Monthly Archives: October 2013

Countdown to an Organized Christmas: Binder Prep and Organizing


countdown christmas

{If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series you can find them here.}

Throughout the month you’ve been given loads of printables to help you have an organized Christmas season.  Back on day one I talked about getting a binder (mine is green!) to store your Christmas Control Journal (CCJ).

I’ve been making a new CCJ right along with y’all and so far I just have a big mess of papers and not too much organization going on in there.  I plan on changing that today though!

Your binder will probably look different than mine, even if we have the same basic printables in it.  I will share the way I organize my binder, but you should organize yours in an order that makes sense to you.

So let’s get crackin’!

I have eight dividers (bought them at the Dollar Tree around the beginning of September).  Here is how they’re divided:

  1. Calendar — My overall November and December calendar is the only thing behind this tab.
  2. Cleaning and Housekeeping — The cleaning to do list, cleaning calendarhousekeeping to do list and wardrobe planner.  (It was the most logical place for it, in my opinion.)
  3. Financial and Gifts — My budget, gift ideas, gifts purchased, order tracker, gifts to make and stocking stuffers are here.
  4. Addresses and Cards — Obviously the address listChristmas card list and thank you card list are the only things here.
  5. Planners and Food — The Christmas baking plannerparty planner, holiday meal planner, food shopping lists and recipes are here.
  6. Traditions and the Like — This is where I put my holiday traditions, entertainment (movies and music) and light viewing list.  (Because they kind of all go together.)
  7. Christmas Future — The notes for Christmas futureitems needed for next year and decorations inventory are here.
  8. Extra Paper — Just in case I need to jot something down (or have an idea for another printable!) I always have extra paper in my CCJ.

You’ll notice that I did not include my gift closet inventory (because it’s stored with the extra gifts).  I also didn’t include my fridge/freezer or pantry inventory either, because those lists are stored on the side of my fridge.

You may compile your CCJ in a completely different way — and that’s great!  If it’s organized in a way that makes sense to you then you’ll have an easier time using it.  And we all want our lives to be simpler, more organized and just a little more peaceful.  🙂

And now, the homework:

Today’s Assignment:  Organize your CCJ and fill out any bits that you can right now.

Today’s Printable:  Sorry, no printable today.  I have officially ran out of ideas for printables! 😀


Countdown to an Organized Christmas: Storage Solutions


countdown christmas

{If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series you can find them here.}

Just think — in a few months time the holiday season will be over.  You’ll be taking down the decorations, and wondering where the time went.  And also maybe breathing a small sigh of relief that it’s finally over.  That’s okay too. 

But before you box up that strand of lights that only works half the time or repack those decorations that you didn’t use — again — this year, take a little time to clear out the items you don’t want, need, or love anymore.  Give them to someone who will appreciate them or toss them.  Loan them to someone if you can’t bear to actually get rid of them.  If you’re not using them or if they don’t work properly you shouldn’t spend your valuable real estate housing them.

I posted a blog after last Christmas about how I store my Christmas decorations.  It’s a method that works well for me.  (I used the same principle during my last move and it worked wonderfully!)  But if that amount of detail isn’t your thing, that’s ok too.  As long as your decorations are stored neatly (because no one likes to sort through a tangled web of lights!) it really doesn’t matter how you store them.

A few tips I use to help store my Christmas decorations:

  • I wrap Christmas light strands around my hand (you know what I mean; until they form a circle/ball) and then put them in a plastic grocery bag.  I label the bag with black permanent marker and write exactly what is in the bag.  (For example: “clear lights, windows”, “blue lights, big tree”, “red lights, artificial tree”, etc.)  There is no confusion and it’s easy to sort when I need them.  {And if I change my color schemes it’s easy to see what I have and what I may need.}
  • I try to keep the original boxes for the breakable little knick-knacks.  They’re safe and I can pop them all in a larger box to store them.
  • I only buy shatterproof ornaments these days.  With kids, pets and my own clumsy self I need everything shatterproof!  I tend to box all of the ornaments together in one box (a separate box for each tree — I have three trees).  I keep the hangers attached to each ornament.  It’s less time consuming than taking them all off and putting them all back on again the next year.  Occasionally I’ll have some that tie themselves together but they’re easily removed.  And it still takes far less time this way, even when I have to replace a few hangers which have fallen off in storage.  (Some might call it being lazy — I say I’m being efficient with my time. ;))

That is all I can think of for the moment — it is a little hard to think about storage solutions when you’ve had your stuff in storage for the past 10 months!  If I think of any more I’ll be sure and add to it.  Also, if you have any handy dandy tips you would like to share, please feel free!

And now, the homework:

Today’s Assignment:  We’re off the hook again today.  The work will come when Christmas is over and it’s time to put it all away again until next year.  Before then though, you may want to take stock of your storage solutions and see if you’re happy with them.  If not, start trying to come up with a way that is better suited to your needs.

Today’s Printable:  In case you use the method I listed above, I’ve attached a printable to help you:  CCJ decoration storage.  If you need more than two pages of space let me know and I’ll add more.  🙂

Countdown to an Organized Christmas: Thank You Card List


countdown christmas

{If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series you can find them here.}

We try to instill good habits, thankfulness and proper etiquette in our children.  It’s a rough fight on occasion, but somebody has to do it.  🙂  And what better way to teach them all of those important lessons than having them write out thank you cards when they receive gifts?

The young ones will not be able to help you with this, of course, but it is still a way to brighten the gifters day with a nice thank you card detailing how much little Billy loves the toy train set.  And your BFF would love a handwritten note from you telling her how much you love and appreciate her gift to you!

Sometimes it’s just easy to be so busy during the Christmas season that we forget to stop and be thankful.

So I dare you to stop and be thankful for a few minutes.  Take a little time out of your busy holiday season and write some thank you notes to the friends and loved ones who cared enough to send you (or your family members) a gift.

And now, the homework:

Today’s Assignment:  Of course there’s not much you can do until you start receiving Christmas presents.  You can go ahead and get some cute thank you cards though!  Unless you’re like me and still have some left over from when your youngest child was born.  Then you’re off the hook.  🙂

Today’s Printable:  CCJ thank you card list.  

Countdown to an Organized Christmas: Notes for Christmas Future


countdown christmas

{If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series you can find them here.}

Have you ever looked at that partially put together artificial tree (or whatever) and said to yourself, “I know there’s a trick to doing this; I just can’t remember what it is?”

Or maybe your husband tells you every year at the last minute that he’d like you to bake nine dozen cookies for the company Christmas party… which is only two days away.

I think everyone has those little things that they think to themselves, “Ok, maybe next year you’ll actually remember this.”

Guess what?  You won’t.

I don’t either.  That’s why I started writing a list for Christmas future.  (It sounds kind of Charles Dickens-ish, doesn’t it?)

Some things on my list?

  • Not to forget that my brother hates pumpkin pie.  I made him one for at least 5 years before I finally started writing it down so I would remember.  My brain keeps thinking it’s his favorite!
  • No matter what I may think, eight strands of lights are needed for the artificial tree.  Not seven.
  • Don’t forget the stockings.  Or the stocking stuffers.
  • Send the UK Christmas cards early.  Like last week in November early.  Then if there is another Royal Mail strike the cards will hopefully still have time to get there before Christmas.

When you catch yourself thinking that you need to remember something for next year — write it down.  And especially write it down when you think to yourself, “Oh, I’ll definitely remember that next year.”

You know, just in case. 🙂

And now, the homework:

Today’s Assignment:  Print the printable and put it into you CCJ.  Chances are that there isn’t much you can put on it right now.

Today’s Printable:  CCJ notes for Christmas future.

Countdown to an Organized Christmas: Items Needed for Next Year


countdown christmas

{If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series you can find them here.}

By the end of the Christmas season there are usually dead light sets that have to be thrown away, moth eaten garland to retire and maybe even an artificial tree at the end of it’s useful life.

The best time to buy Christmas decorations is, of course, the day after Christmas.  But sometimes that isn’t possible.  Due to time, money or space constraints — or even a sold out store — it’s sometimes impossible to buy items for next Christmas at the end of the year.

A few years ago I noticed how frustrated I would get when I got all of my Christmas decorations out and started decorating the tree but had to stop when I realized I didn’t have enough lights to finish.  Then I would remember that some of them burned out the previous year and I didn’t get replacements.

But that’s not the time you want to drop everything and run to the store!  It’s a lot more peaceful if you already know what you need and buy it before you start decorating.

Now I write it down on a list labeled “Items Needed for Next Year”.  This encompasses Thanksgiving and Christmas and I can tell at a glance exactly what I need to buy to replenish my stock.

Early last month I went to Hobby Lobby (that store is my weakness — I’m kind of glad the closest one is about 2 hours away from me!).  I took my list that I wrote from last year because I knew they would already have Christmas decorations out and I might be able to buy some of my needs then.  I was right — before I left I was able to check off three of the five items on my list — at 40% off!

The other two items are on my next week’s shopping list.  I might as well go ahead and get it out of the way.  We all know how difficult it is to try and find lights and other widely used decorations after about Thanksgiving.  They can get as scarce as hens teeth!

Which leads me to the homework:

Today’s Assignment:  If you already know of anything you need to buy to decorate for the holidays go ahead and write them down.  This will be a great tool for the end of the season and you’ll probably find it more useful then.

Today’s Printable:  CCJ items needed for next year.

Countdown to an Organized Christmas: Christmas Light Viewing


countdown christmas

{If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series you can find them here.}

Every year, without fail, we pick an evening near Christmas and load up the kids (usually in pajamas and coats), grab the camera and some hot chocolate and search for the best light displays around town.  It’s one of our family traditions.  We started doing it the year we were married — long before kids were in the picture… although we do kind of act like a couple of children while we’re out looking at lights.

Hot chocolate, Christmas carols and making memories with the ones you love.  Nothing better than that!  It’s one of my favorite Christmas traditions!

When we lived in my hometown (population of about 11K) I knew exactly where to go for the best lights.  It didn’t take much pre-planning then.   When we moved to a new, bigger city (and state) almost two years ago it was a completely different ball game.  I couldn’t even make it to the grocery store without GPS; finding the best light displays would have to be because of shear luck!  And it really was mostly luck — but we did find some great ones.

I spent the majority of December while out on errands going down different streets to see if I could find the best lights.  I wrote down the street names and hoped I’d be able to find them again in the dark.  I’m telling y’all, I’m dedicated!

I kept last year’s list and I plan to add to it this year.  I’m more familiar with (most) of the city now which should help tremendously.

Does your family go look at Christmas lights around your town?  If you don’t already I’d thoroughly recommend it.

If you’ve lived in your town a while you may already know the “who’s who” in Christmas decorations.  But if you’re new in town or live in a very large city you might profit from making your own Christmas Light Viewing List.  Just don’t forget to write it down — if your memory is like mine you’ll be lucky to remember the good ones by the time you get home, much less by this time next year.  Oh, and always be on the lookout for new streets to visit!

And now, the homework:

Today’s Assignment:  Print out the Christmas Light Viewing List if you like.  Start writing down streets you know you need to visit and add to it when you think of a new one.  Use the list as a general guideline on your family Light-Looking outing.  🙂

Today’s Printable:  CCJ Christmas light viewing list.

Countdown to an Organized Christmas: Pantry Inventory


countdown christmas

{If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series you can find them here.}

I have been blessed with a relatively large pantry.  It’s not like room-sized big, but it’s more space than I’ve ever had before.  I am able to store a lot of extra food in there in case of emergencies (and also if I find a great sale!).  My pantry is also where I keep my extra small appliances when they’re not in use, extra table linens, and extra large containers (like cake carriers, etc.).

Needless to say, it’s pretty well trafficked every day.

I tried for a long time to tame the beast but never had much luck.  I would lose things in the back and forget what I had on hand.  After I finally got my freezer inventory on a good system I decided to tackle the pantry with the same general idea.

I wrote down the list of foods I normally keep in my pantry and laminated the paper.  I use my wet erase marker to mark when I take out or put something into the pantry.  I have my list (and marker) fastened in my pantry on a string.  It doesn’t magically grow legs and walk off that way.

Bonus tip:  On shopping day you can easily take your pantry (and freezer) list and see what you’re running low on.  Making a shopping list is so easy!

With everything going on around the holidays keeping an inventory of your pantry could be a definite sanity saver.  You would always know what’s on hand!  Last minute guests could show up and you could probably throw something together to make them feel welcome.  (Speaking of which, I think everyone should have at least one go to snack/meal that’s easy to fix in a pinch.  And always have those ingredients on hand.)   And you know what?  It’s not a sin to have a little Betty Crocker help from time to time either.  Just sayin’. 🙂

So do yourself a favor and start organizing that pantry now.  You didn’t have any other plans for the weekend, did you? 🙂

And now, the homework:

Today’s Assignment:  Make your pantry inventory check list.  As with the freezer list yesterday, you might as well go ahead and throw out all of the expired cans and boxes of stuff that have overstayed their welcome.

Today’s Printable:  CCJ pantry inventory list.

Countdown to an Organized Christmas: Freezer Inventory


countdown christmas

{If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series you can find them here.}

If you already keep a working inventory of your freezer then you’re off the hook for today.  🙂  I usually know what’s in my fridge (I try to clean it out at least once a week) but I sometimes really fall off track on knowing exactly what are in my freezers.  Which really stinks when I think I have something in there and then when I figure out it’s not I have to scramble to figure out what else to cook for supper that night!

Ideally, a freezer inventory should be kept year round.  There are so many benefits:

  • You always know what items you have on hand.
  • You are less likely to forget about something and have to throw it away because it grew moldy or got freezer burned.
  • It’s easier to buy extras when you find a good deal on something (say, beef) if you know how much space you have and that you don’t already have several packages hiding in the freezer.

Setting up an inventory not probably not a fun task.  It takes time, patience, and a hot drink to help keep your hands warm.  (Any excuse for coffee!)  But once you get it set up you hopefully will be able to keep it up with just a bit of maintenance here and there.  And if you go ahead and accomplish this task now, it should help keep you more organized when you’re trying to figure out what you need to buy to do all of your holiday cooking and baking.

A few tips I’ve found useful since keeping a freezer inventory:

  • I keep my freezer inventory on the side of my fridge instead of in my CCJ.  It’s easier to make changes to it if it’s right there so I’m more likely to do it then (instead of doing it “later” — which we all know never tends to actually happen).
  • Write (in permanent marker) on all of your freezer plastic zippy baggies.  Write what’s in there and include the date as well (I also include the amount/weight).  Because no matter how good you think your memory is, in six month’s time that hunk of meat will not be identifiable and will probably never be eaten.
  • After I wrote down a list of things I normally keep in my freezer, I laminated the paper.  Now I can just use a wet erase marker to add/subtract amounts.  It’s more durable and very convenient for me.
  • I also made sure that my marker had a magnet in it so it sticks to the fridge right beside my list.  No more hunting for a writing utensil.  And I made sure that my family know that marker is off limits.

What if you have two (or more) freezers?  How do you make that work?  In my home I have my regular fridge/freezer.  Out in the garage is a separate upright freezer.  When I began my Freezer Inventory List I tried to keep them separate and made separate lists.  That didn’t work well for me because I regularly move things from one freezer to the other.  It just became more of a hassle than it was worth to try and remember to erase from one list and write it on the other.  It wasn’t long before I gave up completely.

Now I just keep one list.  Since it’s all written down it really doesn’t take that long to find something, even if I have to search through both freezers to find it.  (And that normally doesn’t happen because I tend to know what’s in my fridge/freezer since I’m in it so often.)

Another suggestion that may work if you have multiple freezers is to assign numbers to your freezers.  When you write down an item on your Freezer Inventory List just jot down the number of the freezer beside it.  Just find a method that works for you!

{Tomorrow we’re going to tackle the food pantry!}

And now, the homework:

Today’s Assignment:  Bite the bullet and make your freezer inventory check list.  (You might find it handy to have one person to write down the items and someone else to call out all of the items in the freezer.)  While you’re in there you might as well go ahead and throw out all of the mystery meat and other stuff that has been in there since 2005.  It’s time.  Just let it go.  🙂  It’ll be easier to organize what’s left — and much easier to locate things later.   And don’t forget the upright and chest freezers!

Today’s Printable:  CCJ freezer inventory list.  Make multiples as needed.  I’ve also included an inventory list for your fridge if you need one:  CCJ fridge inventory list.

Countdown to an Organized Christmas: Wardrobe Planner


countdown christmas

{If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series you can find them here.}

It’s so easy in all of the hustle and bustle of Christmas to completely forget to think about what you will need to wear to all of your activities and engagements.  From dinner parties to Christmas plays (and all things in between), it’s usually the time of year when we tend to dress up just a bit more than normal.

And there’s also the children to consider.  Last year’s patent leather shoes probably won’t fit anymore… along with most everything else they wear.  (My kids seem to outgrow clothing every month lately!)  Which brings up another question — do you even know what sizes your children are in right now?  Shoes, pants, shirts, dresses, underwear… the whole kit and caboodle.

Do you have the proper clothing in your closet?

Put down your wallet, there’s no need to run to the store just yet.  Hear me out first. 🙂  

I know — especially this time of the year — that the budget is tight.  But sometimes a situation calls for a wardrobe that we don’t have.  What to do?

Here are some ways I stretch a buck for situations such as these:

  • Shop thrift stores or consignment shops.  Sometimes you can get a really great deal on some great pieces, but it usually takes time (and multiple trips) to find what you’re looking for.
  • Borrow from a friend.  If your best friend’s kids just outgrew something she’d probably let you borrow (or have) it.
  • Plan ahead and buy end of season clothing for next year.  I usually do this year round, buying one or two sizes up for my children (sometimes more in shoes) when I catch things on a good clearance sale.
  • Shop sales, coupons and clearance — online.  Sometimes you can find a great outfit for cheap with an online dealer.  Sign up for any rewards programs and get even more bang for your buck.

And now, the homework:

Today’s Assignment:  Think about all of the occasions when you and your family will need to dress this holiday season.  What will each person need?  What do they already have in their closet?  What do you need to acquire?  What size does everyone wear?  {Bonus tip:  If you already have all of your children’s sizes written down you’ll know just what to say when someone asks you what size they’re in.  And you probably won’t even have to return as many Christmas gifts because they don’t fit!}

Today’s Printable:  CCJ wardrobe planner.  Make multiple copies as needed.

Countdown to an Organized Christmas: Shopping Lists ~ Food Items


countdown christmas

{If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series you can find them here.}

There’s no way around it.  Today’s assignment will probably be a bit tedious and time consuming.  However, it will definitely be worth it in the long run.

Let me explain.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever done this:  You start cooking something and just get going good when you realize that the sugar/bread crumbs/soy sauce/whatever-ingredient-needed is nowhere to be found in your pantry — even though you were so sure you had some.  Or you do have the ingredient — but it’s two years past it’s sell by date.  Or even worse, you abandon the recipe because of the lack of ingredient and then later find what you needed buried in the back of the cupboard!

Are you raising your hand yet?  I am.

Today’s assignment will help keep that from happening this holiday season.  What we need to do today is take all of our holiday recipes and make a master shopping list.  (I told you it wouldn’t be fun.)  If it works for you, divide your list into three pages (or groups) —

  • Nonperishable items
  • Perishable items
  • Produce

The goal is to do as much of your shopping as early as possible so you don’t have to deal with it later.  Obviously, if you have space/financial restrictions this may not be possible, but I’ve found it to be so much easier than trying to buy everything a few days beforehand.  The main concern is running the risk of not being able to find an important item.

A few years ago I ran out of mincemeat and could not find it anywhere I looked.  And I looked everywhere.  At least twelve stores in three different cities.  And because I left it so late, I couldn’t even order any online.  Needless to say, that’s when I started paying better attention to the shape of my pantry!

Nonperishable items can be bought now.  They’re usually those canned or boxed items that can last a few years in the pantry.  Perishable items, such as dairy items, may need to be purchased closer to your cooking day(s) depending on their shelf life.  Produce will obviously have to be bought the week of (sometimes the day before) — unless it’s something that will last well in the fridge, such as celery (wrap it in foil and it’ll last weeks), apples (which last a few months in the fridge) or the like.

Here’s what I suggest.  Print out the printable below or grab a few pieces of scratch paper and start writing down the ingredients that you’ll need.  In fact, you might find it easier if you make different lists for your Thanksgiving meal, Christmas meal, Christmas baking, edible gifts, etc.  Whatever will be cooked around the same day should be on the same list.

You could even go a step further and write out the amounts you’ll need of each item so you know you’ll have enough of each ingredient on hand when the time comes.  In fact, I usually make my list do double duty — I write down each ingredient the way it should be prepped (for example, “onions, chopped”, “onions, diced”, “onions, sliced”) and how much I need for each (like, 1/2 cup for one recipe, 1 small onion for another recipe, etc.).  When I’m at the store I can glance at my shopping list (which is in alphabetical order because I’m weird like that) and I can quickly add up the approximate amount of onions I’ll need (erring on the safe side!).  When I am home and it’s time to cook I can go ahead and easily prep my onions because I know exactly how much needs to be sliced, diced, or chopped.  {Quick tip: I usually do my slicking and dicing the day before cooking day to save time!}

Does all of that make sense?  If not, leave a comment and I’ll try and help you out.

And now, the homework:

Today’s Assignment:  Probably my least favorite task of the holiday season, but it must be done!  Use your recipes to plan your shopping list.  Start thinking about buying your nonperishable items to go ahead and get that out of the way.  Be sure and schedule time closer to hand to purchase the perishable goods and produce.

Today’s Printable:  CCJ shopping list