Sometime in early November, time starts to move at warp speed as the holiday season gets closer and closer. The holidays, meant to be festive and fun-filled, often become a time of being stressed and overwhelmed. There are so many things to do: meals to cook, people to entertain, parties to attend, as well as items to keep track of (gifts, decorations, ornaments and more).
Adopting some good organizing strategies can make your holiday season calm enough to enjoy it while it's happening.
Before you start buying, wrapping, decorating, baking or planning meals, take inventory of what you already have. This includes decorations, wrapping paper and holiday cooking supplies. You'll save yourself precious time and won't make the mistake of buying more than you need.
Getting in the holiday spirit often comes with a lot of stuff — ornament boxes, trees or menorahs, indoor lights, outdoor lights and more. It looks so festive when it's up, but what about the rest of the year?
Make sure you have ample bins and containers to hold all of your decorations. Remember, when you take everything down, you're more likely to do it if it's easy to put things away. Store seasonal decorations in an out-of-the-way place since they are only accessed once a year.
Create containers of things you use for holiday entertaining so you don't clutter your kitchen with holiday table linens and serving pieces you only use once a year.
Holiday wrapping supplies should be stored separately from "regular" gift wrap supplies to keep that holly-covered paper from getting mixed up with the birthday cake kind.
There are various types of gift-wrap containers that allow your rolls to be stored upright or horizontally. Either can work well, but it's important to let those containers define the number of rolls of wrapping paper you have on hand. If you have more rolls than will fit in the container, it's time to edit your supply. Also, avoid buying extra-long rolls of wrap. They're hard to store and take up way more space than needed.
Are you more of a bag person than a wrapper? Store your gift bags by size and upright (sort of like files in a drawer), versus flat in a container. This way you can easily thumb through your supply to find what you need. Traditional file boxes work well as an inexpensive yet practical container for gift bags.
Depending how much wrapping "accessories" you like to have on hand, like tissue paper and gift tags, clear shoebox-sized containers work best for storing these items. Try to have one container for each category so you're not having to untwist ribbon as you're trying to grab some tissue paper. Additional tip: Loose ribbon can be rolled and held together with a paper clip to keep it from becoming a tangled mess.
Receiving cards from family and friends is one of my favorite holiday traditions, but what do you do with them once you ogle over how much Cousin Tommy has grown or look over your college roommate's family vacation photo? Sure, there are tons of Pinterest boards with creative displays and crafty projects, but who has time for that? Saving them because you think you should usually results in them being shoved in a cabinet or drawer. If you truly want to appreciate the cards you receive, save them in a container by year. Is that still a bit too much? Apply the 80/20 rule to who makes it into your holiday-card photo archive. Only save those from close family members and friends. Either way, you can forget about the card from your doctor and mechanic (a nice gesture, but not worth holding onto) or cards without personal messages or family photos. They are not worth sacrificing your storage real estate or time to find a place for them.
Just because you receive a gift does not mean you need to keep it. To quote Marie Kondo, "The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not things, but a means for conveying someone's feelings." Embrace the joy you feel when you receive a gift but don't keep it out of obligation. On the flip side, don't be a "spreader of gift clutter." Many of our friends and family members are fortunate to have enough stuff. Experiential gifts (trips, concert tickets) go a long way toward creating lasting memories.
Lori Krolik is a certified professional organizer and the owner of More Time for You in Palo Alto. Her website is moretimeforyou.net.