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Decoration Round Up!

For Simple, Organized Clean up: Choose Thirty-One!

Now 2011 is gone, and 2012 is here. You’ve made you resolutions – maybe to be more organized for the New Year – and before you looms a discouraging, messy task: de-decorating.  It’s time to take down your Christmas tree and garlands and wreaths and lights.  Maybe your New Year’s Eve party banners are still hanging, maybe you’ve got one of those lawns with the elaborate Christmas scenes.  No matter how much or how little you put up for the holidays – now it’s time to take the decorations down.  Why not start 2012 organized?

Sort Before your Store!
“This year, I’ll organize my Christmas decorations when I put them up.”

Did you have to untangle lights and garlands and tinsel this year? Save yourself the hassle: organize your decorations as you put them away.  Take a Large Utility Tote and take down all the decorations in one area – do the kitchen, foyer, living room, dining room, etc separately.  Now, empty your Large Utility Tote into an Oversized Storage Bag. These great storage solutions zip closed, have a clear PVC window for holding a label, and fit into larger plastic storage bins to keep your decorations neatly sorted and together over the long year to come!


Ornament Organization Preparedness Suggestion (Oops!)

Let the kids help out!  Give them each a Littles Carry-All Caddy and have them take a specific kind or color ornament off the tree. This speeds up your clean up and keeps your ornament sorted! Be mindful of your ornaments though – for example, if you have a toddler and dozens of fragile, heirloom ornaments, maybe you should find another way he can help out. Later, sitting down with a Littles Carry-All Caddy full of ornaments as you carefully pack them back into their boxes or containers is a lot easier than taking one or two off the tree and trying to juggle them and the containers as you take them down – plus, this method can cut down on your post-holiday “oops!” moments when an ornament slips through your fingers or is accidentally knocked off the tree as its neighbor is removed.

Taming the Reindeer

If you have outdoors decorations, don’t lug them inside handful at a time or spent hours out in the cold trying to sort them into the various storage bins you have for them.  Take a Square Utility Tote outside with you, round up one or two items and take them into your garage to do your storage organizing out of the wind and weather.

If you’ve got a lot of decorations outside, consider using multiple Large Utility Totes & Tall Utility Bins.  Fill each tote or bin, take it back to the foyer or garage, and then get another. Once you’ve filled up all your totes, go inside, have a little cocoa to warm up, and start sorting what you’ve brought in.  This can break up your un-decorating and make a huge un-do-able job more like a series of small, manageable tasks. This method is especially helpful if your early January is busy as you can set a goal of filling and sorting one tote or bin every night after work or  add to ‘Filling & a Tote with Outside Christmas Decorations’ to your kids’ after-school chores.  If you have decorations that require adults or adult supervision to take down – like lights on your roof or up in tall trees – be sure to tackle those first as a family.

Be careful and safe when you’re climbing ladders or step-ladders outside or in!


Wrapping & Gift Storage

You might remember my Wrapping Station article before Christmas. Don’t just empty your wrapping supplies into a storage bin and forget them! You’ll have birthdays and anniversaries this year!  Refit your wrapping station with birthday, anniversary, and generic wrapping paper and put it away in a utility or storage closet.

Another of your resolutions might have been to buy gifts early this year.  Maybe you even found a few during the After-Christmas sales.  Have you ever hidden gifts thinking: “I’ll get my Christmas shopping done early! Of course I’ll remember putting them here!” And then find the gifts long after they were appropriate for their recipient? (Like buying a princess doll for your little girl and finding it in a storage bin the same year she gets her driver’s license.) Don’t do it this year! 

Use an Oversized Storage Bag to keep up with friends’ and more distant relatives’ gifts. You can easily label these long, wide bags and they have handles on the side. You can slide them high in your closet, but if your kids find it, they’ll know it’s presents for grandpa or Mrs. Baker down the street – your Santa Secret remains safe!

For hiding your kids gifts, you’ve got to be more subtle.  Big items – like bicycles and play sets – are difficult to hide for a long time, but for medium and small gifts, again the Oversized Storage Bag works great!  You can slide it under your bed or on your top pantry shelf with a misleading label like “Cook Book Literature” or “Miscellaneous Pot Lids.”

Here’s the secret to NOT MISPLACING the gifts your buy early! Right now, right this minute open your calendar (physical or electronic). Now write yourself a note for the beginning of November – “The Christmas Gifts I bought early are in the Thirty-One Bag in the top of my closet” – or wherever you store them.  Whatever storage you use for your gifts, write yourself a note and put it up inside the lid, “Update Location on Calendar” as a remind that if you move it, you need update the note in your calendar to know where it is come November.  Also, tag gifts as you get them – even if you don’t wrap them, put a label on them with the name and event like “Sarah’s Birthday” or “Jack – Christmas.”

Don’t forget to keep a list! No one wants to forget birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and Christmas presents! Put a list in your calendar of gifts to get – when you buy one of those gifts, put a check by it or write “In Box.”

 Start you New Year off right by getting organized and staying organized all year!


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Caroling Care Packages!

Go Sing! Give more than just the gift of song! Use these Thirty-One Ideas for great take-a-longs!


Christmas Kindness Care Package

If you like to give gifts to the home your carol to, stock up on the Little Carry-All Caddy! This small tote is the perfect gift bag! Fill it with holiday treats, colorful tissue paper, or just a box of tissues! Try some of these combinations:


Caffeine Caddy
For coffee-lovers and busy neighbors!

Littles Carry-All Caddy in Winter Wonderland

• Teal Tissue Paper

• Several Instant Coffee Singles Packets or a bag of coffee/espresso

• A handful of holiday chocolates



Season Sensation

• Littles Carry-All Caddy in Pin Dots

• Red & Green Tissue Paper

• Candy Canes + Peppermints!

• Tinsel

• A Holiday Potpourri Packet or Seasonal Teas


Winter Goodybag

• Littles Carry-All Caddy in Windsor Argyle

• Box of Hot Cocoa

• Seasonal Mug

• Silver or Gray Tissue Paper

• Wrap with Ribbon or Gift Scarf


Christmas Traditions

Littles Carry-All Caddy in Black Parisian Pop

• Deep or Bright Red Tissue Paper

• An Orange & Apple
• Wrapped Sugar Cookies or Gingerbread Men

• Candy Canes


Adding a Christmas Card signed by your carolers is a nice touch to any caroling gift!

Don’t forget to Take Care of your Carolers!

Cocoa on the Go-Go!
Keep your carolers warm & toasty!

Carry a Thermal Tote full of tightly closed travel cups of cocoa or put a thermos & a supply of Styrofoam cups in the All-In-One Organizer to pour-&-sip as you go! (Take a long a plastic bag to put your used cups in!)

Tea or Cider can also help carolers shake off the shivers!


Caroling Kit
Get your carolers ready with this ingenious little kit!

Little Carry-All Caddy in Windsor Argyle

• Flashlight / headlamp

• Hand warmers

• Caroling book/pages

• Travel Mug/Cup

• Candle with Spatterguard


Candle Caddy!
If you’re going to carry candles for your caroling, consider this creative caddy!

Mini Organizer in Black Parisian Pop

• Spare Candles & Spatter guards (protect those hands!)

• Lighter/matches

• Mini-First Aid Kit & Travel or Kitchen Extinguisher (for emergencies)

About Town Blanket (in case one of your carolers gets a chill!)


Carol with Care!
Be safe and stay warm while you spread holiday cheer!

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Strategies for the Season! (Part Two) Wrapping It Up!

Wrapping Station

Let’s talk about wrapping things up! Wrapping presents takes space, privacy (especially if you’re helping Santa!), and a little preparation. Make your Organizing Utility Tote into a mobile wrapping station!

  • Keep gift bags, tissue paper, ribbon rolls, and large bows in the body of the tote.
  • Keep regular tape and scissors in the mesh pocket on one end & a packing tape dispenser and a box cutter in the other (for those big packages).
  • Use the five exterior pockets to keep up with small bows, tape refills, pens & markers, and peppermints (to keep up your holiday spirit)!
  • Add a clipboard with your Christmas list to check off names as you wrap their gifts and hold your sheets of name tags.

You can put this kit and roll of paper in your trunk when you visit grandparents and do a little emergency wrapping if they need the help!  Or pair the Organizing Utility Tote with the Large Utility Tote & sneak your wrapping supplies from your car to your closet so the kids don’t see Santa’s special wrapping paper & name tags as you bring it inside! Now you’re ready to wrap!

 Wrapping Party

You’re busy. Your friends are busy, and you’ve all got to wrap presents for kids this Christmas without your kids catching you! The Solution? Throw a wrapping party!

Step 1: Set a Date!

Everyone’s going to be busy this month, so plan your wrapping party now! Finding time when all your friends can come might be a challenge, but it’s well worth it to spend some quality time over tape and tissue paper with people you care about!

Step 2: Set up a Distraction!

Plan to rent/stream a new movie with popcorn and snacks, send the kids outside to play (doesn’t work long!), send your significant others out with the kids to a movie, arrange an afternoon with their grandparents, or hire a sitter.  Don’t forget to consider your significant others’ feelings. Wrapping those perfect Santa-gifts — especially for younger children — adds to the excitement of Christmas!  Keep in mind that your wrapping party doesn’t have to be just for the girls!

 (Note: if you and your friends are making separate arrangements, this part can be a little easier to handle.)

Don’t forget to have a Plan B! If you planned on a day in the park, but the day of your party is wet & cold, you need to have alternative ready to keep your party on schedule!

Step 3: Plan To Entertain & Enjoy

Make those basic party decisions:

• Eat: holiday candy, finger food, order a pizza, or an appetizer potluck

 • Drink: punch, sodas, teas, coffee, cocktails, or wine.

 • Music & Entertainment: Christmas Music, It’s a Wonderful Life, or some other Christmas staple for background noise.

 • Remember:  You’ll all be using your hands so avoid sticky or greasy foods.

Also, if someone on one of your gift lists has an allergy to peanuts, don’t serve any as you wrap just to be safe!

As always, consider the health & diets of your friends when creating your menu!

Make a Needs List for Groceries & Supplies.

  • Decoration: This step is pretty simple – you’ve probably already decorated for the holidays!

  • Utilities:  Tape, scissors, gift tags, bows, boxes, packaging tape, pens/markers, etc.  Everyone should bring their own supplies (even you!) but it doesn’t hurt to have extra paper & supplies ready if they need it!

  • Groceries: Ingredients for whatever finger foods or drinks you choose to serve (if any) & holiday candy. Chocolate makes wrapping go faster!

Make Invitations.

• When|Where|Why? You may have called everyone to make the arrangements, but don’t underestimate the power of an invitation (even an e-vite) to help your guests prepare for the party!

Remember to Bring… This is a wrapping party — it’s like a potluck for presents! Remind your guests to bring their wrapping paper (+ their special paper for Santa), tape, scissors, bows, gift tags, boxes, etc.  Also, use this opportunity to remind your guests to bring “extras” if a gift has special needs — requires batteries or they want to include the gift receipt for exchanges. No one wants to spend Christmas afternoon digging through junk drawers or stealing batteries from remote controls to make those new toys work!

Make a To Do List for the Day of the Party.

   • Prep for Appetizers

   • Send the kids on their distraction

   • Set up the wrapping stations

   • Set up the trash station

   • Get out all your gifts

   • Add more To Dos as needed

Step 4: Set up your Wrapping Station

Get the Organizing Utility Tote ready as described at the start of this article.

Make sure you’ll have adequate, sturdy table space for wrapping, and a trash bag just for scraps.

You’ll need a ‘wrapping spot’ for everyone you invite. 3 friends = 3 wrapping spots You don’t want to leave a friend sitting on her hands waiting for room to open up! Card tables will work! (If you need another card table, ask your friends – one of them might be able to bring a spare table with her!)

Plan to Keep Gifts Organized. There’s nothing worse than realizing that you don’t remember what you wrapped in that pretty penguin wrapping paper – let alone who it was for. Avoid this by making a list of Whos & Whats and clearly labeling your gifts before the wrapping begins.  Try using sticky notes to keep gifts separated. Be prepared to help your guests keep their gifts organized! Get different color sticky notes for each guest to help them stay organized & prevent present mix-ups!

Step 5: Disaster Planning!

What happens if the kids come home early?Be ready in case your distraction doesn’t last as long as you’d hoped: keep the gifts in your special ‘from Santa’ paper or your unwrapped gifts in the Large Utility Tote! Should your kids come home, you can easily move the gifts out of sight until you can arrange to use your Plan B distraction! Also, consider having the About Town Blanket on hand — you can easily toss a blanket or throw over a stack of gifts. Yes, your kids will know that there’s something under there, but they won’t know what!

Step 6: Have Fun

Don’t forget that — while this is a wrapping party — it’s also a party and a chance to decompress your holiday stress.  Don’t let a difficult-to-wrap present or one roll of slippery, uncooperative paper upset you. Another bonus of having friends over to wrap is having friends who can help you wrap. If you get stuck and just can’t make that one corner look good, ask for help! And if one of your friends starts getting frustrated with a gift, offer to assist.

Just like packing tape — little holiday spirit can go a long way!

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