Today, I thought I'd share this list of holiday tips I received as a story pitch. They come from Lorie Marrero.
She's author of "The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life" and founder of ClutterDiet.com. Marrero has partnered with large companies and organizations, such as Staples, Inc., to help consumers declutter and destress.
Q. As you're unpacking decorations for the holidays, what do you suggest keeping in mind when re-packing to keep you better organized?
A. First, when you're unpacking, if you see anything that you already know you won't be using, donate it to an organization, or if it's broken, dispose of it. It's all too easy to just keep mindlessly storing those things year after year.
Once you have your rooms set up the way you like them, take a photo. You can store all of the accessories for one room in a box together with the photo placed inside the box to remind you how to set it up and show you what is in the box.
Q. I gifted the same sweater to my cousin two years in a row. How do I keep myself organized so this doesn't happen again?
A. If you find it difficult to start earlier on your gift purchases this year, at least make your list so you'll have it in mind as you see things in the course of your normal day. You might be surprised how just the awareness of needing gifts brings forth more ideas.
Making an early holiday gift list also means easier budgeting over time and more thought toward each gift. You can organize your gift-giving with a gift journal so you can track it from year-to-year, helping you remember people you need to give to that might accidentally be forgotten, like your hairdresser or the postal carrier.
You can also remember what you gave someone last year so you don't accidentally duplicate or buy something at a wildly different price point. By the way, you can also write in your journal the hiding places where you've hidden your gifts – just don't let your kids know this book exists.
Q. What are your tips on keeping organized while holiday shopping? My car looks like I live in it.
A. First, plan your holiday shopping before going out on a series of stops, so that you save time and help the environment, too. To keep your car organized while you're out and about, you can repurpose an old wallet to use in your car's console to store frequent customer punch cards, gift cards and other nonessential cards you may need while shopping. File folders can help you organize gift ideas torn from catalogs or magazines, even throughout the year, and provide a place for receipts. You can file the ideas per person. These expanding files are easy to keep in your home office in a file drawer and then grab and go if you want to bring your ideas while shopping.
Q. I have a lot of guests coming to town - how do I clean and keep them occupied while I'm working during the day?
A. Simple. You can create a "tourist binder" for guests with sightseeing information, coupons, "things-to-do" articles, favorite restaurants and instructions for your home's Internet access. This is a great project for kids to help with.
Q. Organizing for the holiday season can get hectic, especially with children. Do you feel that toys for the kids should be put away throughout the holidays as to not to add to the chaos?
A. I believe the pre-holiday time, anytime after Halloween, is a time of great opportunity for teaching kids some valuable lessons about giving while getting organized too. Going through their toys with them prepares your toy storage areas to receive all of the new presents they are about to open, and it teaches them that donating is a great way to help other kids who might not have the happiest of holidays.
I will never forget the year that my son somewhat painfully gave away his wooden trains. He knew he'd outgrown them and still loved them in a way, but he wanted so much for other kids to have them instead. It was entirely his decision and it was beautiful to see. So when you go through the toys and pare them down, that helps a lot to keep them out of the way and tame the chaos too. You can also keep a basket in each room where they play often and quickly throw toys in there to clean up, like little satellite toy box stations apart from the main playroom or bedroom.