Friday, December 7, 2012

Taming the Holiday Craziness

I hope everyone had a great week! I was lucky enough to spend some time last week talking with Francesca Verri, a professional organizer and owner of Verri Organized. First off, I must mention how much I enjoyed meeting with Francesca and how inspired I was after spending only an hour with her to go home and better organize my own house. I'm going to share with you some of the tips she gave me about organizing around the holidays and the challenges that a lot of people face this time of year.

Holiday Decorations

1. The first step is to create a home for the items, whether it's in your basement, attic, or hall closet - you need to decide where the items will be stored while you're not using them. This is important because when you go to use them and eventually put them away every year, you will know exactly where to look. Knowing where to look will allow you to evaluate what you have so that you're not buying duplicate items because you can't locate something.

2. Evaluating what you have is the next step. As you unpack your decorations, take a hard look at what you have and decide what you really use every year. If you haven't used it in 5 years, it's probably something you should just get rid of. This process might take a little extra time now but it will definitely save you time later on.

3. The next step happens when you're breaking down your decorations after the holiday is over. The best approach is to sort your stuff into groups of like items. For example, all the decorations that you use on the tree each year, put those in a separate pile, all the light strands that go outside, put those in another pile, etc. Once you've got the items sorted, it's time to move on to how you will actually store them.

4. Your best bet for storage is to get clear bins that are the appropriate size for what you're storing. There's a couple reasons for this - 1. Keeping things in smaller, size appropriate containers make them easier to move 2. Because the containers are clear, it makes it easier to retrieve the items later because you can easily see what's inside 3. It helps you resist the temptation to stuff everything into one big container.

5. This step is the one I think is the most important. Label the box with what's inside. Don't be afraid to be too detailed with your labels. Just think, when you go to retrieve your decorations next year, you'll have the ability to know exactly what you have at a glance and you won't be running out to buy another package of decoration hangers when you already have 12 packages (which you've bought over the past 4 years because you couldn't find the ones you bought the year before) in a box with your decorations - (yes, I'm guilty!).

6. Lastly, when you bring those labeled storage boxes to your basement or attic your best bet is to use the outside perimeter of the room. This leaves you with space in the middle of the room so you can easily "shop" for what you're looking for next time you go to use the item.


This one is near and dear to me since we have so many toys for the princesses. Even though I just did a toy purge, my meeting with Francesca has inspired me to purge even more. The best time to do this activity is usually before a birthday or Christmas (but really it can be done anytime of the year) when you know that a bunch of new toys will be coming into your house. Here's Francesca's advice:

1. Similar to the decorations, you need to assess what you have. If you have a toy that you like (yes, I said you, not your child because just think about that toy that makes some annoying noise that every time you hear it you want to throw it in the trash) and you know you'll be using it for the next child (if applicable), keep it. If there are toys that you want to get rid of or are not age appropriate for your child anymore - donate them (assuming they're in good condition). For the items you'll be saving, use clear containers and clearly label what's in each box - use the same principals you used for the Holiday Decorations.

2. To keep the toys that the kids still play with better organized, especially toys with small parts - use smaller clear containers and label them in a kid-friendly way, Francesca suggested using the word and a picture of the item (for example if you're storing a puzzle, write "puzzle" on the box label and draw a picture of a puzzle piece). This not only encourages kids to put the items away when they're done with them but it can be a learning opportunity for them to associate the word with the picture each time they use the toy.

3. Get ready for new toys with annoying noises and return to the first step  :)

Christmas Shopping Lists

Lucky for me, I don't have a ton of people to buy for each year. However, I know a lot of my friends have lists the length of a football field with people they need to get gifts for each year and I imagine this can be pretty overwhelming for most people. Here are a few tips Francesca shared with me to help you stay sane:

1. Make a list of people you need to buy for and evaluate who you REALLY need to buy for. I know personally I've discussed this with a lot of people I used to buy for and we've mutually agreed to stop giving each other physical presents and instead maybe make a donation in each other's name or give baked goods to each other (assuming you have time and skill to bake - although if you're not out shopping that would give you a bit of extra time! - I don't consider baked goods a physical gift because after they get eaten you don't have something hanging around the house), or just a card with a heartfelt message.

2. Once you have your list of people established, do some thinking about what you want to get for each person before you even leave the house. You need to have an idea of what you want to get for each person so that you can plan your shopping trip accordingly.

3. Now it's time to review your list and evaluate which items can be bought at which store. Consider what your time budget is for the shopping you're going to do and note other errands on your to-do list so that you can stop at a store that's near where you were going already. For example, if you need to go to the supermarket to get groceries and Target is in the same plaza - highlight what you can get at Target on your list and make a quick trip in there to cross those items off the list.

4. Lastly, online shopping can be a huge time saver for a lot of people but similar to going to a brick and mortar store, you need to have an idea of what you're looking for because it's so easy to get distracted online by other things and before you know it you've spent 2 hours online and haven't crossed any gifts off your list.

Question: Will you accept the challenge and organize your holiday decorations this year, including get rid of stuff you never use? I know I'm going to give it a try for sure!

Last Words: Francesca left me with a few overall pieces of advice for organizing in general:

a. Don't buy storage bins unless you have a plan for what you will be storing in them - you need to buy the appropriate size bin and have a plan
b. A lot of the chaos in our lives is physical - step back and evaluate what you have, what you really use, and decide what you need to keep. Get rid of the rest (donate or recycle please!)
c. Many of the items we hold on to are attached to our emotions and can be difficult to let go of.
c. Being organized is possible for anyone. A professional organizer can be a huge help because they will help you sort through your items, evaluate what you have and help you face the fact that there are things you need to get rid of. Your organizer doesn't have that emotional attachment to your items and they will provide tips and ways that you can still honor the item without necessarily holding on to it and cluttering your house.

A huge shout out to Francesca Verri - Thank You so very much for providing all these awesome tips for my blog readers!

Francesca Verri is a professional organizer and office efficiency expert who helps business owners and household managers be more productive, efficient and successful in their work and everyday routines. Follow her on Facebook (the link is: and learn more about her onsite work and virtual consultations at


  1. Amy! You did a great job of capturing our talk. I know I ...talked a lot! If any of your readers have any further questions feel free to pass them along to me! Here to help. :) Have a wonderful Christmas! <3

    1. Thanks Francesca! I enjoyed our meeting and look forward to the next one! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas as well!! :)