Clutter-Free Christmas Gifts – Kids & Adults Will Love

It’s Christmas morning and there is a ton of gifts under the tree.  The kids eyes are wide and they can’t wait to dig in.  There’s a frenzy of excitement and everyone is thrilled with their gifts.  But in a little time, a week, a month or two, those new gifts have lost their luster and they are something you shuffle from place to place and now call “clutter.” 
 
Gift-giving is fun! And it brings joy to both the giver and the receiver until it doesn’t. The reality is, you’re tired of all of the stuff.  It’s nice stuff, but there’s just too much.  You crave more simplicity in life…for you…for your family.  The continuous piles and clutter that accumulates is overwhelming.  If you want to avoid adding more stuff to your clutter shuffle, then consider giving clutter-free Christmas gifts this year. 
There are so many alternative things you can give to your loved ones that don’t have to accumulate in your homes.  So, how do we bring balance to all this? Here are ideas you can use to make gift-giving a clutter-free experience this year.
excited girl looking into an open christmas present with text clutter-free christmas gifts your kids will love
 
This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliates Disclosure.

Kid-Friendly Clutter-Free Gifts

Let’s face it, next to Jesus, kids are the focus of Christmas gift-giving. So, we’ll start with kid-friendly clutter-free gifts.

Memberships

It’s important to keep kids active. They are little sponges taking in every experience. While this practice is good, it can often be expensive. Buying an annual membership is a great activity the family can engage in and will reduce expenses in the long run. Memberships cost anywhere from $75 – $200 and usually pay for themselves if you go at least 3 times.
  • Zoo membership
  • Science Center
  • Membership at a YMCA or community center – exercise, swimming, etc.

Digital Subscriptions

Digital subscriptions are another great way to keep content fresh for your kids. We’ll talk about subscriptions like Netflix in the Adult Gift section. For now, let’s talk about a very kid-focused digital subscription.
Disney + launched in November 2019. In their words, Disney + is “The best of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. From new releases to your favorite classics, and exclusive originals, there’s always something new to discover.
At the time of this post, they are charging $6.99/month or $69.99/yr USD.

Experiences

Tickets to live events and activities are great experiences for any age. Depending on your child’s interest they may enjoy going to any of the following activities:
  • Sporting events
  • A play, concert, or Disney on Ice
  • A movie
  • Or a season pass to a local attraction (e.g. Disney, Calgary Corn Maze)

Classes

In their search for knowledge, kids love to take part in classes. You have the choice of athletic or art-based classes. Some are offered seasonally for a month or two at a time, while others are one-time events e.g. ski lessons. Here are a few ideas to check out for clutter-free Christmas gifts.
  • Swimming lessons
  • Gymnastics class
  • Dance class
  • Ice skating lessons
  • Skiing lessons
  • Rock climbing lessons
  • Art lessons
  • Craft class
  • Music lessons
  • Cooking class

Children in swimming class, practicing with kicking boards, doing rotations, instructor helping one of them. great idea for a clutter free christmas gift.

Gift Certificates

You have to be careful with this category. You could think you are giving a clutter-free gift. But, what they buy with the gift card can easily become clutter. So, keeping with the theme of clutter-free gifts, consider these options:
  • Apple gift card where they can download music or games to their (or their parent’s) device
  • Local ice cream shop

Financial

Last but not least, consider giving a financial gift. You can give a couple of shares of financial stocks or a small grant.  You don’t’ have to spend a lot on something like this. A little bit here and there will grow and pay off once your kid reaches maturity. Over time it will grow and he or she can use it to pay for expenses like University, or towards a house or car.
  • Financial stocks
  • Grants

Adult Clutter-Free Gifts

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s fun to give to both adults and kids alike. Here are some Clutter-Free Christmas Gifts to consider for your friends and family.

Subscriptions

We live in a subscription society. So many businesses are moving to subscription-based models. These can be great clutter-free experiences for people you love. Likely, you’re already familiar with things like Netflix and Kindle, but there are others as well. I’ve been using Scribd for over a year and I love it. I used to have a different audiobook subscription, but it was more expensive and only allowed 1 book per month without an extra fee. Scribd it’s less expensive monthly AND you can listen to as many books as you want!!! The previous membership I had only included 1 book each month and if you wanted to listen to more, then it cost extra.
Another type of subscription I’ve enjoyed is a food subscription. You can order through someone like Hello Fresh and get the ingredients for a few meals delivered straight to your home. It’s great if I’m going to be out of town and the hubby is cooking or if we just have an unusually busy week.
  • Audio Book Subscription– Scribd
  • Movie membership – Netflix or Amazon Prime
  • eBook subscription – Kindle unlimited membership
  • Ancestry.com – find out and build your family tree
  • Food Subscriptions
    • Hello Fresh
    • Wine
    • Chocolate
    • Fruit
    • Tea
    • Coffee
    • Cheese

Memberships

Local memberships are another great Christmas gift that won’t add clutter to your home. The below memberships are fun things you can do by yourself or with family.
  • Local attractions like an Art museum membership
  • National / State/ Provincial Park Pass
  • Gym
  • Community Center or YMCA

Experiences

What do you get for the person that has it all? You buy an experience they haven’t done or that they will cherish forever. I love doing family photo sessions. We did one as a gift to the grandparents and took pics of them with all the grandkids.
We’ve also done a helicopter trip over the Canadian Rockies for my parents as a thank you gift one year. It’s something they wouldn’t have done for themselves, but memories that will last a lifetime!
  • Family Photo session
  • Weekend get-away
  • Helicopter flight
  • Hot Air Balloon
  • White Water Rafting

Woman opening the door to a helicopter as an experienced-based clutter free gift.

Gift Certificates

Gift Certificates for spa services, dining out, or grabbing a coffee are always fun to give and receive. I like to call them the gift that keeps on giving. Perhaps my favorite one on this list is a gift certificate to a cleaning service. Personally, I’d not want just any cleaning service, but one that comes recommended by a friend, but boy, would I make use of that gift certificate!!
  • Gift Certificates to a favorite restaurant
  • Gift certificate for a massage
  • Gift certificate for manicure/pedicure
  • To Starbucks
  • For a cleaning service to clean their home

Custom / Personal Coupons

This is another favorite clutter-free gift and the good news is, it doesn’t cost any money…just time! You can make a cute print out that offers one of the following
  • Free babysitting for a night
  • Free House Cleaning
  • Girl’s Night Out with wine included (while you watch the kids or take care of things at home)

Things that help you get organized and cut clutter

This section does include physical gifts…not digital, memberships, or experiences. It’s things you would bring into your home, but they are meant to help you get organized and declutter. A Scanner is great if you have a ton of pictures or important documents and you don’t want the physical papers any more. A paper shredder is perfect for actually getting rid of important papers. And last but not least, a planner will help you organize your time and make the most of your days. I liked to my favorite planner that you can use for goal planning and time management.

Financial

Last but not least, we’ll touch on the financial gifts. Similar to the gifts for kids, financial gifts are great because they keep giving. You can give money that someone can save towards a larger a necessary buy e.g. a car or to help plan for retirement. OR you can make a donation to a worthy cause in honor of someone. This is a great way to show you’re thinking of someone, but not give them stuff when they potentially don’t need or want it.
  • Stocks to help plan a larger necessary purchase
  • Donation to charity on their behalf
Giving gifts at Christmas doesn’t have to be about “stuff.” You can share experiences, build knowledge, and enjoy giving gifts without buying things that will just become more clutter in your home! Also, many of these things can be purchased online so as an added bonus, you can skip the lines and crowds at the mall. Make this a clutter-free Christmas!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Quick & Easy DIY Holiday Party Food Bars

It’s almost that time of the year again.  You know, when you crave to have friends and family over and celebrate the holidays.  But, like most years, you have a lot going on.  I mean, do you really have time for a party?

Yes, yes you do!!!  Life is busy…but there are fun ways to entertain that don’t have to drain you, take a lot of time or cost a lot of money!  Are you in?  Let’s do this!

Let’s talk about DIY Food Bars. They’ve been around forever.  A casual get together may have a DIY Sandwich station… picture it, a deli tray, buns, and jars of Mustard and Mayonnaise. You line up and DIY your sandwich just the way you like it.

Ok, now that we’re on the same page, let’s talk about something much more exciting than a sandwich buffet.  We’re going to DIY party food for the holidays.  These food bars are great because they can be really cute and creative, but they can also save you time.  How do they save time, well, you don’t have to fully prepare the food or beverages your guests consume.  You lay out all of the elements, but they put it together. 

close up of a tray of holiday cookies and cupcakes with diy toppings and text quick and easy party food bars your guests will love

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliates Disclosure.

I was able to get the majority of the things I needed to buy including containers and food from the dollar store and Walmart!  Woot woot, that meant I didn’t have to put out a lot of cash!

Santa’s Cup of Cheer – Hot Drink Bar

Christmas always calls for hot drinks.  I grew up in Houston and despite the warm weather, I loved my peppermint mochas!  This is an easy DIY to put together and requires almost no prep!!!  All you have to do is make your hot chocolate and coffee in advance, buy a ton of toppings, and create your display.  This hot chocolate and coffee bar will be a favorite of yours and is sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Supplies:

  • 2 Carafes, 1 for Coffee and 1 for Hot Chocolate
  • Whipped Cream
  • Half & Half Cream or the fun seasonal flavored creams
  • Sweeteners (Sugar and/or the fake stuff)
  • Toppings and mix-ins- I used mint flavored marshmallows, Hershey’s kisses, Pirouette Cookies (like chocolate straws) Candy canes, and sprinkles
  • Coffee cups
  • Stir Spoons – you can go advanced here and get (or make) the chocolate dipped spoons…they are de-lic-ious!

Santa coffee cups on a platter with sprinkles as a topping in a jar.

These fun Santa Coffee Cups are a collection that my mom passed on to me.  She collected them over the years and passed them along to me last year.  Now, I add a cup here and there when I’m holiday shopping. 

You don’t have to buy something just like this.  Look and see what you already have and see if there’s a fun collection you can pull together.  Maybe you have mismatched china or a variety of coffee cups.  Feel free to go traditional with matching cups or create an eclectic collection with whatever you have available!  You can’t go wrong!

Toppings like sprinkles displayed for a DIY Coffee and Hot Chocolate bar

Reindeer Party Mix – DIY Food Bar

This Party Food Bar is a spin on Texas Trash or Chex Party Mix.  This is great party food for all ages kid and adults will love it!  When deciding on your ingredients, make sure you have a variety of salty and sweet items.  You can make this a zero-cooking party food bar or, you can make your own check mix.

top view of mixins for a diy party mix including popcorn, pretzals, chex cereal, carmel popcorn, and M&Ms

Supplies:

  • Cereal- I went with a variety of Chex, but you could add Cheerios as well
  • Pretzels
  • Butter Popcorn
  • Caramel Popcorn
  • M&M’s
  • Nuts, sesame sticks, and other candy like mini-Reese’s are also great options to include
  • Paper bags or bowls for guests to create their custom mix

View of differnt bowls and jars for DIY party mix mixins

As far as décor, mini-twinkle lights and a garland are nice to weave between the bowls.  You can use paper bags for your guests to create their mix! 

Elf’s Sweet Shoppe – Custom Cookie Bar

A party is not complete without some sweets!  This DIY Party Food Bar may require a little more preparation time, but I have a few hacks for you to help out in this area.  Let’s talk first about the food.

diy christmas cookie bar with topings and icing for guests to decorate

The Food

This buffet has typical holiday sweets including Sugar Cookies, Gingerbread cookies, and Cupcakes with buttercream icing.  You can include any variety of cookies at a station like this, but I wanted to stick with a grouping that allowed party guests to decorate their own sweet. 

For the cupcakes they can add sprinkles, marshmallows, chocolate chips, even shredded coconut.

For the cookies, I made this Royal Icing and put it in piping bags.

The Hacks

Here are the hacks I mentioned.  If you’re short on time, you can buy cupcakes and cookies from a bakery.  During the holidays, many stores also have sugar cookie and gingerbread cookie kits available.  If you go these routes, this bar can be another zero-bake party food bar!

Tiered cookie tray with cupcakes and sugar cookies for holiday party guests to decorateThe Supplies

  • Cupcakes with icing
  • Gingerbread cookies
  • Sugar cookies
  • Royal Icing in piping bags for guests to decorate their cookies
  • Toppings: chocolate chips, sprinkles, shredded coconut, marshmallows, and gumdrops.

This is another great party food for almost all ages.  It’s fun to do with kids and can count as an activity to keep them entertained along with something to fill their tummies.  A word of caution, if you are doing this for kids, I’ encourage you to use something other than the piping bags.  You may be able to find small icing tubes like the ones below.  I got mine in a gingerbread kit.  Alternatively, you can also get bottles like this for kids to use to decorate their cookies.  The thicker you make the Royal Icing the less messy it will be.  The thinner it is, the more it will ooze all over the cookie.

view of alterntive tools for decorating christmas cookies

 


 

What are You Waiting For?

So, what’s holding you back?  Isn’t it time to have a Christmas Party?  These fun and easy party foods will look great, save you time, and be enjoyed by your guests!!!

 

 

 

 

How to Perfectly Hang Wall Art

Over 40 years ago, my mom and dad decided to put their little nest egg into a Frame Shop.  At the time, there were no Michael’s or Hobby Lobby’s…you couldn’t go to WayFair.com or Amazon.com for your home décor needs.  In fact, they were on the cutting edge of a relatively new industry- the local frame shop. 

To this day, the shop they started is the oldest business in our town.  Throughout their career, they helped countless customers and counseled thousands of clients on where and how to hang artwork.

Here are a few of their best tips and practices for hanging wall art.

Step 1: Choose Your Art Wok

The first step in hanging artwork is to consider the subject.  What do you want to hang…is it a diploma, an abstract piece of art, a family portrait, etc?

The subject of the artwork will influence the room you select for hanging the picture.

There are not any hard and fast rules when it comes to the type of pictures you hang in each room.  However, there are some general conventions that are accepted.  For example, it would be strange to see a diploma hanging in a bathroom or in the living room.  With that said, it’s 100% up to you. 

Take a step back and think about how you want the room to feel- is it playful, inspiring, studious, etc.  Then make sure the artwork represents the feeling you want to create.

Step 2: Decide on the Location for Hanging Your Picture 

Before you decide on the location, you’ll need to consider the number of pieces and the size of the frame you want to hang.

How many pieces are you hanging together?  Is it a stand-alone piece of art, multiple pieces you want to make a grouping out of, or a diptych or triptych, 2 – 3 pieces of art that are meant to hang side by side?

What is the size of the artwork?

Is it small medium or large, tall and wide or short and wide, etc.?  You want a wall that has enough space, and not too much space at the same time.  For example, a small single piece of art would not look good over a long couch.  On the other hand, a large picture or grouping of pictures would not look right over a small piece of furniture.

Note: when you’re hanging a grouping of pictures, you consider the space the entire grouping will encompass.

Step 3: Choosing a wall

When choosing a wall for hanging your picture, it’s customary to use the wall you see first when you walk in a room.  So, if you’re hanging a picture in a bedroom, it would likely be over the bed or over a dresser.

Sometimes it’s not possible to use the most visible wall.  A second choice many people make is to use a wall that has furniture against it e.g. a couch or a table.

It’s also good to consider the color of the wall and the color of the exterior mat if your picture has mats. If you have a blue wall and a blue matt, the picture will not pop and will blend into its surroundings. 

Step 4: Gather your Tools

Now that you’ve selected your artwork, the room, and wall for it to hang, it’s time to gather your tools.  You’ll need the following:

  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape or yardstick
  • Level
  • Drill or hammer
  • Nails with hooks, screw, or anchor
  • Stud finder (optional)

You’ll use a hammer if you’re nailing directly into a stud.  A screw is helpful if it’s a particularly heavy picture and you’re going into a stud.  An anchor and screw are used when you’re hanging directly into drywall (no stud) and the piece is heavy.

Step 5: Marking Where to Nail

There are two types of people…those who measure before they hang and those who don’t!  If I’m in a hurry, my dad’s not around, or I just can’t be bothered, then I fall in the second category.  I DO NOT recommend this approach.  It usually leads to multiple holes in the wall along with rework.  And who has time for that?

So, when my parents hang pictures (the right way) – they measure before they hammer in a nail.

Measure the height and width of your picture.  Write these measurements down so you don’t forget.

Horizontal Spacing

If hanging a single picture, then center it above the furniture or on the wall.  Measure the width of the wall or furniture and divide by two.  This is the measurement you need for the center of the picture.   

Wall or Furniture measurement / 2 = center mark for hanging

PENCIL MARK #1 – Now, make a small vertical line with your pencil on the wall.

Vertical Spacing

If you are hanging a picture on a wall with no furniture, then the general rule of thumb is to hang the middle of the picture at eye level between 57 – 60 inches.  Alternatively, if you’re hanging above furniture like a table or a buffet, you could hang it 6-8 inches above the top of the furniture.

Eyelevel example:

Let’s say you want to hang a 30-inch-tall picture.  The center of the picture is 15 inches from the top or bottom of the frame.  You’re using 57 inches for eye-level.  Then you would want the top of the picture to be 72 inches (57 + 15 inches) above the floor. 

PENCIL MARK #2 – EXAMPLE A: Draw a horizontal line at 72 inches.

Above furniture example:

Let’s say you want to hang a 30-inch-tall picture.  If you’re hanging artwork above a couch, then you would go 6-8 inches above the couch.  We’ll use 8 inches for this example, add 30 inches for the height of the picture, and

PENCIL MARK #2 – EXAMPLE B: draw a horizontal line at 38 inches above the couch.

There are times when hanging a picture may not follow either of these two rules.  For example, if you’re hanging artwork over a headboard or a mantle.  You may need to go higher than eye-level.  If it’s a small amount of vertical space, then you can center the artwork vertically leaving the same amount of space between the top and the bottom.  Otherwise, stick with the 6-8 inches practice.

Step 6: Picture Hanging Hardware

There are several ways you can hang pictures.  Frames will either have saw-tooth hook(s) at the top, loop hooks on the side, or a wire going horizontally across the back.

Note, it is helpful to have two people at this point in the hanging process.

Hanging with a Saw Tooth Hanger

When hanging with a saw tooth hanger, you don’t need to make any adjustments from the two marks you made in step 4. You are good to go ahead and hammer in your nail(s) in the center of your vertical and horizontal marks. 

Hanging with Loop Hooks

Loop hooks are a little more complicated.  Loop hooks are small semi-circles on the left and the right sides of the frame.  With this type of format, you’ll need to account for how far down the hooks are from the top of the frame.  Measure the distance of the top of the loops from the top of the frame.

Let’s say the top of your loop is 7 inches from the top of the frame.  We’ll use the same “eyelevel example”: we used above,

Eyelevel example: Let’s say you want to hang a 30-inch-tall picture.  The center of the picture is at 15 inches.  You’re using 57 inches for eye-level.  Then you would want the top of the picture to be 72 inches (57 + 15 inches) above the floor. 

So, we want the top of the picture at 72 inches, but now we need to account for the placement of the hooks (7 inces from the top)

72 Inches – 7 inches = 65 inches

Your nail should go at 65 inches from the ground.  You’ll need one on the left and one on the right, ensuring the center of the picture is aligned with your horizontal mark.

Hanging with a Wire

When hanging with a wire, measure the distance from the top of the frame to the wire.  Do this by pulling the wire tight in the middle then measure from the top of the wire to the top of the frame.  

You should now have a vertical and horizontal hash mark to guide where you place your nail(s).

Hanging Groupings of Pictures

Hanging groupings is definitely more complicated.  First, lay the grouping on the floor and play with it.  Group it several different ways to find the arrangement you like. 

A few tips for groupings.  Note this could be an entire post, so I’ll just touch on a few basics.  Have the smaller pieces at the top and heavier pieces at the bottom.  If it’s a grouping of 4 or more, then you can balance the grouping with the heavier pieces diagonally opposite. You may want to do a grid where all pieces are the same size and spaced equidistant from each other e.g. 2 inches all the way around each picture.  Alternatively, you may want to do something where you have two pieces of art stacked on one side and a vertical frame on the other side.  If you’re going with a more abstract grouping, then consider having between 3-6 inches between each picture. 

With groupings, you should start from the center and work your way out.  Measure how tall and wide the entire grouping is, then use one of the three rules for hanging mentioned earlier. Have the center of the grouping hit:

  • Eyelevel (57-60 inches)
  • The bottom of the grouping 6-8 inches above the furniture
  • The grouping spaced equidistant in the allotted space

It’s time to Nail it!

Hanging artwork is simple and straight forward, you need to know a few guidelines to make it look just right!  The eye level rule is helpful when determining height.  Alternatively, you can make sure there are 6-8 inches above furniture.  If you’re hanging multiple pictures in the same area, give 2-6 inches between frames. 

It’s tempting to eyeball where you’ll hang artwork in your home, but this route typically leads to multiple holes in the wall and off-centered pictures.  Measure, Mark, and Hammer and you’ll have a picture that is perfectly placed!

Get Organized with a Home Management Binder

I’ve had two chapters in my adult life…  1) my corporate life, where I helped teams grow and prepare for the future  2) my family life where I helped raise a family and run a home.  The latter was far more difficult than I anticipated and I made a lot of mistakes.

I know exactly what it’s like to feel stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I struggled with balancing the demands of daily life and wanting to take back control of my home. That’s why I was on a mission to find simple solutions that would help me organize my house and my head.

A home management binder does just that! 

woman writing in her home managment binder with text how to create a home managment binder.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliates Disclosure.

Why Use a Home Management Binder

A home management binder will enable you to get your home and family organized.  You’ll save time and stop hunting for important documents.  You’ll be able to anticipate and plan for home maintenance, cleaning, and weekly meals.  You’ll simplify your life and easily navigate your daily, monthly, and annual responsibilities of running your home.

Home Management Binder Supplies

You don’t need a ton of supplies for your home management binder. 

  • 1.5 – 2 inch 3 ring binder
  • Dividers with labels
  • Hole puncher
  • Printer
  • Paper
  • Sheet protectors
  • Pencil pouch


 

Step 1: Decide on Home Management Binder Sections

The first thing you need to do is decide on the categories of information you’d like to include in your binder.

Psst: I offer many FREE printables you can use in your Home Management binder.  I’ll reference them within each section. 🙂

Here’s what I include in my Household Planner

Schedule / Daily Tasks

In this section, I include To-Do Lists, Daily and Weekly calendars, and blank Monthly calendars. I don’t use every format every week.  For example, when we have particularly busy months, I use the monthly calendar so that we’re all on the same page.  If I have a lot of tasks floating around in my head, I use the to-do list.  I always have these pages as my very first section so that I can easily access them. You can grab a copy of a free weekly block schedule template in my free printable library if you’d like to add one to your binder.

screen shot of a weekly block schedule

Meal Planning

Next up, Meal Planning and Grocery Lists. Planning our dinners is a weekly must-do if I want to have a chance at healthy meals for our family.  A printable meal planning template is helpful to get things out of my head and onto paper.  It also helps when my husband has to pinch-hit and make dinner if I’m away.  I also keep my weekly grocery list in this section.  You can grab a copy of a free Meal Planning template in my free printable library if you’d like to add one to your binder.

Click here for access to the free printables.  I also offer a deluxe version of my planner you can purchase here.

Household Responsibilities

We all know it takes a lot to run a home.   Without a plan, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks or for one person to feel like they are doing all of the work.  A Household responsibilities section is a great place to spell out chores and routines for the kids and adults alike.  You can grab a kid’s morning and evening routine from my free printable library along with an age-appropriate chore list. 

Cleaning

In this section, I keep notes on what I need to do on a weekly or seasonal basis. You can include your weekly list as well as a deep cleaning chart.  It’s a great place to take details out of your head and refer to on an as needed basis.

Shopping Lists

In addition to the grocery list, I keep in the meal planning section, I also have pages to track items ordered online or to make notes about things to pick up at specific stores e.g. Target or Costco.  This single go-to list is handy when headed out to run errands.

Important Contacts 

This section includes the name and phone numbers of the kid’s schools, neighbors, and service providers like electricity and water.  While I keep almost all of this information on my phone, it’s handy to have it on paper as well.  If I don’t remember a parent’s name of one of my child’s class-mates, then I can look in this section.  Or if we have a babysitter or grandparent over, shoot, even my husband, they can all access this important information as needed. 

Kitchen, Pantry, and Refrigerator

How many times have you bought something from the grocery store only to find out that you already had it in the freezer?!?  Pantry and Freezer Inventories are kept in this section. I aim to update these inventories every few months so that I can make the most of the food we’ve already purchased and things expiring.  Reference tools like pantry food shelf life (which is also a free printable in my library,) and a conversion chart are kept in this section.

You can easily make your own inventory log or you can purchase my binder that has all of the pages already created for you.

Home Organization & Decluttering

If you’ve looked around my site much, you know I’m kinda into home organization and decluttering!  I have notes and reference materials in this section.  Things like How Long to Keep Important Documents (grab your copy in my free printable library).  I also have lists of things I can easily declutter and get rid of along with reminders of smart storage solutions.

screen shot of a free printable for home management binder

Home Maintenance Tasks

This is where I keep a list of all the things that need to be done in the home every season and year. I can track if I change the air filters each month or if we finished all of the tasks that we needed for winterizing our home.  Grab your free copy of my Home Winterizing printable in the Free printable library.

Monthly Bills

While I don’t keep our entire budget in the planner, I do keep a summary of our account information along with a tracking sheet. The tracker helps us remember when each bill is due and track that we’ve paid it for the month.

Medical Information

Each family member has a personalized page that tracks their health information. In this section, I include insurance information, family medical history, and a list of medications (and supplements) for each family member.

Confidential Information

This section includes pages I reference the least frequently.  It’s the information I need when in a pinch.  Things like passwords, the real estate agent we used five years ago, or a tradesman that built our fence.

Now it’s your turn…brainstorm a list of sections you’d like to include in your home management binder!

Step 2: Decide on the order of your sections

Now, think about how you’d like to use your binder.  Arrange the sections it a way that makes the most sense to you.  I arranged mine by how frequently I touch each section, but you may prefer to group it by room, by family member, or alphabetically.  There’s no right or wrong way.

Step 3: Create dividers with labels

You can buy dividers that have labels you can print or you can write on dividers. Just make sure each section is segmented so that you can easily access it.

Step 4: Print or create pages

Now it’s time to fill each section with relevant information.  Feel free to grab the free printables I mentioned above or you can check out my deluxe binder for sale here.  If you prefer to DIY, you probably want to type out information initially and then print it for each section of your planner.

 

Click Here to Get Access To the Free Printables I Mentioned Above

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Sheet Protectors for Your Household Planner

There are a few pages in my binder that I like to access frequently, but the information doesn’t change that frequently.  For example, I have a conversion chart that shows measurements for baking.  I reference the page when cooking, but I never change the information on the page.  I prefer to put pages like this in a sheet protector so that they last a long time.

Final Thoughts

Creating a home management binder is very straightforward and easy to do.  You can make your own or buy one that’s already designed like this one.  The binder can be extremely helpful in running your home, keeping track of details, and informing other important people e.g. Grandma, babysitter, even dad about what needs to be done when.  It can take a little discipline to regularly start using your home management binder.  But once you do, you’ll finally feel more organized and less stressed!

Check out mine for an easy solution to your household needs!

Ways To Organize and Simplify Your Thanksgiving Dinner

I’ve always loved the Thanksgiving holiday.  It’s a time to get together with family, eat pie with ice cream, and go shopping.  As an adult who organizes the Thanksgiving meal, I realize it’s not as easy and carefree as I assumed it was when I was a child.

Growing up, we’d go to my grandmothers and spend time out on her acreage with the fall leaves, cattle, and touch of cool in the air.  Each family would bring a dish for the Thanksgiving dinner.  Around twenty of us would gather for the meal comprised of turkey, every casserole imaginable, jello-salad, and at least 5 different types of pies. Buffet filled with cassaroles and meat dishes for thanksgiving dinner.

As a kid, all I had to do was show up, set the table, and help with clean up.  As an adult and chief organizer, I’m now responsible for organizing the Thanksgiving meal.  And the reality is, real life is happening before and after the holidays, so I’m planning for this special get together in the midst of school pick-ups, gymnastics, book club, and work.

I imagine you’re like me and you also have a lot on your plate.  We all need a few ways to simplify and organize our Thanksgiving dinner so that we can make the most of our time.

Before You Host Thanksgiving Dinner

First, decide what kind of Thanksgiving you want to have.  Will it be a big family gathering like the kind I had as a kid?  Do you want a small intimate gathering with just your nuclear family?  Maybe you want to make sure everyone has a place to go, so you invite every friend or neighbor you know that doesn’t have family near.

Once you think about the type of experience you want to have, next make a list of who you’d like to invite.  I strongly encourage you to write down your list of guests.  Tally the total number and make a note of it.  This will help you as you make decisions on how much food you need, your venue, seating, etc.  Once you have the number of guests that are likely to come and determine if you have enough space and seating.  You may need to borrow or rent chairs or even find a different location if there are too many for your home.

Simplify Your Thanksgiving Meal Prep

The meal is the biggest investment of your time.  The first thing you need to do before any of the food prep begins is to make a menu.  The menu will be your guide to how you involve others and how you spend your time.  My best advice, stick to the basics.  Thanksgiving dinner is not a time to experiment with recipes.  Believe me, I’ve done it.  It only adds to the stress of the day. Make your list and put an asterisk next to the things that you want to make.  Now, let’s look at a few ways to simplify your Thanksgiving Dinner prep.

The first and most obvious, have a pot luck, where each guest brings a side and you prepare the Turkey.  This is an easy way for you to save time on your Thanksgiving meal.  Refer back to your guest list and menu, then make assignments.  You can be as specific or as loose as you want regarding the assignment.  For example, you could ask one person to bring a salad, another a casserole, and another a dessert.   Pot lucks may not be the sexiest option, but they will save you a ton of time and are a nice option for your guests to be involved.

a lady getting the turkey out of the oven while family wait at the table with text stress-free thanksgiving easy tips to get organized and avoid stress

Freezer Friendly Thanksgiving Side Dishes

If a pot luck dinner is not what you have in mind, there are other ways to simplify and save time on your Thanksgiving meal prep.  A few weeks before the Thanksgiving dinner, start to make dishes you can freeze.  Soups like potato, squash, or mushroom soup will freeze nicely. Stuffing  / Dressing can be made and frozen in advance.  Sweet potato casserole, without the topping e.g. marshmallows or brown sugar crumble, is another easy freezer option.  Dough for bread rolls can be made and frozen for up to three weeks in advance.  Then thaw the night before the big meal.  Pies are another freezer-friendly Thanksgiving dish.

Outsource Parts of Thanksgiving Dinner

If you’re short on time, but set on cooking the meal, consider outsourcing small parts of it.  You probably don’t want the entire meal catered; you just need a little extra support. Think about the things you enjoy cooking the least or that are the most difficult for you.  Consider buying those from a local restaurant that has a home-cooking style. 

Another option is to think about your personal connections.  My mom had a friend, Georgia, who loved to make buttermilk pies and rolls.  A few times a year, my mom would ask Georgia to make these delicious dishes and we would bring them to a family gathering.  My dad’s church sells Honey-baked Hams for the holidays.  They are already cooked and sliced, all we have to do is place the order, pick it up, then serve it.

Create a Cooking Schedule 

Now that you know what you are cooking, buying, or having others cook, it’s time to get organized with a plan.  Identify what you’re going to cook in advance of Thanksgiving.  For the remaining items, make a schedule. 

The oven is the biggest constraint for cooking several dishes at the same time.  Where possible, use other cooking appliances.  A slow cooker can be used for side dishes like a green bean casserole.  An instant pot works great for mashed potatoes.  Next, write out the temperature and bake time for the items that need to be cooked in the oven.  Identify which dishes need to be the hottest and which ones can be cooled a bit e.g. rolls and turkey.

Now make your schedule.  List the time for each dish to go into the oven, how long it needs to stay, and what (if any) dishes will be in at the same time.

More Thanksgiving Dinner Organization & Hacks

To help your final Thanksgiving meal prep go smoothly, use Mise en Place.  Mis en Place is a French culinary term that means having everything organized and in place.  Check in advance of the big day to make sure you have all of your ingredients.  If you think of a cooking show, they have all of their ingredients washed and prepped to throw into the recipe. This is an example of Mise en Place.  You can do the same thing in your kitchen by making sure you a) have the necessary ingredients b) they are easily accessible when you cook and C) prepared in advance.  Tip, you can prepare vegetables that need washing, slicing, or dicing a two to three days in advance. 

Green onions on a chopping board being prepared for thanksgiving dinner recipe.

Final Thanksgiving Dinner Tips

Order any remaining grocery items online and have them delivered to your house.  Print out or copies recipes and put them in one binder in the order of the schedule.  If you’re a messy cook, then put the recipes in sheet protectors.

Set the table early.  If you have a separate dining room, you can set the table a couple of days in advance.  If you’ll be using your dinner table, then set it the night before. Be sure to include your serving dishes and serving utensils.  Write a small note about what’s supposed to go in each dish.

They say, “many hands make light work.”  In other words, get other people involved and don’t try to carry the load yourself.  Define roles and assign responsibilities to people.  Assign who cooks, who cleans, who wipes down the table etc.  Don’t forget to get the kids involved!

Finally, make sure you have plastic to-go containers on hand for any leftovers you want to send home with guests.

Thanksgiving can be a busy and stressful time if you’re responsible for organizing the dinner.  There are several ways you can save time and avoid stress.  First, get others involved and have them bring something to the table.  Second, consider outsourcing and buying a few already prepared items.  Third use cooking hacks to prepare food in advance and avoid trying to fit it all into one day.  You’re busy and don’t need any added stress. These tips can help you enjoy the holiday and time with your family!

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