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holiday stressI love the word Chillax!

A hybrid of the words “chill” and “relax,” it basically means calm down! Okay, are you laughing and saying:

What is she talking about?!

Yes, I know, I know … the holidays can be stressful, but there are ways to reduce that stress and still be productive.

For example, you might try to get one harder task out of the way and then reward yourself when you’ve completed it. So, if you’ve spent the greater part of a day (or two) decorating your tree, you can feel good knowing that you’ve crossed something off your list.

… and, you can reward yourself by getting a massage to ease the muscles you may have strained by reaching up high and bending down low.

But, that’s not all you can do when faced with the pressures of the holiday season.

How to Destress & Be Productive During the Holidays

 
Of course, there are other holiday tasks that can create stress. And, the good news is that there’s a way to melt that stress away so you can enjoy the season. Read on to learn how you can tackle the trickiest of holiday tasks to keep your stress levels low and holiday spirits high.
 

1. Holiday Shopping

 
Task:  Shop at the mall for presents.

Stress Trigger: Just finding a parking spot can be nearly impossible!

Stress Reducer: Make a list of stores you will go to and what you will buy at each.

Reward: Head home to walk or play with your pet. Or, or if you don’t have a pet, visit to your local animal shelter. Shelters are always looking for volunteers to come in and give their animals some loving. Plus, petting an animal can do wonders for your mood!
 

 

2. Gift Wrapping

 
Task:  Wrap many, many gifts.

Stress Trigger: Paper cuts, sticky tape, and awkward shaped items … oh my!

Stress Reducer: Many stores offer gift wrapping services. Next time you’re out shopping, consider visiting the store’s gift wrapping station. While they’re being wrapped, you can grab yourself a cup of java or hot chocolate.

Reward: If you choose to wrap your own gifts, enjoy a treat! Pop some cookies in the oven before you start and use the simple slice and bake kind. Eat one after you wrap each gift … on second thought, maybe grab a treat after wrapping more than just one gift, or else you’ll get yourself sick!
 

 

3. Preparing for Guests

 
Task:  Organize the guest room.

Stress Trigger: Taking all those things off of the catchall spot, a.k.a. the bed!

Stress Reducer: Each time you walk by the guest room, take something out that doesn’t belong. And, take 15 minutes each day to clear and put away (in the proper place) things that have been living on the guest bed. Little by little, you’ll get it done!

Reward: Bring in a magazine or book with you at the start and lock the door. When you’re finished with your 15 minutes of clearing and organizing, flip through your magazine or read a chapter of your book. If your family comes knocking, tell them you are still working!  They’ll be relieved that you didn’t request their help, and you’ll be happy to get some quiet time to yourself!
 

 

Other Ways to Reduce Stress and Get Stuff Done

 
The holidays don’t have to be stressful even though there’s usually lots to get done. Remember, you can also bypass these harder tasks by getting some help!

1. Get help. Call in the troops! There are likely several people who would love to help you decorate your tree or home, enjoy wrapping gifts with you, and even assist with organizing your guest room!

Think about reaching out to people that you tend to interact with regularly. And, don’t forget to contact people in groups that you participate in, like:

  • Online communities (with local peeps in the area) on Facebook or Google+
  • Houses of worship and religious congregations
  • Volunteer associations

2. Shop locally. As for shopping, make it easier on yourself by thinking local.

  • When you shop in local establishments, you probably won’t have to travel very far! That can mean less driving, less traffic to deal with, and quicker trips to the stores.
  • You’re also likely to be supporting the mom and pop shops in your surrounding neighborhoods when you shop locally. Think of your friends and acquaintances that own small businesses offering goods or services. Why not buy gift cards and gift certificates from them? You can also suggest them to your other friends and family as a resource for gift giving.  You never know — you may even get rewarded for passing their name along to others!

Now that you’re armed with these tips, here’s to you! Have a happy and healthy — and stress-free — holiday season! As for me, I’m going to chillax now. ;)

 

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stick to your budget during the holidaysThe December edition of the 5-Minute Organizing Challenge will help you avoid overspending during this crunch time for holiday season shopping. Instead of being triggered to spend yourself into debt, you can outmaneuver the marketing tactics that are aimed at getting you to spend beyond your means.

As usual, each suggestion below only takes about five minutes or less, so they can be very simple to complete.

1. Write a List or Use an App
Start out by spending five minutes or so making a list of who you’re buying for and what you plan to buy them. Also, record how much you plan to spend for each person.

Check this against your monthly budget to make sure you have the funds accessible. Only use a credit card if you can pay it back before interest fees incur. If you’re tech savvy, use a smart phone app like Mint to track your spending.

2. Limit Gifts for Yourself
We know there will be the temptation to buy items for ourselves while we’re out shopping for gifts for others. If you’re aware you’re prone to doing this, spend a few minutes creating a quick game plan before you shop.

You can even allot a specific amount to spend on yourself. If you’re likely to feel guilty after you spend on yourself (or it’s not in the budget) during the holiday season, plan to avoid it altogether.

3. Resist Online & Direct Mail Marketing
During the holiday season, we all get bombarded with e-mails and other marketing messages. If you’re tempted to spend more money than you budgeted for gifts, spend five minutes or so unsubscribing from those email lists.

Then, do the same catalogs you receive in the mail. This may require a few phone calls, a visit to Catalog Choice (by TrustedID), or using an app like PaperKarma. Don’t let limited time offers convince you to buy things that aren’t on your list!

4. Make a Gift Card List
Gift cards are usually a good option to purchase for people who are difficult to shop for, but they can seem impersonal if you’re close to the person.

Keeping that in mind, spend a short time drafting a list of:

  • People you don’t know what to buy
  • Goods and services from certain companies that people on your list love

After the list is complete, consider if you believe each person will actually use the gift card. If they will, then go ahead and purchase it.

The main challenge here is to prepare yourself for the barrage of constant holiday promotions out there. Consider what you really want to get each person (and if they really want it), and let that be your guide for holiday shopping!

What other simple steps will you take to stick to your budget this holiday season?

 

 Click Here to Learn More Ways to Get Organized in Five Minutes!

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Get Organized for The Holidays ~ The Ultimate Gift!

On December 11, 2014, in Holiday Planning, Organizing, by Stephanie Shalofsky
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get more organized for the holidaysThe holidays are here! Are you feeling overwhelmed this holiday season? Do you have a lot of tasks on your to do list?

Things like …

  1. Finish buying the holiday gifts
  2. Schedule the family get-togethers
  3. Begin to bake and cook and then bake some more
  4. Get the house ready for guests and take care of last minute home repairs
  5. Keep all of the balls in the air at work
  6. Keep everyone happy!!!

Whew! No wonder so many people get stressed when the holidays are approaching. Are you one of these people? I hope not!

But it doesn’t have to be that way because let’s face it, YOU should be enjoying the holidays, too. If, in the act of taking care of the family, as well as making sure that all is functioning well at work, you find yourself overwhelmed and fatigued, I suggest that you step back, assess the situation and then take action.

And so, with that being said, let’s discuss exactly how you can recognize and acknowledge your own good deeds and treat yourself.

 
Related: Keep It Simple For The Holidays: Clutter-Free Gift Giving

Treat Yourself to Lasting Gift During the Holidays

So, yes, treat yourself, but not to a manicure, a new piece of jewelry, or an item of clothing. Sure, those are all great and we know that the cliché When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping! resonates loud and clear for lots of people. But, those treats are short lived and although they give pleasure, they will dissipate after a few days or weeks. And, then that feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed will probably return.

Wouldn’t it be better to give yourself something that has staying power, that will feel terrific right from the beginning, and will continue to provide pleasure and a sense of well being and serenity long after the first excitement has worn off?

I highly recommend that you get organized for the holidays before life gets too out of control. Hiring a professional organizer to come in and work with you in your home and/or in your office.

Sheesh, you might be saying, “I’d rather get a new dress or earrings or just take an afternoon for myself.” Yes, I agree those are all wonderful, but hear me out. How long will that good feeling last? (Be honest!)

 
Related: Enhance Your Holidays With Feng Shui

Why You Should Get Organized For the Holidays

Here’s what working with a professional organizer to get organized for the holidays can mean for you:

  1. Start 2015 on the Right Foot. You know how chaotic it can be around the holidays, right? Well, what if you could start the season, like right now, for instance, with everything organized and tidy, everything in its rightful place — around the house and even the office, too? Wouldn’t  that be a great way to start the new year?
  2. Save Money. Have you ever bought a new item of clothing only to find that you have something that is very similar lurking in the back of your closet unseen and forgotten? Don’t let that happen again. A professional organizer can make sense of your closet, sort and organize what you have, work with you to discard what you no longer want, and help you clear out space for those new items that you might get as gifts or purchase for yourself.
  3. Save Time. Cluttered drawers and desks can cost you precious minutes or more each and every day as you scramble to locate papers, clothes, bills, keys, and more. Just imagine if you could reclaim that time! … and, of course, a professional organizer can help to make that happen by organizing those cluttered locations in your home and office that cause you to bleed time.

So, you see what I mean. You might not have ever thought about it, but the ultimate treat for yourself is getting help with bringing a bit more order to your life. Hiring a professional organizer to help you organize all the facets of your life that cause stress, eat time, and conspire to make the holiday season (and all the other months, too) very complicated and chaotic is the one gift that will truly keep on giving.

Have you given yourself or someone else the gift of a professional organizer? Share your experience in the comments.

 
Related: Use Gift Card Exchange Websites to Let Go of Cards You’ll Never Use

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Get Personalized Styling With Stitch Fix

On December 9, 2014, in Clothing, Technology, by Nealey Stapleton
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I just heard about a new website that makes shopping for clothes on the Internet an enjoyable and successful experience.

Say what?! Let’s back up …

A Story About Online Shopping

 
I’m not much of an online shopper, but I have a client that does most of her shopping on the Internet. The process usually goes something like this:

  • She spends time searching for an item she wants in particular or simply does some browsing. She purchases stuff and waits for it to arrive at her door.
  • Then she tries everything on, which typically leads to returning almost everything she ordered due to incorrect sizing, weird styling, misrepresentation of the item in the photo she saw online, and so on, and so on.
  • Repackaging the items, filling out the return forms, getting them to the post office, and then making sure she received the proper credits on her credit card, are all major time sucks.

Her online shopping experience could be summed up as draining and time-consuming at best.

Then, she found out about Stitch Fix.

Stitch Fix

How Stitch Fix Works

 
My client’s initial feedback was that it was easy to set up, it had really convenient options, and the styling was spot on. She was so impressed that I am now writing this post vicariously through her, so check it out.

  1. You fill out a comprehensive style profile on the Stitch Fix website.
  2. You get a package of five  items handpicked by their stylists just for you.
  3. You try everything on and only keep what you like.

Benefits of Using Stitch Fix

 
It sounds similar to the traditional online shopping experience but there are major benefits that make THE difference.

  1. Style tips. Each item you get comes with styling tips (including photos) on how to dress it down AND dress it up.
  2. Free returns. The return process is free and it’s super easy with their prepaid envelope.
  3. Handpicked items. As you use Stitch Fix and continue to give your stylist feedback, the items picked out for you will get more spot on each time. It must be said though, my client said that the FIRST time she received a package from them it was absolutely on target.
  4. Personalized styling. It’s like having your very own personal stylist! Having your very own personal anything really makes a person feel taken care of, so this is just awesome.
  5. Less work. It takes the work out of styling yourself, which let’s face it, doesn’t come easy to most of us. This sounds like a repeat benefit, but it’s not. There’s the warm fuzzy feeling of having your very own personal something, and there’s the headache that comes with trying to style yourself. This is the latter. Or, lack thereof.
  6. Save time. It takes the frustration out of shopping altogether, ESPECIALLY online, which saves you so much time.

Let’s talk about cost for a minute too, because all of these features and benefits sound pretty expensive … hold that thought.

Stitch-Fix-2

The Cost of Using Stitch Fix

 
First, you initially pick a price range so you can be sure you’re not being sent stuff that costs an arm and a leg. Second, the styling fee is $20, but it can be used towards your final order, so that rocks.

And, third, if you decide to keep all of the items in your package, then you get a discount of 25%, so there’s that awesomeness, too.

Final Word About Stitch Fix

 
My final thoughts are that Stitch Fix is pretty cool, and that — coming from a professional organizer who buys clothing very rarely — is quite a statement. Stitch Fix will be a force to be reckoned with for its competition.

I’d love to hear what you think about it. Have you used Stitch Fix? Or, anything like it? What did you think?

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I love simple organizing products that can be used in many different places throughout your home or office. Simple products may not have the “bright and shiny” attraction of some tools, but they are sanity savers.

Simple organizing products can provide big benefits because they allow you to easily see what you have and to quickly access the stuff you need. The biggest bang they offer is the ability to organize your stuff directly at the point of use.

My three favorites are Command hooksover the door hooks, and over the door shoe organizers (affiliate links). Keep reading to learn the various ways you can use them to bring more order to your home or office.
 
organizing products 

3 Simple Organizing Products

 
First, a quick reminder. When we have too much of what we don’t use or need, clutter gets out of control. And, it’s tempting to think a product is going to solve all your organizing challenges. It really comes down to first decluttering, categorizing, and then establishing a spot for your stuff to live.

So, remember to eliminate first and then purchase an organizing product for your home or office. And, as you think through the organizing supplies you need to get, consider adding these items to your shopping list:

1. Command Hooks by 3M

Put these handy adhesive hooks in a spot to hang items where you need them most.

Use them to hang:

  • Your kids’ backpacks, dog leashes, or a clipboard for papers near the door
  • Your bathrobe, tomorrow’s outfit, or your jewelry in your closet
  • Holiday decorations and remove them easily
  • Towels and bathing suits to dry
  • Pictures (say goodbye to your hammer and nails!)

2. Over the Door Hooks 

This sturdy metal rack should fit flat to the top of your door and include four or more hooks to maximize organization.

Use them to hang:

  • The next day’s outfit so you can be ready ahead of time
  • Purses, scarves, or accessories — you’ll see what you have so you can select what you want easily
  • “Clirty” clothes
  • Coats, umbrellas, sweaters, or caps
  • Cascading files (like this one from Smead – affiliate link) or office wall organizers

3. Over the Door Shoe Organizer

This plastic or textile pocket organizer adds storage where there was none. Win! If you get the clear organizer, you’ll see exactly what you have inside. Win again!

Use them in your:

  • Kitchen for pantry supplies, spice mixes, or kids’ snacks
  • Craft room for yarns, craft tools, or gift wrap supplies
  • Bathroom for your make up or first aid supplies
  • Child’s bedroom for match box cars, dolls, socks, video games, and more
  • Office for tape, scissors, markers, and other office supplies

Do you use any of these products? Or, is there one that you plan to try out? Please share in the comments!

 

 

Fact Friday: Boredom Leads to Creativity

On November 28, 2014, in Fact Friday, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“Bored people let their minds wander towards more productive ends. They daydream. They write a song or try a new hobby. Or nine months later they add a member to their family. In other words, being a little bored can make people a lot more creative. 

 

Read More:

It Pays to be Bored | FastCoDesign.com | 5.30.2014

 

Related Information

Making Money out of Boredom by Brian Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*All book links are affiliate links.

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Thanksgiving Day 2014

On November 27, 2014, in Article Round Up, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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thanksgivingToday is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. Like many families, the OTR blogging family is spending time at home instead of writing blog posts (we’ll be back tomorrow!). And, I’m sure everyone will be engaging in a fair amount of eating as well. =)

If you’re having a Thanksgiving feast, at work, or just simply doing nothing at all, we all wish you an amazing day.

Planning to catch up on some reading? Here are some OTR posts you can check out:

 

Thanksgiving

 

Tech 

 

Productivity & Time Management

 

Organizing

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Tech Lessons: What I Learned When My Laptop Died

On November 25, 2014, in Technology, by Janice Simon
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Laptop is Dead

I knew it was coming, but it was still a shock.

Afterall, my laptop had been going strong for over three years. And, after the two year mark, you know you’re living on borrowed time with any digital device.

My hard drive crashed in the middle of a super busy week for me at work, and I was up to my armpits in projects and deadlines. It took me nearly two weeks to get everything back up and running.

During that time, I only had an iPad and iPhone to connect to the big world of the Internet. I felt twitchy for the first couple of days.

Once my laptop was back and running, I realized a few things.

Lessons I Learned When My Laptop Died

 
1. There were less distractions. Each night, I used to go directly to my laptop to spend the evening surfing Facebook and playing Bubble Safari while watching TV and eating dinner. But, when my laptop died, I couldn’t default to my usual pattern. And, as a result, my head was more clear and I actually did things, like play with my adorable great-niece when she was visiting, read some interesting books, and even folded laundry.

Now, I consciously turn off the laptop (and Bubble Safari) more often and focus on far more interesting things.

2. Data backup is essential. I use Dropbox (referral link) to manage my documents and photos, and I also use a service to back-up my files. Because of this, I didn’t lose anything. Victory! Viva le cloud!

3. Software can be annoying. Apparently when you purchase a laptop with software installed, you aren’t necessarily able to reinstall it. I learned this from the computer tech guys after I realized I didn’t have installation CDs or the sacred product key for my operating system and other software in my computer file. No product key means repurchasing. So, it’s important to put those important items in a place you can easily retrieve them when you need them (which hopefully won’t be often).

4. I started talking to myself. I started asking: “Do I really need that?” I didn’t immediately rush and download all the apps I used to have. Dropbox, Evernote, and iTunes were no brainers for me, but, for now, I’m waiting get some of the others until I find that I really need them. Or, not.

5. It helps to entertain the computer repair guys. When dealing with computer repair guys, it’s best to be nice and crack a few jokes. When some of their other customers are … well … jerks, you’ll stand out from the crowd. Of course, I can be a jerk when necessary and you should never underestimate the power of a well-timed hissy fit.

That said, computer problems make people crazy and that means the repair guys deal with a whole lot of crazy. So, by being the funny, easy going chick, I got great service and a discount. At the very least, if you’re personable, it just makes the whole experience just a bit better for everyone.

So, back up your computer, use the cloud, and be nice to the repair guys. Now, let’s play some Bubble Safari.

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Fact Friday: Productivity Increases When Workers Use a Tablet

On November 21, 2014, in Fact Friday, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“According to Dell’s 2014 International Tablet survey of IT Decision Makers (ITDMs) tablets are good for business as it helps increase productivity and liked by employees. ITDMs in India and Brazil believe tablets help increase productivity by 25%, while in the US and UK ITDMs believe that it has helped improve the production by 20% followed by China with 15% increase in productivity. 

 

Read More:

 Tablet at Workplace Improves Mobility and Productivity | CBROnline.com | 10.27.2014

 

Related Information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*All book links are affiliate links.

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Masters of Disaster: How to Keep Your House Organized and Clean This Fall

On November 19, 2014, in Cleaning, Home Organizing, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Many thanks to Lizzie Weakly for today’s post on how to keep your home clean and organized.

Organized and Clean

Image Credit: Canva

With each new season comes new challenges for the cleanliness of your home. Different outdoor activities results in changing needs for house cleaning. Fall can be particularly challenging as crunchy leaves and dirt track through your house.

Thankfully, by changing a few habits, your home can feel fresh each and every day of the autumn season.

Spruce up Your Entryway

Those beautiful colors of the changing autumn leaves are better left outdoors. Unfortunately, leaves easily stick to your clothing and shoes and track through your home. This mess is easily avoided with a few quick tricks.

  • Start by adding a coat tree or hooks (affiliate links) right next to your entryway door so you and your family can stop bringing in the mess from your clothing.
  • Next, for boots that get dirty after a trip to the corn maze, place a stylish doormat down or boot tray (affiliate link) that will catch any of the dirt or moisture from your fall adventures.

Window Wash Before the Cold Air Hits

Let’s face it, we can all agree that the house seems to brighten up after a good window washing. Suddenly, we see light we did not realize was available and our home seems to shine. This fall, make a point to wash the outside of those windows before it gets too chilly. If you wait, you risk avoiding the washing all fall and winter due to cold temperatures.

Related: Who’s Coming Over? Time to Clean!

Get Your Carpets Cleaned

Although taking precautions towards avoiding fall leaves and dirt from tracking through your home can help, no prevention system is perfect. No matter how hard you try, stains always seem to find a way onto your carpet. Stain removal can be a big pain especially when they show up on light colored carpet or your favotire rug.

According to Babayan’s Carpet Cleaning, one of the best ways to remove a carpet stain is to take a paper towel to the stained area and press firmly on the carpet until all of the moisture is removed. Don’t wait until the stained area is dry or it won’t work. For more difficult stain removals, you will want to hire a professional carpet cleaner.

Store Your Summer Items

Clutter is one of the largest enemies of a clean home. Avoid clutter by storing all your summer items. You may already have a storage closet or basement for your summer clothing, beach towels, and pool toys. However, there are vacuum sealed bags that can condense all of your summer items to fit under the bed!

Do not let those pesky fall leaves and dirt ruin your fall this year. Fall is a beautiful season and as a homeowner, you deserve to enjoy the vibrant colors. Simply plan ahead and stay on top of the mess to make your home fresh and enjoyable!

 

About The Author

Lizzie WeakleyLizzie Weakley and is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. Lizzie enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.

Connect With Lizzie: Twitter | Facebook

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