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The Gifts of Organizing

I hope as we near the end of the year that you’ve enjoyed a year of organizing success! As we approach the holiday gift-giving season, I want to round out the year by sharing three gifts of organizing and offer some tips for a simpler, more organized holiday season.
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If you have spent the past year tackling organizing projects, I hope you’ve experienced the following gifts. If you are still gearing up, I hope that a review of the gifts of organizing will inspire you. While there are numerous gifts of organizing that we experience on a personal level, I think they can be distilled to three: freedom, joy and presence.

When we are organized, we experience greater freedom. We are not slaves to our space and our stuff. We are in control and can make decisions about what supports us and what sucks the life out of us. When we can find what we want when we want it, which is the essence of organization, we are free!

When we are organized, we experience more joy—and less stress. Heading into what for many is a stressful time of year, this gift is a treasure. Stress is rummaging around for car keys when we’re already late. Stress is misplacing a mother-in-law’s Hanukah or Christmas gift. Stress is getting collections calls because unpaid bills are buried in piles. Stress is having to find vital documents after the death of a loved one. Joy is being able to honor your treasures because you know where they are. Joy is having everything packed into the car the night before a big presentation so you can have a more peaceful morning. Joy is knowing where the passports are several days before an overseas vacation. Joy is being able to find treasured family pictures and heirlooms. When we can find what we want when we want it, we have more joy!

When we are organized, we are present to enjoy our lives and offer our own gifts. I imagine that if this gift came wrapped up, it would be the prettiest one under the tree. Presence can be both powerfully received and lovingly given. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, activist and writer states, “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” Being organized facilitates presence.

To clearly illustrate the gift of presence, I want you to think of a time during the past week when you’ve left your home or office in a state of disarray: dishes left in the sink, papers strewn across the desktop—you get the picture. Now think of how many times during the course of that day those images surfaced with neon intensity to remind you of unfinished business. Once? Twice? Twenty times? Now think of a time in the recent past when you couldn’t find something but didn’t have time to look for it. Did you ever really stop thinking about where that item might be? For many of us, those images and their associated feelings pop up like uninvited guests when our presence is most required. If you have a space, system or routine that is a zinger, resolve it so it doesn’t clamor so loudly for your attention and rob you of the ability to lend your full presence. When we can find what we want when we want it, we can be more present.

Practices and Tips

In order to experience these gifts during this holiday season, here are some of my favorite holiday practices and tips.

See It. Map It. Do It.©

Take some time to go through the steps in the Clear & SIMPLE™ Systems as you prepare for the holidays. You can use the following exercise as an example.

See It.

Ask yourself—

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“What do I like about how we do the holidays?” (I love our family traditions, attending cultural events, baking and giving neighbor gifts.)

“What do I not like about how we do the holidays?” (I don’t like how we spend too much money, eat too much, sleep too little and overschedule.)

“Am I stuck in relation to the way we do the holidays? Why?” (Yes. We have our “standard” way of doing things, which means we spend too much time and money trying to meet expectations. I hate that. Will we hurt someone’s feelings if we do things differently? Will the kids pitch a fit if we try something new?)

Map It.

Ask yourself, “What’s my vision for the holiday season?” (I want the holiday season to feel joyful and magical. I want to teach my children the joy of giving as well as receiving. I want to honor our budget. I want the focus of the season to be about relationships and traditions, not about stuff.)

Do It.

  • Sort—Put all your ideas for seasonal celebrations and events on paper. Create a separate brainstorm list of all the people to whom you wish to give gifts. Make this a fun family time, and get everyone’s input!
  • Toss—Winnow down your list to what you can realistically do and/or purchase. Make sure the items on your list reflect your vision.
  • Assign—Put events such as the following on your calendar: Shop Look at lights Go to the movies Attend a concert Distribute neighbor gifts Take naps
  • Contain—Create a spreadsheet, electronic or otherwise, to help you determine whom you need to shop for, what your price range is and which gifts might fit the bill. Our family creates this spreadsheet in Excel so we can track our budgeted and actual expenses. Make sure that you include items like stocking stuffers on this list as well so you don’t get blindsided by little extras. Take this spreadsheet with you when you shop for a ready reference. You can also create a special container or file for holiday shopping receipts so they stay separate and accessible.
  • Keep It Up—Update your spreadsheet! Periodically review your vision and your list(s) to ensure you’re creating the season you want.
  • Simplify—If you find that you are stressed and/or overscheduled, allow yourself to strike things from the calendar. Take a nap. Sit down for five or ten consecutive minutes. Reevaluate. There is no hard, fast rule that you have to be frazzled before the actual holiday actually arrives!


  • Do all your gift shopping on one or two days. I do this, and I love it! The greatest benefits to shopping over a short period are that it’s easier to see how much money is being spent and the whole month of December isn’t spent in a mall or online.
  • Establish a theme for gifts. You could focus on winter sports, electronics, events, princesses, family vacations, service, entertainment, etc. Go crazy!
  • Do any organizing projects early in the month if you do them at all. Otherwise, keep a running list of projects, and gear up for January! If you have large projects you feel you absolutely must do this month, consider hiring an organizer or asking a friend to help you. Make this a gift to yourself!
  • Clear room for new items BEFORE they come into your space. You likely have a good idea what Santa is bringing and how much space you’ll need. Imagine how good it will feel to be able to put things away right away rather than wading through a sea of STUFF for a week while your kids are out of school. Donate games, toys and clothes to charity.

I hope that reviewing the gifts of organizing and some of these tips inspire and enable you to more fully celebrate the season. Best wishes for a wonderful holiday!



Get Ready, Get Set, Get Organized!

Welcome to National Get Organized Month 2007! If, as you look around your home or office, you find yourself trying to manage the incoming tidal wave of stuff from the holiday season or the residual stuff from the entire year and are muttering, “I need to get organized,” you have come to the right place.

Get Ready! Get Set! Get Organized!

Welcome to National Get Organized Month 2008! If, as you look around your home or office, you find yourself trying to manage the incoming tidal wave of stuff from the holiday season or the residual stuff from the entire year and are muttering, “I need to get organized,” you have come to the right place.

Organizing the Car

How much time do you spend in the car each week? If you’re like most people, you rack up over 15 hours behind the wheel. That calculates to roughly 10% of your life!

Top 5 Products to Keep You Organized

Getting your life organized is one thing. Keeping it that way is another! Here are my top 5 favorite products for helping you stay in control of your paper, time and space

Organizing Clothing Purchases

Spring has sprung, and along with planting flowers and enjoying warmer weather, it’s time for another favorite: shopping! Here are some great tips that will make updating your wardrobe easier before you even step foot inside a department store, while you’re shopping, and after you get everything home.

Look What I Drew! Organizing and Displaying Kids’ Art

You have a budding artist—or two or three. The front of your fridge is plastered with images ranging from your 2-year-old’s first scribbles (on paper) to your kindergartner’s abstract macaroni cow to your second-grader’s ever-evolving and oh-so-prolific attempts at Dracula and his happy pet bats.

Summer Resolutions

I woke up a few days ago to my 3rd annual oh-my-gosh-my-kids-are-out-of-school-this-week panic attack. As my eyes fluttered open to the image of my anxiety-ridden face in the mirrored closet doors, I thought, “Groovy hair.” Then I thought, “We have to do summer differently this year.”

Mom! Where Are my Shoes?

And my homework? And my backpack? And my favorite shirt? And the Happy Meal toy I got when we went to McDonald’s with Grandma last summer? Maybe I should feel flattered that somehow my children think I know where everything is. Truth is, I don’t feel flattered. I have a number of other reactions when the questions begin that range from minor irritation if we’re not in a hurry to utter exasperation if we are already five minutes late.