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!

 

Guest Post: Top Tips for Fall Decorating

The weather’s turned cool and you’ve shifted from backyard barbecue to stovetop soups and stews. Now that the colors of autumn are all around, it’s a great time to update your décor for fall. Interior Designer Christopher Grubb of Arch-Interiors Design Group in Beverly Hills is used to styling the homes of his luxury-loving clients for all seasons. Here, he offers ideas on how to infuse warm hues and cozy textures into the home, helping you celebrate the harvest season no matter what your budget might be.

  • Update picture frames. This is a great change if you use wood or fall colored frames, or a mixture as well. It brings new life to your existing photos, and you’ll see them in a whole new light.
  • Fresh paint is always an inexpensive way to make a big impact. Think of adding a burgundy accent wall in the dining room, a terra cotta hue in the living room, or maybe a rich harvest gold in a breakfast nook. The options are unlimited.
  • If you have a chandelier in the dining room, add some new shades in a rich, fall color. There are some very fun beaded ones that sparkle with the lights on or off.
  • Find a great pattern for throw pillows with fall colors, and then complement them with solid colors. You can do this in the living room, family room, media room or bedroom.
  • Add linens. Tablecloths and napkins in the dining room or breakfast nook make a big difference. Choose fall shades in a solid color with colorful complementary napkins, or vice versa.
  • Switch out or add an area rug. If you have a solid colored one, choose a fun, patterned one for fall.
  • Switch up your accent towels in the bath. It’s a simple way to add a fresh touch of fall color. Use a combination of solids and prints and accent them with a new floor mat.
  • Fresh cut flowers can be costly, but they’re a great way to add a touch of any season to the home. One great thing to do is incorporate branches of leaves that are turning fall colors. They make a great statement and bring the outdoors inside. Also, arrangements of dried corns, nuts, and pomegranates instantly give a sense that the season is changing.
  • If you’ve had the same sofas or side chairs for years, you can find affordable slipcovers with great fall colors or warm textures such as chenille. If you’re crafty, look into making your own. Slipcovers can make a big change in your home without the high cost of reupholstering. Plus, they can be washed and dried.
  • Change drapes to a fabric with more weight to add warmth in any room. Velvet of chenille is a perfect fabric because of its thickness. You can add them as side panels on either side of a sheer drape.
  • A new comforter with warm colors is a great way to bring fall into the bedroom. Mix with fall-hued throw pillows to give the effect of a complete room makeover. Add fresh new sheets in fall colors such as pumpkin, hunter green, chocolate brown, or deep gold for a reminder every night that fall is in the air.
  • Accessorize! Start with your favorite fall colors such as burgundies, golds, browns, etc. Check out swap meets and garage sales for a mixture of glass vases or pottery. Group various colors and sizes together on a console, mantle, or coffee table. But be sure to remove some of the accessories you already have. Often we leave things out year-round and actually over-accessorize our rooms. Put them away temporarily and then add pieces of your own color scheme.

This post was generously written by Beverly Hills Interior Designer Christopher Grubb from Arch-Interiors.com.

14 Ways to Prepare for Fall

Fall has arrived and that means it’s time to start readying our homes for the change in season. In order to prepare you and your home for the cooler weather, we’ve put together a list of simple organizing projects.

1) Warm Season Gear: Organize and store items such as pool toys, beach towels, and outside sporting equipment.

2) Garden: Prune your perennials, add a layer of insulating mulch for plant warmth, and trim trees that could provide a threat to your home during a winter storm.

3) Reorganize the Kitchen: Relocate warm weather items, such as ice cream makers, to higher shelves and shift down things like the crockpot and soup bowls.

4) Pool: Schedule an appointment for your pool to be winterized and mark the close-up date on your calendar.

5) Weather-proofing: Determine if your windows, doors, or pipes needs weather proofing or insulating. Clear out gutters and downspouts.

6) Heater check: Have a professional firm come and inspect your heating system before turning it on. If applicable, have the chimney swept.

7) Closet Changeover: Conduct the Fall closet changeover using the process outlined here. While you’re at it, purge summer items that were not worn this year from the collection.

8) Artwork: Set up a system for displaying, temporarily storing, and keeping children’s school artwork.

9) Prep the Coat Closet: Clear out space and organize the coat closet to accommodate for regular use.

10) Reverse Ceiling Fans: Keep the warm air down by reversing your ceiling fan blades.

11) Clean out the Pantry: Review the contents of you pantry and toss anything that’s expired or not being eaten.

12) Roof: Inspect your roof and repair any broken shingles.

13) Lawn: Have your sprinklers winterized and prep the lawn for the cold weather.

14) Deck: Put down a fresh coat of sealer on your deck and get patio furniture covers, if needed.

 

Good luck with your organizing projects and have a happy Fall season.

TWOW

Get Organized for Halloween

Halloween may not be one of the most important holidays, but for families with children the day can require much preparation. In order to avoid last minute scrambling, we’ve put together a list of things to get organized ahead of time.

1) Costumes: By shopping for costumes earlier in the month of October you’ll not only have a better selection, but you may also get a better price. Costume stores typically offer coupons in early October, so keep a look out in your coupon mailers or check online sites like retailmenot.com for discount codes for online shopping. For optimum organization, you should aim to have all costumes purchased by the second week in October.

2) Decorations: Halloween decorations can help to get your family and neighborhood in the holiday spirit. Plan on decorating your home and yard by the weekend of October 20th. If you’re carving pumpkins, ideal timing is the weekend before (27th) Halloween to ensure they stay fresh. Keep in mind when you are decorating that the weather changes quickly this time of year, so if you have delicate ghosts or spider webs, be sure to bring them in before any rain hits.

3) Candy: Stores like CVS, Costco, and Target have deals on large bags of candy early in the month, so now is the time to stock up on the sweets you’ll need for trick-or-treaters.

4) School Activities: Schools often plan Halloween activities, such as costume parades and trick-or-treating. Find out the dates of these events now and mark your calendars to ensure your child will be prepared. In addition to the activity dates, also add deadlines for costume and accessory (candy pails) purchases.

5) Trick-o-Treating Plans: Plan on setting up your trick-or-treat plans two weeks ahead of time. If you are coordinating with other families, set a meeting time, location, and plans for child supervision and safety. It’s also a good idea to assign each child a ‘buddy’ to stay with for the evening to ensure no one is left alone.

6) Party Plans: If you plan on throwing a Halloween party, you’ll want to send out invitations the first week of October. During the second week, you can start to plan decorations, food, theme, music, and other party needs. The third week is the time to firm up these plans and finishing buying necessary non-perishable items, such as decorations. The last week leading up to the party is the time to decorate your space and complete the grocery shopping. On the day-of, you’ll prepare the food and drinks, set up last minute items, don your costume, and get ready to have a spooky evening with friends.

7) Holiday Food: Although Halloween is best known for candy, some people have traditions that include certain Halloween foods. Ensure you’ll be able to make these for friends and family by making a list of foods and necessary ingredients two weeks before the holiday. When making the list, keep in mind the little items, such as spices for pumpkin seed roasting and drinks such as apple cider.

We hope that by getting a head start on your Halloween plans this year you’ll have more time to enjoy the festivities on the day of.

TWOW

From the WOW Kitchen – Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

Given that Thanksgiving is just a day away, I thought I’d take a moment to share a few of my favorite recipes I’ve used over the years at this holiday, just in case you’re in need of some last-minute menu organization. My recipes are all quite simple and are often borrowed from other sources, including the back of the bag the main ingredient is in! Enjoy!

Fig & Pine Nut Stuffing - from RealSimple.com, this recipe has the hearty flavors of fall, and the figs add just a pinch of sweetness. I recommend making this recipe the night before or the morning of Thanksgiving before you start on the turkey. You can always warm it up just before everything goes out on the table!

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish and foil
  • 1 large loaf Italian bread (about 1 pound), cut into 3⁄4-inch pieces (about 16 cups)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup dried mission figs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375° F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Divide the bread between 2 rimmed baking sheets and bake until dry and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, 2 to 4 minutes; transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the bread, broth, eggs, figs, pine nuts, thyme, and ½ teaspoon salt to the vegetables and toss to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Cover with buttered foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until browned, 20 to 30 minutes more.

Sweet Potato Casserole – Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving?! This recipe, from the southern food section of about.com, adds a lovely sweetness to your plate, and it makes the house smell amazing while it’s baking!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • Topping:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

Combine first 6 ingredients. Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 to 2-quart casserole dish. Mix remaining ingredients together and sprinkle over top. Bake at 350° for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and browned. Serves 6 to 8.

Green Bean Casserole – This recipe is from allrecipes.com. It’s a lovely variation on the traditional Campbell’s soup recipe. In fact, I like it better! I still use the fried onions because I love their flavor and texture. Simply substitute ~1 cup in place of the crackers below.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 (14.5 ounce) cans French style green beans, drained
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled buttery round crackers
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth, and cook for one minute. Stir in the salt, sugar, onion, and sour cream. Add green beans, and stir to coat.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Spread shredded cheese over the top. In a small bowl, toss together cracker crumbs and remaining butter, and sprinkle over the cheese.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is golden and cheese is bubbly.

Cranberry Sauce - Though it’s right off the bag of the Ocean Spray cranberries, this recipe is one of my favorites and has always been a welcome addition to my plate – especially on a piece of turkey! I like to make two batches the night before Turkey Day and save one to go with all of our leftovers!

Ingredients:

1 c. sugar
1 c. water
1 12 oz. bag Ocean Spray Cranberries

Directions:

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time. Makes 2 1/4 cups.

Pecan Pie – This is my favorite pecan pie recipe from my favorite restaurant in Athens, GA, The Grit! My family loves it so much, I even made extras last year and sent them as gifts! Buy the cookbook here!

Ingredients:

1 Basic Pie Crust
⅓ c. melted butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
3 large eggs, beaten
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon brandy
1-1/2 c. pecan halves or pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a deep-dish pie pan with Basic Pie Crust. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and corn syrup. Beat in eggs and stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into pie crust. Place pie on large cookie sheet. Bake 50 to 55 minutes until crust is lightly browned, filling is dark brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving. Yields 8 to 10 servings.

 

Other easy favorites include green peas and mushrooms (to add a little color to your plate), Pilsbury crescent rolls (so warm and buttery) and, in a pinch, Costco pumpkin pie (it’s enormous and really tasty)! Best of luck with your holiday meals. I am thankful for each of my clients and all of my readers!

-TWOW

Focus on the Holidays: Decorating Your Home for Fall and Winter

We’re not sure how it happened, but the holidays are truly upon us. Halloween is right around the corner, followed by Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas and New Years – oh my!  Whether it’s decorating, gift-buying or entertaining, we’ll do our best to address all of your organizational holiday challenges over the next few months.

Decorating your home for fall is one of the greatest joys of the season. There is nothing I love to do more when the season arrives. At the same time, it can also be overwhelming if your home is big or your budget is small.

In the past, I loved to over-do it with tacky decorations for each holiday and for every room. But this year, I’m looking for a more subdued look. I don’t want my home cluttered with as much stuff as we’ve had in prior years. After all, I am the Well-Organized Woman — I must practice what I preach! Less clutter, more special.

Here are a few tips for decorating your home in style without adding too much STUFF.

  • First, take the time before you put things out and when you put them away to evaluate what you’ll trash, donate and keep/store. We’ve referenced this method in our last few posts, and you’ll see it come up again, I’m sure. One of my favorite de-cluttering experts, Fly Lady, encourages you not to think of donating items (in this case decorations) as throwing them away. Instead, bless another family in need with these items.
  • Next, focus on the room you spend the most time in and do one decorative installation, or put one or two small things in each room. For example, turn your sofa table into a display of gourds, Indian corn and pumpkins for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Or, place a small decoration on each windowsill in every room to spread the cheer.
  • Rather than buy a whole new set of decorations, consider what type of item you truly enjoy buying each year and go for it. For example, I love beaded coasters! Each year, I can’t wait to head to Target to see which ones they’ll feature. My sister, on the other hand, loves holiday wreaths and will splurge on a new one every year or two.
  • Double-dip! In other words, try using food as a decoration. Seasonal fruits like apples, oranges and lemons can look elegant in a large glass bowl on your dining room table. You can also eat these items if you’re hungry for a snack!
  • Or, try combining your standard white candles with pinecones and pomegranates for a seasonal look of things you have in your yard, your linen closet and your fridge!
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed, invite a friend over to help. Open a bottle of wine, turn on holiday music and make it fun!

And finally, I’d like to address family traditions because I think they are deeply important. Yet, they can also feel like mental clutter if they take up too much time and effort. Rather than abandon them completely, think of ways you can modernize and streamline these traditions. For example, your family always has a full ‘the works’ Thanksgiving dinner, but you just can’t see how on earth you’ll make it happen this year. I recommend ordering at least one of your favorite dishes, if not the whole meal, from an external catering service. Or, if you always leave homemade cookies out for Santa, go for pre-made doughs that usually have a quick cook-time. By trying these simple modifications, you’ll save yourself unneccessary stress at the holidays while still keeping your traditions intact.

Keep your eyes peeled for more holiday tips and tricks in our upcoming posts and newsletters, as well as on our Facebook page. We’ll be keeping you informed and organized throughout the season!

-TWOW

Get Your Closet Organized: The Seasonal Changeover

The leaves are changing, the air is crisper and the mornings are cooler, which means it’s time to get your closet organized for the fall and winter seasons! It’s time to say goodbye to summer dresses and linen pants and hello to cashmere sweaters and wool trousers in just a few simple steps. Let’s organize your closet!

First, remove all distinctly spring/summer items from your closet and dresser.  This is the perfect opportunity to weed out the things you no longer want/wear from the things you’ll need to clean and store. Make three piles: Store, Trash, and Donate.

Store Pile: these are the clothes you will wear again next year when warm weather returns. Clean these items first. It may seem like a lot of effort, but you’ll be glad you did it when you can pull them straight from storage and into your closet!

  • Decide what vessels you’ll use for storing the clothing and designate a place for them to live. This is a good time to use those hard-to-reach shelves at home since you won’t need to access them for months.
  • We recommended Spacebags for traveling, and we also recommend them for storing clothing efficiently. Rubbermaid and Sterilite tubs are also a good storage solution.
  • Consider including anti-moth/anti-insect solutions in your vessels, such as non-toxic, chemical free Moth Away or Cedar and Lavender Moth Balls.  Try to avoid storing clothing (or bedding) underneath the bed.  This is a great place to pick up unwanted pests.

Trash and Donate Piles: Separate those items you’ll donate from those items you’ll simply need to throw away. Example: white tees with stains should be trashed, whereas the trendy romper you bought for only a season can be donated to the Goodwill or Salvation Army.

  • Send your trash pile to the garbage. You can also cut up certain items to use as household and garage rags.
  • The items you’ll be donating should be cleaned as a courtesy to the charity receiving your used items.
  • Make an itemized list of the number of shirts, pants, skirts, shoes, etc. you are donating. You’ll need this for calculating tax deductions for next year and for your receipt from the donation center. Here is the Salvation Army’s great online donation valuation list to help you get organized.
  • Place the cleaned and folded items in bags and take them directly to the trunk of your car. This will ensure they’ll actually make it to the Goodwill, rather than pile up in your home. Furthermore, set a date on your calendar for drop off to ensure they’ll make it out of your trunk, as well!

Second, you’ll need to remove fall/winter items from your storage containers. Here is another great opportunity to assess what you’ll need for the season and what you’d like to get rid of from last year.

  • Repeat the Trash/Donate pile process from above with your fall/winter items from last year if you find any clothes your style has outgrown.
  • Separate those articles to hang in your closet from those to be folded in your dresser.
  • Whenever I work with a client to organize a closet, we group items together by piece and use.  For example, all suits are hung together; all dresses grouped by cocktail, work and casual styles; all dress pants, all casual pants, all denim, etc.  It may sound a little exacting to the free spirits out there but it really works to help you to see what you have and what you need.
  • In your dresser, I recommend designating a drawer for each category. For example, tees and tanks in one; socks and undergarments in another and workout gear in another.  I recently used these great Dream Drawer Organizers for a client’s t-shirt and shorts drawers and he loves them.  We were able to utilize his limited drawer space more efficiently and divide t-shirts and shorts into everyday and sports-oriented uses.
  • Once your items are hung or folded in front of you, take note of what is missing that you’ll need for the season.
  • Make a list and a plan for shopping — that’s the best part!

Enjoy!

-TWOW

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