The Non-Item Holiday Gift Guide


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 

Spring Cleaning Sprints: The Ultimate Way to Clean Your Home in 15 Minutes or Less


Early in the pandemic, I read a meme that said: “Trying to clean while your whole family is home is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos.” Boy do I feel this!

My house is looking a little rough but between raising a family, running a business, managing a household, and navigating hybrid learning, a spring cleaning marathon a la Martha Stewart is just.not.happening. Instead, I plan on getting some key tasks done in shorter sprints — and you can too! Here’s how:

Shift your mindset. Instead of thinking “I have to clean this room because it’s disgusting and driving me crazy” reframe your motivation to focus on the benefit: “Cleaning this space will…boost my energy, improve my mood, help me focus, reduce my stress, etc.

Get specific. Walk through each room and write down three to four specific 15-minute cleaning tasks that will freshen up the space. For example, write “clean off desktop” or “clean medicine cabinet” instead of “clean office” and “clean bathroom.” Clearing flat surfaces will make the biggest impact.

Restock your cleaning kit. Whether they’re homemade or store bought, when you have all your supplies in one place, you won’t lose precious time looking for what you need when you need it.

Go one room at a time. It’s less daunting to go from room to room. Plus, you’ll feel more accomplished when one room is done.

Declutter as you go. Don’t just empty the drawer, vacuum, then put everything back. Weed out what you no longer love or need. Be ruthless. Now is the perfect time to clear some space.

Focus on progress, not perfection. You have a family. And your home is where much of life is still happening right now. It will not be spotless but it will be cleaner and tidier than before.

Outsource the tough tasks. Shift some of those Starbucks coffee dollars to hiring someone to tackle the harder, more time consuming tasks like deep cleaning your appliances and/or bathrooms.

Implement a cleaning routine. Make a list of daily (e.g., make beds, unload/load dishwasher, wipe down counters, sweep the floor, and do one load of laundry) and weekly tasks to complete to help maintain your spring cleaning efforts long-term.

Plan a reward. You’ve made it through your list. Go enjoy the sunshine (finally!) And a burger. And fries. By yourself!

Catherine Belzile-Gibel
Lead Organizer
Less is More Organizing Services

How to Motivate Your Partner to “Get Organized”


In sickness and in health…and sharing a home office during a global pandemic.

My husband and I think, work, and organize very differently. We discovered this early on in our courtship when we partnered on a school project. Let’s just say it’s a small miracle we continued dating.

I know we are far from unique because one of the top questions I get as a Professional Organizer is: “How do I get my partner on board with ‘getting organized?” Let me take you through a recent personal experience.

Like so many of you, when work and school shifted online, we scrambled and set up temporary solutions to get us through the first few months. However, when it became clear that my husband would be working from home for the foreseeable future, we knew our shared home office space needed a redesign.

So, how do you negotiate a living space with someone whose organizing style and threshold for clutter is very different than yours?

Schedule a time to talk.
Another meeting? Yes. Treat it like you’re planning a date night! Look at your calendars and schedule a mutually good time to talk. Otherwise, it’s too easy to put off and the tension will continue to build.

Discuss the differences.
You’re beyond frustrated. I get it. Believe me. I was sick and tired of hurriedly picking things up so my clients (who hired me for help with organizing!) wouldn’t see the mess behind me on Zoom.

Take a lap around the block. Scream into a pillow. Have a class of wine. Whatever you need to get into a good headspace so you can come from a place of curiosity instead of intensity when talking with your partner about the clutter. Leading with “I” statements like “I feel like I can’t focus when the desk is full of stuff and there are piles of books and papers on the floor” encourages a dialogue instead of a Bravo reunion style confrontation.

Admittedly, we’ve had many of these types of conversations over the years and here are two truths I’ve learned (read: am still learning):

My husband’s clutter has nothing to do with me. Read that one again.

I can’t make someone “get organized.”

Cool. So there’s no hope and I’ll be angrily grumbling under my breath while I pick up after him/her till death do us part. No.

Two other truths I’ve learned from my personal experience and work are:

More often than not, the “mess” is serving a function and if you can understand its purpose, you can problem solve for it.

You can motivate someone to “get organized.”

What function or purpose is the “mess” serving?

My husband is an “out of sight, out of mind” person i.e., if it’s not out it might as well not exist. It’s easier for him to work when everything he needs during the day is in view and within reach. He’s also more at ease knowing something won’t “get lost.”

You can tap into your partner’s motivation for “getting organized” by asking: “What is the clutter costing you?”

In my husband’s case, he didn’t feel great that I got angry every time I walked into the office and blamed him for the mess. Additionally, he felt frazzled and frustrated when he couldn’t find what he needed because I had put it away. And significantly, it negatively impacted his mood and productivity at the start of the work day.

That’s powerful information – the kind of information that can drive change more than “If you don’t start putting things away, I’m grabbing a trash bag!”

Turn the motivation into a shared goal.
Your individual hopes and visions for the space may be different but what’s your ultimate goal?We didn’t want to spend our work time annoyed with each other when there were plenty of other things to stress and worry about. Our shared goal was to minimize frustrations.

Take joint ownership of problem solving and solutions.
It’s obvious, but it’s true. If you’re sharing the space, you have to work together toward solutions that support your individual habits and styles.

We listed what we each need and want in the space to figure out where we aligned and where we didn’t. This allowed us to brainstorm solutions that would meet our individual needs and wants and get us to our ultimate goal. It turns out, we both listed a long, standing desk. This was a fun surprise because as different as we are, we both like to spread out when we’re working through a solution. There’s always common ground. Sometimes it’s small but it’s something to build from.

We compromised on the use of the desk and created clear work zones for each of us. Specifically, I created a corner (angled away from the desk) with a chair, ottoman, small table and closed storage for my work supplies since I have a low tolerance for visual clutter. If this corner of the office is in order, I don’t care how many tablets, chargers, books, or cups are on the desk. His papers are still out and stacked but we found a storage solution to keep them off the floor. When I need the desk to plan and sketch, we’ve got a system in place to clear the surface so his stuff is still “out” in a rolling cart.

The result is a home office that we both like and, more importantly, a space that works well for us both. What’s more, the motivation to “get organized” didn’t end at the planning and putting the space together. Because we worked together, the expectations are clear and we’re equally invested in keeping it up.

This is one example but these tips and techniques can be applied to any shared space. No question it’s work but, it’s also an opportunity to get closer to your partner as you learn more about each other and work together to create spaces that support your lives and hopes. I say that’s worth the commitment.


Catherine Belzile-Gibel, MSW
Lead Organizer
Less is More Organizing Services Naperville

A Year of Less so Moms Can Have More


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.

Get Your Home Ready for Holiday Guests


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 (its 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 dont need. Put items you no longer love or need in a donation box. Remove any items that dont belong in the space (e.g., your kidsscience project thats 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 youve completed your checklist, put yourself in your guestsshoes 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!

  • Entryway
    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.
  • Bathroom(s)
    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 didnt 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.

Happy hosting!


Written by: Catherine Gibel, Professional Organizer
Less is More Organizing Services Naperville

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