Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Place for Your Treasures to Go...To Others

A few years ago, a friend of my mother’s inherited a gigantic, gorgeous house in Atlanta, complete with ballroom, manicured gardens, solarium, and…tons and tons of stuff inside it- too much stuff for her to ever use, but stuff too nice to just toss into a Goodwill bag.

So, as part of her redecorating, she made an entire basement room filled with nothing but shelves. For the next year, as she moved in, she carefully organized and filled those shelves with the extra contents of that home. For every year since, she has given gifts almost exclusively from that room, and they are famous for their quality and thoughtfulness.

While few of us will ever inherit such a house, most of us have acquired things over the years that, while perhaps not useful to us, could be perfect for someone else. What if we found a special place in our home where these extra treasures could be organized and stored until the rightful owner came along?

Lest we be accused of simply re-gifting our junk, we can also use this storage area for gifts we purchase throughout the year. If we have a place to put it, we can buy it now and always be prepared for any birth, birthday, or illness – for a fraction of the time and cost.

My “gift storage room” the space under my basement stairs, and my “shelves” are a series of large, labeled bins, and are organized according to type of giving opportunity: Boy Birthday; Girl Birthday; Baby; Illness (lots of Tupperware here!); women’s shelters (jewelry, toiletries, unused makeup, etc); kid’s school (used books and stuffed animals for the annual fundraiser; extra school supplies…); family (Birthday and Christmas gifts go here).

You get the idea- each of our categories will be different, as will be each of our organization and storage methods. But regardless, by taking this extra step of organizing our surplus rather than hastily donating a mixed bag of unmatched items to Goodwill or regifting in a pinch, we can ensure that nothing we have goes wasted or unappreciated. Rather, it will simply find it's true home.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More "Play", fewer "Dates"

After 2 weeks of having my children at home over the Winter Break, in which I spent countless hours and I-don’t-even-want-to-count-how-much money keeping my kids entertained, enriched, and enlightened, I received a panicky phone call from school asking me to pick all the kids up NOW due to a water main break.

And so they’re back. Home. With me.

Except this time, they are not alone- I brought 5 elementary school refugees home with me, too. That’s 8 kids for those of us counting, which I have to do every few minutes now. There- I’m back- all accounted for.

8 kids, no car big enough to take them anywhere, 1 parent, and no plan.

And kids having the time of their lives-and it’s only costing me a pitcher of lemonade and a plate of cookies.

This emergency-induced kid party has served as an instant reminder for all of us: Plans cost money and energy, but just being available for friends can be better- and free.

So many of us (myself included) schedule our entire weeks according to “up” and “down” time: “up time” being scheduled events, including social events a Play Dates, and “down time”, which is usually solitary recovery from all of the “up time.”

And because planned social events are PLANNED and EVENTS, there’s pressure to BE something. And that drains us, no matter how much we like the people we are with.

But spontaneously opening our doors to a friend? That’s worth clearing our calendars for. Let’s all plan to have fewer plans this year. Don’t worry- someone will knock on our door, and we’ll have something to do, though have less to prove.


Monday, January 4, 2010

A Plan for that Overwhelmed Feeling...

It’s 10am on January 4th, the first day the kids are back to school after an action-packed, travel-filled winter break. My New Year’s Resolutions are finished, and today is the day I am supposed to start living the New Me: organized, happy, content, efficient…

And I’m also on the verge of a panic attack. The kitchen, the laundry pile, the email inbox, the grout in the bathroom – I have lost control of them all. It is completely overwhelming, and the more I realize I need to get done…must get done…the less I can do.

I’ve had plenty of days like this before, and they have traditionally involved hours of walking from room to room, whimpering in despair, until I end up just binge-eating.

But this time I think I may just have a plan: one that is realistic and empowering rather than impossible and guilt-inducing. So for all of you fellow perfectionists out there that simply cannot be perfect today, let’s all try this together:

Get our heads organized: Go ahead and make the “Master List” of absolutely everything that we think needs to be done on a separate sheet of paper, not our day-planner. By putting it on paper, it can leave our minds for the moment, and reveal any hidden urgent matters that may show up on #23 or so.

Prioritize: Pick the 2-3 things that MUST be done today, and write those in our day-planner. Post the other list somewhere else and write “This Week:”, “This Month:”, or even “This Year:” on the top of it, then forget it for the rest of the day.

Create a haven: Create one clean, organized, attractive spot where we can think, breathe, and feel accomplished for the day. The rest of the house can remain a bomb site for the time being.

Fully accomplish a few measurable things: Complete our day-planner list, start to finish, and pat ourselves on the back.

This is doable, and this is enough. We’ve accomplished what must be done, and the rest of our lives we’ve got covered on that list…which we’ll tackle tomorrow. Or not.