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organized outlook - HARRIET SCHECHTER

Orderly approach can reduce seasonal stress


The holidays are a time of gift giving, parties, family gatherings — and stress. Finding the perfect gifts for everyone on your list, sending out dozens of cards, attending eight parties in four weeks, all while trying to get your home ready for relatives, can leave you in less-than-cheery spirits.

Fortunately, it’s now easier than ever to sidestep the most common chaos culprits and keep your household running smoothly during the busiest times.

Here are five ways to reduce chaos, control clutter and help you enjoy hassle-free holidays.

1. Streamline season’s greetings

Tired of spending too many hours writing, addressing, stamping and sealing cards? Consider using e-mail for holiday greetings — it saves time, money and trees, and also eliminates card clutter. Web sites such as offer a nice selection of e-cards, and many are free.

• Tip: If e-mailing doesn’t suit you, try using holiday postcards instead of greeting cards. It will cut your card-sending time, effort and expenses in half.

2. Control catalog clutter

Holiday season means catalog season — and catalog clutter. Limit the number of catalogs you feel comfortable stockpiling (10? 20? 100?) and choose a convenient place to keep them for browsing.

•Tip: Catalogs stored in upright magazine holders (available at office supply stores) look neat and are easier to access. Keep highlighters and Post-it Flags handy for marking items of interest. (Note: There’s even a new product, the Post-it Highlighter Pen, which combines a highlighter with Post-it Flags.)

3. Escape the wrap trap

Bogged down by odds ’n’ ends of reused wrapping paper and rumpled ribbons? Don’t waste time trying to iron out wrinkled paper and repair squished bows. Throw out tired-looking gift wrap —fresh supplies save time and effort and make gifts look more festive. And why not use gift bags instead of time-consuming gift wrapping? They come in an almost infinite number of sizes, colors and patterns, and are available at many discount stores.

• Tip: Keep rolls of gift wrap in good condition by storing them upright in a cylindrical plastic wastebasket or in a gift-wrap organizer (sold in stores that carry organizing products).

4. Present tense no more

Wracking your brain for gift ideas often takes more time and effort than wrapping the gifts. Save your mind and energy by keeping a “Gifts & Wishes” file with notes, catalog pages and “wish lists” for yourself and others year-round.

• Tip: Consider giving gift certificates for services as well as products. They’re available for virtually every type of service from housecleaning to massage.

5. Simplify your decorations

Holiday decorations can be lovely but time-consuming and clutter-producing, so limit your decorations to whatever brings you the most joy. If decorating has lost its appeal and become “work,” consider adopting a simpler tradition.

• Tip: Organize holiday decorations in stackable, moisture-proof plastic containers with dividers for easy categorizing (available at many discount department stores). Use transparent containers so you can see the contents easily; otherwise, be sure to label them clearly.

HARRIET SCHECHTER is founder of The Miracle Worker Organizing Service and author of three books, including “Let Go of Clutter.” Her online advice column is at  


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