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Bring on the New Year!


The Hostess With the “Mostess”

Whether you’re celebrating with coworkers, family or friends, the holidays are the premier time for entertaining and connecting. Hosting a gathering can be fun, but, as anyone who’s done it knows, there are countless details involved in creating even a low-key gathering.
These might include: How much food do I need? Who did I invite last year? Do I have enough wine glasses? Does anyone have food allergies? What should I make in advance and what do I need to do the day of the event? And my favorite: How many people fit around the table when all three leaves are in place? (Fourteen at our house. Fifteen if we squeeze.)
I keep track of all these seemingly small but important points in a little book called The Hostess Diary. I’ve been using this since 2012 (Feb. 18, to be exact, when I hosted 14 friends and served cream of broccoli soup, which the kids didn’t like, and a stuffed shells recipe from Cooking Light). The diary, which was a gift, is basically a worksheet for each event, with spaces for a guest list, menu and shopping list. It also has sections called “prepare ahead” and “day of” as well as “remember for next time.”
Thanks to my detailed entries, I know that a 14-pound turkey is the right size for 15 to 17 guests and that 26 guests ate 19 hotdogs and 25 hamburgers at our July 4, 2016 barbecue.
Entertaining your guests can require a great deal of organization and planning, so give yourself an edge with a tool like a hostess diary—or even a spreadsheet—that functions like a dashboard.
What tips and strategies do you have for keeping track of all the minutiae involved in entertaining?
Have an organizing question or need a referral to a resource? I’m happy to help. Email me at junebell (at) me (dot) com or catch me on Twitter @JuneDBell.

Organizing in the News

A recent Wall Street Journal article took a humorous look at the “overpopulation” of stuffed animals in many children’s rooms. (You may need a subscription to access the article.)
Teddy bears, big-eyed creatures and cuddly plush kitties can be hard to part with because they’re so cute and kids love them—but they can also be mangy dust magnets that seem to multiply at every birthday and holiday.
Organizing expert Marie Kondo suggests that would-be donors blindfold the stuffed animals before removing them from a home. “Their eyes give off the energy that they are alive,” she said, “so if we cover the eyes it won’t give off that energy anymore.”

Your Questions, Answered

When I was the guest speaker at the annual brunch of the Peninsula Sinai Women in Foster City, I asked attendees to jot their questions on index cards. One woman wrote: “HELP! There is so much, it’s overwhelming. How to start?”
That’s a common question—and it’s one that often prompts a call to a professional organizer.
For people who want to start decluttering on their own, I suggest taking some baby steps. Here are a few strategies:
Start small. The journey to tidiness begins with a single drawer or one shelf. Choose a time when you’re relaxed and focused. Set your intention: Is your goal to tidy up a bulging linen closet or to purge clothes that no longer fit your kids?
Use a timer. If you dread taking on a decluttering task, tell yourself you’ll do it for only 30 minutes. Set a timer for 20 minutes and get started. (You’ll want to leave the remaining 10 minutes for cleanup. But you may find that once you’ve plunged in, you’re motivated to keep going. Many people say that’s also true for exercise—once they get to the gym or run that first quarter-mile, they just keep going.)
Get a buddy. Having an accountability buddy can help you stay focused and achieve more. You might work together, alternating time at each other’s homes, until your decluttering is finished. Or you might prefer calling each other to check on progress and announce your next steps. Don’t nag or criticize. A good buddy offers support and encouragement, not a guilt trip.
Be persistent and consistent. Staying on top of clutter is a never-ending task. Set aside five minutes a day for routine tasks like discarding junk mail, and making a grocery list so you’re less likely to be overcome by overwhelm.
Enlist your family, roommates, etc. If you share space with others, bring them into the fold. Everyone should be responsible for putting their dishes in the dishwasher and their clothes into the hamper. Clutter and mess are usually a team effort. The task of tidying up a household shouldn’t be the responsibility of a single person.
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