Organized Christmas

Christmas Countdown Day 20: Status Check!

   November 10, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Nearly half-way there: time to do a little status check on the progress of the Christmas Countdown.

I hope that most of us feel a bit more prepared, a bit better organized. We've met together for three weeks, and we've covered a lot of ground.

Still, it's natural to feel a bit of panic today. From here on out, time will fly with a vengeance. Rehearsals, parties, holiday activities will rain down upon us.

During the next three weeks, the Countdown slows the pace to match the season. Because we're doing more in other areas of our life, the Countdown will lighten the load.

Ahead lies Get Cooking Week, appropriately so as America begins to prepare for Thanksgiving Day. Beyond that, we'll Decorate, then prepare to Celebrate ... an organized Christmas.

Get ready to settle into a slower rhythm! Because ready or not, the holidays are nearly here. This year, though, we are riding relaxed and in control, prepared and ready for the best holiday season ever!

Gift Closet Guide: Get Organized for Frugal Gifts and Giving!

   November 9, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

We should all have a friend like my friend Joyce. No matter what the occasion, she comes up with the perfect gift--even at short notice.

Her wrapped packages are lavish and lovely, her cards are sweet and well-chosen--and she does it on a budget and without last-minute dashes to the shopping mall. Her secret?

A gift closet.

It's a concept we love here at Organized Christmas: a dedicated space in the household to store gift items, gift wrap and cards. A gift closet holds a stockpile of gift items and everything needed to wrap and present them.

Christmas Countdown Day 19: Simplify Handmade Gifts!

   November 9, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Ask any wife and mother what she needs most during the holiday season, and she'll tell you, "More time!"

Yet this same busy lady will fill her Christmas gift list with elaborate hand-crafted gifts, requiring substantial outlays of cash, time and skill.

Result? She careens into mid-December either (1) working nightly until 1 a.m. to finish the lot or (2) substituting last minute purchases for the unfinished gifts.

How to take charge of out-of-control crafting? Apply the Rule of Four!

Set Up a Wrap and Mail Center

   November 8, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Wrapping gifts for the holidays? Repeat after me: "This year, I won't be wrapping gifts at midnight on Christmas Eve!"

If there's a single most-underestimated holiday chore, it's gift wrapping.

Supplies lie scattered throughout the house, while space and privacy are hard to come by.

Translation: late-night Christmas Eve wrapping sessions, grumbling your way through the job.

Christmas Countdown Day 18: Set Up a Wrap and Mail Center!

   November 8, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Wrapping holiday gifts can be one of the most-overlooked chores of the Christmas season. Too often, it takes "hind place" on the to-do list.

Then suddenly, it's Christmas Eve ... and there's a long evening ahead among the ribbons, gift tags and scissors. Assuming you can find them!

Not this year! To make it easier to wrap as we go, it's time to set up a wrap and mail center: a dedicated space to wrap gifts and prepare them for mailing.

With tools and supplies at hand, finding your "center" speeds the job--and keeps the joy!

Three Tips for Smart Catalog / Internet Shopping

   November 7, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Planning for Christmas, catalog or online shopping has many advantages over the holiday mall scene.

No long lines. No sore feet. No staggering to the car, weighed down by parcels and shopping bags.

Shopping becomes a pleasure, conducted from a favorite chair. Phone in your selections (or place them from your computer), sit back, and wait for the UPS man. Ahhhhh!

Christmas Countdown Day 17: Organize Online Shopping

   November 7, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Ready to shop for Christmas gifts? Between mall madness, high gas prices and lack of time, it can be the holiday season's greatest source of stress.

There's got to be an easier way!

Organized gift shoppers know there's an alternative to crowded malls and long lines at the checkstand: shop online or from catalogs!

We'll make it easy with online/catalog shopping tips and a printable order tracker to organize purchases.

Will you do this year's Christmas shopping from your easy chair? It's time to begin shopping catalogs and the Internet!

Christmas Countdown Day 16: Renegotiate Gift Exchanges!

   November 6, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Time, finances, or changing family circumstances sometimes require adjustments to the holiday gift list. Will this be the year you renegotiate gift exchanges?

Where has your gift-giving overstepped the bounds? Has an exchange with a friend or neighbor grown too expensive and elaborate over the years?

Perhaps it's over-elaborate expectations for adult family gifts, or an outgrown exchange with old school friends. Office gifts and "Secret Santa" exchanges can mushroom into an onerous obligation after a few years.

Will you be the brave soul who calls a halt?

Turkey Poop: Silly Thanksgiving Gag Gift

   November 5, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Looking for a silly treat for Thanksgiving? it's Turkey Poop!

Just right for a gag gift--or even Thanksgiving Day place cards--Turkey Poop is easy to make.

Place a handful of Milk Duds-brand candy, chocolate-covered raisins, or brown jelly beans in a small zipper food storage bag or seasonal cellophane gift bag.

Label with the Turkey Poop poem below or a free printable Turkey Poop gift tag or bag topper:

Fall Back: Home Preparedness Checklist for Time Change Sunday

   November 5, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Spring forward, Fall back: Time Change Sunday is on the way!

On Sunday, November 2, we come to the end of Daylight Saving Time in most of the United States. With an extra hour in the day--and winter on the way--it's time for a seasonal safety check!

As you circle the house, resetting clocks to Standard Time, make time for this short safety checklist from sister site, Organized Home. It'll see you into the winter from a safe--and organized--home:

Fall Back: Home Preparedness Checklist for Time Change Sunday

In Praise of Simple Gifts

   November 5, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Gift. Say the word and many levels of meaning go through our minds! When preparing for the Christmas holidays, "gift" can be a loaded term, one that provokes equal parts of anxiety and joy.

In our consumer society, the idea of "gift" is no longer simple, no longer free. The forces of consumption have taken the pure and simple concept of "gift" and layered that concept with staggering traps.

Whose House for the Holidays?

   November 5, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Judging from my e-mail, what's the single biggest holiday family conundrum? "Whose house for the holidays?" wins, hands down.

It's a universal dilemma for young parents. It's a universal dilemma for their own parents. Where will the "children" spend the holidays?

Shiny new parents of a baby or two yearn to create their own at-home holiday. Their own parents struggle to keep the family together, and preferably at their house.

My own chair sits smack dab in the middle. My children are grown, and I'm a grandmother of a young grandsons.

House & Holidays Plan Week 10: Cooking Space Week

   November 5, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

November's here, and it's time to clear the decks in the kitchen: holiday meals ahead! In the next two weeks, we'll declutter, organize and clean cooking spaces and food storage areas. This week, it's the kitchen; we'll leave food storage spaces--refrigerator, freezer and pantry--for next week.

Holiday prep chores focus on the tastes of the season. After Halloween, we'll pare down the candy stash, putting items aside for holiday treats, baking or decor items. We'll dig out our holiday recipes, plan menus and baking, and do a tabletop check to prepare for the festivities.

Christmas Countdown Day 15: Gifts and Giving Week!

   November 5, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

For many families, gift-giving is among the most stressful aspects of preparing for the holiday season. Wonderful as the tradition can be, it has another side: where the rubber of our budget meets the road of our expectations.

Anxieties abound! Will our gifts be enough? Will we send the right message? Can we afford them? Will we find the year's hot toy ... or should we even try to look for it?

There's another, brighter side to gift-giving. Reading assignments this week will help us draw closer to the true meaning of the holiday season. Today's essay, In Praise of Simple Gifts, is intended to get us off to a good start, reminding us that holiday gifts and holiday giving are only pale reflections of the true gift of the season.

Ready? It's time to take on the gift list and get ready for Christmas with Gifts and Giving Week!

We are Thankful: Thanksgiving Blessings Mix Recipe

   November 4, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Set a pretty holiday table, or share with friends with these small Thanksgiving favors!

Easy to make and fun to eat, Thankgiving Blessing Mix is a simple snack mix favor to remind us of our nation's blessings. Get the how-tos with our Blessings Mix Tutorial.

Bagged in favor-sized gift bags and decorated with a harvest poem, Thanksgiving Blessings Mix brings a festive touch to your Thanksgiving table.

Christmas Countdown Day 14: Decor Declutter!

   November 4, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Who doesn't love the parade of autumn decorations?

From the first fallen leaves in September, through Halloween's jack o'lanterns, and on into Thanksgiving's cornucopia displays, it's glorious fun to mark the progress of the fall season with special decor items for our home.

But somebody better tell the retailers! This year marks the almost-complete extinction of Thanksgiving from the autumn progress.

At stores in my area, Halloween items were on clearance by mid-October and replaced with Christmas displays the weekend before Halloween. I stood in the decor aisles, shook my head and blinked rapidly as I realized that "Christmas creep" has finally overtaken Thanksgiving and eradicated it completely.

Not in my house! Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday, valued all the more because it's relatively isolated from commercial pressures. Yes, our family will roast a turkey, ice cut-out cookies in the shape of leaves and pumpkins, and display our cherished Turkey Toodles and Calico Cornucopia decorations.

Best of all? Our family will gather together three generations (and four dogs!) to give thanks for our many, many blessings. And if that's not worth celebrating, I don't know what is!

State of the Closet: Pre-Holiday Wardrobe Check

   November 3, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

We’ve all experienced this seasonal panic: it's the night of the office holiday party and a spouse’s good white shirt has gone missing!

Calm the chaos with a pre-holiday wardrobe check!

Assessing the State of the Closet for all family members before the holiday begins means never having to say, "It's in the wash!"

Christmas Countdown Day 13: Holiday Wardrobe Check!

   November 3, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

Caution: holiday parties ahead! What's the state of your family's wardrobe?

Even if you trend to the casual the other months of the year, chances are, you'll get gussied up at some point during the holiday season.

Posing for holiday photos, attending special worship services, or partying away December's Saturday nights, the Christmas season makes a special claim on the family wardrobe.

Will you be ready? The time to check closets for holiday outfits ... is now!

Handle With Care: The Secret Life of Christmas Magazines

   November 2, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

They're here! Surrounding supermarket check stands, elbowing aside House Beautiful at the bookstore, popping up in fabric stores--even lurking quietly in your mailbox: Christmas magazines!

Now, don't get me wrong. I love Christmas magazines. I buy Christmas magazines. I read Christmas magazines!

As a source for recipes, ideas, decorating schemes, gifts, crafts and all-round Christmas cheer, there's nothing like a good Christmas magazine. Don't even think of trying to pry my collection of Better Homes and Gardens' "Holiday Cookies" out of my clutches!

Christmas Countdown Day 12: Magazine Reality Check!

   November 2, 2017 by Cynthia Ewer

When I visit the supermarket during the holiday season (which starts earlier and earlier each year), I don't hum along with the Muzak carols. The old tune "Secret Agent Man" runs through my head as I survey the front-line agents of Christmas Excess: Christmas magazines. They sneak into the racks in September, and by November, they're everywhere. Oh, the glowing turkeys and lavish gift wraps! Who can resist the cheery covers, the promised joys?

You can, that's who. Today, we take aim on the secret agents of Christmas overkill: Christmas magazines. Read them without a giant helping of skepticism, and you're well on the road to a chaotic, over-booked holiday season. Will you allow them to inflate your holiday expectations out of proportion? It's time for a reality check!

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