before you leave can save wait time in lines. If you are bringing presents with you you may want to consider keeping the important ones in your carry on so you don’t risk them getting lost. As with any air travel, if you have kids, lots of snacks, books and other toys will make the experience ten times better.

Boeing 747 Aircraft Taking Off

Maintenance

You may be tempted to let all of your normal routines slide over the holidays but try to maintain at least a few of them so that once January hits you aren’t spending hours getting organized again.

Last but not least, make a donation run part of your  New Year routine so that you can start fresh with hopefully less items in your home then you had before the holidays started. My favourite donation place is the Salvation Army. I also like the Canadian Diabetes Association because they pick up and giving to local shelters is also a good option.

And of course, if you should need help in the New Year feel free to let me know.

Happy organizing and happy holidays!

Laura

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A perfectly organized holiday season

The holidays are a very busy time for every family. If last year left you totally stressed out, here are some tips and tricks to make this holiday season the most organized one you have ever had.

winter snow

Cards

  • If you don’t already have addresses on hand be sure to round them up in the month of November and try to send them out by December 1st.
  • Everyone loves getting a card in the mail but if you have an extensive list, try to whittle down your card list to the people that matter most.
  • Photo cards are increasingly popular and can save writing out each individual card. If possible support a local photographer or small business that is able to do this instead of a big box store. Love these ones by Trinity Design.
  • If you are going digital make sure you have everyone’s email address ahead of time.
  • A neat card sending company you can also check out is Send Out Cards.

Decorations

  • Decide when you are going to put them up and put it on the calendar. This goes for taking them down too. If you carve out a specific amount of time for this it is more likely to happen.
  • Organizing areas of your home where holiday supplies are kept can make this much less stressful and make it easier to find items quickly and easily the next year. Spend hours untangling a light string anyone?
  • Make decorating a fun activity for the whole family by dedicating a specific day or weekend to the task. Listen to music, have hot chocolate, bake cookies and really get into the spirit.

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Presents

  • Make a list of everyone you have to buy for. Have a budget lined out and stick to it. If need be, give yourself a due date and don’t buy any presents after that date.
  • Buy presents that don’t clutter up your home. Family activities, lessons, sporting activities, a spa day, movie night or a play are great choices. Not to mention the effects on your mind, body and spirit that these types of presents can have.
  • Support small businesses where possible. These are your friends, neighbours and members of your community that will appreciate your support ten times more than big name department stores. They can then turn around and buy their families presents. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the spirit of the season.

presents

Holiday meals

  • Plan meals at least a week or two ahead if you will be cooking for a lot of people.
  • Give yourself extra time to prepare and refine lists.
  • Try to find a store that has everything you need so you only have to go shopping once.
  • As with presents, have a holiday food budget and stick to it.
  • If you have a huge family, enlist family members to help with preparations or even get dinner catered in. A little bit of cost may save your sanity later on.

Thanksgiving Feast

Wrapping and supplies

  • Make sure you aren’t buying wrapping paper, ribbons, bows and other present supplies for no reason. Be sure to check your stock from last year to make sure you aren’t rebuying supplies you already own.
  • Once again, by organizing the areas of your home where supplies are stored you can save yourself time and money once the wrapping begins.

Click here for more organizing help.

Happy holidays everyone!

Laura


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Healthy eating resolution, are you keeping yours? Meal planning can help!

February is here, slipping in quietly without much fanfare and the first month of 2013 is now over, can you believe it!?!

As I write this, I ask myself if I have stayed true to my resolutions so far this year. Some yes, some no. Every month presents itself with an opportunity to be more organized than the last.

Becoming a professional organizer has really opened my eyes to how much organization plays a vital role in the seamless functioning of our everyday lives. It’s not just closets that need organizing! Every aspect of our lives can benefit from being organized.

If you have made a resolution to eat healthier and lose weight, one of the best ways to keep those resolutions is to plan your meals. Not only does this save time during the week as you gaze into the refrigerator for the thousandth time and try to come up with something to eat but it saves you money!!! I can’t think of a better reason than that.

I remember reading an article once that explained how throwing away food is like taking a bill and throwing it into the trash. Seems crazy doesn’t it! But that’s what so many of us do. We don’t plan our meals and more often than not half the stuff gets tossed out in the garbage.

Here are a few meal planning suggestions to help you stay organized and moving towards your goals.

1) Figure out what you have in the house

Every Sunday take stock of what food you have in the house, while you are doing this, toss out food that has gone bad or is expired.

2) Come up with a weekly list

Once you know what food you have in the house, come up with a list of meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and healthy snacks for the week ahead. There are a number of ways you can do this. If you are particularly food savvy you can probably do most of this on the top of your head but for the rest of us, try to stick to the Canada’s Food guide and search through recipes that you have in your home or online.

There are a number of sites that make it easy for you to plan weekly meals such as:

The 20 minute supper club

Allrecipes.com Canada

Kraft Canada

Food on the table

Menu Planner

2013 Meal Planning Software

3) Go shopping

When you are at the grocery store try not to buy anything that is not on your list and be sure to check grocery store flyers for deals before you head out. Another organizing tip, store re-usable grocery bags in your car so that you won’t be stuck getting plastic bags at the checkout.

4) Be proactive and plan for the future

If you have some spare time, spend a few hours generating recipes that you or your family love so that the meal planning process becomes quicker every week.

It seems like a lot of work but it will pay off when you have less time, are more tired and apt to pick up something from McDonald’s instead of sticking to your meal plan. Out goes the healthy eating resolution, out goes more money and inevitably all the guilt will make you more stressed.

If meal planning seems like too much, there is ALWAYS the option of hiring a wonderful individual like myself who will come in and do the work for you! Feel free to drop me a line if you are in need of some planning assistance. laurawatts@doubletakeorganizing.ca

Happy organizing!

Laura