Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Organizing and Loving What You Have

I am probably the only one on the planet (who celebrates Christmas) who is spending time this week painting kitchen cabinets and organizing closets. I mean, c'mon, lady... don't you have presents to buy and/or wrap, decorations to put up, parties to attend, better things to do???

This is what happens when you spend a semester back in school with little to no time to attend to the daily pile-ups and cleaning chores. It's so bad now that I'm compelled to attend to it. Well, it's not out of control, but I know what's coming in a few weeks to my children.... So, if I don't want things to be completely out of control, I'd best create a space NOW for that new Play-doh tool set, those new toy workbenches, new games, new puzzles, .....

In case you're inspired to tackle some home improvement and organization NOW, during the busiest time of the year, let me offer some suggestions I have learned the hard way:

1. Per Fly Lady's suggestion: only take out what you can put back in an hour. In other words, work on one closet shelf or one set of cabinets or some other small amount at a time. At the end of an hour, you should be done--including having put all the rejects into their newly appointed places or bagged up for trash or Goodwill... NOT piled on the dining room table. Then, if you don't get anything else done this Christmas season, you'll at least have refrained from creating more mess.

2. Focus on urgent needs first: our arts and crafts storage areas are the likely recipients of new gear from Christmas presents as well as the most likely culprits of out-of-date, used-up, dried-up, torn-up supplies that can be trashed. The kids' clothing closets? Don't need to worry about them right now.

3. Strategize: how are you planning to use this particular space or storage area? We've been homeschooling our daughter some this year (hybrid pre-K and K), and there are a couple of books we use daily. I don't need to have them laying around when there's a nice, handy cabinet right next to the table we use. Instead, I'm reorganizing that cabinet so that there's room for school stuff and, um, the baby-books-yet-to-be-finished-even-though-the-"babies"-are-three-and-a-half-years-old can be moved to my closet shelf upstairs....

4. Love (and Use) What You Have!!! Storing some priceless goblets? Use them. So what if one breaks. At least you're enjoying them in the meantime rather than keeping them out of sight for who knows how many years to collect dust. Objects were meant to be used or admired or, preferably, both--not stored indefinitely out of sight.

5. Focus on giving items at Christmas that be used and admired, or objects that promote creative playing and crafting and doing rather than hoarding. What are we requesting or giving for Christmas? My husband has already bought his major gift: a new tool for his woodshop that he's using to make some Christmas presents. I requested for my in-laws to frame a very cool authentic King James Bible page they'd given us the year before. We're subscribing to a few magazines (or people are subscribing for us), giving our kids things like library tote bags, Play-doh tools, games that all three can play together, puzzles, etc.

I need hardly mention that you should make a list of needed organizational items for your Christmas decorations if you've had to hunt all over the house and attic for your tree topper, lights, and ornaments. Then, after Christmas, acquire those organizational tools and pack your decorations up efficiently for next year.

What are your strategies for organizing your home or giving intentional Christmas gifts?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas is Coming!

Christmas really is just around the corner now, despite the fact that retailers have been displaying their Christmas decor for MONTHS now. Are you rushing around frantically decorating your house in preparation for Christmas parties and guests? Already mulling over your Christmas menu? Making Christmas gifts? Trying to hit sales for some Christmas gifts? Stressing over the budget?


A few reminders as we enter this busiest of seasons:

1. Don't forget about true hospitality--When you decorate your house, remind yourself that hospitality is still the important thing, NOT entertaining, during this season. A warm cup of hot cocoa and some (storebought) cookies on a paper plate can still hit the spot, even if you don't have any Christmas decorations up.

2. Don't forget your family--THEY need your love and attention as much as the school teachers, the preacher, the far off relatives for whom you're frantically finding presents.

3. Don't forget the reason for the season--watch for opportunities to share with your children about the first Christmas, even if they occur when you had planned to clean the oven before your company arrives or you are mixing up wassail for your party or you have 18,450 gifts to wrap before tomorrow morning....

4. Don't forget that our to do lists are largely self-imposed: don't have enough time/money for photo cards to 90 relatives this year? Send an e-mail with attached photo. Don't have time to make rolls from scratch? Sister Schubert makes a mean dinner roll, and she stocks hers in the grocery freezer section. Don't have enough money for teacher gifts? As a former teacher, trust me on this: a truly heartfelt note about why you are thankful for or appreciate your child's teacher will mean the most.

5. Don't forget that the details matter...and they don't: give your house a good cleaning this week and don't sweat it the rest of the month. So what if a little dust piles up. Turn the lights off and the tree lights on and NO ONE will notice. But do take the time to make some cookies with your kids or drive by neighborhood Christmas lights one night or sing some Christmas carols....