Guest Post: Harmonize Your Home for the Holidays in a Hurry

As the holidays draw near, it seems we’re all getting busier by the day and more stressed by the hour.

Still need to rearrange furniture to make room for the tree?

Maybe you’ve worn grooves into the linoleum from pacing around the kitchen in anticipation of that dinner party you’re going to host?

Whatever your situation, you might think it’s too late to get your home into Santa-style shape.

You would be wrong.

Here are five steps for de-cluttering your home in time for the holiday festivities.

1. Focus on the main rooms. Pick the rooms where your family and visitors are likely to linger, mingle or dine. Concentrate on the dining room, living room, main bathroom and coat closet, for example, before you worry about the kids’ bedrooms, the tool shed out back or the canning cellar under the stairs (shout-out to my family back in Appalachia). Remember — you can always go through other rooms once you’ve handled the main ones, but if you’re pressed for time, don’t set unrealistic goals. Concentrate on the important, the reasonable, the achievable. Once you’ve picked your targets, make sure you take on just one room at a time.

2. Out with the old. It helps to organize and arrange what you want to keep by removing the items you don’t. Gather boxes and label them “donate,” “junk,” and “maybe.” Then, start filling the boxes. Use the “maybe” container for the things you know you should toss – like that decorative “glam rock” rudolph statue you thought was a good idea back in December of ’86 – but don’t have the heart to let go. It’ll help get the ball rolling without causing hesitation or regret since you can make those tough decisions later.

3. Think big. Once you’ve cleared out the clutter that has to go, look at the furniture and larger items in the room. Rearrange before you do anything else. For example, if you need to move the couch to fit the tree into its proper corner, or if you have to slide a random floor cabinet from the dining room to clear space for a kid’s table, do that now.

4. Details matter. Now that you’ve handled the big, space-hogging furniture, take a second look at the room. Notice dirt or dust one the floor where the couch used to be? Are there any stray DVDs, books, papers or other eye-sore-type clutter laying around? If so, sweep the dirt and put the movies back where they belong. If they don’t have a proper place, create one. You can always hide a stack of DVDs under an end table with a floor-length table cloth. Get creative and hide any unsightly clutter that you can’t get rid of. Just resist the urge to bury your husband’s full-size Christmas Story leg lamp in the backyard. Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a peaceful time. Avoid inciting World War III.

5. Teach and preach. This is probably the most important step. If you don’t tell your kids or spouse where things go, they won’t know how to put things back. Stay on top of everyone and let them know that clutter and messy rooms won’t be tolerated (until after the holidays, at the very least).

Bonus Tip: Get your family to help. By “get,” of course, I mean force, threaten, bribe or anything else you can do to get them to chip in. Let them know that you are NOT going to do this alone. The more they help, the more likely they’ll be to stay on top of the upkeep afterward.

Once you’ve finished, sit back and soak it all in. After all, the holidays only come once a year (thank God).

 ——

This post was generously was written by Dan Reidmiller, Creative Director for College Hunks Hauling Junk. College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving is a national junk-removal, labor services and moving company, with franchises serving 45 markets in 25 states, including areas such as Central PA, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Northern NJ, Tampa Bay, Washington DC and now Miami.

 

10 Strategies for Organized Gift Wrapping

The wrapping of holiday gifts is often believed to be one of the more tedious tasks of the season. If you have a lot of wrapping to complete this season and are looking for ways to organize and streamline the process, use one of our simple tips.

1) Wrapping Party: Make wrapping fun, by inviting a friend or two to join you. They can bring over their gifts and as a group you can get the task completed while enjoying some quality time with each other.

2) Enlist Help: If you have older children who are capable of wrapping, consider assigning each family member another member’s gifts to wrap. This way each person is only responsible for one set of gifts to wrap. This will help to lessen the burden on you.

3) Gift Bags: We know they aren’t the prettiest of wrapping options, but gift bags are both quick and reusable, thus saving time and money. These are also helpful when little ones want to assist in the wrapping process.

4) Wrapping Services: If you truly do not have time to wrap, get help from a professional. We wrap many of our client’s gifts each year and even offer a discount on holiday service packages. Contact us for details.

5) Sending Gifts: When purchasing gifts that will be shipped to their final destination, attempt to buy online and select the gift wrapping option. Often times, the cost to ship through the online shop is cheaper than if you were to buy locally and ship yourself, leaving you with extra money for the gift wrap option. You may also order gift baskets in Ottawa which look beautiful and often don’t need wrapping at all.

6) Supplies: Before starting a wrapping session, check your supplies and make sure that you have ample amounts of tape, paper, decorative accessories, and a good pair of scissors.

7) Wrapping Paper Tips: Keep the presents organized by assigning each person in the family a specific wrapping paper design. Using this strategy helps to keep clear which packages are for which person and can also save you money on gift tags.

8) Little-by-Little: While some people prefer to get all wrapping done at once, others do not have a large chunk of time to commit. If you fall into this category, commit to wrapping one to two presents per day until the holiday arrives.

9) Keep It Simple: Martha Stewart-esque packages are lovely to give and receive, but that level of decorative creativity is not for everyone. Make wrapping easy by choosing a single type of decorative element for this year’s gifts. For example, this year you could use only ribbon or printed tape or bows, but not all.

10) Odd-Shaped Items: When you’ve got something with an unusual shape, don’t worry about attempting to wrap it. Simply get an oversized bow and hide the item until the present opening session begins.

For more wrapping tips and other holiday organization strategies, check out our printable ebook, Holiday Planner: A Comprehensive Organizing Guide for the Holiday Season on Lulu.com.

TWOW

Best Holiday Shopping Apps 2012

Finding the perfect gift for each person on your list, and within your budget, can be a challenge. Luckily, we’ve got some ideas for managing the process and helping to keep costs down.

Online Shopping: 

  • When shopping online, visit coupon websites, such as retailmenot.com for discount codes and free shipping offers.
  • Google Shopping is a simple way to aggregate all online prices for a particular item, including shipping, into one page. Simply search for what you’re looking for and Google Shopper will list all online availability with pricing totals.
  • Slice App enables you to track and organize all of your online shopping, including receipts, shipping and arrival tracking, and order details.

In-Store Shopping:

  • When shopping in store, use RedLaser to scan the bar code and ensure that you’re getting the best available price on the market.
  • The Coupons App is an excellent tool for locating coupons for nearby brick and mortar stores.
  • SnapTell let’s shoppers compare items on store shelves with Amazon.com prices. If you’re planning on shipping the gift anyways, you may as well buy it online and save the hassel.

Other Great Tools: 

  • Gift Plan is the perfect app for anyone who wants to keep an organized gift list on-the-go. It even syncs with your calendar for future birthday and holiday reminders.

We hope these apps will help keep your organized and within budget this holiday season.

TWOW

7 Time Management Tips for Thanksgiving

For some people, the Thanksgiving holiday is a source of stress. Whether it’s the hosting responsibilities, the cooking, the traveling, or dealing with family, it is perfectly normal to feel a bit overwhelmed this time of year. In preparation for the big day, we’ve come up with 7 tips for managing your time and minimizing stress this holiday.

1) Prep Early: Much of the day’s stress comes from preparing such a large meal. Lighten the cooking load, by preparing certain items a day or two ahead. Things that work well for this include, veggie chopping (onions, carrots, etc.), pies, bread doughs, and baked goods.

2) Use a Cooking Timeline: Having a set timeline or schedule for when dishes will be made can assist in keeping you on track. We’ve developed our own version, called The Turkey Timeline, which is available in our printable Holiday Planning ebook.

3) Clean as You Go: In order to minimize the after-dinner cleaning efforts, attempt to clean as you go. You should also aim to have a load of dishes running in the dishwasher before you sit down to eat, so you will have an empty washer to use after the meal.

4) Enlist Help: Just because you are the chef in the family doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself. Enlist help (children, partners, family members) for tasks that are easily handled, such as setting the table, taking out the trash, or organizing the beverage station.

5) It’s Okay to Cut Corners: While we would all love to play Martha Stewart for the day, sometimes it’s unrealistic to think that everything will be made to gourmet standards and from scratch. Cut corners with things like frozen pie crusts, pre-chopped veggies, and pre-purchased Honey Baked Hams. You can also utilize a YouTube video trick for pealing potatoes that cuts the prep time down to practically nothing.

6) Schedule Personal Time: Don’t forget to schedule in time for things like getting dressed and showered, socializing with friends and family, and having fun. Taking a few minutes away from the kitchen can help you relax and make the day more enjoyable.

7) Oven to Table Strategy:  Whenever possible, cook items in the dishes you will serve them on. For example, if you are cooking a side dish, make sure that it’s already in the presentation dish you will later use. This will cut down in time needed for transferring items around.

We hope these tips assist in making your Thanksgiving a happy and efficient one.

TWOW

Guest Post: How to Stick to Your Grocery Budget

You’re probably sick of hearing people complaining about how “Money doesn’t go as far as it used to”, but the sad fact is that there’s truth in those complaints.  The cost of living is going up, but it’s not just luxury items that are getting more expensive, basic groceries are rocketing in price too.  Today, we’re living in a world where people make calls on iPhones, and cook in designer kitchens with Maia worktops, yet struggle with the weekly food shop because the cost of essential staples such as bread and milk has skyrocketed.  Here are a few tips to help you stay within your budget, and still eat well:

Just Because it’s On Offer, It Doesn’t Mean It’s a Good Deal

Supermarket offers can be deceptive. Often, a supermarket will increase the price of something for a week or so, then “discount” it to a price that’s lower than the expensive one, but still overpriced.  So, soda that has been at a certain price for months may go up in price a little prior to going on offer, and then be advertised as being on a special “Two for One” deal; that offer is cheaper than the most recent expensive price, but it’s not a good deal compared to the earlier price it was selling for.  If you need the soda, check another local supermarket for it.  If you don’t normally drink soda, don’t be tempted by the not-that-great offer.

Don’t Buy More than You Can Use or Freeze

Promotions such as buy two, get one free are also designed to make people buy things that they wouldn’t normally pick up.  You might feel like you’re wasting money if you buy only one gallon of milk when there’s a buy two, get one free offer on the bottles, but what’s the point of paying extra for milk that you won’t drink quickly enough?

With that said, bulk promotions are great if they’re for items with a long shelf life, or for things that you can freeze.  Consider allocating a small part of your budget to buying long-lasting items which you’ll be able to defrost or dig out of the cupboards during hard times, or when bad weather prevents you from getting to the shops.

Learn to Cook Creatively

Meal planning is a good start towards savvy shopping, but restrictive meal plans get boring quickly, and they can cause trouble for you if the store runs out of your favorite staple, or droughts/floods/earthquakes cause a key ingredient to soar in price. I know this from experience, since unusually wet weather has made the price of bananas go up, making my banana and oatmeal smoothies a luxury item, rather than a breakfast ritual.

If you learn how to cook a range of dishes, and learn to experiment with different ingredients to create a meal out of whatever you have in the kitchen, then you’ll find yourself with far more options next time you go shopping.

Try Store Brands

One thing that frugal shoppers love to remind us of is that many store brands are actually made in the same factories as the big name brands.  It’s possible that you could save a lot of money just by downscaling the brands you buy.  Sometimes, there’s a clear difference in taste or quality between brand names and white label products, but that’s not always the case.  Try changing one brand each week – if you like the cheaper brand, that’s money in your pocket.  If you hate it, you can go back to the more expensive brand next week.

Grow Your Budget With Savings Elsewhere

tead.  Fit energy saving light bulbs.  Cut your water bill by showering instead of taking a bath.  There are lots of ways that you can cut costs, letting you spend more on the things you love.If you’re a devoted foodie, and you don’t want to scrimp and save on your shopping, then why not look for savings elsewhere in your household budget?  Stop using that expensive free-standing heater and try plinth heaters ins

This post was written by James Harper on behalf of The Kitchen Appliance Centre. To find more great money saving ideas please visit their site.

 

The Container Store Buckhead Reopens in New Location

Yesterday the WOW team had the privilege of attending a blogger preview event for the opening of the relocated Container Store Buckhead. The new store, located on the corner of Peachtree St. and Wieuca Rd., is significantly bigger than the old store and appears to carry a greater variety of products. For frequent shoppers, the parking is also much easier!

The WOW team absolutely loves The Container Store for their multifunctional and innovative storage products, but also for their commitment to conscious capitalism. If you’ve never heard about the store’s corporate culture, you might be interested to know that it is dedicated to running their business in a way that is good for the environment, local communities, and their employees, as well as the bottom line. For example, their employees are paid significantly higher than the average local wage for similar jobs and receive 263 hours of training in their first year (compared to an average of 7-10 in the industry). Learn more about their Founding Principles here.

In celebration of the store opening, there will be events and giveaways held this Saturday and Sunday (11/10-11/11). Some of the reasons to check out the new location this weekend include:

  • Prize giveaways every hour, on the hour, including a $1,000 Elfa Space Makeover
  • $10 Store More Gift Cards for the first 100 Facebook Check-Ins &
  • 10% of all sales throughout the weekend will be donated to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Thanks again to Container Store Buckhead for inviting WOW to be a part of your grand reopening events. We loved the new location and will certainly be shopping there soon.

TWOW

Getting Ready for the Holidays: Gift Wrap

It is officially the first week in November, which means that the holidays are just around the corner. Each Friday until Christmas we will be posting ideas for how you can get organized for the upcoming festivities. Additionally, we are very excited to announce that The Well-Organized Woman will be releasing it’s first eBook on Organized Holiday Planning next week. Please check back then to download your very own copy.

The first item on our holiday to-do list is to review our gift wrap supplies. The act of looking through your supplies and determining what you have and what you need is important for two reasons. First, it ensures that you do not buy duplicates of things that you already have. Second, it should serve as inspiration for how you choose to wrap presents this year. If you have a lot of ribbons or bows you could make those the focal point of all wrapping this year. In other words, try to use as much of the supplies you currently have before purchasing anything new. Below are a few additional tips and ideas for maintaining organization of your wrapping supplies this holiday season.

  • Keep wrapping supplies organized in a portable carrier, such as the Gift Wrap Work Station from Container Store or the over-the-door option pictured below from Better Homes & Gardens.
  • Purge anything that is torn, ripped, or in other ways poor quality.
  • Sort decorative supplies by category. For example, keep all ribbons together, tissue paper together, and bows together, etc. Then sort wrapping paper by occasion, such as all Christmas paper together, all baby shower paper together, etc. This way you know exactly what you have for each potential gift-giving event.
  • Store gift bags inside of one large gift bag.
  • After wrapping gifts, make sure the supplies are returned to their rightful homes.
  • Donate any gift wrap you no longer want but is in good condition to Goodwill – another shopper might love something you no longer use!

 

Emergency Preparedness Checklist

Hurricane Sandy currently has a lot of people in the Northeast frantically making last minute preparations for the storm. As planners, we’d prefer to ready ourselves for possible inclement weather before it is ever an issue. In order to help prepare for future weather-related emergencies, we’ve put together a list of must have items. This checklist was developed in part from the emergency preparedness lists of FEMA and the CDC, as well as our own recommendations.

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS SUPPLY LIST:

Baby

  • Diapers, 5 day supply per child
  • Baby Wipes, 5 day supply per child
  • Formula or baby food, 3 day supply per child

Clothing

  • 3 day supply of clothes per person, accounting for cold and warm weather
  • Rugged or distance type shoes

Documents

  • Copies of S.S. cards, birth certificates, marriage records, immunization records, passports, and drivers licenses for all family members
  • Copies of insurance policies for home, health, and vehicle
  • Checking & savings account # information
  • Current photo of each family member for identification purposes
  • Written phone numbers and addresses for important contacts

First Aid Kit & Contents:

  • First Aid Kit Box with contents inside
  • Tweezers
  • First aid booklet with CPR ‘How To’
  • Two pairs of latex or other sterile gloves
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Ipecac syrup (induces vomiting)
  • Needles
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Razor Blade
  • Cleansing agents or soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
  • Burn ointment to prevent infection
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Thermometer
  • Prescription medications for family members that need them, check expiration dates every year
  • Petroleum jelly or other lubricant to prevent dryness, chafing, or cracking of the skin during extreme weather conditions
  • Calamine lotion (sunburn/insect bites)
  • Prescribed medical supplies
  • Nonprescription drugs, such as non-aspirin pain relievers, feminine supplies and personal
  • Antidiarrheal medications, antacid for upset stomachs, and laxatives

Food & Water

  • A 3-day supply of water (1 gallon per person per day; more if you live in a warm climate)
  • A 3-day supply of ready-to-eat foods, such as canned meat, canned fruits and vegetables, and ultra-high temperature milk (also called UHT milk)
  • High-energy foods such as peanut butter, nuts, dry cereal, granola, and crackers
  • “Stress foods” such as hard candy or cookies
  • A manual can opener
  • Eating utensils and supplies (for example, paper plates and plastic forks, spoons, and knives)

Hygiene:

  • Tampons or pads
  • Towlettes
  • Bar soap
  • Tooth Brush and Toothpaste for each family member
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand Sanitizer

Kids:

  • Games and activities for children

Medical:

  • Extra prescription eye glasses, contacts, hearing aid or other vital personal items

Money:

  • Several hundred dollars in small bills
  • Quarters for phone calls

Safety:

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Hand crank-powered radio
  • Dust masks for each family member
  • Batteries in several sizes
  • Work gloves
  • Plastic garbage bags and ties for sanitation
  • Flares
  • Candles
  • A whistle
  • A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities (such as water or gas)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape for sheltering in place
  • Universal or wind-up cell phone charger
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Emergency reference materials, such as a first-aid book or a photocopy of such a book or manual
  • Warm blanket or sleeping bag for each person
  • Rain gear – ponchos or rain jackets, umbrellas
  • Paper towels
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A tent
  • A compass
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Signal flares
  • Paper and pencils
  • Medicine dropper
  • Household chlorine bleach, which you can use as a disinfectant to clean surfaces (mix nine parts water to one part bleach). In an emergency, you also can use it to purify water. Use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water.
  • Eyedropper for bleach
  • Backpack, bin or other portable bag for ‘Go Items’
  • Ziplock Bags to keep everything separated in the bins
  • Pocket knife
  • Safety ladder for second floor evacuation

We encourage all of our readers to work on putting together their emergency supply kit as soon as possible. You never know when it might become needed. And visit Ottawa Coast2Coast trainings.

TWOW

Guest Post: Storage without Stowaways

It’s finally that time of year when we’ve had enough cool, crisp autumn days to pack away our summer clothes and bring our jackets and sweaters out of storage. This year, like every other, I approached the task with the anticipation of wearing some of my woolly favorites, only to find a less pleasant surprise when I opened the drawer: the unmistakable signs of case-bearing clothes moths.
As an art conservator who owns a pet and lives in an old building with the accompanying drafts and dust, I’m especially aware of pest control challenges and follow vigilant preventive measures. While the single moth casing I spotted means that these silent, destructive insects are nothing if not persistent, it’s possible to prevent a damaging infestation with non-toxic, inexpensive materials and a few easy steps.
● To Prevent clothes moths from entering your home, according to EZBBENYC Exterminator, you need to seal gaps in windows and doorways. Keep your home as clean as possible by clearing cobwebs and vacuuming regularly to remove dust, hair, dead skin cells, and other moth-friendly treats. This also prevents having a bat come into the house, and having to go through the costly process of  bat removal.
● Wash or dry clean your clothing before storing it. Developing moth larvae feed mostly on protein-based fibers but are more likely to be found among items containing sweat, skin cells, or food stains.
● Moths prefer humid environments. Control the humidity of your home and storage areas. This can be challenging here in the South, so I recommend the purchase of an inexpensive temperature and humidity monitor.
● DampRid makes a great series of inexpensive, moisture-absorbing products for use in closets and small storage areas. Silica gel packets, great for inserting in drawers and sealed containers, also control moisture and are available in different sizes for online ordering. It’s a good rule of thumb to change these when rotating your seasonal items. In addition to preventing moths, you’ll control the growth of mold and mildew.
● Traditional moth balls are effective but toxic. Along with lavender and clove oil, cedar blocks, shavings, and oil provide effective and inexpensive alternatives. For an easy DIY solution, simply purchase a bag of cedar shavings from a pet supply store, fill the feet of old pantyhose with shavings, and tie off the top of the “sachet”. Place the sachets in drawers, containers, closet shelves, or suspend from hangers to repel moths.
● If clothes moths, casings, damaged textiles, or other signs of infestation, are identified, inspect the affected area and all stored items thoroughly. If possible, check your stored items every two months or so for signs of pests.
● Insect infestations, mold growth, and climate control problems affecting art and artifact collections are best handled by an art conservator. Likewise, any major household pest control problem is best addressed by a professional exterminator, following with the steps listed above to prevent recurrence of the problem. For additional help in recognizing and controlling moths, check out this article.

 

This post was generously written by Erin Kelly.

Erin L. Kelly, M.A., C.A.S., M.Ed.

Art Conservator / Educator / Outreach
[email protected]

10 Ways to Start Living With Less

Many of us would love to minimize the amount of stuff we have in our lives, but don’t really know where to start. The culling process can, for some, be scary and for others, downright unimaginable. For people that fall into this category, we’ve compiled our favorite suggestions for minimizing your stuff.

1) 365 Items in 365 Days: If getting rid of a lot of stuff all at once gives you anxiety, commit to ridding your life of one item per day for a year. The item can be anything you wish it to be, but it must be donated, trashed, recycled, or gifted that day.

2) Expired Items: It’s very likely that you have medicine, beauty products, and food items in your home that are past their expiration dates. Throwing these items out is usually easy for most people, so it’s a great way to get into the spirit of culling.

3) One Item In, One Item Out: Although it won’t lessen your current possessions, committing to the goal of one item out for every item that comes into your home is a great way to maintain the current collection size.

4) Buy Multi-Purpose Products: Instead of buying many single-use products, choose products that have multiple functions. For example, you can save 3 products by buying a makeup with moisturizer, SPF, and anti-aging ingredients built in.

5) Clothing: According to statistics, we wear 20% of our clothing, 80% of the time. This says to us that you can donate a good portion of your clothing and not really notice the loss. Use the flip hanger technique once per season and cull the items that we’re not turned once.

6) Meal Planning: Americans often over-buy at the grocery store. Keep from committing this sin by planning your meals and grocery list before heading to the store. Do not buy anything off the list while there and you’ll notice less expired and wasted food in your kitchen over-time.) Unnecessary Buying: Have you ever gone to Target for toothpaste and come out with $200 worth of stuff? Keep the Target syndrome from happening to you, by taking into the store only the amount of cash you need to purchase the items on your list. By leaving the credit cards in the car, you’ll find you only leave with the items you absolutely needed.8) No Paper Rule: Almost all paper items in your life can be found in digital version. Bills, magazines, newspapers, coupon mailers, etc. can all be accessed online if necessary. Stop these things from entering your home by: signing up for a junk mail stop list, opting for paperless billing, reading magazines and news online, and committing to not printing unless absolutely necessary.9) Eliminate Duplicates: If you have multiples of certain items, donate, trash, or recycle them as an easy way to minimize the amount of stuff in your life. An common example of this is kitchen utensils. Often people have 3-4 of the same type of utensil, but typically only use their favorite. Get rid of the extras and you won’t even notice their gone.10) Examine the Excesses: Once per year, examine the things you have and decide what is really necessary. For example, if you pay for a gym membership, but have been once in the past few months, it’s not the best use of your finances. If your children have moved out and there are now just two people living in a 5 bedroom house, it could be time to downsize. If you pay for the premium movie channels in your cable package, but rarely watch them, shut them off and pocket the difference each month.

We hope that these ideas have given you some inspiration for how you can live with less while not sacrificing in terms of lifestyle and happiness.

TWOW

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