Organize the Season's Greetings

I am, at heart, something of a traditionalist.  My mom sends beautiful Christmas cards every year, and I always loved looking through the cards we received from friends and family.  I always knew that when I grew up, I'd send out holiday cards of my own. 

However, as I hope you know from reading this blog, I am all about decreasing stress, clutter, and pressure to conform.  And wow, holiday cards can create some serious pressure!  My mom would fret about The Christmas Card Photo starting in January, and would either dress my sister and me up in matching velvet dresses in the backyard or corner us on a family vacation for a photo shoot, both of which we detested!  And today, the family-industrial complex (with an assist from Pinterest) might have you thinking that every family undertakes an expensive formal photo shoot with carefully coordinated outfits and props for their picture-perfect holiday cards.  I've heard more than one person say that they just don't do holiday cards because it's too difficult, or they feel like their cards wouldn't be worth it.

Christmas Card Photo Shoot antics from yours truly, circa 1992

I'll be the last person to judge if you don't want to send holiday cards.  It’s not for everyone!  But if you're interested, here's how I organize the process for minimum stress and maximum payoff.

1)   I keep a master address list in my Google Drive folder.  It started with our wedding guest list and has grown from there as our family and friend circles expand.  The second a piece of mail with address info hits my mailbox, I can make a quick edit then and there, so that I don't have to spend a ton of time searching down addresses at the end of the year.

2)   I don't try to take a specific Christmas Card Photo. Every year I use a candid photo of the two of us, ideally looking relatively silly, plus one of the dog for the back side of the card.  The general theme of our cards is always levity!

3)   I start early.  I pick our photos and card design a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, and press the order button when a nice coupon hits my inbox!

4)   I use a comprehensive soup-to-nuts online card store to save time, effort, and my own sanity.  I’ve used Apple and Tiny Prints in the past, but my current favorite is Minted: they have the best and most customizable designs (because I like to have a little fun with the text), and you can order absolutely everything including stamps directly from them.







For me, holiday cards aren't something I’m obligated to do, they're about staying connected.  Our family and friends know that my husband and I are fun and just slightly irreverant, and our holiday cards are, too.  Stay tuned for a peek at this year's!


Doing, Not Buying

There are a zillion organizing tips out there in the universe (at least 97% of which originated on Pinterest according to my very unscientific calculations), but there are very few that truly work, and even fewer that don’t require purchasing or making much if anything.  That’s why, even though I’ve never heard of Pure Wow before, their article on the 8 Secrets of People Who Don’t Have Clutter caught my eye.

Photo courtesy of

I stand by each and every one of these tips.  Read them for yourself, and then come back here to find out why:

  1.  I don’t keep gifts I don’t like, and I promise you I don’t feel any guilt.  I’m always grateful for any gift I receive, and make sure to tell the giver so (preferably via thank you note!).  And I can always see how the giver was thinking of me when they selected the gift, even if I don’t love it, and that touches me just as much as The Perfect Gift would. 
  2. Eeeeek… I’m still working on this one.  But I can tell you this: I have things I don’t love in my closet right now, and they’re driving me nuts!
  3. I have to admit, it’s easier to have an all season wardrobe living in a place like San Francisco, where the temperature is pretty much always between 50 and 70 Fahrenheit.  Still, pieces that I own for travel or special activities (think: heavy winter coat, riding boots, fancy hat for teas/lunches) still live in my closet rather than packed away.  It’s always easier to live in the closet you have (with minor feature adjustments like shelves and hooks) than to try to create additional closet space.
  4. Still working on this one too, but together my husband and I have just two small file cabinets that contain things that aren’t easily digitized or should be kept in paper format (home documents, taxes, old photos and letters).
  5. It’s not sexy but it’s true: a good garbage can makes ALL the difference.  In our old house, we used this Simple Human can.  I love it because it has space for both trash and recycling, and it’s sleek enough to leave out.  Plus, it’s easy to clean and contains smells surprisingly well.  In our current home, we’re really enjoying the slide-out bins the previous owners installed under the sink, much like the picture in the article. 
  6. Ok, real talk, I don’t actually wipe down all the surfaces in my home daily.  I’m not particular about a little dust.  But I do declutter said surfaces nearly daily, and my husband wipes down the kitchen counter every time he cooks.  The concept remains sound!
  7. My makeup collection and my closet are both at the one in, one out point, and I’m grappling with when to call it on my shoe collection.  This sounds limiting, I know.  But consider this: ten perfect lipsticks are way better than a jumble of 30 and feeling like you never have quite the right one.
  8. We do not have a junk drawer.  I know, it sounds crazy.  But there’s a logical place for the things that live in junk drawers.  Phone chargers?  Put all cords together in a drawer or basket near where you charge your devices.  Pens?  Put them in jar on your desk and maybe another with a notepad by your land line if you have one.  Coupons?  Create a file folder for those, or perhaps a small envelope bag you keep in your purse.

Photo courtesy of

As ever, this article proves that truly getting organized is about doing rather than buying, and about simplifying rather than complicating.  Be wary of any tips that tell you otherwise – especially if they come from Pinterest!


Organizing Creates Time for the Little Things

There are so many things I hear people say they want to do, but they just don’t have the time or space.  Often, these things are seemingly small gestures that have a big impact in connecting people.  Getting organized will give you the time and space you need to make these connections.

For example: the humble thank you note.  An old fashioned creature now rarely seen in the wild, thank you notes are at once a relic from a former age and a beautiful, personal touch that enhances relationships and provides the people you love with a boost via the unexpected nature of snail mail. 

I can see the eyes rolling already.   Who has time for thank you notes??  Well, to write a thank you note all you need are the following things:

·      A reason to write – perhaps your sister gave you a birthday present, a friend invited you to a dinner party, or an aunt and uncle hosted you at their vacation home

·      Stationery, pen, and stamps

·      A clear writing surface

In my house, the clear writing surface is the desk in my home office.  This is how it looks regularly – yes, really! My stationery lives in its box on a shelf in the office closet, and pens and stamps are easy to access in the desk drawers.


Not everyone has a dedicated home office, and your best writing surface might be your breakfast room table, a vanity in your bedroom, or a shared work table in a craft or play room.  As I always say, the best organizing solutions are tailored to you and your lifestyle.  What matters is that, through the process of decluttering and organizing, you have a surface that always stays clear and the materials you need close at hand.


Ever since I can remember, thank you notes have been a priority in my family.  I’ve had a set of personalized stationery since I could write, and my mom would always take me to Letter Perfect in Santa Barbara to pick it out.  It definitely made the seemingly onerous task of writing thank you notes for birthday and Christmas presents a little more fun!  My current stash is from the very same place, picked out in 2010 when I was getting married.

However, there’s no need to go through the time and expense of custom stationery.  Whatever you use should be simple and clean, so that you can use it for all kinds of writing occasions – I’ve written to people not only to thank them, but also to express sympathy in a time of need and send congratulations on a major milestone.

Today I wrote to thank my best friend for hosting me on a 3 day visit to her new home out of state.  We lived in the same city for almost 10 years, and it's important to me to keep that connection strong even though she moved halfway across the country!  If you had the time and space, who would you write to?