8 Tips for Holiday Gift Giving to Save You Time and Money – Part 1

Start your holiday gift giving engines with these smart tips that save you precious time and money!

The holiday season will soon be upon us, and consumer surveys show that most holiday gift givers start shopping in October.

If you’re among those who start their holiday gift giving now, here are the first of 8 tips to help you get the most of the time you’re devoting to your holiday gift giving. Plus, I’ve got a free gift tracker for you to stay organized with your holiday gift giving.

 

1. Shop where you are.

Getting as much done as possible in one place is a secret that time managers and professional organizers tell their clients. And shopping for gifts is no different—no matter where you are, from a hardware store to a discount megastore to a car dealership waiting room—gift ideas are all around you.

For example, let’s say you’re grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon and you realize there’s no time to sprint across town to the chic boutique to buy a hostess gift for the dinner party you’re attending that evening. No problem. Head to the floral department for a gorgeous bouquet or a healthy house plant; add a beautiful ribbon when you return home. Or, find a nice bottle of wine in the liquor department or box of quality chocolates.

The next time you’re in a time crunch and need a gift, no matter where you are, if you look at things from a gifting perspective you will find something prefect.

 

2. Shop when you are.

You know when Christmas is. You know when Hanukkah, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and your mom’s birthday are. If you find the perfect gift for someone but the occasion is months away, buy the gift now.

I used to think, “oh, I’ll remember” and even if I did remember, the item was usually gone when I went back. Buying a gift “when” you are will save you time and stress later.

Who knows, maybe you will be swamped with work or a family situation when the holiday or birthday comes around; by shopping when you are, you will have the perfect gift stashed away in your gift drawer.

To help you stay organized with your holiday gift giving, use a gift tracker. You can write down who you’re buying for, ideas for gifts and where to find it. Then, wherever and whenever you are, you’ll know what you’re looking for! Click the graphic below to download the gift tracker for free.

 

3. Create a signature wrap.

One of the best ways I’ve found to reduce stress in any area of life is to simplify and streamline. To adapt these concepts to holiday gift giving, develop your own personal style to present every gift you give.

Select one or two coordinating gift wraps (or gift bags), one or two colors and styles of ribbon, and one style of gift tag and keep these items in stock and handy. My mom often did this, purchasing multiple rolls of wrapping paper all at once (usually at a discount shop), even going so far as making sure everyone in the family has some of that year’s wrap.

Doing this decreases the amount of space required to store your holiday gift wrapping items, ensures you’re ready to wrap even the most last-minute of gifts and makes your gifts memorable. (Get more tips on creating a signature wrap.)

Plus, wrapping all your holiday gifts in a signature wrap creates a festive and cohesive look under your Christmas tree. There’s nothing like it! You can get creative with ribbons, bows and tie-ons.

 

4. Re-gift with confidence.

If you’ve ever asked, “Is re-gifting OK?,” think about these questions:
– Do you think recycling is OK?
– Is living without clutter OK?
– How about blessing someone else with a useful item?

As much as you strive to select the perfect gift, sometimes your recipient just won’t like it. Her tastes may have changed. She may not have room to store it. It may be a duplicate.

Whatever the reason, sometimes your recipient will pass your gift on to someone else. Is it OK? If the gift is perfect for someone else, then absolutely it’s OK. Your recipient appreciated your efforts and your remembrance of her occasion. Your gift will find the perfect home; just maybe not with the exact recipient you intended.

And by the way, the same goes for gifts you receive. Cherish the thought of your well-wisher, and let go of what would otherwise be clutter.

I once received a three-panel, brushed nickel picture frame. A nice frame, but I didn’t have space for it, and it did not coordinate with my home décor. I put it in my gift drawer, knowing that the perfect recipient would come along.

A few months later, a friend was visiting and while we were out shopping, she expressed a need for a brushed nickel frame. I pointed out a frame similar to the one I had unopened at home, she loved it, and it saved her some money!

***

Next week I’ll bring you 4 more tips for time-and-money saving holiday gift giving tips. Stay tuned! Be sure to download the gift tracker to get started!

These tips are adapted from my book Gift Giving for Busy People which goes more in depth on finding the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday gift giving list. You can get the Kindle version for a limited time for only $1.99!

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5 Quick Decorating Ideas You’ll Fall For

You'll fall for these quick decorating ideas to bring some autumn ambience to your home.

 

Ahhh …. Fall. It’s a season of effortless decorating with natural elements, a few tricks and some pops of warm color. Here are 5 quick and easy ways to refresh your home and get ready for fall.

 

Birdseed is a unique and inexpensive way to add lots of fall color and texture to your home decor.

 1. Fill in with natural elements.

Nature is abundant source of home accessories this season! Look for what’s plentiful in your yard: gather pine cones, seed pods, colored leaves, and even twigs and branches. Mix in bird seed (adds texture and color for not a lot of money) and add some softness with Spanish moss. Display them mounded in bowls on your coffee table, layer them in vases, or use them as a base for a candle display. Here are 10 natural elements you can adapt and use as vase fillers.

 

 

Everday votive cups get a fast fall makeover with twigs gathered from your yard and a few crafts supplies.

2. Get twiggy with it.

Transform simple votive holders into textural accessories perfect for your Thanksgiving table with just a few crafts supplies and some twigs from your yard. This is great craft to get the kids involved in, too! Get all the instructions to make twig votives here.

 

 

Extend the life of your outdoor living space with cozy throws, piled in basket by the back door.

3. Go hygge and go home.

Have you heard of the Danish concept of hygge? It crossed my path a few times earlier this year and intrigued me. Essentially, it’s getting cozy at home, spending time with friend and family in a non-digital way. Hunkering down and enjoying each other’s company is my way-too-simplified way to explain it.

Here are two ways to set your home up for hygge:

  • Give yourself a warm and welcoming space to come home to by setting a few lamps on timers and placing LED candles on timers around your living space. Pay special attention to the area you first see when you come home from a long day.
  • Extend the life of your outdoor living space. Cozy up on cooler autumn evenings with warm throws, a mug of mulled wine or cider, and maybe even a fire pit. Keep those throws easily accessible by rolling them and placing them in a basket near the back door so you can grab one on your way outside.

 

4. Add some color to your couch.

When I was about 10 years old, I wanted a home with white couches so I could change out the throw pillows with the seasons.

Little did I know how impractical white couches are (especially with the chocolate habit I have), but I do still love to change out the pillows with the season. It takes minutes and makes a huge impact! When I can, I buy just the pillow covers and re-use the inserts season after season. It’s easier to store flat covers than bulky pillows.

Punch up your sofa with autumnal colors that coordinate well with your everyday décor, and mix in a print or an embroidered design. My go-to shops for pillows include Pier1 (shown), Pottery Barn, West Elm, Home Goods and World Market. New hues this year include navy, along with traditional deep oranges and russets. Woodland critters are big this year, and we’re still seeing some gorgeous grays.

Have fun with this! You only need 2 or 3 to make a big impact.

 

 

Create the perfect fragrance for your fall home with savory spices.

5. Infuse your home with fall.

I love scented candles, particularly in the fall. Filling the air with pumpkin, cinnamon, spices, apples and a dash of sandalwood is a sure-fire way to reset your mind and body to the season.

But, not all scented candles are created equal! Some use harsh, artificial fragrances and chemicals that actually coat the hairs and membranes in your nose. Gross, right!?

Instead, try this totally natural way to set a fragrant fall backdrop for your home: fill a small pan with about 2 cups of water. Add a couple of cinnamon sticks, some cardamom pods, a few cloves, a few strips of orange peel (use a vegetable peeler to remove just the peel, none of the white pith), and a few star anise if you like. Let it gently simmer, but keep an eye on it! Add water as it boils down, and do not let it boil dry (you’ll ruin your pan, speaking from experience.)

Want more quick holiday decor tips? Check out my free Holiday Home Quick Start Guide by clicking below.

 

Recommended and useful items to get that fall feeling at home:

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It’s the De-boo of Our Etsy Shop!

Etsy Shop holiday planners Hallowen

 

If you’re looking for a way to stay organized and focused on what’s most important for your holidays this year, have I got great news for you!

All of the Smart Solutions planners for holidays and home will be available on our new Etsy shop!

It’s been years since I’ve updated our signature planners that use my POPS system to Plan, Organize, Prioritize and Schedule everything for your holidays. Now you’ll find the Halloween Planner updated and expanded to 16 pages of fangtastic Halloween organizing glory.

Smart Solutions Studio Etsy Shop Halloween Planner

 

Also up in the shop right now are the Holiday Home Essentials with checklists and shopping lists to get you ready for all of your holiday entertaining including the essential pantry, essential utensils, holiday table essentials (including the best diagram on how to set your table) and the essential guest room and more!

Smart Solutions Studio Etsy Shop Entertaining Essentials

 

 

I’ve also posted the Room Arranger room layout toolkit with everything you need to re-arrange the furniture and accessories in every room of your home. Over 40 furniture icons and step-by-step directions make it easy to move things around without breaking your back!

Smart Solutions Studio Room Arranger room planner Etsy shop

 

Each of the planners is listed for $5 or less! Click on the links or the planner photo to go directly to the shop!

Over the next two weeks I’ll be adding the Thanksgiving and Christmas planners, as well as in-depth holiday handbooks with daily to-do’s, recipes, decor ideas and much more. Stay tuned!

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Easy Summer Salad: Antipasto Chickpea Salad

Antipasto chickpea Salad Hero

One of the thing I love about summer cooking is that it’s not really “cooking” at all; there’s an emphasis on easy to put together salads and other cold dishes.

This easy and flavorful chickpea salad has 3 basic steps: (1) purchase yummy antipasto from your supermarket; (2) open a can of chickpeas; and (3) combine, season and chill.

Antipasto chickpea Salad strip 2

I love the antipasto bar at my local store. It’s abundant and filled with variety of antipasti that make it easy to pull together a simple but elegant and filling appetizer platter. You can take as much or as little as you want, put it all in one container or separate containers, and the price is calculated by pound. It’s also economical if you don’t want to store full-size jars of olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and more. (No more opening a jar of fuzzy sundried tomatoes!)

I thought up this easy chickpea summer salad on my last trip to the store. I knew I wanted a mix of spicy, vinegary flavors with fresh basil and lemon. So, I selected just a few of each of: marinated artichokes, jumbo black olives, sundried tomatoes, peppadew peppers and roasted garlic cloves. You can mix and match whatever you enjoy the most, what looks great and sounds great that day. I used a 1-pound size container, but it was only about 1/2 full. It was a good chickpea-to-antipasto ratio in the final salad.

Antipasto chickpea Salad strip 1

The chickpea salad came together really easily, in minutes actually! The longest part was waiting for it to chill and blend before devouring it! Serve it as a side dish or to make it an entree salad, serve on top of a bed of mixed greens drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.

Easy Antipasto Chickpea Salad

1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and air-dried

1/2 pound of mixed antipasto

Juice of 1 lemon

1 T. olive oil

2 T. grated Parmesan cheese (or more to taste)

5 or 6 large basil leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place chickpeas in a small serving bowl.
  2. Chop antipasto into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Add the antipasto pieces (and any oil from the container) to the chickpeas.
  4. Roll the basil leaves together into a small, tight roll and slice thinly into a chiffonade.
  5. Add the basil, lemon juice, olive oil and cheese to the bowl and mix gently. Season with salt and pepper (and if you like, a bit of onion powder).
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

This chickpea salad is even better the next day! It’s a great dish to take to a summer barbecue or family reunion. Enjoy!

Serves 4.

 

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Chickpea salad pin

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3 Tips to Avoid Overwhelm on Your Next Home Decorating Project

Decorating Overwhelm

 

I love my clients. My clients are my teachers. My most recent in-home design clients each shared three very similar fears and concerns about their own DIY home decorating. It occurred to me that these are things that I take for granted, but if they were getting stuck on these fears, maybe other home decor enthusiasts are, too!

 

One of my most trusted mentors has a rule of thumb when it comes to wisdom. When you hear the same principle repeated by several brilliant individuals, it’s time to listen up. What they’re saying is the truth. Trust it.

And so it goes in working with clients. They teach me a lot about home decorating and the fears and doubts they have to overcome. Everyone has his or her genius. For me interior design is one of those things that comes easily to me, so I assume it’s easy for everyone. For you maybe it’s making a perfect pie crust or fixing a flat tire—you think, can’t everyone do this?

Recently I realized that many of my design clients have the same concerns like knowing what colors go together, or how to arrange accessories so it doesn’t look cluttered. These concerns and fears of making a mistake often stopped them from completing projects, or spun them into an overwhelm cycle.

With just a few tips, each of these fears is easy dispelled and you can move forward to complete your DIY home decorating projects!

Here are just 3 lessons that my clients have taught me. May they inspire you to take on a project with a little more confidence.

showroom-555111_1280


#1 Shopping can be overwhelming.

When I walk into a home store, I’m a kid in a candy store. When I do personal shopping with my clients, I see that they’re relieved to have me along. Otherwise, they tell me, it can be nearly impossible to make decisions because there are so many choices.

Next time you’re facing a retail meltdown, try these tips:

  • Shop online first to reduce confusion when you get to the store. Most major retailers have websites with search capabilities that let you drill down to the most specific choices. Let’s say you’re looking for a yellow table cloth. Searching for “table cloth” brings up 247 choices; but if you specify the shape, size and color using the site’s refinement function, you really only have 5 choices. Confused minds don’t buy, and reducing your choices from 247 to 5 makes it much easier to see the trees in the forest, so to speak.
  • Ask for help. For many people, the thought of going to a home improvement center is akin to going to the dentist. Oddly, I have zero fear walking into a hardware or home improvement store. I may not know exactly what I’m looking for, but in my experience, the folks that work at these stores have great ideas and a lot of know-how. Explain your project, or what you’re looking for, and let them guide you to the right product. Many times they have ideas to make my project even better! Same holds true for furniture stores and many home décor shops.
  • Create a mood board. If you’re redecorating a room, I really encourage you to use a mood board. I explain it in more detail in the Room Makeover Planner, but essentially it’s collecting the colors, finishes and fabrics you have or want in the room—or even just inspiration photos—onto a sheet of paper or a file folder. Pinterest is like a giant mood board; create a separate board just for the room you’re working on and pin the exact items you’re considering. Here’s an example of my board when I putting together my outdoor office. When I do room consultations, I create mood boards so the client can see the vision for the room. Then, when you’re out shopping and you’re not sure about something, simply pause, take a breath and look at the mood board. It’s a compass in the sea of retail confusion.

 

#2 It’s OK to make mistakes!

Even if you follow all the tips in #1, there will be times that you take something home, or it’s delivered from an online shop, and you think, “Ewww! I don’t know about this!” Maybe the color looks completely different in your home, or it’s too big or too small for the space.

It happens all the time, yet I’m amazed at how afraid we are to make such mistakes.

It doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing or what you like, it simply means that piece isn’t right for your house. Return the item, or if it’s a final sale, donate it to a local charity or sell it online.

Do not feel like you have to live with it or stash it in the garage. It will forever be chanting to you, “You made a mistake!” and who needs that kind of energy?
Mood Board

 

#3 Plans change. Go with it!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of a project, either for myself or a client, when out of the blue an idea hits me. Totally not something on “the plan” but brilliant just the same. It’s important not to hold too tightly to a plan, a direction, or even a specific item.

For example, in the mood board shown above, I originally had planned to use three tiebacks from Anthropologie, priced at about $32 each to hang a fabric canopy over the headboard. But when I went to purchase them, I discovered they were an online item not available in stores. No worries! I used an $8 pack of clear Command brand adhesive hooks and saved the client some money.

When inspiration strikes, follow it. If the change helps to create a room you love without sacrificing the overall vision, embrace it.

I love supporting my clients to make their houses into homes, and I love learning from each and every one of them!

If you liked this article, please share it using the buttons below! And, be sure to follow me on Pinterest; it’s where I hang out for home decor-y stuff!

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Avoid DIY Decorating Overwhelm with these 3 tips

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