Tiny Tasks, Big Results, Holiday Organization Tip, Day 14

Get the Wrap Station Ready!
  You’ve started your shopping.  Presumably you’ve got your list going so you know exactly what you purchased and who you’ll be giving it to.  If you’re like me, wrapping gifts starts out being a joyful idea that rapidly declines into a major holiday chore.  Get a jump on wrapping this season by setting up a “wrapping station” somewhere in your home.  Mine is in my bedroom.  It’s a very simple station that consists of an “under the bed” tote. There are two keys to a successful wrapping station.
1. It has to be easy to take out, easy to put away.  This is really important if you want to be able to wrap a gift or two when you’ve got a spare few minutes.  EASY is really important.  If you have to drag everything out and put everything away you’re less likely to maximize that time.
2. The supplies in the tote have to be easy to access.   
The under the bed tote and a couple of smaller shoe boxes unlock both of these keys. 
The tote has wheels on one end.  I can easily pull it out when I’m ready to wrap.  The lid splits in half, so I can just fold back half or remove the whole thing.  Truthfully during the heavy wrapping season I usually put the tote back under my bed half open. 
   Use one of the shoe boxes to corral ribbon, bows, scissors, pens, and tape.  Try to teach yourself to drop the scissors, tape and pen back into the box as you’re wrapping.  That way you won’t be digging under wrapping scraps looking for them.  Use the second shoe box for “tag control.” 

What’s not in this picture? The other end of the tote.  Obviously the wrapping paper rolls fill the whole side, but hidden from view in the end next to the “tag” box is a neatly stacked pile of gift bags and tissue paper.  Everything has it's own place.  There are plenty of choices, but not too many.  Easy to access and Easy to put away.  One added bonus. If you want to take the "wrapping station" somewhere else in your house to wrap gifts, it's easy to move around.
  Do you have a good tip or trick for organizing your wrapping supplies? If so, I'd love to hear from you!
Thanks for stopping by today!


Tiny Tasks, Big Results - Day 13, Christmas Card Organization

Organizing Christmas Cards from years past – and this year too.
What to do with Christmas Cards at the end of the season, hmmm....it's always an emotional decision.  We hate to throw them away, but what can be done with them?
Here's a fast, 
simple idea:
Tie them in bundles with beautiful ribbons and pack them away with your other holiday decorations.  Each year set the bundles around your home, on coffee tables, end tables, mantle pieces etc.  They'll make beautiful decorations and mementos all in one.
  Add a tag to the bundle that has the year on one side. On the other side of the tag write a note inviting friends and family to untie the bundle and read the cards.  Who knows, Christmas Card reading might just turn into an annual tradition.
  Do you have a great idea for Christmas Cards? I'd love to hear about it. 
 Thanks for stopping in to chat!


Tiny Tasks, Big Results - Day 12, Holiday Decoration Swap

Do the Decoration Swap
   Empty your Christmas storage totes onto the kitchen or dining room table.  Using the now empty totes, go through the areas of your home you plan to decorate - clear coffee tables, mantles and shelves of your everyday decorative items. Put these everyday items into the Christmas totes.

Since these totes already have a home in the garage, attic or a closet, you’ll be able to store them easily.  Your holiday decorations will present themselves even more beautifully when the everyday items are gone.
After the holidays, just reverse the process.  This will make it easy to dust, and tidy up before you replace the everyday stuff.  My guess is that you probably have more Christmas stuff than you have "everyday" stuff.  This will leave you with a couple of extra empty totes. You can use these empty “decoration” totes to store/hide Christmas gifts, just don’t forget you put them in there.
Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today!  I hope your holiday season is going well.  If you have comments or ideas about holiday organization, I hope you'll take a moment to share them with me.


Tiny Tasks, Big Results - Day 11, How did Thanksgiving go?

Start a holiday – "How it went" diary
    This is as simple as it sounds.  You can do it on your computer or you can use an actual journal. 
We've already jumped two major holiday hurdles, possibly 3; Thanksgiving, Creating a Gift Shopping List, and that joyful yet exhausting event - Black Friday Shopping.
  After each event take 5-10 minutes to make some notes about how things went.  What worked out well, what didn’t go so well and what you would do differently. 
  When you pack up your holiday decorations pack up the journal with all of your holiday stuff.  Next year you can re-read your notes, make changes and add new notes.  If you use a 3 ring notebook you could include a tab for the journal, a tab for recipes and a tab for the shopping lists you’ve created this year. Again, pack the notebook away with your Halloween or Fall Decorations so you'll have it on hand when things start to get crazy next year.
  If you're doing your journal digitally, you can scan the recipes, attach the shopping lists via a hyperlink, and create a simple Word Document for notes.  If you use OneNote - this would be a WONDERFUL Notebook that is easy to access each year.
  Thanks so much for stopping by today!  I hope your Tiny Tasks are generating big results for this holiday season and those in the future.


Tiny Tasks, Big Results - Day 10, Dish by Design

Before the Big Meal(s)
Your holiday meals are planned.
You've got the menu, the shopping list has been made and the shopping done.
Cooking day is tomorrow, but...Do you know where your dishes are?
Do you have enough serving dishes and serving utensils? 
  Time to do a quick check! Pull out your serving dishes, utensils, Menu and some sticky notes.  Label each serving dish using a sticky note.  You’ll be sure you have enough serving dishes and your kitchen helpers will know where to put each of the dishes as they come out of the oven or off of the stove. 
  Want to make clean up a snap?  Stop by the dollar store and buy clear plastic serving dishes.  After the meal you can toss them out or fill them with left overs and send them home with your guests.
Thanks so much for stopping by to read my blog today.  Please let me know how your holiday is going.  Do you have tips you can share with my readers? We'd love to hear them!


Tiny Task, Big Results - Who loves that Tradition anyway?

Who loves that tradition anyway?
  Sometimes we do things every year simply because we’ve done them every year.  Today’s Tiny Task -  take some time to talk to your family, both immediate and extended to find out which traditions are really important.  It might help to make a list of traditions before you start the conversation. (Facebook or Email can make this conversation easy to have.  No, you don’t have to call everyone individually.) 

   You may find that there are not as many really "important" traditions as you think.  You may also be surprised to learn that it’s the little stuff – for my kids I thought the annual Gingerbread House making party was really important.  It was fun, but expensive in both time and materials. After talking with them about traditions, I found out the one thing they liked the most, was getting a Grande White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks and driving around our local neighborhoods looking at lights. 
 Wow, what we call the cocoa drive was more important to them, and cost me a whole lot less in time, money, and planning.  Who knew?  Consider the Gingerbread House party a thing of the past.
 If you do find that one member of your family is crazy about a tradition that others aren’t attached to, let that person take charge of the event. 

Thanks so much for stopping by to read my organization tip for today. How is your holiday season going?  Do you have a great tip you'd like to share?  Are you struggling with a particular task? I'd love to hear from your!  Please feel free to leave a comment.

Thanks Again,


Tiny Tasks, Big Results - Organize your Purse, Organize your Receipts.

  YIKES - how do you take control of all of the receipts that end up in your purse, wallet, pockets, etc.   It's simple to keep your receipts organized if you just do a little planning in advance.  Your Tiny Task for today is to find a tray, box, or some type of container that you can literally DUMP your handbag into at the end of each day - if you don't carry a handbag, it's a place to empty your pockets.
  Why dump you ask? Because we collect things in our handbags that don't actually belong there. Yet once they make it in, it could take weeks or even months to get them out.  By dumping your handbag each night you're forced to "re-load" each morning. 
  This "re-load" will lighten your load and help you stay organized.
  What does all of this have to do with receipts?  I use the dump tray all year round, but during the holiday season, I leave an envelope in the tray, along with a pen and some sticky notes.  Each night I dump my bag, sort the recipts by store and put them into the envelope.  I use the sticky notes to indicate the stores, and occassionally to tag a receipt that is unclear.
  This is a simple task, an EASY task, But it will go a long way toward keeping your handbag and your holiday receipts manageable.  There's a little added bonus here too ladies, if you're like me, and you love buying handbags, but you get in a rut carrying that same black bag all winter, this simple little task will make it easy to use a different bag each day.

Budgeting Tip - If you're trying to stay on a budget this year, buy yourself a Visa Type Gift Card for the amount of your budget.  Only use it for Christmas Expenses.  You'll be able to check you spending online, and stay within your budget. 

  Thanks so much for stopping by today!  I'd love to hear how you're managing your holiday receipts and maybe your handbag too!


Tiny Tasks, Big Results - Day 7, Wrap-n-Roll

Be ready to Wrap-n-Roll this season.
It never fails, there's always a last minute party, event, or some other situation where you find yourself buying a gift "on the way." 
  The biggest problem with this - you can often end up buying wrapping paper, tape, ribbon, - and maybe even scissors, at the same time.
    Save yourself some time, money and stress by packing a Wrap-n-Roll tote and putting it in the trunk of your car.
Fill one side with ribbons, bows, tags, pens, scissors, etc.
Fill the other side with paper, tissue, cards, gift bags, and gift card holders.
I used the Tote-tally Organized 13x13 Tote.  I filled one side with Wrapping Paper, Gift Bags, Cards and Tags.  I filled the other side with Ribbons, Bows, Pens, Scissors, Tape etc.  Everything needed to create a beautiful gift at a moments notice.
Want to hear my whole "Wrap-n-Roll" Tote story.  Watch the Video.

Thanks so much for stopping by to read today's tip.  Feel free to add a comment and let me know how your holiday season is shaping up!


Tiny Tasks - Big Results, Day 6 A list you can check twice!

   Lists, lists, lists and more lists.  That's what the holidays come down to, how to manage the long lists of things you need to do.  Today I want to talk about your Gift List.  With holiday sales starting earlier and earlier each year, keeping track of purchased gifts can be overwhelming.  Here's a simple solution for taking control of that Gift Shopping List (GSL).

  Start with a small notebook. Once that will easily fit in your handbag or pocket.  I love the Moleskine (3.5"x 5") notebooks that can be purchased at bookstores like Barnes and Noble or at office supply stores like Office Depot.  The thing I love about them is their "thin-ness".  Because they don't have a spiral binding or a book type binding they are pretty flat and easy to carry.  They also have perforated pages, so when the season is over you can pull out the pages easily.  The one I'm using this year is the same one I used last year.

Step 2 - Create "sticky note" tabs for each major category of shopping.
   These might be individual people or groups of people.  For example, each of my children have their own tab, as I buy the most for them.  Then I have a tab for; FAMILY, one for FRIENDS, one labeled HOSTESS - Little things that are appropriate for taking to a holiday party, one for SERVICE - these are people like Teachers, Postman, UPS Driver, etc.  My last section is tagged with a "?".  This is where I keep a list of things that I've purchased that have yet to be assigned to a recipient.   This doesn't mean I'm out buying "willy-nilly" items, it means that I found something that would be perfect for more than one person.  As I get closer to Christmas, I'll assign the gifts and/or return some of them if I've found something better.  This little section is GREAT if you've forgotten someone or need a gift sooner than you had anticipated. 

Step 3 - Controlling your list information
  Some gift lists are easy to manage.  Hostess, Service, etc - these generally include one name, one gift, and no need to "hide" the gift in the process.  Create a "code" list on the inside of your notebook. I use a pretty simple series of letters to identify where I am in the process with each gift:
P = Purchased
W = Wrapped
D = Delivered
S = Shipped
  If you spread your gifts around the house for storage, you may want to include a note as to the location of the gift.
   With kids, I use one side of the page for "Gifts" and one side of the page for "Stockings". 

Step 4 - Storing your purchased gifts
  If you can keep all of the gifts you don't have to "hide" in one place it will make things much easier. I use labeled boxes in the garage that follow my "tabs" FAMILY, FRIENDS, HOSTESS, SERVICE, etc.  If you have room in a spare bedroom or closet that's even easier.
 With gifts I have to hide, I use two large boxes in the garage.  One is labeled "Baby Clothes" the other is labeled "Travel Stuff".  I actually use these boxes all year for things I don't want my kids to find, birthday gifts, Easter treats, etc.  Max is my youngest, so all of his things go in the Baby Clothes box, London - obviously gets the things in the Travel Box.  This system has worked well for years.  If something is too large for the boxes - like a bicycle or skis, I usually leave those at my office until Christmas Eve.

List Tips -

Try to leave a line or 2 between each entry in your gift list - this will provide extra space if needed.

Write in pencil.  I try to keep a mechanical pencil clipped to my list.  That's another benefit to using the thin Moleskine notebook.

If keeping track of your spending/budget is important to you, add a column to each page and/or a section to the back of your notebook for an easy reference. I assign a budget to my kids pages for both Gifts and Stockings.

I hope your holiday season is getting off to a smooth start.  I'd love to hear how you're applying these organizing ideas and others to your life.  Please feel free to share a comment and to share this post with your friends and family.
Thanks so much for stopping by today!


Tiny Tasks - Big Results - Thanksgiving Shopping List Video

Thanksgiving Shopping List simplified.
After yesterday's post it was suggested that I do a video explainging how to use the shopping list.  Please click on the image below to watch the video now.  To download the shopping list - click here.

Thanks so much for stopping by to read/watch my blog today.  Join me tomorrow when we talk about a great way to "Wrap and Roll."


Tiny Tasks, Big Results - Day 4 Thanksgiving Shopping List

Day 4 Thanksgiving Meal Planning
  As I walked past the wall of canned Pumpkin at the grocery yesterday, I thought to myself, YIKES I better get my Pumpkin now, remembering back a couple of years ago when there was a shortage of Pumpkin and I had to buy a frozen pie. But then my organization brain kicked in and said “STOP, don’t buy anything until you know what’s in the pantry.”  With just 8 days until Thanksgiving today is the day to pull out the recipes, create the shopping list and start planning. 
  Last year I came up with a really great way to make a holiday shopping list, using Excel. Here’s a link to my list, you can save it and then modify it to match your shopping list.  I would suggest downloading it now and opening it so you can view it while you read through the instructions – especially if you are a visual learner.
  The items in red are main categories or “aisles” at the grocery store.  Here’s how it works.
  1. Gather all of your recipes together.
  2. Put the name of each dish in the top row (row 1) – you can just type over my entries with your own.
  3. Start with your first recipe. Put EVERY ingredient on the recipe under the correct “Aisle” heading in the Shopping List  Column (column A).  Even things like Salt and Pepper. Then in the column for that recipe write how much of that item you need to complete the recipe. 
  4.   Do the same thing with all of your recipes – adding items to the list column by category and then the amount needed under specific recipe column.  Some things will be used in multiple recipes, like Chicken Broth in my example list.  Only put Chicken Broth in the Shopping List one time – see example.
  5. Once you’ve finished all the recipes, add the rows across and fill in the total in Column D – Total for Recipes.  Some things will be by the ounce, some by the pound, some by the each, that’s okay.   I left a few items on my list so you could see how I did it.  You’ll want to clear out all of my numbers before you start your list.
  6.  Next step, print out your list and go into your kitchen.  Use the column labeled PANTRY CHECK to verify that you have or don’t have the quantity needed to complete all of your recipes. A simple check mark can indicate that you have what you need. If you don’t have enough, fill in the amount you’ve got in the Pantry Check Column, subtract what you’ve got from the Total for Recipes (column D) and write the answer in the Purchase column (B).  The Purchase Column is what you need.
When you are going through your dry goods, if you can clear a space on your pantry shelf and put all of the items together, you’ll realize 2 benefits.  The first, when you’re ready to begin your holiday cooking, you’ll be able to get everything you need in one place.  Secondly, if you pull something out of that area in the pantry, you’ll know you need to replace it before you start your holiday cooking.  You can do the same thing with a designated area in your refrigerator and/or freezer.
Once you set up your shopping list, save a copy of it.  Chances are you’ll be able to use the list with a few modifications when you’re ready to plan your next holiday meal.  Just clear out the numbers and start again.

Download my list - click here for the link.

Thanks so much for stopping by to visit my blog.  Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know how your holiday planning is coming along.


Tiny Tasks - Big Results - Day 3 Start Scheduling

Back it Up Day
  It’s time to start putting your calendar to work for you.  Today is the day to start mapping out major events and shopping adventures and then backing up those major events with the minor steps necessary to accomplish everything.  Thanksgiving is only 9 days away so let’s get busy.  If you’re a really visual person colored pencils can be helpful at this stage.  Before you actually start writing things on your calendar, make a few lists (everyone’s list and priorities will be different, these are just examples):
  Create these lists on a document on your computer.  This will help you add things in as you go along through the season.  Be sure to include a date at the top of the list and change it each time you modify the list. 
Major Events (things that you will definitely do/attend/etc.) – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Hanukkah, Travel Plans, kids release dates from school.
Minor Events (things you will most likely do/attend/etc.) – Children’s Christmas program at school/church, Hanukkah meals with friends, Parties, ….
Major To-Dos
Decorate the House
Buy the Tree
Decorate the Tree
Santa Pictures
Bake cookies
Write Christmas Cards
Send Christmas Cards
Minor To-Dos
Get the carpets cleaned
Once your lists are complete you can start adding items to your calendar.  This is where the colored pencils come in handy.  Use a different colored pencil to indicate each of the Major Events on your calendar.  Major events are things that will have lots of other moving parts, so using color coding will help keep things organized.  I use the space at the bottom of my calendar to make notes about the things I will need to follow up on for each major event. 

   This is just the first phase of organizing your time.  Don’t stress out on the details. Just get the Events and To-Dos on the calendar.  Once you’ve got your lists written print them out and check them off as you add them to the calendar.  When the calendar is up to date go back to your computer list and add a symbol or check mark to each item on the list so you know it’s been scheduled.  I use a Clock symbol. If you're unable to schedule something, you’ll know because the symbol will be missing. You can also add the date if you want and other relevant information.  Once that is done, change the date at the top of the list, and reprint it. Keep it with your calendar. As you think of things that need to be added to your list you can jot the information down.
 Major To-Dos
ÂDecorate the House – Saturday, November 24
 Buy the Tree – Sunday, November 25
 Decorate the Tree – Sunday, November 25
Santa Pictures
Bake cookies
 Write Christmas Cards
 Send Christmas Cards

  Once you’ve finished today’s task, you’ll have a good overall view of your holiday schedule.  As you begin the details of planning you can add things in around your major/minor events.

  One last reminder.  Don't stress out over this today.  Just get the major stuff down so you have a foundation to work from.  Then, spend a few minutes each evening reviewing your lists, adding details and discussing changes/additions with your family.  You'll all be on the same page, and they'll have a good understanding of what it takes to have a succesful holiday season.  Dinner discussions with the calendar will also help to prompt forgetful teenagers (and husbands) into remembering potentially important things that are coming up for them over the holidays as well. Things like School Parties, Dances, Ski Days with friends, or holiday events at your husband's office need to be on your calendar too.
  Thanks for joining me today! Here's to a stress-less holiday season.


Tiny Tasks, Big Results - Day 2, Make room for the new.

Out with the old – making space for the new!
 We all have intentions of cleaning out our closets, the game closet, or the kids rooms before the holidays.  This is an item that for many of us sounds like a great idea, but somehow we never quite find the time to get it all done. 
  Making room for the new things that will arrive in your home over the holiday season can be really easy if you start early and keep it simple.  Set up a “donate” box in your closet, in the kid’s closets/rooms, in the family room, in the garage, and in the laundry room. It will be easy to place items in these boxes as you come across things you no longer need/want.  Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself, just set yourself up for success by having the boxes available.  As you go through your daily life you’ll find plenty to fill the boxes without actually adding a chore, “clean out the closet,” to your list.
  If you have children, let them know they will need space for their new toys/gifts too.  Find a local charity that cleans up and refurbishes toys and games for needy families.  It’s so easy for children to be generous when they understand that there are other kids who won’t get things if they don’t donate/share the things they no longer need.  In Tacoma, which is where I live, we have a wonderful organization called The Toy Rescue Mission, they serve children for both Christmas and Birthdays.  They also serve the Senior community.  Here’s a link to their website, hopefully there is a similar program in your area. http://www.toyrescuemission.org/whoweare.html  
  I know lots of you that read my blog are crafters, when I was a kid, there was one gift I looked forward to getting every year - an Art Box.  It was a simple brown cardboard box filled with paper and stickers, glues and ribbons, a hole punch, crayons, markers, scissors, etc.  The box wasn't fancy, just brown cardboard, none of the supplies "went together" but it was usually the gift I loved the most.  If you need to purge from your craft supplies during this holiday season, you could make some young child VERY happy by donating a box of supplies to a local charity.
  Set a goal to FILL each of the boxes you've placed around your house by the 8th of December.  On the 9th of December load up your donations and your family, deliver everything to the charity you’ve chosen and celebrate with a round of hot chocolate at your favorite local coffee shop.  On the way home pick up a couple more boxes, put one in the garage, and one in the coat closet.
 Make these boxes part of your normal “household” and it will be EASY to keep things that you no longer need moving out the door on a regular basis.  I call this the "Stream-Clean."  It's not really cleaning, it's more like streamlining but it results in cleaning.

What you'll need to complete this task:
  • 1 box for each of the rooms you want to clean out.
  • A few minutes to research a donation location in your area.
  • Mark your calendar with the date you'll take everything out of the house.
  • A couple more boxes for the "Stream-Clean" project.

Thanks for stopping by!  I'd love to hear about your progress.  Please feel free to leave a comment.


Tiny Tasks, Big Results - 30 Days of stress-less organizing tips for the holidays

   So much of holiday stress comes from the feeling like you’re constantly overwhelmed and behind the “eight ball” or should I say "cheese ball." 
  Starting today I’ll post one EASY thing you can do to help ease the holiday overwhelm a little at a time. I've focused on tasks that can be accomplished in a matter of just a few minutes.  Simple steps that will get you to mid-December feeling like you’ve got it all under control.  When Christmas Eve rolls around you’ll be as excited as the kids are, knowing that you can enjoy the festivities with far less stress. 
  I’ll post the tips here on my blog, so if you bookmark it, you’ll be able to get right back to where I left off. I'll be Tweeting them out as well, so if you prefer a link in your Twitter Feed, Click Here to follow me on Twitter.
Let's get started:
Day 1 - An easy to use, no frills, quick reference calendar - no reading glasses necessary!
  Print a November and a December calendar off the internet (if you’ve got colored paper available, use that) or if possible photo copy the November and December pages off your home calendar – again on colored paper if available. Colored paper really helps these pages to standout and be easily reconized.  
  This will become your holiday scheduling bible.  Do this EVEN if you use the calendar in your phone.  It’s a quick reference other members of your family can view or that you can bring out at dinner time to discuss with everyone. 
  Each night just before heading off to bed, you’ll update the commitments on your portable paper calendar to your wall calendar, your phone, or the small checkbook sized calendar you carry in your purse or briefcase. 
  The full sized sheets allow you to include more information in the “date square” and also provide extra space in the margins or on the back if you need to scribble down extra notes.  Paper calendars also allow you to take notes at a parent’s meeting or church event, etc., without the others around you thinking you’re “texting” and not paying attention. 
  Additionally, you can pull these sheets out when you’re on the phone and do a quick check of you schedule while still having a conversation.
  BONUS - if you're over 40 and need reading glasses to check the calendar on your phone, you probably won't need them to check this larger calendar. :-)
    To find a printable calendar, just Google Search: “Printable November 2012 Calendar” you’ll get lots of options.  I like this one because it has lines in the squares.  You can choose to print it in portrait view and leave space underneath for more notes or, you can print it in landscape and fill the whole page with the calendar.  http://getfreecalendars.com/calendars/2012/november-2012-calendar-printable/editable-november-2012-calendar.jpg

  Thanks so much for stopping by to visit!  Please let me know how this works out for you.