300 Words About Gift Wrapping, Then We All Have Things to Do

300 words about Gift Wrapping.  Keeping it brief, since we all have things to do.

During high school and college breaks, I worked at a a great local Hallmark chain, Don’s Card Hut in Kalamazoo, MI.  Much to my delight,  I could spend my whole shift this time of year just wrapping gifts for customers!

So I know a few things, let me share…

  2. Set up a folding / banquet table today, and plan to leave it up for a few days (this may be the only time I will ever say this.).  Mine is in the basement.
  3. Collect your wrapping tools (tape, scissors, pens, etc.) and place them in a shallow container on the table.  Expect to misplace them as you wrap, but at least you will start strong!
  4. Gather the gifts you have bought for your loved ones.  This step provides an opportunity to check your gifts so far, and make plans for finishing your shopping (SOON!!).
  5. Match up the gifts with the necessary wrap. Inventory your supplies, factoring in additional wrap for the gifts you haven’t bought yet and for the wrapping needs of anyone living in your house (they WILL be wrapping on Christmas Eve.)
  6. Go shopping for your gift bags / wrapping paper / tissue paper / gift tags / ribbons, etc.
  7. Get wrapping!  Do not wait!
  8. If you have multiple destinations, set up and label boxes near your wrapping area for each destination, and add your wrapped items as you go (For example, “Christmas with my family in Michigan”, “Christmas Eve”, etc. ).
  9. Collect the receipts for purchased items. Keep yours in a labeled envelope for Just In Case.  Place the gift receipts for each household in their own envelope with the family name on them, and plan to hand the envelope off to that household when you exchange gifts.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Even Santa Knows, Lists Can Be Naughty or Nice

The List.

I love lists.  Lists can be powerful productivity tools.  Or they can just be words on a page.  I want my lists to work for me.  So I turn my lists into Action Plans with a few simple steps.

Let’s turn that jumbled bunch of ideas into a list and then a useful, manageable Action Plan!

I worked with a client last week.  We were scheduled to work on a couple of projects, but when I arrived, she mentioned that what would really help her to feel organized was to plan for an upcoming brunch she was hosting for family.  She said she always got anxious about hosting big meals, and she really just wanted to enjoy her family this time!  Her goal was to be done and  leisurely sipping a cup of coffee 30 minute before the guests arrived.

Here is what we did:

Write it all down.   ALL OF IT.

Is your brain full?  Of thoughts and ideas and to-do’s, Oh My!

Every once in a while, I sit down and get all the thoughts and ideas and tasks out my head and down on paper.  I used to call this activity a Brain Dump, but that seemed inelegant, so my friend Jen came up with “Cranial Cleansing”.   This is a very useful activity!

Write it all down, don’t bother to edit.  Just get it all out.  And “write it all down” could also be “makes notes on your computer or smart phone or Ipad”.  I use either my Bullet Journal (by hand) or Evernote (technology) for such things!

With my client, we started with the notes she had already jotted down.  We added a lot more items, without editing, just adding them to the list!

The list included:

  • clean the house;
  • iron the napkins;
  • hang the wreath;
  • take the Christmas decoration storage bins downstairs;
  • organize the holiday storage closet;
  • make the breakfast casseroles using her mom’s special recipe;
  • set the table;
  • wash the china and wine glasses;
  • decorate the Christmas tree;
  • make the grocery list;
  • go to the grocery;
  • pick up champagne and other beverages;
  • get the table linen cleaned and pressed;
  • take back returns;
  • put appetizer trays together;
  • print up the Christmas photo and keepsake poem;
  • buy the paper to print up the photo and poem;
  • make or purchase desserts;
  • put together the salad;
  • clean the garage.

Make a Not Today or Not Now List.

A few items on my client’s list, like “Clean the Garage” and “Organize the Holiday Closet”, are good and worthwhile projects but were not necessary to the success of the Holiday Brunch.  So we put them on the “Not Right Now” list, and focused on the work in front of us!

Enlist Aid.  What can be delegated?

Fortunately, this client hires cleaning people a couple times a month, and they were scheduled for the next day.  Also, she and her husband would be home together on Saturday, and he had offered to take care of some of the errands.

Realistic Time Estimates.

This looks like a very long and overwhelming list, I know.  But when you start to break it down, most of these tasks are actually pretty short and to the point.  So we assigned time estimates to them all, so we could be more objective.

Assign a Day, sticking with your strengths.

As we worked on the list, my client mentioned she had a full day of work the next day, so we didn’t put too many tasks on that day (Friday).  Also, she likes to go to the grocery around 8 pm, as it tends to be empty that time of night.  So we worked with those details!

So, after the above steps were applied, our Action Plan looked something like this:


  • (Thursday, 10 minutes) hang the wreath
  • (Thursday, 10 minutes) take the Christmas decoration storage bins downstairs
  • (Thursday, 20 minutes) make the grocery list
    • (Thursday, 10 minutes) drop off table cloth to be pressed
    • (Thursday, 30 minutes) buy the paper to print up the photo and poem


  • (Friday, Cleaning team) clean the house
  • (Friday or Saturday, 30 minutes) print up the Christmas photo and keepsake poem
    • (Friday evening, 90 minutes with putting away) go to the grocery;


  • (Saturday, 45 minutes) make the breakfast casseroles using her mom’s special recipe
  • (Saturday or Sunday, 20 minutes) put appetizer trays together
  • (Any day, picked Saturday, 10 minutes) iron napkins
  • SATURDAY ERRANDS (husband will run):
    • (Saturday, 10 minutes) pick up table cloth; cleaned and pressed
    • (Saturday, 30 minutes) bakery to purchase desserts
    • (Saturday, 30 minutes) pick up champagne and other beverages


  • (Sunday morning,  20 minutes) wash the china and wine glasses
  • (Sunday morning, 15 minutes) set the table
  • (Sunday morning, 20 minutes) put together the salad

Not Now List: 

  • take back returns;
  • clean the garage
  • organize the holiday storage closet;

We spent a little time and effort at the beginning, turning jumbled thoughts into a solid, easy to follow and completely manageable action plan!  What was really great was that once we completed this process, which was quick and easy and painless, we had time to tackle some of the items on her list!

How can you apply these steps to a current project?  Give it a try!

(P.S., I texted the client this afternoon to see how the brunch went, I’ll let you know her response next week!)


Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
Book time with me in person or virtually;
Arrange a presentation for your upcoming event; or
Discover the benefits of Organizational Coaching;

Please contact me.

Call / text 708.790.1940
Online at  http://peaceofmindpo.com
Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO

Did You Start That Other List Yet? The After-Christmas List?

As I write this, I have tea and cinnamon muffins next to me and Christmas carols on the speaker.  We shopped today, went out to lunch and I even caught a short winter’s nap.

And I started my After-Christmas list.

This is not your “Resolutions List”, this is the “hey, here is a great idea but I won’t have time to act on it until after the Holidays” list.

You see, I have ideas all the time about new ways to do things or make things better, but I don’t always have time to act on those ideas.  And time is an even more scarce and precious commodity during the holiday season, especially this last week before Christmas.

So, as I deck the halls and wrap the gifts and do my daily tasks and work with clients, I also make notes of things I want to do but NOT RIGHT NOW.

For example, current tasks and projects on the After-Christmas List include but are not limited to:

  • Move all my personal emails from my old email address to the new gmail address (I expect this to take a while!!);
  • Unsubscribe from almost every retailer email campaign;
  • Send out my business New Years Cards (don’t have to go out until next week!);
  • Review and cull my reading pile;
  • Reorganize the laundry room, after all the Christmas gifts are out of it!;
  • Wrap the gifts for my side of our extended family (we’re celebrating with them the end of the month); and
  • Teach my teenager how to do his laundry.

All of these ideas are really good ideas.  Important ideas.  Ideas I want to implement.  But NOT THIS WEEK.   This week, there are parties to attend, cookies to bake (and eat), White Christmas waiting for me on the DVR (I’ve never seen it!!!), and more fun, friends and family to appreciate.

So, this week, I challenge you to:

  • Focus on Christmas and your holidays, and not get distracted!;
  • Take note of the new ideas that occur to you; but
  • Prioritize your activities, taking care of the tasks that need to be done this week, and putting the other ones on your After-Christmas List!

Merry Christmas to All, and to all a good night.

564 Words About Gift Cards (and some special skills)

I, like all of you, have skills.  In addition to organizing,

  • I can quote movies and song lyrics from a range of decades and genres;
  • I can roll my tongue, and wink with either eye (my 12 year old’s suggestions);
  • I can read upside down, and I know the number equivalent of each letter of the alphabet, so writing in code is a piece of 3-1-11-5 (cake); and
  • For today’s purposes, I know way more about gift cards than most people.  (There are more skills, of course, but that’s enough for now!)

gift_card_holder_2lWhy do I know about gift cards?  In addition to giving and receiving gift cards like most people, I help administer a gift card-based tuition reimbursement program at my son’s high school, so I spend a lot of time working with gift cards.  To help you this Holiday Season, I thought I would drop some knowledge on how to use and give these handy items!

Here are some tips to help you manage your Gift Cards:

  • Gift cards are money.  Therefore:
    • They are meant to be spent, and
    • They need to be managed (management is defined as getting the most out of our resources).
  • Know where your gift cards are, and what you have in stock.  Have a single safe place at home to keep them, in one drawer or on your desk (Not all over the house!).
  • If you just don’t know how much a gift card is worth, call the customer service number on the back, or go to the website.  If a card has been used, the company can usually track exactly when and where the balance was used. Grab a sharpie,  and jot the date and current balance on the front of the card.  Keep a small sharpie with you, to jot the new balance on a card if you only use part of the value. This one clicks on a key ring!  minimarker_black
  • If you received gift cards for a certain store or restaurant, sign-up online or via an app or social media (FB, Twitter) for special offer notifications.  Use your gift cards along with those special promotions to get a bigger bang for your buck.  For example, I have a Starbucks Gold Card, and with my on-line account I receive special offers and can add money or gift cards to the balance.
  • Carry the gift cards you plan to use with you, but certainly not all the cards you have. Carrying all of them could be cumbersome and you risk losing them! (There are apps like Slide to manage and digitize your gift cards.)
  • And yet, you don’t have to take your gift cards with you.  If you receive gift cards for on-line retailers like Amazon.com or ITunes, redeem the gift cards and add to your online account balance when you receive them, and then toss the redeemed cards away.
  • USE YOUR GIFT CARDS!  They are money, but some can lose value over time, or merchants may go out of business.
  • If you have gift cards that you don’t ever plan on using, you can sell your cards.  There’s Craig’s List or Facebook groups dedicated to buying / selling, plus other websites or apps just a quick google search away.

This week, collect those gift cards from all the spots you’ve stashed them, and turn them around for more gifts, a nice dinner out or maybe some $$ for Christmas Shopping!

4 Basic Tips for Fighting Holiday Overwhelm

I love the holidays, but they can be overwhelming.  We’re busy enough on a regular day, but when we add the joy and pressure of the holidays, many of us leap straight to overwhelmed!  And I say “We”, because I’m there sometimes, too!

Sure, this time of year, even the mundane and day-to-day business of life can be elevated to something more meaningful if we put some thought into it.  On the other hand, completing big and impressive holiday prep tasks feels great, but not when we neglect ourselves and our lives to complete them.  “Hey kids, I finished your Christmas shopping on-line today, but I was so busy doing that, we have nothing to eat for dinner.”

So when we are feeling overwhelmed, at the holidays and any other time of year, we can benefit from taking a deep breath and returning to the basics.

Take Care of Yourself

Maintaining routines and taking care of our health is important any time of year.  But it becomes both more vital and more difficult around the holidays.  It’s more vital because more is asked of us, and who wants to get sick for Christmas?  It’s more difficult because there are so many conflicting demands on our time and efforts.

We traveled for Thanksgiving, and had a lovely time with family out-of-state.  And even though I know better than to neglect my routines, I….. over-ate, under-slept, didn’t exercise, and forgot to take my vitamins.  Not surprisingly, I hit the proverbial wall some time Saturday night, feeling blah but overwhelmed.

Today was a return to routines, with regular bedtimes, mealtimes and schedules, and I feel better already.  I also spent some time in the kitchen, making healthy meals and snacks for the next couple of days.

Make time for the daily habits that will maintain your health and wellness.

Take Care of Each Other.  We can get so caught up in the stress of the holidays that we lash out at the people who we are celebrating for, like our friends and family.  Remember Why we celebrate this time of year.

Take Care of your Home:

Even in the face of the busy holidays, we still have to do things like get dressed and go to work and take care of our families.  Just because I spent 2 hours on-line purchasing Christmas gifts last night instead of doing laundry doesn’t make the laundry any less important.  It just means I have more folding to do this morning, to make sure we have clothes for the week, uniforms for the high-schoolers, work clothes for me, etc. We still need to wash dishes, take out the garbage, sweep the floors, etc.  These few simple maintenance steps become even more important during this hectic time of year.

Take Care of your Business:

A radio commercial this morning called December a “wasted month”, professionally speaking.  Yikes!  Most of us can’t “phone it in” for an entire month, so remember to maintain your professional efforts this month, even though it’s so tempting to cut back and goof off, when all the world is a distraction.  My 11 years owning my own business have taught me is that my marketing efforts this month directly influence my success next month.  Stay the course this month, finish this year strong and start 2015 ahead of the game!

Great and Easy Kitchen Updates Inspired By My Trip To The Container Store!

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a grand opening event at the new Container Store location in Chicago, at Clark and Roosevelt.  I am over-the-moon happy about having a location close to me, and the event was great – Live band, fabulous food and beverages AND the Container Store!  A few of my favorite things, to be sure!

As I wandered the aisles with my savory appetizers in hand (how could I NOT enjoy that?!), I shared delight with other party-goers over cool gadgets and creative ideas. Perusing the Kitchen aisles, I realized I already utilize many of the great ideas and gadgets they were selling.

Since the holidays are upon us, and all the baking and cooking that come with them, here are some great gadgets I use in my own kitchen, maybe it’s time for you to try one, too!  Every one of these ideas costs less than $20 and has easy installation.

Magnetic knife strip:004

For 19 years, our knives sat in a wooden knife block on the counter.  This summer, in an effort to reclaim kitchen counter space for another computer work space, I installed a magnetic knife strip and got rid of the block.  I like the location, it’s right over my biggest work space, and using the vertical wall space cleared up work space.  It was inexpensive and so easy to install.  Score!

005Hung paper towel rack:

We’ve always had a hanging paper towel rack instead of a standing paper towel rack, to save counter space and eliminate the toppling that sometimes occurs with standing racks.  It’s installed over my biggest work space and next to the sinks, for quick clean-ups.

In-sink dish drain:008

I have double sinks in my kitchen.  Someday, I will spend lots of money, update my kitchen and get a really big and deep single sink that finally fits my baking sheets, but for now, we work with what we have.  And so, in one side of the sinks, I keep our dish drain.  This eliminates the need for a tray to go under it, plus it frees up counter space for work space.

DSCN2111Spice drawer:

Years ago, I dedicated a drawer to spices instead of a cabinet or counter space.  It may seem a surprising use for a drawer, but being able to see all the labels is invaluable, and makes cooking and prep that much simpler.  We make sure to keep our dish towels, cloths and pot holders to a minimum, so we have the drawer space to dedicate to spices.

Hanging Fruit Basket:DSCN2118

We have a three-tiered hanging fruit basket hanging in the window over the kitchen sink.  It keeps our fruit at eye level, as a reminder to eat more fruit!  In addition, it saves valuable counter space for food prep or work space by eliminating the need for a fruit bowl.  Think about it this way – look for any opportunity to use your vertical space for kitchen storage, to free up flat work space.

So, look around your kitchen this week and consider a few quick and easy updates to make this most-used room in the house work better for you!

5-Weeks-‘Til-Christmas Survival Guide

A Client sent me the original notification of this article from November, 2012.  She was clearing out her in-box, but wanted to review this list for her own holiday planning.(I edited it for this week!). I have been working through my own copy myself, and you may benefit from it, too!  Take some time this week to chart your course for the next 5 or 6 weeks heading up to Christmas!

In my Holiday Planning Class, the most well received hand-out is the Holiday Planning Weekly Checklist. I’ve shared it with clients, and one said she couldn’t believe that preparing for the holidays could be that easy. I won’t say “easy”, but “simpler, less stressful and better prepared” sound pretty great.  Here are some suggestions to make your season better, tweak these suggestions to fit your life.

Week of November 17

  • Appreciate your friends and family members, and all the good things in your life. (We had a brunch for friends yesterday, and I am feeling so grateful today!)
  • Finalize Thanksgiving Menu
  • Pantry-shop to get rid of clutter, and stock up on cooking / baking  supplies
  • Hang outside lights, don’t turn them on
  • Plan Holiday Party:  dates, guests lists and menus, and choose invitation and RSVP deadlines
  • Buy multiples of your standard hostess gift, like nice wine or candles.  Make sure it’s something you use, in case you have extra left over
  • Encourage kids and adults to purge and donate
  • Heavy clean and de-clutter, or make some calls for assistance!

Week of November 24:

  • Stock up on gift certificates for teens, stocking stuffers, teachers etc.
  • Take a nice family picture at Thanksgiving, when everyone is a little dressed up. Use it for your Christmas Cards!
  • At Thanksgiving, tell or email family about upcoming Christmas concerts, children’s programs and parties.
  • Buy Stamps, while you can still get Holiday stamps!
  • Stock up on cooking and baking supplies
  • Complete your Christmas Card list, and confirm addresses (keep a copy for next year!)

Week of December 1:

  • Take out the “First Out” Box.  Our “First-Out” box is also our “Last In” box.  It contains the items that are used for the entire Advent and Christmas seasons for us, like our crèche, some children’s books, our Advent Wreath and candles, etc. Set up just a few decorations now.
  • Stock up on gift certificates, stamps, and cooking or baking supplies
  • Order your Christmas Cards, or start your letter
  • Plug in or turn on Christmas lights
  • Complete out-of-town shopping / wrapping
  • Start Christmas shopping for local recipients
  • Find and clean holiday dishes and tins

Week of December 8:

  • Continue to stock up on gift certificates, stamps and cooking and baking supplies (spread the costs out over several weeks)
  • Finish teacher gifts, like gift certificates and cards
  • Check decorations; donate any that will not be going up this year!
  • Assemble and address Christmas Cards
  • Ship all out-of-town packages
  • Complete Christmas Shopping
  • Holiday donations, service projects

Week of December 15:

  • Finalize Christmas Menu, who is bringing what
  • Decorate the house, and buy / set up the tree
  • Finish shopping and gift wrapping.  Load into labeled bags or boxes, one for each of your destinations
  • Start baking cookies
  • Mail out your Christmas Cards
  • Take a breath, and take a break.  The house is decorated, your gifts are bought and wrapped, cards are mailed, travel plans are completed, and donations are made.  Sit calmly in your living room, reveling in the beauty of your stress free holiday prep and beautiful decorations.  Go to a party or 2!

Week of December 22

  • Last minute baking / cooking for Christmas Eve
  • Last minute grocery shopping
  • Relax! Go see the Christmas lights, have some holiday fun!

December 24, Christmas Eve:

  • Family Christmas Eve traditions
  • Make ahead dishes for Christmas Dinner, if possible
  • Lay out outfits for Christmas morning Mass

Christmas:  Thursday, December 25:  Enjoy!!!

Week after Christmas:

  • Invest in some sale priced Rubbermaid or Sterilite storage containers
  • Put your decorations away by category and label the container
  • Remember to put your “Last In” away last, so you can grab it first next December!

Take steps now to make your holidays more peaceful and enjoyable!

My Three Elves!

     My boys are very helpful, griping only occasionally when I pull them into projects.  We cultivate this helping attitude, focusing on the “Why everyone helps” from an early age.  Why should children help out, especially around the Holidays?  Because it:

  • Teaches responsibility and job skills.
  • Teaches self worth, when you explain and then illustrate that each member of a family, just like every person in the world, has skills and talents to contribute and that their efforts are needed and appreciated.
  • Offers opportunities to share traditions, and instill a love for the spirit and details of the Holidays.
  • Gives a glimpse of the spiritual side of tending our homes, and breaks down gender roles.
  • Helps get things done, and have a lot of fun!

     A long-ago co-worker got frustrated when her young children would try to “help” because we moms can do stuff better and quicker than little hands.  However, we’re not raising children, we are raising future adults.  If we don’t let the kids help when they offer, they will stop offering!  So say Yes! when they offer, and if they don’t, show them what needs done.  Either way, be specific with your request, show them how to complete a task, and then let them!

     When assigning tasks, know limitations but stretch your children’s abilities. Even the littlest hands can help.  Find out what they like or don’t like to do.  Imagine for a moment how you can enlist aid from your family this week.  Here are some tasks my boys will complete:  

  • Baking Help: chop nuts, unwrap candies for recipes, add ingredients
  • Sous chef duties: clean and cut fruit and vegetable, shred cheese, make lunches for rest of family
  • Move and unpack boxes of decorations
  • Keep younger siblings busy
  • Assemble Christmas card mailings by filling envelopes, applying return address labels and stamps
  • Wrap gifts
  • Help Santa with other duties, appropriate for older children
  • Help with guests and parties:  At two recent events, the boys set the table, took beverage orders, arranged extra seating, “plated” food for serving, took coats and welcomed guests.  They swelled with joy and pride when their efforts were appreciated!

      Rest assured, we will also relax.  My boys have visions of sugarplum or something dancing in their heads.  The teenager can’t wait to sleep in for 2 weeks, and I think the tween is imagining 14 days of alternating Wii play and TV.  The little guy?  He just wants to play with his toys and have friends over (he asks daily, typically on the drive to some after-school activity, so I always have to say “not today”).  Let me assure you, and them, that much of what they are dreaming of will indeed happen.  We’ve just got a few things to take care of, and they will be helping me!

     Make your efforts more meaningful for you and your elves this week!  Merry Christmas to all!