Get organized for the holidays!

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ScentsiclesMost people need to spruce up their homes for holidays. Home expert Elizabeth Dodson offers simple tips to get your home ready for guests and festive gatherings.

Elizabeth is the co-founder of www.HomeZada.com, a cloud-based home improvement and organizational software tool. Her  practical tips will help even the busiest household get organized.

Here are Elizabeth Dodson’s tips              Elizabeth suggests bringing the scent of the season. We like Scentsicles.

Put the kids to work

 It seems that during this busy and fun time of year kids are never home when you need help. This leaves you with a long list of chores, however, now is the time to change this. Give your kids responsibilities that they can do to get the home in tip-top shape. By adding extra hands to the clean-up crew you are guaranteed to be done faster and be less stressed.

Start early

The holidays are a whirlwind of events but if you have guests coming to your home for Christmas, start now. Make a list of the things that need to be done and start as soon as possible. Change the guest room’s bedding, clear out the garage, and clean, clean, clean!

Bring the holiday scents inside

Candles or wall plug-ins, however you want to scent you home, bring the pumpkin, pine, candy canes, cookies and other flavors inside.   For a homemade scent, try cooking cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peels with apple cider or red wine for a natural scent, but also a tasty treat when guests arrive.  Baking cookies is also a great way to showcase the holiday season and can offer young children a little treat for their visit.

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They are natural scents. The fresh cut pine and cinnamon smell perfect for the holidays.

 

Keep priceless décor out of harm’s way

If you have some passed-down holiday décor that has a special place in your memory and you really want to display it but feel that it might get damaged if put in plain view, try moving these precious items to areas where your guest cannot easily touch them and yet they can be viewed. This is also important with special ornaments on trees. Try moving the most fragile and priceless pieces to the top of the tree so that wagging tails and small children are not able to reach them near the bottom of the tree.

Get your guest bedrooms ready

Holidays usually mean visiting family members. It is a great time to get your guest bedrooms ready for their arrival. Make sure the sheets are clean and you have enough blankets to keep your guests warm. Additionally, place towels in their room for use in the bathrooms. If you are also getting the bathrooms ready, add a few travel-sized toiletries for their stay to let them know you were thinking of making their arrival easy.

Stock up on extra gifts

In those times of potential awkwardness – because someone gave you a present and you did not have one to give back – pick up a few extra gifts. You can find some great neutral gifts for children and adults that can go a long way during the holiday season.  Storing them in a closet for those just-in-case moments is the perfect spot for that exact time you need them. These gifts can also be used as host and hostess gifts as you get invited to other homes for holiday festivities.

Identify food challenges

With family and friends visiting, find out what food allergies or practices they might have to prevent any challenges. If you have family with specific allergies, you can learn to make dishes without those ingredients. If you have vegetarian friends, try new recipes with beans or other hearty vegetables to help these vegetarians get plenty of protein and enough to eat. Some of the population has gluten intolerance or cannot process alcohol, so making sure you have the appropriate dishes for gluten-free eaters and non-alcoholic drinks for those non-drinkers will give everyone an enjoyable experience this holiday season.

Entertainment

What better way to make sure everyone is having a good time than to fill your home with games for all ages? Finding ways to entertain children by putting puzzles together, playing a mean round of ‘go fish,’ or simply reading stories aloud can ensure that the little ones are enjoying themselves. Try charades or Pictionary for great interactive games for adults and older children. If the weather is nice, taking in a touch football game and playing tag or hide and seek outside can get the blood pumping and keep the energy alive in your home.

Breathe!

Stop and breathe. It is the holiday season and it can be a chaotic time with family and friends in your home and more decorations than you can imagine. Remember that the holidays are about being together. Even if you forgot a few tips here and there, you will still be with great family and friends. So if you need a moment, take time to read a book or run to the grocery store and escape the mayhem in your home.  A peaceful drive to the grocery store might go a long way during the holiday season.

 

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Put the “happy” back in the holidays

 Eliminate stresful holidayl tasks and leave time for the ones you enjoyHolidays can be stressful, so please stop trying to cram even more activities and chores into your schedule if you already feel exhausted. Instead, try eliminating things that you find tiring and annoying. Let go of expectations about how you should celebrate the season and focus on enjoying family and friends. If you stop and think about what causes your holiday stress you may be surprised at how much of it may be self-imposed.
 
I shop online for almost everything these days. Online shopping lets you avoid crowded malls and traffic, and allows you to shop when you want. Shopping online makes it easy to compare prices as well as hunt down hard-to-find items.
 
If many of your gifts need to be mailed, you can have them wrapped and sent directly from the online merchant. I also choose to pay a small premium to use a mail store for everything else that needs to be sent through the post. These shops handle all types of shipping. They often have shorter lines and longer hours than the post office. These two things let me stay away from crowded stores, lines, and the post office. I also get to shop late at night from my tablet while lying in bed, so I can spread my shopping over several nights.
 
I also buy many small gifts from one of my local merchants. He has a great selection of unique gifts at reasonable prices.  I purchase them up on my way home, already wrapped. Look around and you may find your own small one-stop wonder. Think out-of-the-box. In Toronto, small shops in Chinatown were perfect for finding gifts and pretty, reusable wrappings.
 
Try to eliminate the holiday chores that you find most exhausting and distasteful. If you hate cooking, hire a good caterer. Book these kinds of services now to avoid disappointment. If you are on a budget, ask your grocery store or butcher for some options. If cleaning is your personal nightmare, reserve a service now!
 
You will be amazed at how getting rid of one or two hated tasks instead of gritting through them removes stress and renews your holiday spirit. You can even find services to address and post your holiday cards. Use your computer to send “green” e-greetings and free yourself from hours of addressing and stamping cards. You will save trees and a small fortune on postage. I use a combination of both traditional cards and e-greetings.
 
Start now! Feeling rushed can sour the jolliest holiday festivities, so get cracking. Just dig in and do a little something every day.
 
If entertaining is not your thing, don’t feel you have to do it.  Leave it to those who enjoy it. Buy a selection of nice hostess gifts, RSVP on time, and be a gracious and grateful guest. Always send a thank you note. If you know the hostess well and she invites you often, offer to help out. She may need you to pick up a last-minute item or another guest. Trust me darlings, hostesses adore charming and helpful guests!
 
Finally darlings, bite your tongue. Hang the holly or spin the dreidel and avoid conflict. Stress, exhaustion, alcohol, Spin the dradleand bad manners will all surface during holiday festivities. Few of us make it through the season without coming into contact with nasty relatives, quarrelsome siblings, a rude bore, or a random drunk or two. Remember darlings, no one ever really “wins” a family fight or an argument at a party. Once a year, in the interest of “peace on earth”, ignore quarrels and insults and put the happy back in the holidays.
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