Monthly Archives: December 2015

Un-Decking the Halls: 5 Tips for Holiday Decluttering

Holiday woes

Holiday woes

Is your house overflowing with strands of lights, ugly Christmas sweaters and toys that bring no joy? Then consider a new holiday tradition: decluttering.

“The holiday season is a great time to develop a one-in, one-out mentality,” author and professional organizer Peter Walsh said. That’s because many seasonal celebrations center on receiving new gifts, but there’s no corresponding ritual for letting go of old possessions, he said.

However, it can be hard to find time in the midst of a flurry of decorating, parties and shopping. So, make lists of what needs to be done and set aside just 10 minutes a day or one hour each weekend, Walsh said.

“People often tend to get bogged down in the littlest, hardest things. So, start with things that are big and easy.”
— Professional organizer Lisa Zaslow

You can even use a time crunch as motivation, said productivity expert Rivka Caroline, who offers tips For example, your upcoming annual holiday soiree can spur you to get rid of the junk in the hall closet where you’ll want to hang guests’ coats, she said.

But don’t spend too much time trying to make your house look perfect. Your guests aren’t visiting a museum; they’re coming to see you and your family, Caroline said. “And every family has a little clutter,” she said.

’Tis the Season to Declutter: What to Toss

So, what should you get rid of during the holiday season? Stick to the big stuff and save the little stuff for 2015. For example, now is not the time to organize all of your family documents or photos, said Lisa Zaslow, founder and CEO ofGotham Organizers in New York City, NY.

“People often tend to get bogged down in the littlest, hardest things,” she said. “So, start with things that are big and easy.”

With that in mind, here’s what to pitch this season.

1. Seasonal Items That Add Stress.

The trappings of the holidays are supposed to make you feel happy—not, well, trapped. So if, for example, you fight with your spouse over hanging 50 strands of outdoor lights every year, you can let that ritual go.

“It doesn’t matter whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. If your decorations lead to losing sight of what the holidays are really about—peace, calm, friendship, harmony, family and love—then ditch the decorations,” Walsh said.

2. Decorations You Don’t Use.

Do you have boxes full of ornaments that aren’t your style, wreaths you never get around to putting up or snow globes that don’t fit on your mantel? Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if you didn’t use it last holiday season and you’re not using it this year, say goodbye for good, said professional organizer Julie Bestry, president of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN.

3. Dusty Greeting Cards.


Got a stack of greeting cards from last year or even 10 years ago? If they’re simply signed by whoever sent them, toss them, Bestry said. Just keep the ones that contain long, heartfelt messages, she said.

4. Holiday Multiples.

Do you have three tree toppers, five holiday platters and six garlands? Since you use holiday items only once a year, having multiples doesn’t make sense. “Pick the one you love best and use it every year,” Zaslow said.

5. Old Seasonal Clothing.

Is your hall closet crammed with coats and boots your kids outgrew two seasons ago and gloves that long ago lost their mates? Pull that stuff out quickly, without taking everything else out of the closet, Zaslow said. Then donate or toss it.

After the Holidays, Get Ready for Next Year

If you don’t have time to declutter before the holidays, you can do it afterward. In fact, Bestry suggests throwing a decoration takedown party. Make brunch, have your family join you in their jammies, and play some fun, upbeat music.

Pack up all your décor and get rid of stuff that’s broken, like strands of lights with burnt-out bulbs, Bestry said. In fact, you should jot down a list of items that need replaced, and do so now when holiday stuff is on sale, she said.

Also, toss, donate, or pass on to a friend or family member anything you don’t use or love, she said. If you need extra help, Walsh runs a 31-day organizing challenge in January and posts a one-minute video each day.

“When you’re breaking down the holidays, that’s a good time to let go of stuff,” Bestry said. “Think about how you can clear things out to embrace the new year.”

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12 New Year’s Resolutions to Help You Get Organized


Get Organized – Every time the calendar flips from one year to the next, millions of us resolve to lose weight, quit smoking or reduce debt. But have you given much thought to getting your house in order? Are you tired of staring at all of those boxes crammed with clothes you haven’t worn in 10 years or with toys your kids haven’t touched in five years?

“The new year is a perfect time to stop procrastinating, and start organizing your home and life,” said Donna David, a professional organizer in New York City.

Here are 12 tips to help you get your new year off to a well-organized start.

  1. Start Small.
    Simply put, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
    “People usually make a resolution that says something like, ‘I’m going to get my home and office totally organized this year, and I will never misplace anything again’,” said Maria Spetalnik, a professional organizer in the Washington, DC, area. “This is not only unrealistic but would take so long that they usually run out of steam before they even see results. Then they are frustrated with themselves and have often created a bigger problem than they started with.”

To prevent that frustration, Spetalnik said, make resolutions like, “I will do my shopping using a list rather than trying to remember what I need.”

  1. Use One Calendar for Everything.
    This includes reminders, vacations, tasks and anything else “to help you kick
 forgetfulness,” said Amber Kostelny, a professional organizer in Chicago.

Kim Oser, a professional organizer in the Washington, DC, area, said your calendar must be portable, whether it’s in paper or digital form. That way, you can mark down appointments and other calendar-worthy events when you’re on the go.

  1. Establish Daily, Weekly and Monthly Routines.
    “Creating routines to
 accomplishing tasks will make sure even the mundane things get done around
 the house,” Kostelny said.

For example, make your bed daily, pay your bills weekly and clean out your wallet monthly.4. Set Manageable Goals.
Either at night before or in
 the morning, jot down your three most important tasks for the day, Oser said.

“There may be more than three but these are the three things that must get 
done,” Oser said. “It allows you to build them in to your day rather than panicking at 
the end of the day.”

  1. Divide and Conquer.
    Rather than taking on a massive organizing project, break that project up into pieces, like getting the corner of a room into shape, not the entire room, said Beth Giles, a professional organizer in Portland, OR.

“One of the biggest misconceptions is that a room can be transformed
 into an organized area in a matter of minutes,” Giles said. “Most rooms or offices do not
 become disorganized overnight but rather over months or years, so it will
 require hours or days to work through the contents of a space and restore
 its order.”

  1. Find a Home for Everything.
    Don’t bring anything new into your home unless you know where you’re going to keep it, said Barry Izsak, a professional organizer in Austin, TX.
  2. Stamp Out Piles of Mail.
    Every time a piece of mail or any other paper comes into your home, act on it right away, and then either file it or pitch it, Izsak said.

Also, register online with the Direct Marketing Associationto cut down on junk mail, said Barbara Reich, a professional organizer in New York City. “Less paper clutter means less stress,” she said.

  1. Enlist Help.
    Delegate organizing tasks to every member of your household, said Donna David, the New York City organizer.

“Everyone needs to be involved,” she said, “and take ownership of completing their responsibilities.”

If you and your family lack motivation, consider hiring a professional organizer.

“That person will not only de-clutter your home, but bring some sanity to your life,” David said.

  1. Make a Long-Term Commitment.
    Organizing doesn’t end when you’ve completed the first sweep of your home. Organization is an ongoing process, said Beth Giles, the Portland organizer. For instance, you’ve regularly got to pick up stuff around the house and put it in its proper place.

In addition, you’ve got to be flexible with your organization plans.

 as our lives and schedules continually change,” Giles said, “the way we organize our homes 
and offices will also need to be re-evaluated and changed.”

  1. Take Advantage of Nifty Tools.
    All sorts of technology is available to simplify home organization. For instance, a company called HomeZada produces home management and organization software. The online software lets you create a home inventory, set up a home maintenance calendar, manage home improvement projects and track household expenses—all in one place.
  2. Track Your Progress.
    “Mark down each day that you make successful
 strides toward keeping your resolutions,” said Bob Sadowski, marketing manager for PR and social media at ACCO Brands Corp., which sells At-A-Glance, Day-Timer and Day Runner calendars. “Put a big red ‘X’ over that day on 
your calendar. By seeing the chain of success, you’ll be motivated to keep 
it going.”
  3. Celebrate Your Success.
    “Set monthly milestones where, if achieved, you can 
treat yourself to something fun,” Sadowski said. “Make it a fun reward, like a night out to
 enjoy dinner and a movie.
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Storage Rentals Become `Santa Closets ‘

The Associated Press



NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Missy Phillips knew she had a big problem on her hands when her boyfriend’s 18-year-old son ransacked their house looking for the stash of unwrapped Christmas presents.

To keep the nosy teenager from finding the stereo, video games and hunting bow she and her boyfriend bought him, Phillips had to go out of the house _ and into a self-storage unit _ to hide the gifts until Christmas Eve.

Around the holidays, the units typically used to store furniture and household items are becoming temporary outposts for adults to hide and wrap gifts for kids and big-ticket items like televisions or bicycles for spouses. In Nashville, one storage service bills their smaller units as “Santa Closets.”

“It’s a great concept because it takes away that worry that they’re going to find them,” said Phillips, who lives in the St. Louis suburb of Alton, Ill.“Therefore you have the element of surprise on Christmas.”

Jane Davies, who manages Abbott Self-Storage in Nashville, said several wives this year have rented the facility’s “Santa Closets” to house large presents like big-screen TVs and recliners for their husbands.

Absolute Storage Management in Memphis, which operates Abbott and other storage facilities in the Southeast, offers 4- by 4-foot units from early November through Christmas for a $1 a day.

“It’s a little hard to hide a big-screen TV, recliners, bicycles,” Davies said. “A lot of houses, condos and apartments don’t have the storage space.

“It becomes a convenience because if you do have snoopy kids _ like I used to be _ it works out perfect.”

Mike Scanlon, president of the Self Storage Association, said the storage industry’s busiest time is from spring through fall when people are most likely to be moving, though there is a bump in business around the holiday season.

“There’s not many places to hide that stuff around the house if it’s a bike or some kind of sporting good item, things you just can’t hide in the back of a closet,” Scanlon said.

“Businesses also store extra inventory. They’re gearing up for the shopping season and they may only have room for so much.”

Even storage facilities that don’t offer Santa specials are pretty sure their customers have figured out the holiday angle.

Joanne Fried, spokeswoman for one of the largest storage companies in the U.S. with more than 357,000 units, said customers already renting units also stow their Christmas gifts there.

“I’m sure some people who are already in the units use it for that purpose,” Fried said. “It just makes it easier on them.”

The storage unit industry has nearly doubled in size over the past decade, with close to 40,000 storage unit facilities nationwide.

Preparing your Dorm for Winter Break


Now that students have returned from Thanksgiving break, it is time to buckle down and study for finals. For college students everywhere, this time of year is notorious for late-night study sessions, extreme spending at local coffee shops and paper-writing marathons.

After the final exam is taken and the last paper submitted, it’s time to move back home. However, students everywhere should prepare their dorm rooms for the month-long vacancy.

If you are a college student approaching the sweetness of winter break, follow these tips to make sure you can go home in peace and celebrate the holiday season with your loved ones:


Store Valuables over the Break

If you are nervous about any of your belongings remaining in the dorm room over your break, consider keeping them in a Self Storage unit. Televisions, cherished memorabilia or other items you want to keep safe can easily be kept in a storage unit while you are away.

The Storage Inn  provides an affordable selection of storage units near local colleges and universities.

Unplug All Electronics

According to Niche, you will want to ensure all electronics are unplugged to save energy. Check everything from your television to your miniature fridge (which only houses pop, right?) In addition, unplugging will decrease the risk of fires occurring in the building, as a small spark may ignite a blaze resulting in substantial damage to the entire building.

You will also want to turn down the heat in your room, but do not turn it all the way off as it may lead to frozen pipes, which would result in major issues upon your return.

Take out Your Trash and Anything You Are Not Supposed to Have

Avoid returning home to a funky-smelling dorm room by joining forces with your roommates and removing any garbage or perishables you might be keeping in the room. Make sure to double-check your fridge for leftover food or drinks as well, and dispose of them properly.

If you happen to have any items that aren’t allowed in the dorm room, such as candles or portable grills, make sure to remove them from your room. Building managers and resident assistants often go through each room to ensure they are ready for a long winter break. If they uncover any forbidden items, you might come back to a fine or other consequences.

“Avoid returning home to a funky-smelling dorm room by joining forces with your roommates and removing any garbage.”

Decide What to Bring Home

Cengage Brainiac noted you will need to properly pack for your time at home as well. Know what clothes to bring and whether you’ll need any school-related materials for class assignments or preparation.

If you and your family are going on a vacation, be sure to pack the appropriate clothing. A cruise through the Bahamas will require slightly different attire than a weekend dog sledding in northern Minnesota.

Make a list ahead of time to ensure you don’t forget the essentials.

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Hide Your Christmas Gifts in Self Storage!

Hide Your Christmas Gifts in Self Storage!



It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, which means one thing—it’s time to figure out what gifts to give!

Between Black Friday bargains and always-open online retailers, it’s easy to get your hands on the items your loved ones have put on their lists. But as the bags and boxes pile up, you might be caught wondering where on Earth you can stash all the stuff. The answer? Hide Your Christmas Gifts in Self Storage!

Every family has their own holiday traditions that make celebrating special for them, but one of the most common is keeping presents tucked away until Christmas Eve. Still, it can be difficult to find space to hide presents from prying eyes in a season that’s already rife with clutter.

“Christmas is indeed a space hog,” says Jeff Westover, Editor of My Merry Christmas, an online community for Christmas enthusiasts. “In my house, where space is limited, putting up the tree means losing some of the furniture…I think that’s a reality for a lot of people.”‘

“Kids anticipate Christmas not because of what they know they will receive, but because they know they will be surprised.”
Jeff Westover, Editor of My Merry Christmas

Westover is a parent of seven children, so he understands the joy that Christmas gifts bring to families, particularly for little ones. “Kids anticipate Christmas not because of what they know they will receive, but because they know they will be surprised. They love that delicious anticipation, kind of like seeing a horror movie. They love what they are going to feel, and they love being a part of that.”

“I think every parent is concerned about storing gifts before the holidays,” says Laurie Hyman, co-founder of Green Toys, which sells toys made of recycled and environmentally-friendly materials. “Maintaining the mystery and surprise is part of the fun…many parents [go] to great lengths to keep that surprise.”

Hyman says she knows parents who will hide gifts in dog houses, under beds, in their offices, and even in their neighbors’s homes just to keep kids from spoiling the holiday surprise. “Parents get creative when it means keeping gifts away from their little ones.”

“I think every parent is concerned about storing gifts before the holidays…Maintaining the mystery and surprise is part of the fun.”
Laurie Hyman, co-founder of Green Toys

If your home is already tight on space, and you don’t want the spirit of the season to be ruined, you can use a storage unit to hide your Christmas gifts from your loved ones.

Christian Marcen, manager at Affordable Storage Solutions in Pueblo, Colo., says she sees tenants every year storing Christmas gifts in units. “Customers really enjoy the convenience.”


Since hiding Christmas gifts in a storage unit will be a short-term affair, there’s no reason not to rent a unit that comes with all of the trappings for safe storage. As far as gifts are concerned, the most important things to look for are security, climate control, and convenience.


It’s always important to feel that your items are safe in storage, but that’s especially true when storing items that are both monetarily and emotionally valuable, like Christmas gifts.

“Visit the facility before [renting],” Marcen advises. “Make sure the facility has a gate system, cameras, and [takes] every precaution possible make sure customers’s items are safe.”

Facilities offer different security options, so you can always ask the facility manager to elaborate on their security measures, procedures, and history with any breaches.

“At the end of the day, all things stored are someone’s investments,” Marcen adds. “We want to make sure we do everything in our power to take every precaution to make sure their items are not vulnerable.”

Climate Control

In cold and wet winter months, climate-controlled storage is an important amenity to consider, particularly if you’re storing fragile gifts or gifts that have already been wrapped. Moisture inside a unit can spell mold or mildew that will leave gifts with an unpleasant odor and sometimes irreversible damage.

“Storing items in an environment similar to the environment in which the products are intended to be used is always best,” says Hyman. “Nobody likes to experience extreme temperatures or moisture shifts—and I’m guessing most toys don’t either.”


“Storage, like anything else associated with Christmas, has to be done well, and it has to be thought out, planned, and executed,” says Westover. “I think a lot of people tend to think of storage as costing money, not realizing that doing it right means also saving a lot of time, which is always at a premium at Christmas.”

To maximize your time spent with the very people you’re shopping for, look for a storage unit that’s located near your home. The shorter the drive between your home and self storage, the quicker you can get everything assembled and under the tree when the time comes! If you’re looking to be truly covert, seek out a facility that offers 24-hour-access. That way, you can sneak off to your unit at a moment’s notice.

Using self storage to hide Christmas gifts is a great option for anyone—okay, except for the people who are surprising their families with a new puppy or kitten. A storage unit has room for just about any gift, big or small. Not to mention, self storage can help minimize stress and maximize joy for people looking to create those special memories with family. So get storing, and Happy Holidays!
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