Holiday Gift-Giving

I used to think I was very clever whenever I advised people about gift giving for special occasions and holidays. I would always suggest that when selecting gifts for people who actually have material plenty to give beautiful “disposables.” I observed that wonderful self-destructive options abound: wines, beautiful candles, delightful oils, luscious baked goods and candies, elegant lotions, fancy soaps…You see what I mean. And they don’t last forever! What a great idea!

Then, I started to discover that many of my clients – people who were trying their best to de-clutter - were given so many of the very disposables I routinely suggested that I couldn’t imagine how many lifetimes would be needed to use up all these treasures. It is possible to overdo absolutely anything.

So, what to do?? Depending on the closeness of the relationships, perhaps some frank discussions are possible. Can your entire extended family happily agree to pool money and go somewhere really special? Would treating someone to a lovely dinner or show be a delightful novelty? Someone else might love a membership or a day at the zoo or a favorite museum. Maybe the whole family would chip in to hire a chef or caterer to create a marvelous holiday dinner, so no one has the stress of cooking, hosting, or cleanup.

This year, really think about and talk about your gifts. So many of us are truly overloaded with objects, but would benefit from a certificate for a manicure, a massage, dog-walking services, baby-sitting, or perhaps a lovely outing to a tea shop for a long talk with you.

There are also gift cards and certificates for companies where your friend or relative will truly benefit from some extra freedom to choose something they need. One of my clients was actually given a generous check made out to her Professional Organizer! Moved by the friend’s thoughtfulness, the organizer (me) gave the client extra time.

Especially in the midst of all the natural disasters surrounding us, would your loved ones be thrilled (and relieved) if you made a charitable donation in their honor?

You can see where I’m going with this: make this a year of thinking outside the box with gifts that don’t go in a box at all. The key to success with these plans is the gift of intimacy, your shared comfort in discussing your true preferences, ideas, and suggestions.

Happy Holidays!

Past Articles

Tips for Local Moves

Keep move-related papers (contracts, inventories, contact info) and lists in your handbag or briefcase, in a bold folder that you can spot even when you are tired.

Keep in your pocket or purse a tiny retractable knife or folding travel scissor to open your first box, which will contain box-cutters for unpacking everything else.

Some things should be brought in your own car if possible, or should at least stand out readily from the other boxes, either because the contents are precious to you or because you will need them as soon as you arrive at your new home.

Even if your mover is packing for you, have some markers, packing tape, and various wrapping products on hand for any things you prefer to handle yourself. (Note: if you buy cheap packing tape, you will be unhappy. Quality counts here.)

  • Things your kids cannot sleep without
  • Valuable jewelry
  • Irreplaceable valuables or sentimental treasures
  • Things that are deeply private, personal, fragile, or meaningful
  • Things you really want the minute you get to your new space
  • Medications and medical equipment
If it is too much to hand-carry, have a clearly marked box for current paperwork that has to go right back out on your desk.

Have a box for all constantly used electronics, such as phone chargers, laptops, kindle, ipad, etc. If you are a reader, this might be the place for your current book. You might take these with you on a long distance move, but box them for the truck for a local one.

This box is for things you may want the minute you step into your new home, and throughout the move-in process. It will be one of the last boxes you seal in your old home. It should be labeled boldly, and positioned in the moving truck so it is immediately retrievable at the new home.

  • At least one retractable box-cutter (maybe one for each person who will be unpacking). Designate a safe home base for the knives, so adults don’t lose them and kids don’t find them.
  • Pen and paper
  • Your preferred painkiller(s)
  • Band-aids
  • Easy, non-perishable snacks
  • Toilet paper for each bathroom
  • Hand soap for the kitchen and each bathroom
  • Some Ziploc bags
  • Garbage bags
  • Paper towels
  • Paper plates, bowls, and cups
  • Plastic silverware
  • Optional: paper napkins, tissues (You will have paper towels and toilet paper.)
  • Shelf-lining paper, if you use it
  • Dish soap
  • Any other cleaning products you like
  • Optional: sponges (You will have paper towels.)
  • Light bulbs
  • Flashlights & batteries
  • Possibly extension cords

Keep an umbrella or 2 ready to grab (in each home) during the transition. Throw them in the car or one of your Last-Out/First In boxes at the last minute.

Have a cooler or a plastic container with a lid for any last minute food items that need to be cleared from the old refrigerator/freezer.
  • Label it to leave the old house last and enter the new house first, and put in the new refrigerator right away.
  • Obviously, don’t over-stock the fridge in your old home, and use up as much as possible, before moving.
  • If feasible, you might transport these things yourself instead of putting them in the truck.
  • If your move is long-distance, you may want to give away the food instead of bringing it.

Think in advance about what items will make you most comfortable on moving day: do you want to be able to set up your coffeepot right away, or do you love a certain mug? Make sure you set these things aside, so that no one packs them before you get a chance to designate a special box for them.

Bring in your own car - or arrange delivery of - cold bottled water, plus any food items you want on hand immediately, such as fresh milk or cream, coffee or tea, juice, kids’ snacks, even your lunch or dinner.

Consider planning to make restaurant delivery orders on the day of the move or prearrange a grocery delivery from a service like Fresh Direct, Peapod, or Instacart. (If you have access to the new house and the electricity is in your name, you might be able to have the groceries delivered the day before your move.)

For the first days right after the move: have a box of any pots and utensils you use constantly and will want right away, (and a few place-settings of dishes, silverware, and glasses if you prefer to limit your use of paper-goods).

Taking a few minutes to plan will help you leave your old home gracefully, and also find what you need to put a tired person to bed at the end of moving day.

Have boxes ready and waiting for the linens, pillows, blankets, pajamas, etc., from your last morning in the old home. These can either go right on the beds in the new home or into the laundry.

Have an appropriate size box to serve as the family hamper for the last morning’s dirty clothes. This box, in fact, could hold your actual hamper, and be sealed after the last clothing is put inside. Alternatively, you could plan on putting dirty clothes in a bag inside the box with the last night’s bedding.

Whether you are going to make the beds in your new home with the linens you have just pulled off the beds or are assembling boxes of “fresh” ones, label boxes by room, person, and category, so it’s easy to find what you need to make beds, shower and dress the first night and day.

Make sure you have a box of towels ready to open the night of the move, along with a shower curtain, a liner, and shower curtain rings.

Chose plastic storage boxes or use plastic bags inside regular moving boxes for any damp towels you use the last morning in your old home. Label the box to make sure it is opened promptly, and aired out in the new bathroom or laundry room. If your things will be on the truck or in storage a long time, you might want to dry towels before boxing them, or use old towels that are ready to be discarded after that last shower!

For grooming products that are not subject to leaking or spilling, have a box ready to corral the items after you use them on the last morning. These are things you will probably want at your fingertips the next day, so label accordingly.

Regarding liquid toiletries like shampoo and things such as laundry detergent, there are some choices. If you are moving to the next town, take them with you, either in your car or in the moving truck. Close them tightly, and secure them in padding inside plastic bags, inside sealed plastic boxes.

If your move is long-distance, you may be happier giving a friend any unused liquids before you leave. Have an order of replacements shipped to arrive on move-in day

Have some boxes or suitcases set up with the first few days’ clothing for everyone.

Group the rest of the clothing by whatever categories you think will be helpful if you need something, but you don’t have to be totally unpacked in the first 24 hours!

You might group (and label) separate boxes of each person’s underwear; stockings and/or socks; pajamas, robes; at home/casual clothing; work clothing (jackets, skirts, pants, shirts…); casual shoes; work shoes; exercise clothing, sweats; beach wear; snow suits, winter sweaters...

If you are traveling immediately after moving, prepare your suitcases separately and have them labeled, visible, and ready to go.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

For many people, a surprising first step to improving time management is to figure out what activities make them happy. Schedule the pursuit of happiness first, then add in the obligations and requirements.

When we feel we can’t or shouldn’t do anything we enjoy until some huge, arduous task has been completed, we can become a little too sad, overwhelmed, and depressed to actually tackle what has to be done.

Knowing something good is coming, and perhaps even allowing ourselves to put the reward first, can improve our capacity for work by giving us things to look forward to. That is why having company motivates many people to push themselves to clean up—or at least hide—their mess. Endlessly feeling like there is no fun in store is just not inspiring. Unless your weak point is the opposite of this, and you indulge in so much fun that you don’t meet your obligations, use joy to help you get the job done!