Tag Archives: holidays

Get Organized and Take Stock Before You Shop For The Holidays

It’s that time of year when houses fill with holiday cheer in the form of holiday gifts, decorations and accoutrements that make the season festive. Many of my clients are downsizing or trying to maintain a clutter-free home and they take a different view of the holidays as they work to simplify their lives. I’m not talking about anti-capitalism; but shopping, buying and gift-giving requires a paradigm shift to stay focused, organized and on the right track.

Some of you may want to move toward those same goals so let’s break it down:

Take stock:

Visit the gift closet/drawer (most of us have one) before you start buying new gifts. Assign each gift to a person on your list. If you have a lot of extras you haven’t used for years, donate them to agencies looking for unwrapped gifts.
Take your list and shop early to avoid expensive last-minute purchases and to stay within budget.
Look in your food pantry and take stock of what’s there before you buy any new food. If there are items you aren’t going to use and aren’t expired, give them to the Food Pantry in your area.
Unearth the paper products, decorations, and holiday cards you bought last year at the end of the season before you buy anything new.
Peruse your clothing closet for holiday wear that you still adore and haven’t worn more than once. Maybe an accessory such as jewelry, shoes or a scarf will give it that needed update.

Thoughtful gift-giving:

Gift of time: An experience to enjoy with someone else where you lose track of time!
One-of-a-kind gifts: Handmade gifts (yours or others).
Gift of creativity: If the receiver of your gift wants to get back to creativity in his or her life (i.e. painting, scrapbooking, writing, woodworking, photography, knitting, etc.), give a gift card to a favorite craft/hobby store.
Gift for the future: For the child who has everything, contributions to a college fund could be the answer.
Gift of nothing: If people tell you they don’t want a gift; listen to them. In other words, give them what they prefer, not what you prefer to give them.

Planning for the future:

Take all donations to your favorite charity before December 31 to get your tax receipt for 2015 taxes.
Go through your children’s toys and clothes before they receive new items and take them with you when you donate the items.
Keep large future monetary purchases in mind (i.e. house down payment, new car, etc.) to keep spending in check.
If you are paying off credit cards or saving for retirement, don’t forget those commitments at the holidays; stay on track.

It can be challenge to disregard the commercialism and retail frenzy of the holidays, but if we become discriminating and savvy shoppers, the New Year won’t bring new bills, but rather new memories to look forward to!


This article was written and published by my colleague Vali Heist of the Clutter Crew. She provided so many great tips for this season that I had to share them with you. Thanks Vali and happy holidays to all!


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Five Dressing Tips for a Holiday Get-Together

Five Dressing Tips for a Holiday Get-Together

If you are set on wearing red and green during the holidays, try these tips to make sure you don’t get mistaken for one of Santa’s little (more…)

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Organizing Your Holiday Schedule

Dear Kathi,

I get overwhelmed every year around this time and always feel caught between work, family and social obligations. What is the best way to manage my crazy schedule and still maintain my sanity? I would love to be able to enjoy the holidays this year and still handle ALL of my commitments.

Lucille, Del Mar


An overloaded social schedule combined with the demands of entertaining, gift shopping, decorating, and other holiday traditions can evoke panic in even the most organized among us.
Banish preconceived ideas of what the holiday season should be like. Admittedly, this can be a difficult task, but it can also be very liberating. Think about your holiday traditions and try to separate those you truly enjoy from those you feel you “have” to do because you’ve always done so or you are expected by others to do so.
Always think before committing to any responsibility or social event. Ideally, make no snap decisions and give yourself time to reflect on any proposed commitment or responsibility (say you have to check your calendar first).

Decide what is the right level of social activity for you – from a party every day to none at all – and plan accordingly. If you are not a party person, don’t feel that you must attend every party that you are invited to. If you love hosting parties during the holidays, but feel overwhelmed, consider hosting potluck events where your friends and family help contribute with the preparations.

Be very clear about what your priorities are in advance of the holidays. Schedule time to combine obligatory activities with activities that make you happy. December is a time to truly celebrate, not stress. Take small moments every day to relax and nourish your soul.

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Organizing Holiday Decorations

Dear Kathi,

Every year as I unpack my holiday decorations, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of my decorating task. I always feel that I need to have all of my decorations in place immediately after Thanksgiving. What would be a good plan of attack for this endeavor?

Sophia, Carlsbad


Realize that you don’t have to hang all of your decorations every year. In fact, you are not ever obligated to create huge displays. You don’t have to use all of your decorations just because you bring them out of storage.
Subtle, well planned decorating schemes can be far more effective than mass decorations applied with less thought. Consider placement and use only the decorations that apply to your new theme.
Do you own over six boxes of holiday decor? If you keep adding additional boxes to your collection each year, this year might be a good time to purge a few items.

Perhaps your grown children would like to take the old decorations that have meaningful significance? If you have been using the same decor for 20-30 years, let your kids continue the tradition or donate them to someone else less fortunate. Loosen up and let go! You will feel liberated and the holidays might be a breath of fresh air this year.

A great way to keep your decoration collection manageable is to buy the amount of plastic containers that you won’t mind storing year after year.
As the holidays wind down, pack and store only what will fit in your pre-designated containers. Get rid of the overflow and next year you will be facing a less daunting decorating task.

Create a method to distinguish your holiday boxes. You can purchase red/green plastic tubs or simply encircle each unmarked box with holiday packing tape. This will enable you to find your holiday boxes in a snap.
Store your holiday boxes high and out of the way in the hard to reach storage areas. This saves the easy access space for your more frequently used items.

Don’t get bogged down in the details and enjoy the holidays.

Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com

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Holiday finance and time organizing


Do you have any suggestions on ways to save money and be more organized prior to this busy holiday time?

Gabriella, Entrepreneur


Compile a list now of the people you will buy Christmas gifts for this year. Keep this list in your purse or wallet. As you go into stores for errands, buy presents and make a note on your list. Keep a running tally and you will avoid duplicate gifts. Wherever you decide to store these gifts, make sure to keep them all in one space. An under-the-bed storage box will serve you well throughout the year. Pre-shopping increases the likelihood that you can take advantage of sales. You will also be more in control of your money.

Your gifts will be thoughtful and it becomes easy to buy extra items while you are already shopping. By the time November rolls around, you will be finished with your list and ready to check it twice. If you come up with a missing item, use the ‘After Thanksgiving Day Sale’ to buy any remaining gifts on your list. It is always a good idea to buy three-five extra small gifts for the occasional hostess gift, co-worker gift raffle, or surprise holiday guest. Implement this practice now and in

December you will be able to enjoy the parties and holiday cheer without stress. Give this a try and you’ll never shop on Christmas Eve again.


Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com
San Diego Professional Organizer

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Organizing time for the holidays


Time is our most precious resource. We all have the same amount and although it can never be replaced, it can be optimized. During this busy holiday season it is especially important that you prioritize your list of tasks at the beginning of each week and also each day.

Begin by recognizing your daily energy peaks and surges. Use your biological rhythms to your advantage. Identify the times of day when your energy levels are high and schedule your most important tasks at those times. For example, if you don’t function well in the morning, plan your brain-intensive activities for late afternoon and use the morning for errands or follow-up phone calls. After you determine your most productive hours, you can begin to tackle your scheduling issues.

To accomplish more each day, never do errands on impulse. Plan your routes carefully, handling as many errands as possible each time. The sequence in which you perform tasks on an everyday basis has a profound effect on how much you accomplish in life.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every minute that you spend planning your day will save you three – five minutes later. I Minute Planning = 3-5 Minutes Extra! Abraham Lincoln stated that every one hour of preparation saved him three hours of perspiration. Are you ready to change your habits to have more free time?

The very act of taking a moment to think about your time before you begin your day will improve your time management skills dramatically. Take for instance, you need to run several errands and make several stops today. If you think before you drive and consolidate your trip into zones, you will save gas, time and money. You can cross off each errand on a well-thought out route planned to avoid traffic and back-tracking.

Chunking tasks into similar activities will also help you optimize your schedule. Double up on certain tasks. Do small tasks simultaneously, such as sorting through mail while you are talking on the phone or answering emails while eating lunch.

Sometimes there just isn’t enough time to do everything on your list. As you go about your day, you might decide to push a low priority item onto a future day’s schedule. Timelines will also reposition activities of lower priority to activities of higher priority as you near deadlines.

Diligence and flexibility will help you reshuffle your priorities as necessary. The best schedule is one that is fluid and able to seize the golden opportunities as they present themselves.

These tips will help cross off everything on your list quickly and still give you time to relax and enjoy the holidays! Kathi is a Professional Organizer, image Consultant based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com

San Diego Professional Organizer

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Organizing Related Holidays

Remember the organizing holidays throughout the year! Feel free to download any related news column in my archives if you publish it with the short bio and website information listed below.

For more tips, interviews or information regarding these or any other organizing theme, call Kathi at 760.840.9997.

January             Clean Out Your Closets Month
February 12      Clean Out Your Computer Day
March 12          National Organize Your Home Office Day
March 24-30    Clutter Awareness Week
April                  Stress Awareness Month
April 24             National Secretary’s Day
May                   National Moving Month
May                   National Mental Health Month (Declutter, de-stress!)
June                  Rebuild Your Life Month
August 5-9       Simplify Your Life Week
September       Self-Improvement Month
Sept 7-13          Improve Your Home Office Week

Mid Sept         ADHD Awareness Week                                                                        October           Clean Out Your Files Month
October 5-11   Get Organized Week
November       Clean Out Your Refrigerator Month
December       Stress Free Holidays Month

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Super Organizing Tips for the Holidays (VID)

Get organized and learn how to create a “first out” bin so that next year you can start the holidays by pulling out everything you need to begin getting ramped up for the holidays.

See how to repack your ornaments in (more…)

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Organizing Related Holidays

Remember the organizing holidays throughout the year! Feel free to download any related news column in my archives if you publish it with the short bio and website information listed below.

For more tips, interviews or information regarding these or any other organizing theme, call Kathi at 760.840.9997.

January           Clean Out Your Closets Month

February 12    Clean Out Your Computer Day

March 12         National Organize Your Home Office Day

March 24-3    Clutter Awareness Week

April                 Stress Awareness Month

April 24            National Secretary’s Day

May                    National Moving Month

May                  Natl Mental Health Month (declutter, de-stress)

May 29th          529 College Savings Day

June                   Rebuild Your Life Month

August 2           American Family Day

August 5-9        Simplify Your Life Week

September        Self-Improvement Month

Sept 7-13            Improve Your Home Office Week

September 13  Grandparent’s Day

October             Clean Out Your Files Month

October 5-11    Get Organized Week

November        Clean Out Your Refrigerator Month

December         Stress Free Holidays Month

Short Bio and Link

(must be included with any published articles written by Kathi Burns)

Kathi Burns CPO® is the founder of addSpace to Your Life! a Professional Organizing & Image Consultancy and author of How to Master Your Muck ~  Add Space, Get Organized and Live Your Passion!

To learn more about Organizing and Image and to receive your free addSpace eBook 33 Organizing Tips to Transform Your Life, visit: www.addSpaceToYourLife.com

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Organizing Tips For The Holidays

Holiday Décor – Don’t feel obligated to hang every decoration every year. Take time off from your treasures, maybe this year go minimalist and see how it feels. It can be a huge relief!

Store your treasures in special plastic tubs with seasonal colors. This makes finding all of your items easy even when they get lost behind the camping gear on the top shelf.

Purge the old, dusty and musty décor – Take time to purge your old decorations and keep only the items that you enjoy seeing every year. Downsize and make decorating easier in the years to come.

Create a Gift Closet – Designate one place to store gifts, paper and cards throughout the year. Stock up as you see gifts on sale throughout the year. A running list posted on inside of the door makes it easy to keep track of what you have on hand and also to grab a quick hostess gift on your way out to a party.

Time – Just say no. You do not have to attend every party and gathering that you are invited to. If the day arrives and you would rather sit at home and decompress, call and excuse yourself from the gathering.

Gift Giving – Start your holiday thinking before you start your holiday buying. Make a list of everyone you will buy for this year. Leave a space beside their name and as you purchase, check their name off. Also, if they mention what they want throughout the year, you can make a note beside their name. Keep this list in your wallet and when you are out and about, you might find that perfect gift before the holidays arrive!

Gift Cards – Consider gift cards this year. These wonderful little ditties save you time, stress and wrapping paper. The real plus it that your recipient has the opportunity to get what they really want!

Plan a Gift Exchange – Secret Santa gift exchanges provide the perfect opportunity for family members to get the big gift they really want and would never buy for themselves. Draw papers from a bag with each person’s name and their big gift request. This saves time and the stress of finding the perfect gift while ensuring that everyone gets what they really want. Make a pact to buy only one gift with no surprise small gifts allowed or this exercise could turn into a real gift extravaganza.

Give Magazine Subscriptions- Support your friend’s hobbies with tis thoughtful gift. They will think of you every month as they read your gift.

Shop Online – Be an armchair shopper and save time and money on sites like eBay. For the best deals, log on very early or late in the day to hit auctions as they close.

Parties –  If cooking for the masses isn’t your style, go easy on yourself and host a ‘bring a dish’ party. Friends and family rarely resent bringing one dish to a party and your job will become considerably easier. Provide the main course and you are done.

Gather Your Family Off-Site – Have your family gathering at a nice restaurant with desert and coffee served after at your place.

Rent Dishes for Your Fancy Dinner – There is no better feeling than placing all of the dirty dishes in a rack and sending them away to be cleaned and disposed of. The price is nominal when you wake up to a clean house in the morning.

Hire a Caterer –  or buy pre-made feasts at your local grocery. Add a few special ingredients to each pre-made dish and it will taste homemade.

Plan an Open House – friends and family can drop in throughout the day and the expectations are lower. Guests don’t expect a gourmet meal and the mood will stay light and festively casual. No expectations except to catch up with your favorite people!

Host a Holiday Craft Party – Give Homemade Gifts This Year. Schedule the entire day for friends and family to stop by and make gifts. Set up work stations for each craft and ask that people bring ingredients for the designated crafts. Great ideas include; Mix in a jar recipes like soups, cakes and cookie mixes. Other ideas are wreaths, small decorated trees, pillow cases, gift tags. Use your imagination and have fun!

Create Ritual – Formulate a plan that resonates with your hearts desire: This can mean spending a specified evening by yourself for pampering or getting everyone you love together at the same time every year, even if it is on a conference call. Create an annual habit that makes you feel like this time of the year is special and sacred, whatever this means to you.

Spend the Holidays Solo – You are not obligated to go home for the holidays. If you really need to take a time out – do it, take a trip or curl up with your favorite book or watch a movie by yourself. It’s all good if it is what you need. Jump on a plane and go somewhere where others don’t celebrate the holidays and decompress. You can create a your own personal holiday interlude and start the New Year revitalized, relaxed and perhaps even smug…

Nourish Yourself – Take time to be alone and contemplate your blessings in life. Spend the day in nature and enjoy the sunshine. This day can be the fuel to keep you going during the busiest part of the holidays.

Hire a Cleaning Service – Treat yourself to a clean house without the hassle. Set up an appointment in November for your home to get cleaned the week of Christmas or Hanukkah and remove that task from your list so you can focus on other more important details. If you don’t regularly enjoy a cleaning service, make it your gift to yourself.

Dress to Celebrate – Take the time to create an outfit that makes you feel festive. Go through your closet and decide what you will wear in advance. Add a new piece to your existing holiday attire or splurge this year and get the perfect black dress that you can wear all year. Dress it up with a pair of sparkly party shoes. A cashmere sport coat can take any man from day to fancy evening events looking fabulous even while wearing blue jeans!

Bake With Friends and Swap Cookies – Set a date to have your girlfriends over to bake all day. Have everyone bring ingredients and baking dishes for their favorite cookies and desserts. This is a great way to spend quality time with your friends and get your pantry loaded for the holidays. If spending a day together doesn’t work, have everyone make triple recipes and schedule a swap during a morning or afternoon coffee break.

Keep Your Figure – Don’t let the holidays negate the weight loss you have achieved this year. Cut yourself some slack, strive for weight maintenance, not loss during the festive season. Use the secrets below to maintain your weight:

Drink a large glass of water and a protein bar before you attend a party. This way you will arrive satiated and less likely to eat everything on the buffet.

Offer to bring a vegetable platter to the party. Stock it with goodies that you love to snack on. Splurge and make a fabulous non-fat dip so it tastes as good as possible. Remember that alcohol is very high on calories. Offer to be the designated driver to your company party. You’ll probably fair better in the long run with less embarrassing moments to relive with your officemates.

Shop on a full stomach to avoid the lure of the food court at the mall. Take snack bars with you in case you have to shop longer than expected.

Volunteer – Show up at the pediatric ward of a local hospital to deliver small presents.

Call your local senior center to see if there are people who will be alone during the holidays. Ask if you can visit and bring a picnic lunch, cookies  or light snack to share.

Contact Habitat for Humanity and help build a home. Many trips are organized abroad during the holidays and might provide a good reason why you can’t go home and visit the relatives.

Find Ways to De-emphasize Commercialism – Prepare your kids for the upcoming gifts or lack thereof. Make a pact with your friends to not exchange gifts this year. Instead exchange cards that represent a service like babysitting, a home-cooked catered meal, popcorn and movie rental delivery etc. Spend time collecting blankets and food for the needy and help the less fortunate by sharing your time, energy and love.

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