It’s a hard candy Christmas

A guest post from Janice Simon, the Clutter Princess.  Find her at

It’s a hard candy Christmas.”

Dolly Parton, Singer
“One thing they never tell you about child raising is that for the rest of your life, at the drop of a hat, you are expected to know your child’s name and how old he or she is.”
Erma Bombeck, Humorist
If you wonder why your child’s bedroom is messy, here’s the answer. The average child has 150 toys, according to a article, and I’m certain you’ve tripped over all of them in the middle of the night.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, a friend told me how his cousin decided to take her two children to an amusement park instead of having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The cousin read somewhere that children between the ages of 8-10 didn’t remember what they got last year for Christmas, but they do remember trips. She and her husband decided to pare down the number of Christmas presents this year and took the kids on the outing.
To test this theory, I asked my 10-year-old niece what she got for Christmas last year. Of her entire haul last year, she only remembered two things. She remembered more only after Grandma reminded her. My teen-age niece and nephew remembered most of their gifts. I suspected that if half of the items disappeared from my young niece’s room, she wouldn’t notice.
I remember listening to my parents and grandparents talk about what their holidays were like growing up. Mom and her sister each would get one or two gifts from Santa, and their parents would give them nuts, hard candy and oranges in their stockings. Can you imagine a modern day kid getting excited about receiving oranges in their stockings? Instead parents are scrambling for the Zhu Zhu Hamster, which are sold out and selling on the web for upwards of $50 to $60. The actual robotic hamster itself costs around $8 or $9. I told my niece that she would have to wait until after Christmas for one, but I’m sure by then, she’ll be onto something else.
As I surveyed my niece’s bedroom filled to the brim, I thought about a Christmas morning long ago. When I was a little girl, my siblings and I got the talk about how tough it was that year for Santa and how he didn’t have that much money. We knew things were tight in our own household so why wouldn’t Santa have it tough too? We were told not to expect that much for Christmas, and we used our aluminum table top tree. We kids didn’t realize at the time that our parents had forgone the real tree to save money, and we loved the sparkly, shiny aluminum tree. On Christmas morning, we each had about five presents under the tree, and I remember my sister and I each got a doll. We were excited and thought we had plenty of presents, and we didn’t find anything missing.
Help your children pare down before the holidays (or right after). Try these tips to help: 
  • Take out broken toys or toys no longer loved or used. As your child pulls out toys they no longer want, don’t get emotional and ask “Are you sure? Are you really, really sure?” because you have memories of it. Keep your cool.
  • Stash a keepsake toy or two (not all of them are keepsakes) in a bin. When they’re older, they can decide for themselves what they want to keep.
  • Clear out clothes the children have outgrown. Toss clothes that are stained, ripped, or discolored. The rest can be donated, taken to consignment shops, or save for a younger sibling.
  • Wipe down toys with germ-fighting cleaners and donate. When donating toys to hospitals, check their requirements. For example, children at MD Anderson Cancer Center can only receive new, packaged toys that have never been used due to immunity issues.
  • Place toys in bins and boxes. If the child is young, place a picture of what goes in the box on the front. If they can read, use a label.
  • Pare down the number of gifts your children and family receives. You may have to talk to other relatives about how many gifts they give your child.
  • For adults, think about “clutter-free” gifts such as gift certificates and cards, consumable products, memberships to museums, or movie tickets.
Gifts You Can Make
The economy has thrown us all back to simpler holiday celebrations, and that can be a good thing. If you need some ideas, check out Get Rich Slowly’s website about gifts you can make all by yourself. One of the items on this list sends you to another interesting site called “Not Martha” and shows you how to make a variety of items, including cupcakes, magnets, and knit hats. Check out the link. People are so clever!
Gifts You Can Tote
If you are hauling presents with you to relative’s houses, here are some tips from Rubbermaid. Yes, one of the tips includes putting the gifts in a plastic tote. While you’re on the site, take a look at Rubbermaid’s nifty closet and garage organizers.

Email Overload

email overload

Overwhelmed by email? Experiencing email overload? Who isn’t? Basex Research recently estimated that businesses lose $650 billion annually in productivity due to unnecessary e-mail interruptions. According to Ross Mayfield of, the average number of corporate e-mails sent and received per person per day is expected to reach over 228 by 2010.  Defining your email style with systems and routines makes all the difference.


  •  A good spam filter is a must. Anti spam technology is available at a reasonable cost so be sure you are all set. Remember to review the “spam” email just in case the filter has removed mail that you need. You can redirect this into the inbox with minor adjustment. Do not open emails, reply back or “unsubscribe” to junk email as this could place you on more spam email lists. It is best to delete all of these at the beginning of y our email session.  Be sure your virus protection is up to date as well. 


  •  Eliminate as many email lists as you can. This is just like stopping subscriptions to magazines you don’t have time to read!  Be sure you are subscribing ONLY to necessary information, not the “just in case” information.   If you are receiving jokes or chain messages from friends, kindly remind them you are not interested.   If you must include email newsletters, move these into a “read” folder.   Add an additional email address for just shopping and coupons.  This way they are separate and not clogging your inbox.


  • Decide the function of your email inbox.  An inbox is not for filing, it is for active use.  If your inbox is cluttered, it is often because of indecision.  Because email floods in like a tsunami, be decisive on your email processing.  Being committed to using your inbox as a temporary home for action items, it is easier to work with the clutter there. 


  • Create a subfolder named “Processed” or “Done” to eliminate delaying email filing.  Often “filing” your email is put off because it is more complicated than your needs. When you need information in this subfolder, it can be sorted by arranging the subject line or sender to find it. 


  • Limit the times you check your email.  Schedule two or three consistent time periods each day to go through your email inbox. Turn off your audio alarm so that incoming email is not a distraction. Plan to spend an hour at that time answering your email and truly focusing on this task.  The first hour of work can be most productive by focusing on a major project and by checking your email the second hour. You will find increased productivity and a sense of accomplishment by conquering a task first thing in the day?


  • Email is best used for short messages with direct subject lines.  Need to explain a lengthy topic? Using the phone can make a difference.  


  • Organize your email with tech tools.   With, your subscriptions are organized into a list for you to read but not interfere with your work. Using Mailstrom you can group related mail and act on it as a group.  If you use gmail, there’s Boomerang to help you respond to email.  Check out one of these tech tools to get through your email overload.


What are your secrets to email success?

Holiday Traditions

The joy of the season is in sharing our time with family and friends. Here are some simple ways to  create special holiday traditions and share the fun of the season

Set a time to cook your family favorites together. One family has a traditional pierogie recipe that they make together 2 weeks before Christmas.  It takes all day and they spend it together.

Set a family holiday gathering time that is NOT Christmas Eve or Day. Calendar a time, such as the 2nd Saturday of December or December 26, to gather together. This eliminates stress on the holiday itself and helps families feel they can be at home for the holiday.

Instead of  buying individual family gifts, host a White Elephant Swap with ornaments, holiday decor, or crazy funny gifts. Include a purchase price limit that is affordable for all family members.  Not only is the game fun, this is a budget friendly way to share just a little something for the holidays.

Purchase only stocking stuffer gifts for your family.  Small functional items such as flash lights, gift cards or chapstick, can be great gifts and require no gift wrap. 

Host a decorating or gift wrapping party!  Have all your family members decorate a different room,   wrap presents together for other family members, or help with the outdoor lights.  Set the music up high, serve some holiday cookies and you are all set!

Want to spend a girls night in?  Host a “girls’ favorite things” party. Just like on Oprah, everyone brings their one favorite thing, from lipstick to gloves.  Attendees wrap their item in a brown bag and they swap items.   What a great idea for a low stress gathering of the girls!

Starting new traditions makes the holidays even more merry and bright.  What family traditions are a special part of your holiday?

Success Snowball

My clients and I partner in their productivity.  Each time we create a trigger to get things done, it becomes a small part of the process of success.  It begins with a basic system and routine that really works for them. 

  • When someone is stuck, the first step is identifying what is getting them stuck. Being stuck is partly procrastination from fear, worry, lacking a vision, being overwhelmed or lacking a skill. Finding a partner that will help them once this is identified is crucial.  The partner will bring energy, skill and accountability to the process. 
  • Add in creating an environment that will increase effectiveness. Do you work best at home or away? Do you need a minimalist environment? Music? Get to the core of what your environment includes and add routine to it. 
  • Work in high energy times consistently.  Working consistently enough leads to great habits that are compelling. 
  • Now think of your self care. Are you getting enough rest? Do you eat nutritiously? Be sure to munch on an apple or banana and lean protein regularly throughout the day.
  • The success snowball has started.  The idea that as you add more and more success, it grows bigger and bigger, just like a snow ball in your yard or rolling down hill.  The conclusion of a success snowball?  A completed project is only a small part of it!  Your outstanding feeling of confidence!

This is dedicated to my incredible clients who have shared this experience with me.  What is your success snowball? Please share!

ADD and Follow Through

My clients with ADD are passionate about their projects.  Their energy for a project is an incredible resource and an important aspect for follow through and completion. As a task moves forward, the energy wanes and people with ADD are less enthusiastic.  Staying engaged in the task and completion is equally important.  In addition, people with ADD have trouble breaking down ideas into a series of smaller scheduled steps that help them make progress toward their goals.  They tend to procrastinate which compounds the situation. 


Creating a time line is important in following through for people with ADD.  People with ADD know what they want, but how much time it will take and what sequence to work in often elude them.  Start with the goal in writing and write out the specific steps in the project.  Assess the time each step will take.  Work backwards in a time line with a month at a glance calendar  and write in a workable time line for completion.  For people with ADD, enlisting help to get through the detail work with partners and designing a plan with accountability is a significant step.   Help them find incredible partners who are have the skills they lack, whether it is knowledge of technology or other skills sets.   Acknowledge the procrastination that can occur with people with ADD and find a trigger to help move forward.   The trigger can be a simple one, such as a great location to work in, background music, or establishing a time of day to work. It is in partnering and accountability that completion occurs. 


Trouble completing a task or project? How did you get to completion?


New Thanksgiving Traditions

This year we decided to “change things up” and went to help others first! Our destination was the SuperFeast here in downtown Houston sponsored by Waste Management.  Last year over 21,000 people were fed, clothed, and entertained on Thanksgiving Day.

Organization was an important part of this immense project.  Volunteers had begun sorting and unpacking since 4:30 am.   When we arrived to volunteer, we signed in and received name badges. There was a lull in the volunteer activity until we were assigned the clothing area.  Each person in line received one blanket, one coat and as many other items they could hold in a paper grocery sack.  Our job was to assist with the blanket area.  Items were orderly stacked on tables for the clients to choose from.  At 10 am the line started through the area. Families with young children “shopped” the area and moved on to the food line.   Throughout the morning, there were children’s activities including visiting with Santa, music, balloons and more! 

What made the day special was that we as a family took time to do something meaningful together in a new way!  It was a new way to view project management on a grand scale and know the commitment of many people to an orderly way to share our blessings.

Take this  Thanksgiving weekend and chat with your family about what is most meaningful.   Take this knowledge on to the next holiday and create new meaningful traditions together!   Share with me what your new family traditions are!

Learn more from this story in the Houston Chronicle.

What can you do early for Thanksgiving?

Want to save a little time? Be ahead of the game? Here are are few tips on getting things done for Turkey Day! 


Weekend before Turkey Day

Set your table

Lay out serving pieces and serving ware

Create centerpieces

Organize movies or games for Turkey Day afternoon



Monday before Turkey Day

Make cranberry sauce

Defrost turkey in refrigerator

Make soups


Tuesday before

Prep veggies by peeling and cutting

Prep bread for dressing (to dry it out)


Wednesday before

Prepare casseroles like sweet potatoes or green beans

Prep relish tray

Bake pies

Make rolls


Famiy and Friends

Invite early! Delegate appetizers and side dishes by asking friends to bring these.


Happy organizing and Happy Turkey Day!

Make A Difference with Holiday Donations

At this time of year we feel abundantly blessed!  Make a difference for your family in donating toys to area philanthropies needing donations. Here is a list from the most recent Kingwood Observer. 


Empty Stocking Project/ Humble ISD/HAAM                   


Food, monetary donations, toys


Society of St. Stephen                                                  


Toys, food


The Mission                                                              


Food, monetary donations, toys


Village Learning Center                                             


Sponsor a client, subscriptions, DVDs, gift certificates




Toys, teenager gift cards


Find a worthy cause that you are passionate about. Help your children part with toys and more to take to the facility.  Take your children with you to make the donation. Create an annual holiday tradition around this event.  Can you think of anything more rewarding during this holiday season?


Please add your worthy cause as a comment below so we can share! 


Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Gratitude Oprah

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein


“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” — William Arthur Ward

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity….  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”     – Melody Beattie



For me, life is ALL about gratitude! Being thankful, grateful, positive and appreciative are the most important of all things.  My wish is to share this with everyone I am in contact with, friends, clients anyone and everyone.  Thanksgiving and gratitude are like peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper,or milk and cookies.

Are we missing the reason for our season with all the focus on turkey and dressing?   Is getting ready for the holiday after this one taking away  from appreciating all we already have?  Thanksgiving is our time for reflection for our bountiful blessings. 

The connections of order and appreciation are numerous for me.  Having order in our home helps us remember all we have and all we hold dear.  Organizing is honoring our home, our belongings and our time.  Organizing and gratitude come together in my work with my clients.  I am honored to partner with them and grateful for their trust in me. 


As your holidays begin this year, make a list of the 3 most important thanks!  Keep this momentum going with your gratitude journal all year long.  It will change your life!

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Taking Care of Mrs. Claus

Taking care of yourself during the holidays is important!   How can we care for others if our self care is neglected? 

  • Get the rest you need each night.  So often I hear my clients say that they have gone to bed at 1 or 2 am to finish a project. Make it a priority to be in bed and get 8 hours of rest each night.
  • Eat and drink nutritiously. Our bodies need good fuel!  Be sure to drink 8 glasses of water and each your daily 5 fruits and veggies.   We think better, work better and are more productive with outstanding food.
  • Commit to daily exercise. Working our bodies provides clarity and more.  My weekly exercise includes working out with Jill Gilbert Lucas at pilates.  It is a priority because I am better able to handle the stresses of the season with this!
  • Write daily in your gratitude journal.  Spend a few minutes at the end of each day being grateful and writing about it.  It is as simple as appreciating a hug, seeing a leaf on a tree turn color or even tasting a yummy piece of pie. Appreciating what is a gift to you makes a difference.
  • Spend 5 minutes in serenity time each day. This is a time to get your stress level as low as possible.  Breathe deeply, sit in a chair, think of your special thoughts, and get a few minutes of base line. 

Taking care of yourself goes beyond the holiday season.  Not sure how to find the time? Remember, as they say on the airlines, put your own oxygen mask on first!