Here are some practical suggestions that will help love your inbox a little more or at the very least stop being stressed out by it.
1. Set Aside Time to Go Through Your Emails
Raise your hand if you tend to respond to emails a few at a time whenever you have a spare moment. (We’re guilty too.) That is counter to the Marie Kondo method of simplifying. Instead, establish an inbox routine so you can get in the inbox zone. Maybe you check and respond to all emails first thing in the morning and then again at the end of the day. Or maybe it’s at Noon. Figure out the best time for you to manage your inbox and then stick to it.
2. Turn Off Your Email Notifications
Does your iPhone dinging every time you receive an email spark joy? Probably not. In fact, if you’re like most people it likely takes your focus away from whatever you were doing and may even create some anxiety. Now that you’ve set aside certain times of each day to go through your emails there’s no reason you need to get notified each time you receive an email. Turn off the notifications. If it’s really urgent someone will call or text you.
3. Don’t Create Too Many Categories
Your inbox needs only three categories.
You need to respond to or act on
You’re waiting on someone else to respond
You don’t need anymore (archive) or delete
4. Learn to Love the Delete Button
Marie Kondo’s entire method revolves around the idea that if you don’t need something anymore and it isn’t giving you any joy to hang onto it it’s time to get rid of it. Go ahead and press delete again, and again, and again.
5. Plan An Unsubscribe Session
One of the problems with email is that we all sign up for mailing lists we’re just not interested in. Maybe it’s to get a coupon, maybe it’s because we enjoyed a few articles on a site. Whatever the reason, it’s time to kick delete once and for all those emails that don’t routinely spark joy. Pour a cup of your favorite beverage at a time when you can give at least 90 minutes attention to nothing but your inbox. Open it and scan through just for subscriptions. Do not open anything else, ignore the beeps (see step 2) and leave your other tabs closed. Open each email and immediately scroll to the bottom where you’ll find the teeny font where you can unsubscribe and DO IT. If you haven’t opened and used the information in the subscription you’re not going to. Only keep subscriptions to the emails you open and actually read.
After your 90-minute unsubscribing marathon, make it a habit to open, read, and delete all of your subscription emails. Anything from yesterday that is unread tomorrow should be unsubscribed from going forward. If you subscribe to something for a coupon, once it comes IMMEDIATELY go into the email and unsubscribe.
Get to know Tiffany Sorensen, In Order to Succeed’s Project & Regional Manager Launching our Minnesota Office.
IOTS: So you grew up in MN and have recently moved back. What’s special about the area that makes you want to call the “Twin Cities” home?
TS: First and foremost, last year I married someone born, raised and residing here! Aside from that, Minnesota (MN) has always been a home base for me. Even with all of my moving around as a child, my extended family was based here, and I would spend every holiday and as much of the summer as I could either in the Twin Cities or “Up North”. When I had my own children, the routine remained the same and they too came to think of MN as their home base, no matter where else in the country we were residing.
Family is a big part of it. I read an article once about the percentage of native Minnesotans that leave for extended periods and end up eventually returning, so I guess I can be added to that statistic! I appreciate the robust offerings of sports, culinary, music and theater that exist here, and I am a huge fan of all things lake related.
My time spent in the desert has really made me appreciate (three of) the four seasons; I admit I am not much of a fan of winter past January 1st, so I am happy for opportunities to travel during the colder months!
IOTS:As founder and partner of a full-service tradeshow and event production company in Las Vegas, what types of clients did you work with?
TS: My clients were largely entertainment based initially, HBO, MGM, The Disney Channel to name a few. Over the years, as the business expanded, and I relocated to the East Coast, clientele grew to encompass professional sports, hospitality groups, music and other live festivals and events.
These projects gave me the opportunity to work both “back of house” with talent and production aspects, as well as “front of house” with sponsors, activations, logistics and the like.
Additionally, I worked with several small corporations and individuals creating and managing hospitality events both in the U.S. and abroad, as well as with several well recognized brands to create unique customer engagement experiences.
IOTS:Have organizing and designing spaces always been a part of your life?
TS: Yes. Organization is a critical aspect in every role I have served. Both live events and design project management contain so many moving parts that are subject to change at any given moment, even with the most perfectly executed plans.
If a project is not organized at the beginning, it becomes very difficult to keep on track when those inevitable curveballs arise. I had the opportunity to project manage a 200,000 sf build to suit in Las Vegas several years ago. I was involved in everything from groundbreaking to conference room furnishings, working hand in hand with our construction firm. The project was completed on time and on budget. In 2015, I took part in the massive undertaking of producing what is known as “The World’s Largest Music Festival,” and their first foray into the United States. Though these two projects seem very different, organization skills were critical to the success of both.
I have also built and renovated several homes, and as previously mentioned, have an abundance of experience moving throughout my life. I have served as the designer on all of my home builds and renovations, specifying sourcing and procuring everything from toilets to throw pillows, and have worked closely with my GCs to manage each project.
IOTS:You have personally moved many times so what’s your best piece of advice for a successful one?
TS: As an adult/post-college, I have moved 13 times! At the risk of sounding like a sales pitch, I have to say that I wish I had a company like In Order to Succeed (IOTS) by my side for those moves. Having true pros managing the nuts and bolts of a move allows for financial efficiencies to be realized, and the peace of mind can truly be considered priceless. Aside from that, moving is stressful no matter what the circumstances. I still have dreams where I realize I have left items behind at a former residence and I am tasked with retrieving these items immediately! As with most other stressful life situations, I find it best to focus on the positive; look at a relocation as a fresh start and new opportunity and know that somehow it always gets done!
IOTS:What attracted you to IOTS?
TS: Staying organized makes me more productive and more relaxed. Coming home to a beautiful space always seems to convey a sense of peace and warmth no matter what other chaos may be occurring. I have always felt it is important to have a home that is just as welcoming to its residents as it is to its guests. I have moved A LOT, starting from childhood, and I always looked forward to the opportunity to space plan and decorate my new room, making me feel at home no matter where home was.
The philosophies of IOTS align with this point of view, and the broad range of services we offer allow me to shape and concentrate my efforts in areas I enjoy most. It also enables us to provide the proper teammates to fill in the gaps in other areas in order to provide our clients with a “one stop shop.” In addition to that, it also is just a pleasure to work with such an intelligent, kind and fun group of people!
IOTS:What are you most excited about accomplishing as you introduce IOTS to Minnesotans?
TS: I am looking forward to establishing new relationships with both corporate and residential clients, and the opportunity to provide a fresh, holistic and fully comprehensive approach including private and corporate concierge services, interior styling, event creation and execution, renovation management, home or office organizing and beyond.
Whether working on a VIP client or employee team building event, collaborating with real estate agents and contractors on moves and renovations, or readying a space for a seasonal homeowner, I am excited to bring the expansive talent, experience and resources of IOTS to the area.
IOTS:Please tell us about some of the philanthropic work that you do and charities you are involved with.
TS: I serve on the board of an organization called Tuesday’s Children which was founded on 9/11/2001 and assists in long term healing via resiliency programs to those affected by traumatic loss or terrorism, including the support of Gold Star Military Families. I recently served as co-chair of our annual gala in NYC.
Another cause that is near and dear to my heart is “Rooms with a View,” an interior-design and culinary event that supports the missions of Southport Congregational Church. I was the co-chair for this event for seven years.
As my youngest child is now in his senior year of high school, my career of volunteering for various school and sporting endeavors is culminating after most recently serving as Parent Liaison for my son’s football team and on the committee of the school’s annual fundraiser.
Americans love stuff. As professional organizers, we know anecdotally what the numbers bear out: although our homes are getting larger, we have far more possessions than we have space for. A recent article in The Atlantic notes that, in 2017, “the average size of a single-family house in America was 2,426 square feet, a 23 percent increase in size from two decades ago” and that “there are around 52,000 [self-storage] facilities nationally; two decades ago, there were half that number.” The television show Hoarders, now in its ninth season, chronicles the lives of those Americans whose relationship to stuff has reached a physically and psychologically unhealthy level. Websites like Craigslist are loaded to the brim with a cavalcade of items for sale, but it can be awkward (and potentially unsafe) to invite prospective buyers into our homes. So, after we’ve cleaned up, taken inventory, and decreased our clutter, what should we do with the clothes, furniture, and knick-knacks with which we’ve decided to part? That’s where the thrift store comes in.
According to the Association of Resale Professionals (NARTS), nearly twenty percent of Americans shop at thrift, consignment, or antique stores each year, generating more than $17 billion in revenue. In 2014, the nation’s best-known thrift store, Goodwill Industries, reported in excess of $5 billion in retail sales at more than two thousand stores and online. NARTS notes that “there is no typical resale shopper, just as there is no typical resale shop [because] no one is immune to the excitement of finding a treasure and saving money.”
But donating your lightly used items to a thrift store is about more than just clearing out your personal space. By definition, thrift stores exist to serve the communities in which they are located. (Generally, consignment and antique stores are for-profit, while thrift stores are non-profit.) Profits from The Carousel, a thrift shop affiliated with the Southport Congregational Church in Connecticut benefit the church, the charities it supports, and the greater community. If you shop at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in Minneapolis, Minnesota, you’re helping thousands of residents of the Twin Cities whose families have been impacted by poverty. On their website, the Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC) Treasure Chest in Sarasota, Florida notes that not only do one-hundred percent of proceeds fund their services but also that “SPARCC participants receive vouchers to shop for free for the items they need.” And in New York City, the United War Veterans Council (UWVC) runs a recycling program in which the revenue from sales of donated items supports the program’s mission to “provide all veterans and their families with the care, recognition and opportunities they have rightfully earned.” Deborah Menich, the executive director of the UWVC’s recycling program, explains that the “UWVC collects approximately 12 million pounds of clothing annually,” which both “expands the diversion rate of unwanted items in landfills” and provides jobs to local residents.
Over the past several years, there has been some concern that thrift stores do not resell all of the donations they receive. In a recent article for the Huffington Post, Ray Tellez, Goodwill’s vice president of retail operations in southern California, reassures customers that items do not move directly from Goodwill’s retail stores to a landfill. Instead, those items are sent to a Goodwill outlet store; if they remain unsold, they are recycled. (Goodwill estimates that their recycling efforts keep more than 42 thousand tons of textile waste out of landfills each year.) Sustainability expert Jacqueline Tran reminds us that “people don’t realize most clothing is made from plastic…When it goes into a landfill, it’s just going to sit there for a long time.” Donating those clothes—and ensuring that they are reused or recycled—is an important step toward creating a more sustainable world.
Thrift stores help their communities, offer places for people to connect with one another, provide employment and volunteer opportunities, and encourage good sustainability practices. They should be the first places we think of when we consider how to declutter, simplify, and organize our lives. Those seemingly simple donations of new or gently used clothing and goods can help to create real, meaningful, positive changes, both in our communities and across the country.
Founder, Denise Caron-Quinn, recently wrote a piece on how acting as if you’re moving can help your business.
Office moves and renovations present many opportunities for a fresh start. Changing your office’s location or interior design are catalysts for giving your entire company a makeover — and not just an aesthetic one. For starters, change is invigorating! With a fresh new look and a sharp, modern design, it’s hard for anyone working or visiting a beautiful and uncluttered space not to feel inspired and energized. READ MORE HERE
FIVE PRODUCTIVITY TIPS FOR WORKING
Summer often brings the opportunity of working remotely. Be it summer break for the kids or a flexible boss, working from home can be a wonderful experience for both employer and employee. However, it’s important to be fully prepared for the challenges you might face. READ MORE HERE
OUR PLANNING CHECKLIST FOR STUDENTS AND FAMILIES
When our children are off of school we have the pleasure and the pain associated with lots of free time. So we’ve created a checklist that we hope will facilitate your children’s time, activities and priorities! READ MORE HERE
“I have been very aware of what our move would have been without In Order to Succeed – it would have been chaos and stress at a level I can’t comprehend!!! I am so profoundly grateful to you for making our move such a seemingly seamless process. Your calm yet upbeat energies were the pitch-perfect tone for the five days of organizing things to five destinations – THANK YOU!!!!”
Denise Caron-Quinn, the President at In Order to Succeed, wrote this article that was recently published on Forbes.com.
Office moves and renovations present many opportunities for a fresh start. Changing your office’s location or interior design arecatalysts for giving your entire company a makeover — and not just an aesthetic one. For starters, change is invigorating! With a fresh new look and a sharp, modern design, it’s hard for anyone working or visiting a beautiful and uncluttered space not to feel inspired and energized. Running a firm that specializes in managing relocations for individuals and companies, I know firsthand the potential advantages for businesses that operate “as if” they are moving (even if they don’t plan on vacating their current office). If you are an owner or manager of a company, you should consider targeting each of these seven areas — whether you are relocating or not.
Introduce New Innovations
Moving to a new location encourages companies to try out different methodologies and techniques to run their business. Relocations prompt evaluation of the way a workforce collaborates and communicates. I believe rethinking staff workspaces, conference and recreational areas and examining new ideas for working simpler and smarter should be a component of any companies’ ongoing practice. This requires that both management and staff evaluate ideas that break away from the status quo in order to try new solutions aimed at improving productivity, efficiency and use of space. For example, open floorplans, non-assigned seating and multipurpose workspaces are a departure from the traditional walled-in workspaces. One can also utilize adaptable furniture designs to improve workspace flexibility.
Declutter, Organize And Beautify
Offices eventually accumulate furniture, equipment and accessories that are damaged or no longer serving a purpose. And regardless of how well your cleaning crew cares for your space, furniture gets worn and stained. We often discard or recycle anything that’s damaged, mismatched or outdated when we move a client.I strongly believe that clearing office clutter and removing antiquated furnishings is a good investment that will give a fresh face to your company’s image. Supply closets, kitchens and break rooms are areas that typically become untidy. These spaces are used by your entire staff, so a team approach is needed in addition to assigning someone responsible for daily maintenance. For assistance, consider allocating funds toward a professional who has office organizing and redesign experience. The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (Full disclosure: I’m a member), as well as resources such as the American Society of Interior Designers andthe American Institute of Architects, can be utilized to find consultants experienced in reorganizing an existing space or designing your new one.
Evaluate Expenses And Build Energy Efficiency
Most of our clients take time to evaluate their financial outgoings as they prepare for a move. From utilities to office goods, they often will conduct a review of their suppliers to explore ways to save money. Energy costs represent a significant percentage of an enterprise’s monthly expenditures. With the green market constantly expanding and offering a range of more energy-efficient products, it’s smart to investigate and implement “green” upgrades to your office. Simple improvements such as a programmable thermostat, double-pane windows and automatic bathroom faucets may reduce your annual energy costs. Energy assessments should be routine practice for all companies and not just those on the move.
Enhance Employee Satisfaction
When evaluating your office, please take into account your staff who work there every day. Unpleasant surroundings and uncomfortable furnishings can be a real downer and deterrent. Enhancing your employees’ environment and comfort will likely result in a morale boost that can lead to more positive feelings toward their work and the company. Remember that their happiness directly affects the quality of their work as well as your profits.
Here are a few ways to enhance your employees’ environment:
Research shows that exposure to natural daylight can have positive effects on one’s mood, alertness and quality of sleep.Unfortunately, not every office space offers an unobstructed window view for each staff member. Installing skylights aren’t always an option, so keep windows regularly cleaned to maximize sunshine in and situate desks and workspaces within view of a window wherever possible. If an office has no windows, then the next best thing is indirect lighting. LED lighting and fluorescent lamps along ceilings, walls or floors can provide a hidden illumination source that can transmit light throughout the space. It’s less harsh than having the light shine directly on you, and it doesn’t reflect off of computer screens.
State-of-the-art office technologies are frequently a component of office renovations and relocations. With wireless devices and cloud-based programs, offices can drastically change their layouts and reduce space in areas that once contained hardware and wiring. Depending on your situation, you may find such areas can be converted for new purposes and you’ll be able to streamline traffic patterns to avoid time wasted traveling to places such as the printer.
A comfortable work area with quality furnishings lets staff know that your company cares about their well-being. Sitting on chairs that facilitate good posture and installing under-desk keyboard trays are measures that encourage proper body alignment and comfort. Some offices have taken their workspaces to the next level by introducing standing or movable desks. Standing desks are believed to provide impressive health benefits that include improved mood and energy. Most versions are adjustable, allowing the user to change the height of the desk and alternate between sitting and standing. If buying new desks isn’t feasible for your company, then consider a desktop adapter that will convert a traditional desk to a standing desk in minutes.
All in all, a newly improved work environment can promote increased productivity and enhanced efficiencies, along with a variety of other personal and professional benefits. So why not start managing your company with the same mindset that you would if you were relocating or remodeling your office?
To learn more about how to creating an organized office environment that enhances productivity and efficiency, please email or call us today!
As the end of the school year approaches we know to anticipate end of term projects and final exams. As parents and former students ourselves we understand that along with these increased demands comes stress and the disruption to normal routines. These changes can be particularly unsettling for your student and your family. While it is ultimately up to your child to figure out which practices work best for them to keep up with the current situation of things, you too can contribute your quota to their drive for success.
Students need a balanced environment to thrive, more so at this time when their senses are stoked, and nerves rattled. As a mom or dad, who’s aiming to be supportive, fostering a conducive environment that functions as a place of refuge – so to speak, is one of the most essential steps you can take to complement your son or daughter’s efforts towards success.
The First Part of Creating an Organized Environment is as You Might Have Guessed – Getting Organized!
The notion of final exams and its attendant complexities can mount pressure on your student and cause them to be disorganized. It’s not unusual to see your child’s room muddled in a heap of clutter, and while this can be justified as stemming from a lack of time, it is actually unhealthy and known to cause a significant drop in productivity because it in very literal terms, muddle the brain’s ability to perform optimally. As a parent, this is where you step in. Help your child create schedules and timetables that reinforce a balance between work, play and positive social and environmental interaction. Sure, they may be trying to rack up extra study time to cover all aspects of their syllabuses, but that doesn’t mean everything else should be relegated to the back burner.
Eating Healthy Requires Preparation
A nutritious and balanced diet is the body’s own octane booster to heightened performance. Fats are linked to a higher incidence of aggression, depression and heart disease. To prevent the onset of these conditions (which are already a risk given the heightened levels of stress), it is essential that you enlighten and educate your family to the dangers of an unhealthy diet. Keeping your home stocked with an assortment of nutritional foods and snacks that they enjoy is also super important.
Moderate the Tech Exposure
Technology can be potentially detrimental to your kids and adult children, most especially when there’s a need to focus and burn the midnight candles, and there is research to corroborate this fact. Back in the days, study time was ‘study time’ there were no mobile phones, no notifications or calls to put students off. Today mobile phones and computers are required for most assignments. They are integral part of the study environment but along with them comes unwanted distractions and noise. That’s not to say this is entirely nocuous but the key to technology (as is with most other parts of life) is moderation. Limit just how long your kids can be tethered to their technology or television and place an enforceable embargo on how much time they spend on their devices. Your kids should know that time spent online is valuable time – their efforts should be directed at making the most use of it.
In addition to these, don’t forget the importance of positive reinforcements. Your child needs all the encouragement he/she can get. So while you go about tuning the environment, don’t forget to rub it in with bits of the ‘you can do it’ and the ‘keep focused.’
To learn more about how to creating an organized home environment that enhances student performance on final projects and exams, please email or call us today!
In our lives of clutter, we hold on to many things we don’t need or use while others struggle to make ends meet. Consider giving away that coat in your closet that 5 years ago you said you may wear someday, gifts received that you have held onto and know you will never use or that old furniture in storage for years with no sentimental value that you just want to hold onto. All unusable and held on to clutter can weigh you down and lift someone less fortunate up. Consider donating or giving away things that you no longer need.
For our NYC Readers why not consider donating to The United War Veterans Council. Their recycling program is the largest of its kind in the Greater New York Area and this innovative program is a Social Business Model that generates revenues for their Veteran Programs and provides donors with a tax deductible opportunity while supporting our American Heroes who have given up their lives to fight for our liberty and are now struggling to survive or homeless. The coat you have held onto for 5 years could be sold to supply multiple veterans what they need to survive or keep a homeless veteran warm.
There is value in all clutter to someone and the UWVC make is easy and convenient offering donors a Free Pick Up of your donation and their program promotes re-use of Clothing & Household Goods, reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills, saving taxpayers money on waste disposal services, and helps communities meet sustainability goals all while uncluttering your life allowing you to live abundantly. Please visit them online or give them a call to schedule a pickup. Take a look at the UWVC Accepted Items.
“I can’t say enough about Denise, Robin and their entire army of angels. They were professional, super efficient and a true pleasure to be around – even amidst the stress of moving. Without them, I would literally still be surrounded by boxes!”
In a few short weeks, holiday gluttony will give way to guilty feelings and itchy fingers. That’s when we will all sit down to write a set of aspirational goals for 2018. Working out more and spending more time with family are commendable objectives, but if you are disorganized, you often mismanage the time necessary to achieve these new goals. Amy Esper, professional organizer, move manager and co-head of In Order to Succeed in Sarasota, FL will let you in on five new habits that will improve your life quality and make the time it takes to get to the gym and play with your kids.
1. Don’t Let Guilt Hold you Captive to Things.
Being sentimental is commendable. Holding onto everything that is sentimental is a slippery slope. Throw away that shredded duck pillow that your mother had on her couch 20 years ago. Your memories are with the person, and not the thing. Share your stories of the fun you had on the couch chatting with your mom as you laid your head on that pillow. It is not enough to put it in your basement or attic. Get rid of it! Slowly go through items that you stored and part with them. Your loved ones will be so proud that you did!
2. Bargain Hunt Selectively.
Frank Woolworth opened America’s first discount variety store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in June 1879. Today there are over 250 discount chains worldwide and countless online stores constantly advertising sales. Saving money on things you need is smart. Buying things on sale that you don’t need is not. Practice smart shopping. Don’t go to the store without a list- even if it’s just in your head! Resist the temptation to go off list. You will have more money in your pocket and less clutter in your home to clean around.
3. Get your Children on the Chore Train.
It’s never too late to teach your kids to do for themselves. Tired of making four beds in the morning or packing three lunches at night? Me, too. Start small and give your kids incentives. For toddlers, get a jar and let them fill it with pennies after each completed task. If your kids are older, increase their bedtime or curfew for chores well done. New research shows that it takes 66 days to create a habit, so get going! The kids will feel proud and you will have more time to do fun things with them. Check out our other tips on the Five Ways to be More Organized Parents.
4. Put Everything in it’s Place Right Away.
Stop putting things in temporary spaces. When you walk in the door of your home or office, put everything in its place. Your keys go in the dish or on the hook. Your briefcase goes on your desk. Your coffee mug goes in the dishwasher. Your shoes belong on their shelf and your clothing goes in your closet or in the dry-cleaning bin. Why wait? Its only going to accumulate. Keeping things in their place avoids the large clean ups that occur on the weekends when we want to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
5. Sell It.
Those kindles your kids bypassed for iPads? The jeans you can’t quite squeeze into? Don’t let them clutter your surroundings. Recoup some money for them and make way for new hobbies you can share with your loved ones. Facebook marketplace has replaced Craigslist as the best place to sell your goods locally. You can post anything from an old camera to a car in less than five minutes. It feels so great to free up space and get your items to people who will use them! There is also a new game in town when it comes to clothing sales. Move over eBay, the Poshmark app is here. Place your item for sale with a few clicks and when it sells, print the emailed label, package your item in envelopes (available for free at your post office) and place it in your mailbox. The best part? Poshmark allows you to transfer your earnings to your bank account in minutes!
Adopting these 5 Habits will give you a Fresh Start to the New Year!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it? Most of us look forward with anticipation to the excitement and time off that the holiday season brings. In our minds we are capable of baking and decorating like Martha Stewart, selecting Oprah-inspired gifts for everyone on our lists and wrapping them like Mr. Bean in Love Actually. Realistically, even if we possessed all those skills, none of us have the time to make it all happen while maintaining our sanity. We need to simplify our season. As most of these tasks fall on females, it is no surprise that according to a January 2006 survey, women (44 percent) are more likely than men (31 percent) to report an increase of stress during the holiday season, citing lack of time (69 percent versus 63 percent), lack of money (69 percent versus 55 percent), and pressure to give or get gifts (51 percent versus 42 percent) as primary stressors.
Why do we feel an acute shortage of time in this season? According to research, it’s because people volunteer more during the holidays; spend less time socializing with friends; having increased family obligations and significantly increase the time and money spent shopping, decorating and sending greetings. What we really value most during the holidays, as per Odyssey, is:
Being with family.
Cooking with loved ones.
Shopping for holiday gifts.
Decorating the house.
Holiday movies on television.
Enjoying the Lights.
Being in the holiday spirit.
So how do you get back to the joys of the list above? Simplify your life and add more “fa” to your “la” by following our ten tips below.
1. Say “No”.
Saying no is easier than you think and will save you from long nights of doing things you don’t want to do or staying awake at night worrying because you forgot to do them. Let’s practice. Your friend: “Can you make a Maltesers Christmas pudding for my party?” You: “No.” Your husband: “Honey, can you pick up some gifts for my mom and a few colleagues?” You: “No.” Your son or daughter: “Mom, can you be the stage mom for my school’s Christmas play?” You; “No.” You get the idea. Of course, you should say it nicely, with a smile and add an “I love you,” but the point is that there are so many things for which your time is obligated during this season that you need to prioritize and simplify your schedule. Don’t stretch yourself thin and neglect spending time with those you love doing the things you really love. No one remembers the expertly decorated tree or present. They remember the laughs you have over a delicious dinner, the movie you snuggled up watching and the game you played all night.
2. Ask for Help.
No woman or man is an island. We all need help. Ask your partner or kids to help with the decorating or baking. It does not always have to fall on you just because it has in the past. You might get some grunts, but who cares? You’ve been cursing under your breath for the past five Christmases. People simply do not offer to help anymore. Our devices have made us somewhat oblivious to human cues. Ask for help. If you don’t, you won’t get it and you will resent the very people you want to enjoy. You may not think this will simplify your season, but if you let go a little and ask, you will not only gain time, but you may have fun engaging in those tasks with your family.
I like spontaneous decisions for travel and date nights, but not for family gatherings like Christmas and Hanukah. Jot down or electronically transcribe a quick list of to dos and associate a timeframe with each. Write down when you will get your tree, decorate outside and in, bake cookies, shop, and plan the special holiday meals. For example, my family always gets our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving and decorates it slowly for two days. It eases us into Christmas. Then over the next week and before December 1st, we decorate the house inside and out. Next, we begin shopping for our children, because let’s admit, it’s pretty much all about them. We affix a deadline for the end of shopping to make sure we have time wrap our gifts, which occurs the week before Christmas. The cookie baking takes place a few days before Christmas and we plan our meals three days before (as we buy a lot of our sides to again simplify our lives and spare us some time). You get the idea. Have a plan and roughly stick to it. That way, you won’t get that panicky, rushed feeling on your first day home from work. You can enjoy each phase as it comes, knowing you have time in between to relax. Check out our other tips on Making Better Use of Your Time.
4. Calendar It.
Once you have a list worked out, calendar it. For those of you who don’t use google calendars, get on it! You can color code your entries for work, family and personal and share them with your loved ones. This way you can include the activity, the address, the travel time, and any notes you may have in the margin. Now, I am not saying that your significant other won’t still ask you where he’s supposed to pick up the catered food, because if he’s like mine, he will. At least he or she will have the opportunity to see when and where (with a quick click to navigate him or her there) you would like him or her to help. If the items are more nebulous, use the “all day” button and a range of days in which to complete the task. It really helps you feel centered and in control of your days during the craziness of the season.
5. Pare Down.
Don’t you hate the feeling of cramming a bunch of new clothes or toys into closets and toy bins after the holidays? As an organizer, I get sick thinking about it. Take a slow Saturday (ha, I know) in the next few weeks and donate your older items that are outdated and those that are too small for your kids. Go through the toy bins. You know the toys that your kids love and those that have been overlooked since someone bought them for their birthday. Give them away. There are plenty of families in need during this season who would love them. Use it as a learning experience for your younger kids to teach them that not everyone is so fortunate. They will get excited about helping others and have their first philanthropic experience.
6. Out with the Old Decorations.
Christmas is a special time of year and we are all prone to overbuying trinkets and ornaments that make us happy. BUT, there is no need to have a garage full of Christmas bins. I guarantee you do not even know what is in half of the bins since you take out only the top two winners every year. You never use it and you aren’t going to. You know where I’m going with this. Clear out the stuff you do not and never will, put out.
Do you like it? Will you ever use it? Are you keeping it because of a guilt trip your mother-in-law may impose? Give it to someone you know if it assuages guilt, or donate it. Either way, simplify your life and let it go. You will be so happy you did.
Yes, I know I wrote that volunteering was a time suck in paragraph two, but not strategic generosity of time. Pick your favorite charity and pledge 2-5 hours of your time on a given day. (Add this to your plan above!) Nothing brings perspective like seeing the plight of those that are forgotten during the holidays. Again, if it is appropriate, bring your children and show them that your family places value in helping the less fortunate. Those moments imprint on them. We can never forget that for those of us that have chosen to have children, our most important mission is raising good little humans.
8. Skip Some Gifting.
I generally enjoyed shopping before I had children. I still would if I could justify brick and mortar purchasing while paying a babysitter. It’s fun to buy yourself things. It’s even fun to buy for others, but not for everyone at once and in such a condensed timeframe. If your family is on the large side (like my husband’s family with seven brothers and sisters), skip the gifts. (Gasp!) Of course, make sure everyone is ok with foregoing the present swap. You may be surprised to find that other family members are relieved to cross some people off their lists as they are feeling the crush of holiday presents as well. If it’s necessary to swap presents between kids, establish a maximum as you would at a Secret Santa party. It takes a lot of the pressure off and simplifies the time spent with your family. The focus becomes hanging out and not endlessly opening gifts!
9. Be a Thoughtful and Conservative Gift Giver.
Don’t you hate hauling giant coffee table books home in your suitcase? So does everyone else! Don’t give oversized gifts just to give. Think about the giftee and their interests. Think about logistics. Can they carry it home? Will their children destroy it? Here’s a good one: Will they like it? Simply put, put in more thought.
Likewise, save the flashy gifts for your significant others. People are embarrassed when you bestow lavish gifts on them and they don’t return the favor. Of course, later you will receive a gift of greater or equal value as the need for comity sets in. People really do appreciate thoughtful gifts that show that you actually considered who they are before you bought them. You don’t have to spend a lot.
10. Pace Yourself.
If you’re hanging lights and your shoulders are burning, take a break. If you can’t imagine baking one more batch of cookies, put the spatula down and put the dough in the refrigerator. Don’t think of it as giving up. Everything in life is better in moderation. Many of us grew up thinking we should not put off for tomorrow what we can do today, but sometimes you are a much nicer person tomorrow if you put off today. Don’t stress your mind or body by giving yourself artificial deadlines. This also means you can’t wait until the last second to do something that has to get done by a certain date (See “Plan”).
No matter what annoying occurrence befalls you holiday, above all, try to shrug it off. A wise confidante of mine has a little sigh sound that he makes when something goes wrong to tell his brain it’s going to be ok. It’s a high-pitched “hhhmph” with a shrug of the shoulders. This season is so fleeting and won’t be here again for another year. Simplify it, but enjoy it. When you feel stressed, shrug, and say “hhhmph” and get back to watching Ralphie beat the crap out of that mean red-headed kid.
Holiday table settings are almost as important as the food. Sure, some people take the approach that the holiday table is just there to hold the food and the wine glasses—throw a holiday colored tablecloth on it and voilà! The holiday table setting, however, has the power to set the atmosphere for the entire meal. From formal to casual to somewhere in between we scoured Pinterest to find several gorgeous holiday table settings. Steal ideas from these pretty table settings and visit our Pinterest page for even more inspiring ideas and tips on hosting a stress-free holiday season.
If you’re throwing a large holiday gathering that includes a sit-down meal, you’re going to want to organize the seating. We love the idea of these Rosemary Sprig Place cards for a simple but elegant holiday table setting.
One of the easiest ways to add some glam to your holiday table setting is with candles. This one from Fab You Bliss is perfect for Thanksgiving and if you switch out the pumpkins for glittery pine cones you have a perfect Christmas centerpiece as well.
Impress dinner guests at any winter holiday party with a sophisticated planted centerpiece. Add accents of gold or silver for an even more festive setting Rustic Table Setting
For a rustic and utterly easy to create table setting we love this burlap runner topped with pine branches, pinecones, and mandarin oranges.
Stick to a blue and silver theme for an elegant table setting. HGTV Designer Katrina Giles created this easy clean-up table setting by putting white and blue plates against as shimmery black placemats and using a silver snowflake wrapping paper as table runner.For more inspiring table setting ideas checkout “50 Christmas Table Setting Ideas” from AnnaVasily.
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