"Getting Organized to Survive the Holidays" Workshop in the Quad Cities

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This past Saturday I had the pleasure of traveling to Davenport to participate in a workshop put together by Mona Brantley, owner of Organize That and new member of the Association of Iowa Professional Organizers.  Mona had organized a binder of information for each of the participants complete with multiple list builders, calendars, and party/meal planning worksheets.  As we spent some time going through the binder, Mona explained how to effectively use the lists and gave plenty of time for the group to share its own experiences with planning for the holidays.
After a little break Mona showed how she likes to set up a Holiday Activity Center – a great idea which she had recently presented on the Paula Sands Live Show.  Creating a Holiday Activity Center allows you to keep all the items you need for your various holiday tasks such as card writing, gift wrapping, and meal planning in one place so you don’t have to hunt around the house every time you’re ready to work on your holiday activities.
My favorite part of the workshop was talking about the ways we simplify our own holiday activities.  Some suggestions that Mona gave us include:
* Prune your To-Do list – if you’re not excited about the activity when you see it on your calendar, consider eliminating it altogether – IT’S OK TO SAY NO!
* Scale back on your decorating – keep it simple.  When putting out holiday decorations, consider taking away two of your “everyday” decorations and replacing them with one holiday decoration – make the holidays the focus and cut the other clutter.
* Consider what activities you can delegate to someone else:  cleaning, yard work, gift wrapping, catering – there are many services out there to help you take care of tasks you may not have time to do yourself.  Ask yourself if a lower stress level is worth spending a few extra bucks – in many cases it is definitely worth it.
* Be ok with some things not being perfect.  If you’re hosting a get together – clean the public areas and bathrooms of your house and be ok with the bedrooms or other not-so-public areas in the house not being pristine.
Like it or not gifts can be the focus of the holidays.  Here are some ideas on how to deal with gift giving during the holiday season:
* Cut your list.  (My husband and I are down to about 10 people who we plan to give gifts to at the holidays and it works out just about perfect for us – we view time spent with friends and family as a bigger gift – to us the gift of time spent together is exponentially more important than physical gifts we may receive.  Think about what’s really important to you – and not what others think.).
* Consider combining resources to get one “bigger” gift.  (We will often team up with our siblings to do this for our parents).
* Wrap presents as you buy them.  Consider using post-it notes to indicate when you’re planning to give the gift so you don’t accidentally forget.
* Think about giving experiences rather than stuff.  Examples:  theater tickets, movie tickets, gift certificate for dinner (for a restaurant or a home cooked meal!), magazine subscriptions, zoo memberships, children’s museum memberships, short-term cleaning services, short-term organizing services, gift certificates for chauffeur services (especially good for elderly persons who may not be able to get around as easily anymore) – the list is endless and these are gifts people can in some cases use over and over.
* Spend time, not money.  Some ideas:  1) Have a family camp out by the Christmas tree. 2) Have a sing-a-long. 3) Do an after-hours holiday light tour with your special someone – or bring the kids too! Even more fun if you go in your jammies!  4) Have a candlelight dinner for the whole family.  5) Borrow holiday books or movies from your local library.
A big thanks to Mona for putting this event together!  We all learned a lot and I had a great time – plus it’s always fun to meet and share ideas with other professional organizers.
Do you need help getting organized for the holidays?  Quad Cities area folks can contact Mona at Organize That for more information.  In the Iowa City area contact us at The Project Professional to get you started on the path to a stress-free holiday season!
~Tracy
theProjectProfessional@gmail.com

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