I am all “less is more” until I hit a Brazilian steakhouse. It’s a tradition for our family to go around the holidays and I just can’t turn down a lamb chop. Yes, I’ve had three already (and most items in the salad bar) but one more can’t hurt, right? As moms, it can feel like we’re living this Brazilian steakhouse life day in and day out. We add and add to our plates until they are overflowing with “stuff”. Where does that leave us? Bloated and uncomfortable on occasion but also stressed and overwhelmed.
What if we got out of the buffet line? What if instead of adding more to our already full plates, we took something (or somethings!?!) off? What if the resolution or goal was to have more by owning less? Or achieve more by doing less?
No, I’m not in a post all-you-can-eat coma. The body of research on the subject is (somewhat ironically) growing. There’s a transformation that happens when you clear some things off your metaphorical plate and here are some areas to consider.
When we surround ourselves with possessions that we no longer love, need, or fit the season of our life, we feel stressed, overwhelmed, anxious and/or depressed. Owning 100 pairs of shoes that don’t match your wardrobe, are out of style, or don’t fit correctly is a burden. Owning 50 pairs of shoes that fit nicely in your closet, that make you feel glamorous, confident, or comfortable, is a joy.
Does this item serve me in my current life? Is this something I want to take with me moving forward? Do I still want to commit to this? When you make a decision about what to keep or toss from your home or schedule, what you’re actually doing is making a decision about what is important to you right now — and what isn’t. By letting go of items from your past, you clear space and time to explore new avenues and reprioritize.
THIS is the more of less. The less you have, the less you have to clean and organize. The less time you spend looking, the more time you have to be productive. The less on your schedule or to-do list, the more you’re able to enjoy the people and things you love. You can make it to that workout class you’ve been wanting to try. You can take that coffee break with your girlfriend. You can spend an hour building a fort with your toddler.
When your physical space is calm and orderly, you’re able to be more creative and productive. The same is true for your to-do list and schedule. You accomplish more in less time. You’re more successful professionally.
Okay, Catherine, this is all well and good but, give me a place to start! Here are two “spots:”
- Tackle a clutter hot spot in your home. What area or space makes you grunt or sigh every time you go by it or open it? Once you’ve decluttered and organized it, make it a priority to keep this spot in order. Even if you pick up nothing else, straighten this area out daily. This will give you the confidence to tackle bigger projects in the future and make you smile every time you walk past it.
- Don’t commit on the spot. As a people pleaser, this one is hard. You want to help but, what you thought would only take an hour or two may actually require more of your time when you think it through. Give yourself permission to take a hard look at your schedule and decide if you have time to volunteer at your kid’s school or host the baseball team for dinner. Is this even something you want to do? You decide what you say yes to and what you commit to.
This year, instead of making space to add more to my already full plate, I’m challenging myself to take things off. Are you ready to get out of the buffet line too?
by Catherine Gibel of Less is More Organizing Services Naperville.
People become less happy with material purchases over time, and more happy with experiences. Why? It’s science. No, really. We adapt to physical things so, a new toy, phone, etc. becomes commonplace while memories tend to get fonder over time. This year, give gifts that will make your family and friends happy using this gift guide!
For The Kids
“I want more toys in my house!” – said no mom ever.
- Tickets. To a sporting event, concert, broadway show, etc. Who doesn’t remember the first concert they went to? Red Hot Chili Peppers 😉
- Passes. To an amusement park, play zone, movie theater, etc. It’s the gift that keeps giving all year long.
- Classes. Art, dance, music, cooking, coding, riding, rock climbing, sewing, etc. The possibilities are endless. It’s a great way to support an interest or introduce a new one!
- Audiobook subscription. Audiobooks are perfect for all ages.
- Gift certificates for mani-pedis or to get their ears pierced. The latter was a big hit with my niece a few years ago. Just make sure you ask first!
- Coupons to “spend” at any time. Movie night. Go out to eat. Stay up half-hour past bedtime. Chore free day. Get creative!
- “Your Day”. Give your kid a one-on-one day with you. I love this idea for big families.
- “Open When” letters. An especially great idea for high school and college age kids. Open when you’re sad. Open when you can’t fall asleep. Open when you feel lonely. Open when you fail an exam. Open when you’re upset.
- A gift given to a charity chosen by the child. Our little ones have such big hearts! Let the child choose a charity and give a gift in the child’s name to that organization.
For The Family
We started giving family gifts to our extended families a few years ago and we’re never going back. It’s so much easier (and less stressful!) to give a family gift than it is to buy for each individual in the family.
- Memberships. Between museums, science centers, nature centers, pools, the possibilities are again, endless.
- Subscriptions. Which family wouldn’t love an Amazon Prime or Netflix subscription?
- Adventures. Think escape room, scavenger hunt, ropes course – a fun, unique gift.
- Gift certificate for family photos. Memories captured in print.
For The Moms
For you and all the amazing moms in your life.
- Spa gift card. This is always, always, always appreciated.
- Restaurant gift cards. Perfect for a cooking free night. I also love giving this as a hostess gift because, let’s be honest, the last thing you feel like doing after you host a dinner or party is cooking.
- Certificate for services. Everything and anything from house cleaning to meal planning and prepping.
- A closet organizing session. Eliminate the daily stress of a messy closet and make getting dressed a joy instead of a chore.
- A session with a stylist. To reimagine what’s in her closet and put together “go to” outfits for all the different roles she plays.
- Workshop or classes. A great idea for the mom who wants to learn a new skill or has a business idea but doesn’t know where or how to start.
- Coupons to “spend” at any time. Sleep in. Kid free trip to Target. Pick what to watch on Netflix. My husband did this for my birthday and I’m going to ask for a new pack for Christmas.
This holiday season, instead of filling your and your loved ones’ space with gifts, fill their hearts with a memory instead.
Written by: Catherine Gibel, Professional Organizer
Less is More Organizing Services Naperville
Each year when I turn my calendar page to November, I think about my grandmother. This was her season and hosting was her sport. For a week, she and my grandfather housed and fed twenty-six of us in their 1,500 square foot, one bathroom home. Yes, it was chaotic but, it was also magical and my heart still fills with warmth when I think about it.
But how, right? Grandma was nothing if not planner and though she never shared her exact formula, she let me in on most of her secrets – secrets I now use in my planning and work with busy moms.
Here are five of my (Grandma’s!) best tips to get your house ready for holiday guests:
- Prioritize. This is not the time for a Marie Kondo level purge. The holidays are all about gathering and entertaining so, prioritizing getting your kitchen, entryway, and other guest spaces in order is best.
- Make a list. A holiday cleaning checklist will help you work smarter, not harder. Pick 3-5 top tasks to accomplish in each room. Get specific! Instead of writing: (1) Clean the kitchen write: (1) Remove papers, toys, food, and excess appliances from the kitchen counters (2) Discard expired foods from the refrigerator and pantry (3) Move off season items like patio dinnerware, picnic baskets, and barbecue tools to a lidded bin to make space for special platters and dishes.
- Bonus tip: Focus your efforts on surface clutter first as this will have the most impact on how the space looks and feels (i.e., console table in the entryway, kitchen counters, coffee and side tables, guest bathroom vanity, and nightstands and dresser in the guest bedroom). Toss trash and anything with a layer of dust on it (it’s clearly not being used). Sort through the paper piles; recycle expired coupons, keep only the three most recent issues of magazines, and shred personal documents you don’t need. Put items you no longer love or need in a donation box. Remove any items that don’t belong in the space (e.g., your kids’ science project that’s been sitting on the kitchen counter for two months). Clear surfaces create a sense of calm and balance and make for a more open, inviting space for guests.
- Schedule. With your checklist in hand, schedule the tasks in your calendar, one room at a time. Treat the task like an appointment or meeting. THIS is the difference between a list and a to-do list.
- Delegate. Once you see what you reasonably have time for, it’s easier to delegate. Get the kids involved! They can help with tasks like tossing expired foods, putting away off season items, and helping stock the bathrooms with extra toilet paper, tissues, and soap.
- Test run. The best way to know what a room needs is to use it. Thus, once you’ve completed your checklist, put yourself in your guests’ shoes as you do a final walkthrough of your spaces. Do all the lights work? Does the toilet flush easily? Is there enough soap in the dispenser? Is the guest bed comfortable when you lay on it? Does it feel good to be in the space?
If you need direction or inspiration on what to include on your checklist, read below!
Making sure your guests have a space for their coats, shoes, and bags goes a long way to making a great first impression. Create space in your coat closet by removing off season and outgrown coats and accessories. Add extra, sturdy hangers (or a coat rack) and a boot tray or two.
Stock the bathrooms with extra toilet paper, tissues, soap, and matches.
- Living Spaces
As stated above, make sure your flat surfaces (kitchen counters, coffee table, and side tables) are clutter-free. Little details like fresh flowers, a bowl of seasonal fruit, and a tray to corral drink or coffee items not only add to the look and feel of your home but communicate that you put time and thought into preparing for your guests even if you didn’t purge all the clutter or deep clean from top to bottom.
- Guest Room/Bathroom
Make sure your guests have enough space for their items i.e., hanging space and extra hangers in the closet, one or two empty dresser drawers, a stool or bench for their luggage, and a clear countertop to put their toiletries on. Take into account the temperature of your guest room. Add an extra blanket to the foot of the bed and a small fan to a nightstand or dresser. Create a guest basket with thoughtful amenities like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, disposable razors, and feminine products. This is a great way to use your extra travel size items! Lidded glass canisters with q-tips and cotton balls and an extra hair dryer are always a nice touch. Make sure each guest has at least two clean towels, a hand towel and a wash cloth. I love adding a framed chalkboard with a welcome message, the WiFi network and password, and TV and coffee pot instructions.
Remember, better is good! You don’t need to reach Martha Stewart level perfection for you and your guests to enjoy each other and make memorable moments.
Written by: Catherine Gibel, Professional Organizer
Less is More Organizing Services Naperville